You could be built like a brick house, but if your mobility resembles one, your throwing career could be a one-shot deal. Below, Auburn T&F strength and conditioning coach Damon Davis offers some flexibility advice for throwers.
STACK: Regarding flexibility, what are you trying to accomplish with your throwers in the weight room?
Damon Davis: My goal is to have a thrower functioning correctly in his ability to hold certain rotational positions in the glide and effectively produce force. It’s also my job as a strength coach to keep my guys healthy in their sport.
STACK: How do you address inflexibility in throwers?
DD: It’s important to make sure that hips, knees and ankles are free from restrictions so movements are easier and less compensation occurs. If a thrower develops immobilities or restrictions around a joint, it can have big limitations on force production.
STACK: What do you mean by “compensation”?
DD: Throwers can become injured due to compensations—or poor habits—they develop through lack of mobility and restrictions in the joints. For example, I had a thrower who had poor hip extensions and was very tight on the interior of his hips, so he transferred forces the hips should have produced to his thoracic spine. His inflexibility created a chain effect that developed a stress fracture in his vertebrae.
STACK: What is the most common compensation for a thrower who lacks lower-body mobility?
DD: The biggest area is the lumbar region. I have a freshman thrower who doesn’t have great mobility, but part of the problem is his motor patterns aren’t fully developed due to lack of repetitions. His inability to extend well from his hips during his throws and while performing Olympic Lifts in the weight room has created a tendency for him to extend more from his knees and lower back. His hips should be the dominant force producer on all throws and lifts.
STACK: How can a thrower improve his flexibility?
DD: A combination of general weight room work and specific-strength work will improve a thrower’s mobility and also make him stronger at the same time.
STACK: Can you give some examples of what your athletes do in the weight room?
DD: Many times throwers get too focused on movements where they’re standing on two legs. Throwers typically prefer Squats and Cleans, but it’s always good to incorporate single-leg strength into their training regimen. It can be as simple as starting out with different lunge variations on the slideboard to help open up the hip complex. Once good mobility is created, a thrower is in position to start loading up on advanced single-leg movements such as Split Squats and Bulgarian Squats.