With baseball season nearly upon us and pitchers are getting ready for the season, I thought it would be a great time to share an article from the folks at 3X Pitching. If you want to get your pitching arm in shape and take care of it for the long season ahead, check out these great pitching exercises you should be doing now!
Pitching Arm Care – Top 10 Exercises
The importance of arm care for the pitcher is to protect his career but most important to develop the integrity in the shoulder and elbow to handle a high velocity fastball. This doesn’t mean a “strong arm” makes you throw with high velocity it just means you have the ability to do it without the body trying to over protect itself from serious injury.
Most pitching coaches and pitchers fail to understand how true pitching velocity is generated, so they end up going down the wrong road and waste a lot of time working or overworking parts of the body that have little effect on pitching performance. For example, the flexor mass was not built to drive a lot of arm speed. The deltoids and rotator cuff where also not built to drive a lot of arm speed. Arm speed is powered by the legs and transferred into the distal parts of the body like the limbs.
In this article, I will not define how pitching velocity is enhanced, I will refer to the tons of other pitching articles on this site like this one, The *ONLY* Way to Improve Pitching Velocity *Seriously*. I will cover how a strong arm will promote more pitching velocity and at the same time save a career. Finally, I will list the top 10 arm care exercises for the pitcher.
Strong Arm Care for the Pitcher
The forward rotation or internal rotation of the pitching arm has been recorded in a laboratory at over 7,000 degrees per second which is the fast human movement ever recorded (1). So yes, you need a strong arm to handle these forces and you also need a strong arm for your body to allow you to generate these forces. Once your body is confident it can handle these forces then the challenge is how to generate them in the body and transfer them into the arm. Like I said above, I will not cover how pitching velocity is generated but will cover how pitching velocity is supported.
If we are going to understand how to protect the arm, we need to first understand what part of the arm is handling the stress and at what level is the stress being handled. Let’s start with the shoulder.
Pitching Shoulder Stress
Studies show that the pitching shoulder external rotates around 178 degrees during late arm cocking and during the last 20% of maximum external rotation to pitch release (approximately 0.029 seconds), the arm rotates internally from 178 to 105 degrees at release (1). This violent action generates humeral angular velocities of up to 7000 deg/sec and torques exceeding 14,000 inch-pounds (2). This is the fastest human movement recorded so how do we protect the arm from these insane amount of torques?
Well, we need to understand what muscles contribute to this movement and then we must make sure these muscles are developed to handle it. The muscles that help rotate the shoulder and stabilize the joint are the rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, pec and lats. The muscles that help create the movement and precession are the small rotator cuff muscles but the pec and lats are the two big muscles that power the joint. So, it is important to strength the small muscles like the rotator cuff muscle but these muscles will never be able to handle the 14,000 inch-pounds of torque. This will only be achieved by the pecs and lats and how do we strengthen these muscles? With lifts like upper body pressing and pulling which conventional wisdom says pitchers should never do.
Pitching Elbow Stress
Studies have found elbow extension speeds as high as 3000°/s. Werner et al, reported a mean peak valgus torque of 120 Nm for a professional population of pitchers (3). Not as much torque is hitting the elbow as the shoulder but the problem is the elbow wasn’t built to handle much torque because it is a hinge joint. The only way the joint was built to prevent coming apart was the ulnar collateral ligament or UCL. This ligament can only handles about 64 Nm. So, what must occur to handle the other 56 Nm? The flexor mass and the tricep work together to stablize the joint and handle the remaining stress. The problem is if these muscles cannot do their job then the UCL is compromised.
Strengthening the flexor mass and tricep muscles are critical to arm care and health.
Top 10 Arm Care Exercises for the Pitcher
To learn how these exercises should be used in either the off-season, pre-season or in-season please reference the 3X Pitching Velocity Program which also includes sets and reps along with all the instructional videos.
- Oscillation Blade – This is like an old Body Blade that bends and rebounds quickly every rep. It is great for training the shoulder joint to stabilize. You can perform the oscillation movements through external and internal rotation to train stability through rotation.
- Light Dumbbells – This includes shoulder and forearm strength training. As for the shoulder, do not exceed 3 lbs because you want to isolate the rotator cuff and usually anything over 3 lbs can more easily recruit the large muscle groups. Keep the reps for both the shoulder and forearm with these weights around 10-15 and perform all the movements of the shoulder and forearm. This includes; external rotation, internal rotation, vertical and horizontal abduction, adduction, extension, flexion, supination and pronation.
- Tubing – This includes resistance bands for the shoulder and forearms to train similar movements as with the dumbbells. The resistance is dynamic which trains the muscles deferent than with dumbbells.
- Forearm Roller – This includes a pipe and a rope connected to the middle of the pipe. At the end of the rope is a place to put weight like a metal plate. To perform the exercises you put both hands on the pipe and roll the pipe to coil up the rope and raise the weight from the floor. You will then roll the weight back down and reverse the movement to bring the weight back up and then down. This is one of the best exercises to strengthen the forearm muscles.
- Rice Bucket – Fill a bucket with rice and put your hand in the rice as far down as you can handle. Now perform flexion, extension, supination and pronation movements. This will strengthen the forearm muscles.
- Bench Press – Don’t believe what you hear about the bench press it is critical for developing upper body power in athletes especially pitchers and strengthening the shoulders. You just need to learn how to perform it correctly. Checkout my article on, Studies Prove Bench Press Increases Throwing Velocity.
- Pull Ups – The latissimus dorsi is the only accelerator decelerator in the upper body. Therefore it is the most important muscle in the arm. There is no better way to develop superior lat strength than with pull ups.
- Fat Grips – Increasing the grip size on all of the pulls is the best way to build both forearm strength and upper body strength together. This is important because forearm strength drives upper body strength. Fat grips are rubber grips that lay over the bar to increase grip size.
- Overhead Press – Another pressing exercise to help build the must needed upper body strength for a pitcher to handle the massive amounts of torques from a high velocity fastball. Most conventional pitching coaches would never allow a pitcher to perform these lifts because of what is called the impingement syndrome. You can avoid impingement’s by learn proper technique along with slowly building up your weight.
- Push Ups – Bench press is great for building mass and upper body strength with heavy resistance in the off-season and push ups are a great in-season upper body exercises for maintaining upper body strength.
I would highly recommend that you use the 3X Pitching Velocity Program if you are concerned about developing superior arm health as you advance to the higher levels of this game. It will give you more than just these exercises but a periodization model for training with them effectively to prevent injury while enhancing performance.
- Dillman CJ1, Fleisig GS, Andrews JR. – Biomechanics of pitching with emphasis upon shoulder kinematics. – J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1993 Aug;18(2):402-8.
- Reagan KM1, Meister K, Horodyski MB, Werner DW, Carruthers C, Wilk K. – Humeral retroversion and its relationship to glenohumeral rotation in the shoulder of college baseball players. – Am J Sports Med. 2002 May-Jun;30(3):354-60.
- Werner SL1, Murray TA, Hawkins RJ, Gill TJ. – Relationship between throwing mechanics and elbow valgus in professional baseball pitchers. – J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2002 Mar-Apr;11(2):151-5.
Source: Top Velocity Pitching Program
More Pitching Arm Care Articles
The Relationship Between Arm Pain and Pitching Mechanics – UI Health Care
He noted that among pitchers who had long careers in Major League Baseball, all threw with a similar fluid motion of the classic outfielder’s pattern. Pitchers with this delivery mechanism developed good speed on the ball because of the long lever arm.
Take Care of that Pitching Arm!
This article is about arm care, and making sure that you do all you can to prevent injury and maximize If your pitcher will be pitching again, make sure that he keeps a jacket on – if only on the one arm.
Arm Care and Injuries: Pitchers | Klouter Baseball
Arm Care and Injuries: Pitchers. Arm, shoulder and elbow, injuries are on the rise in youth baseball rather than decreasing!! There are more Tommy John surgeries and labrum repairs in youth ball than in professional baseball …
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