Overhead Lifting for Overhead Throwers

Posted: September 4, 2012 in General Health

Some people consider overhead lifting to be taboo in the baseball world. This doesn’t make sense to me at all. If you apply a logical thought process to lifting for any sport, you would want to strengthen the athlete during the most injury prone range of motion (ROM), right?

When a pitcher throws a baseball 90 mph, his arm is moving at 7000°/second. This is by far the fastest movement in sports, and also explains why a pitcher is so likely to hurt his arm. From the time the arm cocks to start moving forward until the ball is released, the pitcher’s hand is over his head. So the pitcher is holding a weighted implement (even though a baseball weighs only 5 oz) and moving his arm at the fastest speed any body part moves in any sport, but we shouldn’t train the pitcher in this position?

Since the ball is only 5 oz, I definitely suggest staying light and fast with the weights (or bands, manual work, etc) as opposed to heavy and slow. Two reasons for this:

1. We want to focus on the stabilizer muscles in the shoulder, mainly the rotator cuff, and a heavier weight tends to activate the larger muscles to protect us from injuring our smaller muscles, and

2. We want to train a pitcher’s body in a very sports specific manor.

I hesitate to lay out boundaries because each athlete is so different, but in general I wouldn’t go over 5 lbs when doing rotator cuff specific work, like internal/external rotation. The rule I use is as you increase ROM, decrease the weight. This is true for any exercise, but especially shoulder work because of how much ROM it naturally has. With the pitchers I work with, we will go as light as 21 oz on certain exercises. Error on the light side until you become proficient in whatever exercise you choose.

The shoulder is very different than any other joint in the body, so don’t train it like every other joint.


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