Elbow joint integrity: protect the inside by training the outside
It is common knowledge that the medial (inside) portion of the elbow joint is where the vulnerability lies in regard to injuries causing epicondylitis, UCL sprains, and UCL tears. In addition to directly maintaining the integrity and strength of the inside of the elbow to offset those injuries, giving the outside of the elbow attention in the gym can provide the elbow with an ally to assist it during challenging times.
The brachioradialis is an elbow flexor that, in studies on muscular activity, has shown itself to be the most active when throwing the fastball. It is located on the lateral (outside) of the elbow joint, and because of its structure, it is a major contributor to elbow stabilization during the moments when the medial side of the elbow is stressed. Training it and making it strong is a huge a protective measure for this vulnerable joint.
The hammer curl is the exercise that shows the greatest activity in the brachioradialis muscle. This is a curling exercise performed with dumbbells and a “hammer” grip (just as you would use when using a hammer) is maintained throughout the performance of the exercise. They can be performed two arms at a time, single-arm, or alternating arms. During the season, my pitchers do this exercise at least twice a week and use either the single-arm or alternating-arms method.
Always remember that by virtue of the nature of pitching, there are many things that can happen to your arm over which you have no control. That is why you must always focus on the one thing that you always have control over — which is your level of strength and conditioning for the skill.
Give hammer curls a try and notice the increase in the integrity of the elbow joint — you’ll likely feel it immediately.