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Keys to an Inseason Throwing Program

A common concern we often hear at Elite Baseball Performance is pitchers not knowing what to do for an inseason throwing program.  We recently discussed how to perform a throwing program to prepare for the season.  If you’ve followed our recommendations and built a proper foundation of arm strength and endurance in the offseason, a correctly performed inseason throwing program will continue to facilitate a healthy arm.

Once the pitcher has built his pitch count leading into the season, I would assume that by the first game of the season, the pitcher is now in a position to throw 60-75 pitches or the equivalent of 4-5 innings, and 75-90 pitches by his second game. The key here is that the innings have been increased by maintaining a Long Toss program throughout the week. What has changed inseason is that the pitcher will learn to adjust the Long Toss program based on how many pitches they’ve made in a game, and how much recovery period they have until their next outing.

This is where inseason training gets a little tricky based on whether or not you are a starter or a reliever. So to address the inseason training mentality for both starters and relievers, I’m going to break them down into two categories. This way, whatever your role is as a pitcher you will have a clearer understanding of how to keep your arm in optimal shape throughout the year.

The following article will discuss how to develop an inseason throwing program.  If you are interested in learning more, we an online version of our Thrive on Throwing 2 video where we show you exactly how to perform the Jaeger Throwing Programs, as well as a downloadable Year Round Throwing Manual that builds off this information and discusses how to best prepare your throwing programs throughout the year for optimal success.  More information on these can be found below.

This article is part of a 3 part series on year round throwing:

 

Inseason Throwing Program for Starting Pitchers

While relievers have to play with unknown variables as to when and how much they are going to pitch from day to day, starting pitchers have it much easier inseason. Starting pitchers know exactly what day they are throwing each week and therefore can plan the other six days (amateur) or four days (professional) around their game day. For this reason, setting up a starter with an inseason routine is much easier than a reliever.

Below, I am going to go through the format and workload for a basic 7-day routine, considering that more players are at the amateur level. Also, once you understand the principles to the 7-Day routine, adjusting to the 5-Day routine will be relatively similar. Keep in mind that the priority is to always “listen to your arm.”

 

In Season Throwing Program – 7 Day Routine

To make this routine very simple to follow I’m going to pick “Monday” as the reference point as to when you are scheduled to start your game. By establishing our “game day,” we can then focus on how we maintenance (cycle) the arm back in shape most effectively for your next start, the following Monday.

 

Monday, Game Day (Long Toss Day)

Game day is ironically your best Long Toss day inseason because you’ve had six days to rest, recover and rebuild leading into your game day from your previous start.

As a simple example, if you have been long tossing out of season in the 250-foot range, then that’s about how far your arm is going to want to stretch out to the day of your start. In essence, your game day is very similar to your best offseason long toss day, except that you may cut down on the amount of throws you’re making in both the stretching out (going out away from your partner) and pull down phases of Long Toss (coming back toward your partner). If you feel like cutting a little distance out of your throwing (especially if it’s later in the season) or you feel like cutting down on your aggressive throws coming back in toward your throwing partner, that’s fine.

But if you conditioned your arm well throughout the off-season, your arm is going to want a pretty thorough long toss session the day of your start.

 

Tuesday, Day 1 after start (Recovery/Stretch)

Depending on how many pitches you made, Day 1 is all about blood flow, range of motion and “stretch throwing.” If you threw 90 pitches the day before you may only want to go out to 90-120 feet of really low impact, light catch. If you only threw 50 pitches, your arm may want a distance closer to 150-200 feet. Again, the priority is RECOVERY.

The focus is on positioning the arm for the next day, and in fact, the next start. There should be little to no “downhill” or aggressive throwing on Day 1.

 

Wednesday, Day 2 (Recovery/ Stretch)

Ironically, Day 2 is when most pitchers are the sorest after a start. Thus, Day 2 is often a continuation of the stretch out, low impact mentality. Again, keep in mind that your arm is going to tend to have a tremendous recovery in general due to your off-season throwing program, but to be safe, I tell players to let the arm breathe again on Day 2. Again, I would suggest minimizing downhill or aggressive throwing unless the arm tells you differently.

 

Thursday, Day 3 (Extension, Pull Downs)

Day 1 and 2 have now set you up for a more normal Long Toss session on Day 3. This is the beauty of having a 7-day routine — you can use an extra couple of days to recondition your arm inseason. The arm is positioned on Day 3 to both stretch out to it’s normal Long Toss distance and to pull down relatively aggressively. How far you go out again depends on the individual, but for someone who throws 85mph, your probably looking at about 250 feet. Harder throwers again are looking at 300 feet or more.

So we’re both extending the arm on Day 3, and we’re beginning to integrate the pull-down or aggressive phase of Long Toss. The key here is to still use Day 3 as a conditioning day and to prep for Day 4, which is your bullpen day.

 

Friday, Day 4 (Long Toss/BullPen)

Now that you’ve used the first three days after your start to do nothing but progressively and effectively build the arm back into shape you are now set up for your bullpen day. The key here is to not “save your arm” by minimizing your throwing before the bullpen.

It’s actually to do the opposite.

You have set your arm up for another great Long Toss day, and that is your priority. Again, your bullpen tops off your workout as opposed to being the focal point of it. It doesn’t mean that you have to have an epic Long Toss before your bullpen, it just means to be sure that you have a pretty thorough Long Toss before getting on the mound.

Remember, your arm is programmed now to condition before it gets on a mound, and that’s the way you want it to be.

 

Saturday, Day 5 (Stretching/Optional)

Day 5 is a bit like Day 1 after your start. You’ve been on the mound the day before, you’ve had a lot of workload leading up to this point in the week, so I advise pitchers to go lighter on Day 5.

Again, listen to your arm, but you may find that you are only interested in a minimal amount of throwing, or you may find that you want to stretch it out to 120-150 feet without any aggressive throwing, or you may want another good day of stretching the arm out pretty far. This day is dictated by how you feel and the timing within the season.

Listen to your arm.

 

Sunday, Day 6 (Stretching/Rest/Optional)

The day before any pitches start can truly be a personal preference. So, I always advise pitchers to do what’s comfortable. Some pitchers like to take the day off, some like to play light catch, and some like to stretch it out to about 75% of their max distance, but with little to no aggressive throwing downhill. It is the core principle of our program to listen to your arm, and this day is no different. Do what feels right.

 

Monday, Day 7, Game Day (Long Toss)

Now you can see how your “start day” is your best day to Long Toss. You’ve spent the previous six days resting, recovering and rebuilding in the most optimal and effective way. You’ve allowed the arm to progressively build itself back into shape and positioned it for what it wants most, a great Long Toss/conditioning session before getting on the mound.

 

Inseason Throwing Program for Relief Pitchers

Because relief pitchers don’t have a set rhythm throughout the season, it can be a little bit harder to figure out when to Long Toss and when to rest from outing to outing.

As you will find with our approach, “listening to your arm” is always the first principle to keep in mind because there are so many variables. For instance, you may have made 40 pitches in relief the previous day, or you may not have thrown in a game situation for a week. In either case, your plan should be to go out each day to do your arm care program and stretch your arm out.

This sensation of stretching your arm out is what I refer to as “opening the door,” meaning, you are allowing your arm to get the benefits of stretching, blood flow and range of motion each day, regardless of whether or not you are pitching that day. What you’ll begin to realize is the arm wants to stretch out every day (unless it needs a total rest), and that some days the arm will want to stretch out further than others. In fact, if a pitcher has gone more than 3-4 days without pitching in a game, the arm will probably want to not only “open the door” to a long distance, but it will want to come back in toward your throwing partner and “pull down” aggressively just like an ordinary offseason Long Toss session.

This feeling of wanting to “close the door” after some days off of the mound is essential in keeping your base strong throughout the season.  Having an aggressive Long Toss session may be critical for your base even if you are going to pitch in the game later that night. Remember, the point is to “condition” first when the arm needs it. Besides, you will probably throw harder and have better recovery period even if you do get into the game on a night that you had a relatively aggressive Long Toss session.

In short, relief pitchers should come to the field each day to “open the door” or stretch out the arm. How far, how long and whether or not you “pull down” aggressively depends on how much throwing you’ve done the previous day or days. The key is to always go out with the intention of stretching your arm out because, quite simply, your arm has been built this way from the off-season and it is looking to condition, even in season.

 

Keys to an Inseason Throwing Program

Inseason throwing is just as important as throwing in the offseason.  A proper inseason throwing program must build in both rest and recovery days, as well as long toss and pull down days.  As always, the key is developing a program based on your role, starter or reliever, and most recent workload.

When in doubt, “listen to your arm.”

 

Learn the Jaeger Long Toss Program

Jaeger Thrive on ThrowingFor those interested in learning more, we have teamed up with Elite Baseball Performance to offer a brand new online version of our popular Thrive on Throwing 2 video.  In this program, we teach you exactly how to perform a proper arm care, warm-up, long toss, and pull down program to maximize your arm.

We also have a more detailed Year Round Throwing Manual that builds off this article in much more detail and shows you exactly what to do for a throwing program throughout the entire year.

If you don’t have a structured throwing program that you follow, this is an essential place to start:

 

 

Exercises For Baseball Players Installment 1: Knee-to-Knee Rotational Med Ball Shotput

Throwing and hitting can take a toll on the body.

Here is an exercise that baseball players can use to not only groove appropriate hip loading but also teaches power with the movement, without actually throwing or swinging a bat. Usage of medicine balls is the closest training tool players and coaches can adopt, to practice the sport specific movements in baseball.

I thought of this exercise because it is my favorite drill to use with the pitchers that I work with. The movement performed when a knee-to-knee is executed correctly, is what pitchers and hitters need to create in order to build optimal tension into the ground, to transfer force into the delivery or swing. Remember to stay athletic, and not to use too many cues in this exercise, so the athlete doesn’t get robotic and methodical.

Also, baseball is an explosive sport; so don’t teach your body to be slow.

 

Knee-to-Knee Rotational Med Ball Shotput

 

 

How to Throw to Prepare the Arm for the Season

One of the most important concepts when trying to prepare the arm for the baseball season is developing an appropriate offseason throwing program.  It is important that any throwing program consists of a rest period after a long summer, followed by a rebuilding period to prepare the arm for the upcoming season.

During the rebuilding period, it is important to stay off of the mound for an initial four week, base building period. The idea is that the better you build your base in the fall and winter months, the better you can maximize your health, strength, and endurance during the season.

The key to optimizing the health, strength, and endurance of your arm inseason is significantly reflected by how well you can maintain this base throughout the offseason months, and then how well it carries over into the season.

The following article will discuss how to transition your offseason throwing program into mound work to prepare the arm for the season.  If you are interested in learning more, we have our brand new online version of our Thrive on Throwing 2 video where we show you exactly how to perform the Jaeger Throwing Programs, as well as a downloadable Year Round Throwing Manual that builds off this information and discusses how to best prepare your throwing programs throughout the year for optimal success.  More information on these can be found below.

This article is part of a 3 part series on year round throwing:

 

How to Throw to Prepare the Arm for the Season

After a pitcher has gone through the initial offseason phase of resting his arm and rebuilding his base correctly through among other things, arm care exercises and long toss, there are two more stages to go through before pitchers transition into the inseason training or maintenance phase.

  • Stage 1 involves the integration of mound work, bullpens, and live batting practice
  • Stage 2 addresses the transition into the spring inseason maintenance period

The goal of this article is to understand the importance of maintaining your base and optimizing your recovery time once throwing off a mound is introduced in the offseason. This is best accomplished by understanding that throwing off a mound is an extension of your Long Toss throwing program, rather than the primary focus. In other words, Long Toss is the key to your workload each day, and if you get on a mound, it is simply the culmination of your throwing program.

As you will see throughout this article Long Toss is what most effectively replenishes the base and significantly improves recovery period after any form of “mound work.” Maintaining a strong base and optimizing recovery time are the key factors in optimizing health, strength, and endurance throughout the year. This article is written with this in mind.

 

Stage 1 – Integrating Bullpens into Your Offseason Throwing

After the arm has had a minimum of 4-6 week offseason period to rest and rebuild without throwing off the mound, the pitcher is ready to begin to integrate bullpens into his throwing program.

Because such a strong base was built from the previous phase, bullpens should have a dramatically less effect on producing arm soreness. The arm will recover faster, which in turn will allow the base to be minimally affected or “depleted.” This is a critical principle to understand because having great recovery is the essential ingredient to maintaining arm health, strength and endurance throughout the year.

In the case of a pitcher who has extended his Long Toss to 5 days a week leading into his first week of bullpens, the main priority on bullpen days is for the pitcher to think conditioning and long toss first, and mound work second.

Essentially, the bullpen is used to “culminate” the workout, rather than be the focus of the throwing that day.

The idea is that when the arm can “stretch out” through Long Toss, it is most effectively prepared to throw off the mound. To put it another way, the focal point of each day is to condition the arm, and then use the bullpen for pitching specific skills, such as working on mechanics or getting used to throwing with the decline of the mound.

Many coaches make the mistake of “saving the arm” for the bullpen by minimizing the amount of throwing on “bullpen days.” In my experience, this has the opposite effect on the arm — it is telling the arm to throw aggressively before it has been properly stretched out and conditioned. It’s like running only a mile each day to “save your legs” for a marathon at the end of the week. This mentality of “saving the arm for the bullpen” is the primary reason why recovery periods worsen, and the pitcher’s base becomes depleted.  The same principle also applies to inseason bullpens and game situations.

How often a pitcher integrates bullpens into the offseason months is a feel thing from player to player. But the bottom line is to integrate workload slowly and progressively into your bullpen sessions just as you worked slowly and incrementally into your Long Toss routine when you built your initial base. I would recommend two bullpens a week through the offseason months, separated by as many recovery period days as possible. For example, a Monday/Friday is an ideal format because you maximize your “off days” from bullpen to bullpen. These off days away from mound work allow the arm optimal time to recover and recondition itself for the next bullpen. The amount of pitches thrown in the bullpen and the intensity behind it again varies from pitcher to pitcher (and the workload that preceded it).

The priority is that the arm is stretched out thoroughly through a Long Toss program before any mound work.  Remember, the recovery period between bullpens is crucial because the better your recovery period, the more the arm is going to want to “stretch it out” from day to day.

Stretching the arm out is what replenishes the arm.

Having great recovery periods leads to what I call a “positive cycle” – a positive cycle because the arm wants to throw more rather than less from day-to-day because it feels good. Essentially, the arm can sustain it’s base throughout the offseason and into the season because bullpens and game action have a minimal effect on recovery period. If the recovery period between pens is poor, and the arm is unusually sore, the arm will need to rest more often, which further deprives the base from getting replenished.  This is what we call a “negative cycle” which exposes the arm to breaking down.

As you go through the offseason months, the primary goal is to stay in a conditioning mode as you increase the pitch counts in bullpen situations. As bullpens turn into game action, the principle doesn’t change. Bullpens and game situations are interchangeable. So if you throw a bullpen or pitch in a game situation on Monday/Friday, your goal is to continue to Long Toss at least one other day of the week. Remember, your bullpen/game day are also relatively thorough Long Toss days.

The idea with this offseason mentality is to keep the focus on Long Toss as you increase pitch counts for bullpens and game situations. Because a thorough Long Toss session is incorporated at least three days a week, the arm is best positioned to stay in a positive cycle through the end of offseason, despite the reality that pitch counts can elevate up to 45-60 pitches in game situations.

Once a pitcher starts throwing bullpens in the offseason, he will find that the days he is going to throw off a mound are his best Long Toss days because he will have the most amount of recovery period days between mound work. With that said, it should be noted that the day after a pitcher’s mound work, Long Toss will probably consist of only the “stretching out” phase and the distance may only consist of about 50-75% of a pitcher’s normal distance. This is important to understand because Long Toss after mound work should be less aggressive with the focus being on “stretching” the arm out.

If done right, the second day after mound work will lead to a more typical distance of Long Toss, and the “pull-down” or more aggressive phase of Long Toss can be added if it feels right. Remember, it always comes down to “listening to your arm.”  Once mound work begins, your focus is on stretching the arm out each day. How far you go out and how aggressive you “pull down” from day-to-day depends simply on how your arm feels, and how good your recovery period is.

 

Phase 2 – Transition Throwing from the Offseason into the Inseason

Once the Winter Holidays come and go (this is traditionally a 2-3 week window) and players return to school, pitchers need to be able to spend at least two weeks off the mound to recondition their arm. For the same reasons why pitchers use the first 4-6 weeks in the Fall to stay off the mound to condition, players need to “rebuild” the base for the first two weeks without even thinking about mound work. This is essential to understand because these two weeks allows the pitcher to reconnect to the base that was built all offseason. Fortunately, because the arm was so well “built” in the offseason, it only takes a couple of weeks to “re-catch” the wave, especially if the pitcher spent the Winter break doing his arm care program and playing some form of catch.

Once this two week period has been established the pitcher is ready to integrate bullpens and game innings into his throwing routine. This should come quickly. A pitcher should be able to go from throwing a 25 pitch bullpen in week 3 (late January/early February) to throwing 35 pitches in an inter-squad game by week 4.

Naturally, because High School and College seasons begin at different times, how you integrate bullpens and game situations depends on many variables. The priority here is still about learning how to prioritize your conditioning off of the mound for two weeks after the Winter break so the base is reinforced and the recovery period is sufficient once mound work is reintroduced. Remember, once the Spring starts getting close, the tendencies are to ramp up the pitch count and prepare for game situations. This is an even greater reason to use the first two weeks for base building — otherwise, you may be putting the pitcher’s arm in harm’s way.

 

The Key to Preparing the Arm for the Season

Remember, the ideal way to maintain an arm inseason is to have a great base in place from the offseason.

This offseason base is the key to having a great recovery period, which in turn allows the arm to recondition itself most effectively as mound work is integrated into the offseason months, and eventually into the Spring season. This ability to maintain good recovery periods and a Long Toss program as bullpens and game situations are integrated is the key to not only maintaining a healthy arm throughout the offseason but also to positioning your arm to get more durable and possibly even stronger throughout the season.

Finally, always “listen to your arm.”

Only it knows from day to day what it needs and what it wants. Because you have learned to condition and maintenance it so well the reality is you will probably find yourself wanting to stretch your arm out with Long Toss more often than you have in the past. But this is a great sign. It’s a reminder that the body responds best to activity rather than inactivity.  The arm wants to regenerate, not degenerate.  And when the arm gets into this “positive cycle,” the arm is in the best position possible throughout the year to stay healthy, strong and durable.

 

Learn the Jaeger Long Toss Program

Jaeger Thrive on ThrowingFor those interested in learning more, we have teamed up with Elite Baseball Performance to offer a brand new online version of our popular Thrive on Throwing 2 video.  In this program, we teach you exactly how to perform a proper arm care, warm-up, long toss, and pull down program to maximize your arm.

We also have a more detailed Year Round Throwing Manual that builds off this article in much more detail and shows you exactly what to do for a throwing program throughout the entire year.

If you don’t have a structured throwing program that you follow, this is an essential place to start:

 

5 Drills to Stay Healthy During Baseball Season

The start of baseball is almost upon us, so this seems like an appropriate time to talk about a few common problems that baseball and softball players can run into during the season. These are all fixable problems, but if left unchecked they can lead to injuries down the line, so it’s a good idea to get out in front of these issues and try to prevent them before they start.

Youth baseball players, especially those in their late tweens/early teens, may be at a higher risk of injury due to an increased load placed on their bodies during the season.

Around age 12, these athletes start playing longer seasons on bigger fields, with additional demands from fall ball to consider as well. Also, these athletes typically don’t participate in good offseason training programs to prepare their bodies for this kind of load. When you take young, unprepared athletes and subject their bodies to a much heavier load than they’re used to, injuries have a tendency to occur.

However, we know that baseball players tend to suffer similar injuries.  They lose mobility and strength in similar areas, which means that we can be proactive and address these potential problems before they start, thereby greatly decreasing the likelihood that a baseball player will suffer an injury.

To that end, I wanted to discuss 5 things to focus on during the season to keep yourself healthy.

 

5 Drills to Stay Healthy During Baseball Season

Here are 5 easy drills to work on to proactively reduce the amount of baseball injuries.

 

1) Shoulder Internal Rotation Stretches

A common problem in throwing athletes is a loss of internal rotation in the throwing shoulder. This is especially prevalent among baseball pitchers, but it has the potential to arise in any throwing athlete.

Now, it is important to note that a loss of internal rotation is actually considered a “normal” finding in throwing athletes. Typically, a throwing athlete will exhibit less internal rotation, but more external rotation in their throwing shoulder. As long as the total range of motion of the shoulder (Internal Rotation + External Rotation) is roughly the same as that of the non-throwing shoulder, it’s not a big issue. But it’s a good idea to do some stretching on a regular basis to “maintain” an acceptable total ROM.

The cross-body stretch is gaining popularity over the sleeper stretch for restoring shoulder internal rotation ROM because it doesn’t put your shoulder into a “provocative” position, and gets similar – if not better – results compared to the sleeper stretch. To do the cross-body stretch, you can lay on your side or stand against a wall, then grab your elbow and pull across your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder. While doing this, you’ll need to focus on keeping your shoulder blade stable. If you can’t keep your shoulder blade from moving while you’re lying on your side, it’s best to do it against a wall to help keep your scapula in a fixed position.

 

cross body baseball stretch

The sleeper stretch has fallen out of favor somewhat in recent years, but can still be an effective method for restoring lost ROM if you do it correctly. To perform this stretch, Stack your shoulders one on top of the other, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and gently push your throwing arm hand towards the floor for 3 sets of 30-40 seconds.

baseball sleeper stretch

 

2) Serratus Slide

Scapular winging is a common finding in baseball players, most often caused by weakness in the serratus anterior. Winging, like a loss of internal rotation, is another condition that is correlated with a higher risk of arm injury, so keeping the serratus anterior strong throughout the season should be a priority for any throwing athlete.

The key when performing a serratus slide is to make sure the shoulder blades are protracting and upwardly rotating instead of just shrugging, so think about trying to wrap your shoulder blades around the front of your body and push the elbows up without shrugging.

Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

serratus slide exercise

 

 3) Internal Rotation Hip Stretch

Many people don’t consider the role of the hips when thinking about how to prevent arm injuries, but loss of internal rotation in the glove-side hip has been shown to be correlated with elbow pain during throwing and is thought to increase the risk of elbow injury. This loss of hip mobility is caused by the repetitive nature of throwing, and is most often found in pitchers.

There are a couple of ways to improve hip internal rotation ROM, the first of which is to bend both knees to 90 degrees, spread your feet as far apart as you can, then try to touch your knees together by internally rotating the hips.

hip internal rotation stretch

The best way to do it, however, is to do a partner stretch with your hip flexed to 90 degrees. Lay on your back with your hip flexed to 90 degrees while your partner stabilizes the knee and internally rotates your leg. A 2014 study showed that a deficiency in hip internal rotation ROM at 90 degrees of hip flexion was correlated with higher incidences of elbow pain while hip ROM at 0 degrees of hip flexion was not. So it stands to reason that stretching in this hip-flexed position will have a better effect than otherwise.  The goal should be to achieve 30-40 degrees of internal rotation on each hip. Hold each stretch for 3 sets of 30-40 seconds.

 hip internal rotation partner stretch

 

 

4) Bench Lat Stretch

The lats are a common tight muscle group in baseball and softball players, and this should be addressed in their post- and between-game stretching routines. Place one elbow on a bench, then use your opposite side hand to brace your arm and prevent it from internally rotating. From this position, push your chest towards the ground until you feel a stretch in your lat, keeping your core braced throughout the motion. You can also perform these while holding onto a dowel. Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 2-second holds on each side.

 

 baseball lat stretch

 

 5) Pec Minor Stretch

In addition to serratus anterior weakness, another potential cause of scapular winging is tightness in the pectoralis minor. This comes as a result of frequent throwing, and should be addressed with stretching and soft tissue work on the pec minor. The best way to stretch the pec minor by yourself is with the pec minor corner stretch, where you’ll place the front of your throwing shoulder against the corner of a wall, and then turn your head and body as far away from the wall as you can while maintaining a braced core and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Repeat for 3 sets of 30-40 seconds.

pec minor stretch baseball

 

Try these 5 drills designed to prevent some of the common mobility and strength limitations that occur during a baseball season and you’ll be on your way to a healthy, and more effective, season.

 

 

3 Professional Baseball Players Experiences with Tommy John Surgery

The incidence of Tommy John surgery in baseball players continues to be on the rise throughout amateur and professional baseball.  At this point it’s unfortunate that many feel it is just “part of the game.”

There are many myths about Tommy John surgery and the procedure is even thought to have guaranteed success.  Some even believe that Tommy John surgery will enhance their performance and increase their velocity.

The mainstream media tends to focus on the success stories, however, it’s a long process of surgery and rehabilitation.  

I recently sat down with 3 professional baseball pitchers on an episode of the Ask Mike Reinold Podcast to hear their stories about their elbow injury, surgery, and rehabilitation follow Tommy John.  Tim Collins, Dennis Torres, and Jamill Moquette do an amazing job sharing their experiences.  This is great insight to learn straight from the pros and a must watch for every baseball player, parent, and coach.

 

3 Professional Baseball Players Experiences with Tommy John Surgery

 

Why Building Muscle Mass Will Improve Your Pitching Velocity

Gaining pitching velocity is hard. I get it. It’s not easy, and it can feel overwhelming not knowing why you haven’t been making progress.  Here’s the thing: most high school and college pitchers don’t have the frame – and in particular, the muscle mass required to generate the elite velocity they are after.

Ready to invest 5 minutes? This article will open your eyes to the necessity of muscle mass – and strength – when it comes to maximizing your velocity development.

Why Building Muscle Mass Will Improve Your Pitching Velocity

A muscle’s size is directly proportional to its maximum contractile strength. Period. Excellent pitching velocity is a result of being able to transfer a large amount of force into the baseball as quickly as possible. To create the arm speed necessary to do this requires a coordinated set of mechanics that efficiently generates and transfers energy from the muscles of the lower body to the trunk, to the shoulder, elbow, wrist and ball. The more force (energy) that can be created, and perhaps more importantly -transferred, the harder you will throw.

Simple enough. What this means is that the most efficient mechanics in the world won’t lead to elite velocities if the pitcher in question is 120 pounds soaking wet!

While having poor mechanics that don’t efficiently transfer energy is a large reason many amateur pitchers don’t have impressive velocity, a bigger reason is that they simply aren’t very strong or powerful. In fact, pitchers tend to be some of the least physically prepared athletes out there, especially at the high school level and below.

 

What is Lean Body Mass?

I’m about to blow your mind.  Ready?  Lean body mass is a measure of how much non-fat mass an individual is carrying. In other words, if a 200 lb individual is 10% body fat, that means that his fat mass is ~20 lbs and his lean body mass is ~180 lbs.

Although lean body mass also includes other components such as bone, blood, organs, etc, these factors are more or less constant. Because directly measuring muscle mass requires very expensive equipment, lean body mass is actually a reasonably good way of measuring how much muscle somebody is carrying.

In other words, if you get bigger and it’s not all body fat? Congratulations, you just gained muscle mass.

But not all muscle mass is created equal – knowing where your personal deficiencies and limiting factors are helps determine the emphasis of your training and what parts of your body you will need to add the most mass.

The following chart shows how much lean mass players have in high school, college and professional baseball.

lean body mass in baseball
These massive jumps from high school to college ball, and college ball to the professional levels highlight how important lean body mass can be.

Some of these differences can be accounted for in terms of variance in height (taller people have more bone mass, for example, which counts towards lean body mass). However, there is a disproportionately large gap between levels, strongly suggesting that the differences are, in large part, due to muscle mass.

As you can see, these are just general correlations.

Big pitchers dont always throw hard, and small pitchers do sometimes throw exceptionally hard (though this is exceedingly rare, and “small” for a big leaguer is still about 170 or 180 lbs).

Exploiting This Information to Throw Gas

Realize that if you want to throw as hard as you are capable of, you’re going to have to build an appreciable amount of muscle mass and strength. Whatever your frame can hold, we want to come close to maxing that out.

We go into this in-depth in [eafl id=”1022″ name=”Building the 95 MPH Body” text=”Building the 95 MPH Body”], but for now here is a useful set of realistic guidelines we came up with to shoot for.

lean mass baseball guidelines

Find the row that corresponds to your height. For example, at 6’3”, I am about 215 lbs at 12% body fat. This puts me above the minimum target weight (~205 lbs at 12%), making it unlikely that my muscularity is a major limiting factor for velocity. Still, these tables predict as much as 12 lbs of lean body mass that could still be up for the taking.

If you need help calculating your lean body mass, you can download my free tool:

 

Do You Have What it Takes?

Building the 95 MPH BodyIf you’re a high school or college pitcher, and still 30 lbs away from the low end of these guidelines above, you have some work to do.

While things like height and arm length are out of your control, gaining as much lean body mass as your frame can hold is entirely within your control. Get as big and strong as you can while maintaining excellent movement quality. Shoot to be within the general weight range for MLB pitchers of your height.

It’s only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s one that many high school players are entirely overlooking.

For more information, check out our training program to build mass in baseball players, [eafl id=”1022″ name=”Building the 95 MPH Body” text=”Building the 95 MPH Body”].

 

 

Mass Equals Gas

Why Building Muscle Mass Will Improve Your Pitching Velocity

 

References

  1. Hoffman JR, Vazquez J, Pichardo N, Tenenbaum GJ. Anthropometric and 
performance comparisons in professional baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 
2009;23(8):2173-8.
  2. Lehman G, Drinkwater EJ, and Behm DG. Correlation of throwing velocity to the results of lower body field tests in male college baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(4):902-8.
  3. Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Fragala MS, Vazquez J, Krause MC, Gillett J et al. Effect of age on anthropometric and physical performance 
measures in professional baseball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(2):375-81.
  4. Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Vazquez J, Pichardo N, Fragala MS, Stout JR. Predictors of Fielding Performance in Professional Baseball Players. Int J 
Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8(5), 510-6.
  5. Nuttgen HG. Development of muscular strength and endurance. In 
Neuromuscular mechanisms for therapeutic and conditioning exercise, ed. pp.97-118. 
Baltimore: University Park Press. 
1976.
  6. Spaniol FJ. Baseball Athletic Test: A Baseball-Specific Test Battery. 
Strength Cond J. 2003;(31):479-491.
    Young A, Stokes M, Walker ICR. and Newham D. The relationship 
between quadriceps size and strength in normal young adults. Ann. rheum. 1981;40(619).

 

 

Old Habits In Baseball That We Need to Revisit: Preparation for Practice and Competition

Strength training and physical preparation off of the baseball field are getting better on a daily basis. However, once baseball players step in between the lines, the old habits of warming-up still exist.

Warm-ups have evolved into a lazy, overlooked, aspect of preparation. Every player jogs to centerfield, touches the fence, and everyone proceeds to get into a circle or lines. Then, everybody goes through arm circles, a cross body posterior capsule stretch, hamstring stretches, flamingos (quad stretch), and all of a sudden, everybody is supposedly ready to throw.

While most think that this is sufficient, we wonder why there are so many guys “oohing and ahhing” as they start to throw with horrendous arm actions, practicing getting underneath the ball, a bunch of hip flexor and hamstring strains, and more injuries occurring on the field on a daily basis. Not to mention, most players start to feel like crap towards the end of the season, when it really matters most.

I have had a ton of success on the field, using my strength and conditioning knowledge, to create a method that gets my baseball players ready to go for practice and competition, even though it’s not the status quo warm-up you’ve seen time and time again.

 

Foam Rolling

There are foam rollers in just about every single strength and conditioning facility, and rehab clinic nowadays. We still don’t know exactly how it works, however, we do know one thing: IT WORKS.

Foam rolling daily, is the equivalent of giving yourself a massage. The quality of baseball players’ soft tissue, is important in performance and health, and foam rolling is one way to help this out.

Even though it’s not the sexiest thing in the world, I make every one of my baseball players go through a thorough foam rolling session at the field. That means that they have to show up 15 minutes earlier than the usual hour or three before practice or games.

There will always be a baseball handy at the field to use, and some major focal points I have them roll are subclavius, pec minor, infraspinatus, upper trap, levator scapulae, scalenes, glutes, hip flexors, claves, and peroneals. You can also have players buy a small foam roller for about $12, so they can roll quads, IT bands, adductors, lats, rhomboids, and maybe get in some thoracic extensions if they don’t have a flat thoracic spine.

If you are looking on recommendations on what to purchase, Mike Reinold has excellent recommendations on the best foam rollers and self myofascial release tools.

 

Individual Warm-Ups

Hypermobility runs rampid in baseball players, but there are still baseball players out there that have plenty of range of motion, that stretch everyday. You’ll see many players with laxity, stretching all of the time, because they like doing things that they’re good at, and it provides temporary relief from the trigger points they may be feeling, which their body is laying down for stability.

With this in mind, I like to give every individual about 4-8 warm-ups that are for their specific presentation. Hypermobile guys focus more on stabilization and exercises that build relative stiffness, while more stiff guys get mobility drills.  Here are two examples:

Stiff Player:

  • Quadruped Extension/Rotation – 6-8/side
  • Kneeling Glute Mobilizations- 6-8/side
  • Split Stance Kneeling Adductor Mobilizations- 6-8/side
  • Prone Bridge w/ Alternating Hip Extensions- 6/side
  • Squat to Stand w/ Diagonal Reach- 4/side

 

Loose Player:

  • Quadruped Extension/Rotation- 6-8/side
  • Short Lever Side Bridge w/ Clamshells- 6/side
  • Bowler Squats- 8/side
  • Reverse Inchworm into Overhead Squat- 1×5

 

Team Warm-Up

After my players take care of their individual needs, we go through a team dynamic warm-up. With this, I have them do some big bang for your buck exercises, that have multiple movements at once so we’re not warming up for an hour, all while trying to increase their body temperature to get them ready to throw. For those of you coaching or playing in colder weather climates, you may want to extend this out slightly, and have your players wear some extra layers.

Example of team dynamic warm-up:

  • Walking Spiderman w/Hip Lift and Overhead Reach- 5/side then jog 15 yards.  This drill mobilizes the hip, along with getting in a good thoracic spine mobilization. 
  • Pull Back Butt-Kick to Forward Lunge w/ Overhead Reach- 5/side then jog 15 yards.  Quad Stretch, into a lunge for mobility/stability, along with an overhead reach component that teaches baseball players to control shoulder flexion without lumbar extension.
  • Alternating Lateral Lunge- 5/side then jog 15 yards.  Adductor mobilization, and hip stabilization exercise.
  • Side Shuffle w/ Overhead Arm Swings- 5/side then jog 15 yards
  • Carioca- 5/side then jog 15 yards
  • Arms Overhead High Knee March- 5/side then jog 15 yards
  • High Knee Skips- 5/side then jog 15 yards
  • Power Skip Thirds-5/side then jog 15 yard.  Every three skips, jump as high as possible, to start some explosive movements.

Once completed, most players will have a good sweat going, and almost be ready to go.

 

Arm Care

Getting the arm “loose,” in my eyes, is grooving quality scapular movement, and then activating the rotator cuff. The reason I say it in that order, is the scapula, thoracic spine, and shoulder girdle all work together. If the scapula is in anterior tilt due to a nonexistent lower trap, or the humerus is gliding forward in the socket, the rotator cuff (a posterior stabilizer of the humerus) is not going to work efficiently, if at all. Not to mention, we shouldn’t be teaching our shoulder to move that way right before we throw a baseball.

 

Example:

  • Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion- 1×8.  Control scapular movement, activate anterior core, for shoulder flexion without lumber extension.
  • Wall Slides w/ Upward Rotation and Lift Off- 1×8.  Scapular control, with a posterior tilt (lower trap activation component)
  • Standing or Half Kneeling 90/90 Band External Rotation, Scapular Plane- 1×8.  Should be clean ball in socket rotation, without extending the lumbar spine, letting the head of the humerus glide forward, activating rhomboids, and most of all, keeping the lat inactive. The lat are is an internal rotator, adductor, and extender of the humerus. The exact opposite has to happen in the throwing motion. For this reason, I like to have my players perform this movement at 90 degrees of abduction, as opposed to at the side of the body.  

I discuss this in more depth in this video:

  

Wrap Up

With the increased demands on shoulders, elbows, and every joint in the body from long seasons and higher levels of performance, baseball players need to learn how to take care of their body throughout the year in order to limit the risk of injuries, and be able to perform at their highest level at the end of the season, when it really matters most. Proper warm-up techniques might be the missing piece of the puzzle that teams are looking for, to help propel them into a more successful season.