Pitchers: Fine-Tuning Your Pre-Game Routine

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How many times has your coach said, “You’re getting tired and you have thrown a lot of pitches. It’s time to rest that arm and let someone else finish the game?”

When your arm gets tired, your accuracy gets poor and you are unable to throw as hard. A pitcher may throw approximately 60-70 times including short tosses, long tosses, and actual pitches to a catcher before beginning a
game. A good warm-up and stretching routine will allow a pitcher to warm-up faster and can actually take 15-20 pitches off the warm-up, and save these pitches for the game.

When the coach says, “Go warmup,” most athletes think right away to pick up a ball and start throwing. That would be the last thing you should do to warm-up the throwing arm. A muscle will stretch much better if it is heated up before stretching it. Do this by performing some type of calisthenics or light jog. This activity is done until a light sweat has developed.

To prepare the shoulder for throwing, begin by doing some Shoulder Rotations and pendulum swings. For shoulder rotations, rotate outstretched arms in small, then increasing larger circles (first forward, then backward) for 20 seconds or about 30 times each direction. To do the Pendulum Swings, place your glove in your throwing hand. Lean over so that your chest is parallel to the ground (use the other hand to balance on a fence or wall). Relax the shoulder and let the weight of the glove carry the arm. Making medium size circles, going right, then left (just like a pendulum on a clock). Next will be a series of stretches to do with a baseball bat for the shoulder.

Front shoulder stretch: Place a bat in both hands behind your back, extend your arms behind you, reaching for the sky.

Outward rotation stretch: Hold the bat in the throwing arm with the arm in the ‘cocking’ phase of the pitching motion. (This is where your arm is back like you’re getting ready to throw) The bat is behind the shoulder and the opposite arm is pulling the bat under the throwing arm. This will stretch the muscles that rotate the arm inward.

Hand behind back stretch: Place the bat in the throwing arm and put it behind your back. Take the opposite hand and pull the bat up your back until you feel a stretch (the throwing arm should be moving up your back towards your head)

The overhead tricep stretch: Take your throwing arm, with the elbow bent, and reach over your head with the elbow pointed to the sky. Take the opposite hand and gently apply pressure on the elbow of the throwing arm, pushing it back until you feel a stretch in the back of the arm.

Crossover stretch: Take the throwing arm and pull it across your body, reaching for your opposite shoulder. Take your opposite arm and grasp your elbow, pulling your arm further across your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your throwing shoulder.

Wrist and Hand stretch: Extend your throwing arm out in front of you. Pull your hand back to stretch the front of your hand and elbow. Reverse this by pulling your hand down to stretch the top of your hand and elbow.

After a good warm-up and stretching routine, begin loosening up the arm by doing some light tosses, slowly progressing to pitching. Below is a sample of a pre-game throwing routine. Keep in mind that every athlete is different and it might take longer for some to loosen up. The weather is also a factor in how long it will take an athlete to loosen up the arm. If it is hot, it will usually take less time to prepare for pitching. If it is cold, the athlete may need to jog longer prior to throwing so the body is completely warm before exercising.

Each athlete will have their own routine they like to follow. As long as you follow the above guidelines you should be able to warmup and stretch your arm faster, and save those extra pitches for the game!

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