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An Easy Way for Baseball Pitchers to Maintain Mobility: The 2-Out Drill

I have a saying that I always used when I discuss how and why baseball pitchers sustain injuries:

Baseball pitchers get injured when they’re tight or they’re tired.

I know, it’s not that profound of a statement, but I really do think it’s that simple.  We often try to overcomplicate the reason for baseball pitching injuries.  Over the years we have researched this quite a bit and found that:

  1. The act of throwing is stressful on the body
  2. Throwing makes you lose mobility and strength
  3. A loss of mobility or strength is correlated to injuries

I originally published the first study to look at range of motion of the throwing arm before and after pitching.  We were looking to determine what happened to the arm immediately after throwing.

We reported that after throwing a 40-50 pitch bullpen session, that shoulder internal rotation decreased by 10 degrees, shoulder total rotational motion also decreased by 10 degrees, and elbow extension decreased by over 3 degrees.

 

 

What do these 3 motions all have in common?  These are the muscle groups that all eccentrically contract to slow down and decelerate the arm while throwing.

We found that the act of throwing causes an immediate loss of range of motion of both the shoulder and the elbow.  Anecdotally, I have found that this loss of motion can easily be cumulative and result in a steady loss of motion over a season.

However, with a simple mobility routine performed over the course of a season, we reported that we were able to restore and maintain mobility in pitchers, which is one of the primary reasons I believe our pitching injuries were so low and we handled our pitchers so well when I was with the Boston Red Sox.

Since publishing this original research report on loss of mobility from pitching, others have also correlated the loss of mobility to injury rates.  This is why I also have another saying that I often use:

I want you to be “you” every time you pick up a ball.

What I mean by this is, if we know you loose motion from pitching, and we know that this loss of motion is cumulative over the course of the season, and we know that this loss of motion can potentially lead to injuries, then we should do whatever we can to restore and maintain your mobility BEFORE you pick up a ball.

This is why we recommend a good warm-up routine prior to throwing.  I also believe this is why our arm care programs at my facility, Champion PT and Performance, are so successful.  We not only build up the arm strength and dynamic stability in our athletes, we also help restore and maintain their mobility.

The impact is huge.  Players almost immediately notice the difference in how they feel and that it is so much easier to get loose.  We offered a peek into our Arm Care programs at Champion in one of our past episodes of our Champion TV video series:

 

While our arm care programs are effective in managing the baseball pitcher during the season, don’t forget that we have also noted that you lose mobility fairly quickly while pitching, after only 40 pitches.  

You probably lose motion slowly over the course of a game as your pitch count rises.  I am sure any pitcher that plays on a team with a strong offense knows that they feel like they tighten up while on the bench during a long inning while their team puts up a few runs.

So while arm care programs are necessary in season, what if there was something we could do during the game to maintain mobility?

 

The 2-Out Drill

This was the exact question my friends and colleagues Rafael Escamilla and Kyle Yamashiro sought to answer.  Working with the Oakland Athletics, they developed what they called the “2-Out Drill.”  

Essentially what this means is that you should perform the drill between innings, perhaps when your offense records the 2nd out of the inning and your know you’re close to getting back on the mound.

The 2-Out Drill contains a series of mobility, activation, and movement prep drills specific to the act of pitching.  

I wanted to share a video of the 2-Out Drill so you can see it in action.  I have modified the original version slightly based on what I have found to be effective, but here is how I teach people to perform:

 

An Easy Way for Baseball Pitchers to Maintain Mobility

Rafael and Kyle recently published a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine documenting the effectiveness of the 2-Out Drill.

The reported that after throwing a 40 pitch bullpen, that range of motion was limited, similar to our past study.  However, the group of pitchers that performed the 2-Out Drill were able to restore their mobility back to the pre-pitching levels.

These results are amazing and important.  In talking to Kyle, some of the things that he told me that aren’t in the research study were that the pitchers felt so much better, felt like it was easier to get loose, and felt that they were able to pitch better after performing the drill.  My athletes said the same thing.\

To me, this is a no-brainer.  The 2-Out Drill is quick, simple, and effective at maintaining mobility during the game.  I recommend all baseball pitchers use the 2-Out Drill between innings, but also prior to throwing each day.  It’s also a great way for relievers to get ready in the pen before they starting throwing.

Give the 2-Out Drill a try and let me know how you feel.

 

Want our FREE Arm Care Program?


EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramOur mission at EBP is to provide the best and most trustworthy information. That’s why we now are offering Mike Reinold’s recommended arm care protocol for absolutely FREE.  A proper arm care program should be one of the foundations of injury prevention and performance enhancement programs.  The EBP Arm Care program is the perfect program to set the foundation for success that EVERY baseball player should perform.

 

Breaking Down a Proper and Effective Warm-Up

One of the most common questions I get is related how to properly warm up.  This includes questions on static stretching and its role in warming up prior to a training session or athletic event.

Many people are mislead when it comes to performing a sound and ideal warm-up.

In light of this, I wanted to take some time to discuss the best way to structure and progress through your warm-ups. This template is beneficial for athletes and will help maximize their performance.

As a preface to the remainder of this article I would like to give a brief outline of how a warm-up should progress. Generally, I would advise performing full body self myofascial release through foam rolling prior to the beginning of every warm-up. Foam rolling can help work out and specific problem areas throughout the body.  

From here, I usually breakdown my warm-ups as follows:

  • Static Stretching/Mobility Work For Desired Areas
  • Core Activation
  • General Activation (Hips, Shoulders, Glutes etc.)
  • Rehearsal of Movement Patterns
  • Central Nervous System Activation

Mobility

Plain and simple, mobility is the area of the warm-up where I like to either work on certain problem areas where there are mobility restrictions present, or simply target the muscles that will be used extensively during the training session.

For example, if I have a group of athletes they will each have their own static stretches that target areas they specifically need work on. Otherwise, if you were to be working the lower body, for example, you could target your hamstrings, hip flexors, external rotators, quadriceps and ankles.

The same can be said for the days where the upper body is your focus for your training.

Core Activation

The core plays an extensive role in bracing the spine while your extremities are in motion. So, activating your core is extremely important if you desire to have an effective workout.

Exercises such as planks, loaded carry variations and anti-rotations presses are great to ignite your core and prepare it to support you throughout many different ranges of motion.

proper baseball warm up - core activation

 

General Activation

Stability is the ability to maintain mobility throughout an entire range of motion. Activation exercises not only help to work on this, but they also help us progress from the static stretches we have just done to begin our warm-up.

I always tell my athletes that static stretching is okay to do prior to training or games as long as you properly activate after. So, exercises that require mobility through ranges of motion for your hips, shoulders, and glutes are a great place to start.

Rehearsal of Movement Patterns 

This is where we perform a basic movement that corresponds to the primary movement we are training that day.

Is your session centered on the bench press? Great, perform a set of pushups to rehearse a pressing variation. Getting in some barbell squats or deadlifts? Be sure to dedicate this phase to bodyweight squats or kettlebell swings.

The goal is to now use the mobility and activation we have focused on and begin to phase it into movement patterns.

Central Nervous System Activation

I have actually written a previous article on my favorite central nervous system activation exercises.  Basically, this is the last portion of our warm-up right before we begin our training or athletic event. Our goal is to engage the nervous system and have us firing on all cylinders before we begin our lift or game. A sprint, jump or throw are the most ideal.

Our warm-up flows from mobilization to activation (in both the core and mobilized muscle groups), and then movement patterns and nervous system activation. Once we mobilize and deal with any restrictions we may have, it is imperative to be able to maintain mobility throughout a range of motion (stability) and allow muscle groups to work together synergistically.

This is imperative as we begin to rehearse movement patterns that correlate to compound movements, which use multiple muscle groups.

For example, the bench press or any pressing variation calls on the upper back, scapulae and shoulders. Activation exercises such as the “Dynamic Blackburn,” which is a prone facing shoulder activation exercise, would be great to utilize multiple muscle groups simultaneously after they have been mobilized.

proper baseball warm up - Central Nervous System Activation

 

Once we have done this and then ignited our central nervous system we will place athletes in the proper position to perform optimally whether for training or an athletic game or event!

 

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.

 

 

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.
  • 30-Yard Build-Up Sprints- [email protected]%, [email protected]%
  • 30-Yard Side Starts- 1@ 80%, [email protected]%

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.