Posts Tagged ‘arm care’

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Resting Your Arm

Posted: November 25, 2012 in Baseball
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As winter is approaching and temperatures finally start to dip here in the south, it is important to remember (or learn) that it is not bad to take some time totally off from baseball. No matter your age or skill level, this should be included in your yearly training schedule. When I say off, I don’t mean zero physical activity, but I would suggest not picking up a bat or ball for a little while.

With throwing, the general agreement is 6-8 weeks (in succession) is an appropriate and necessary time to take off. That doesn’t mean no bullpens or long toss for 6-8 weeks, that means no throwing at all. Like don’t touch a baseball. I would also suggest staying away from specific shoulder work (bands, light dumbbells, rotator cuff exercises). This will give the shoulder and elbow time to recover from the repetitive stress placed on it during the previous 10 months of use. Start back with very basic, light exercises and increase volume and intensity like you would with any training program. You can also put more emphasis on your strength program and include exercises like explosive med ball throws a that are more taxing and shouldn’t be implemented while you are throwing on a regular basis.

I do not believe as much time off is needed for hitting. Somewhere between 2-4 weeks would be more appropriate. I would also suggest taking swings from your non dominant side whether you switch hit or not (unless you have back or hip problems in which case you probably shouldn’t be swinging at all). This will help even out muscle imbalances built up from the thousands of swings you take during the season from one side. Most kids also enjoy the challenge and it’s something different.

Besides the physiological benefits from the time off, I always felt like it recharged me mentally. After any break, the “daily grind” feeling was gone and I was ready to get after it. My focused improved and I was much more driven.

This concept holds true with any sport. Year round teams can lead to burn out for a younger kid and the risk of injury increases greatly. College and professional athletes will tell you they have to have some kind of break and get away from it all. Take some time off. It will be much more beneficial to you in the long run.

Because of the spike of arm injuries over the past 2 decades, arm care has been a focus of many overhead athletes. There are many different programs that aim to properly train the rotator cuff and other smaller muscles involved in an overhead movement. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on pitching as the overhead movement.

While rotator cuff and other isolated arm care work is important, it should be viewed as auxiliary work when we think about preventing arm injuries. In Anatomy Trains 2nd Edition, Thomas Myers illustrates how the fascial system connects our whole body. One of the main points he tries to convey is how one area of a fascial line can affect the entire line, not just the immediate area around the effected area. One statement Meyers made really stuck out to me when discussing the functional lines:

 “While remedial work on these muscles or their antagonists may be helpful, long-term relief depends on reinforcing the strength and precise timing of the Back Functional Line  (BFL) in throwing, rather than asking the small muscles of the shoulder joint to bear the entire burden.”

 Note: The Back Functional Line is the fascial system that runs from the distal attachment of the latissimus dorsi through the sacrolumbar junction to connect with the lower fibers of the gluteus maximus on the opposite side.

Hopefully by now you know I am a huge proponent of training the entire body together as much as possible. There is certainly merit to isolation work, but the body needs to be taught how to work together. This idea is emphasized throughout Anatomy Trains, especially in the above quote. While there are many other applications to this idea, let’s concentrate on back during a pitch.

This goes beyond pull ups, DB rows, reverse flys, and keeping the golden 2:1 pull:push ratio. While those exercises are important, they are isolated strengthening exercises. They don’t do much for the timing of the BFL. We want to try and get the entire back to work on decelerating the arm and body.

So how is this accomplished?

The simplest way to do this is hold on to the ball, preferably a weighted ball. The thought behind this is if your body can slow down say a 2 lb ball, it can certainly slow down itself after it releases a 5 oz object. Also, your body will not let your arm accelerate any faster than your deceleration muscles can slow it down. If you want to increase velocity, start by improving your deceleration muscles (infraspinatus, teres minor, biceps), along with the integrating the rest of the musculature of the back.

Drill: Start in the “early cocking” position where the arm is going to start accelerating forwards, and the lead shoulder is still pointing at the target, front in the position it would be in if you just landed.

Take your arm through your normal  throwing motion at a slow speed. Finish like you would normally finish a pitch, except keep your back foot down. Keeping the back foot down places more of the deceleration on the back. Once you finish your follow through, rewind the motion taking your arm back through the exact path it traveled when going forward. Return to starting position and repeat. I usually start with just a baseball and 2 sets of 6 and work up to using a 21 oz ball and 3 sets of 10 depending on the athlete.

It all goes back to the idea of training the body as 1 unit. There are several other drills that teach us how to utilize a larger section of the body or the entire body during a specific sports movement. I will cover some of the other exercises I use at another time. It is also important to note that mechanics play a major role in the precise timing involved in a skill like pitching. Your back can be really strong and it won’t help at all if your mechanics suck. Try out this exercise and let me know what you think.