While we’re still a month away from the date that MLB and minor league baseball pitchers report to spring training, many at the amateur levels have already joined their teammates for preseason training or are about to — with scrimmages starting soon, if they haven’t already. With that in mind, this is the time of the year that I love hearing my pitchers say: “my arm feels great and I can’t wait for the season to start!”
Is that what you’re saying?
If your arm does not feel right, it is imperative that you deal with the issue now. For example, forearm tightness, the rear shoulder, the biceps, and the lower part of the triceps are vulnerable areas at this time of the year and you should be paying close attention to the condition of those sensitive spots.
While there may be a serious injury causing the pain or soreness, there are some basic mistakes pitchers make that, when corrected, can get rid of the kinks that may be causing arm problems. If your pitching arm isn’t feeling great when you start preseason throwing, ask yourself the following:
1. Are you warming-up your arm with a light resistance band program before you throw or pitch?
An arm lacking proper preparation is one of the main causes of injury or soreness, especially through the shoulder musculature. Throwing at a short distance does not work as a “warm-up.” Warm-up to throw — don’t throw to warm-up. (Shameless plug: if you want to know how to warm up, consider getting my First Pitch Strike Warmup and Recovery Program DVD.)
2. Are you recovering your arm correctly after you pitch?
Restoration from the demands of throwing and pitching is critical. Be sure you are taking the recommended number of days of rest for specific pitch counts as well as using specific light resistance-band exercises to enhance the recovery immediately following a throwing or pitching bout. (Again, my First Pitch Strike Warmup and Recovery Program DVD provides the exercises you need.)
3. Did you remember to adjust your off-season gym training to accommodate your re-entry into throwing?
If you are still doing the same workouts, you can be creating too much of a load on the sensitive muscles used in pitching. This is especially important when it comes to biceps training: to be safe, never the day before or after you pitch.
4. Did you follow a systematic re-entry program that involved two to three weeks of volume and distance changes at 45 and 60 feet before you took the mound?
Rushing to pitch too soon can cause problems for the arm. Taking a step back and returning to flat-ground (no further than 60 feet) for a week can do wonders for arm conditioning.
5. Did you do a slow-build up of pitches starting at 15 to 25 and increasing no more than five every week?
If you did too much too soon, alternate between higher and lower pitch counts for your pens.
6. Are you fatiguing your arm before you pitch with any of the controversial systems that are advertised to increase velocity?
Remember, some of the programs out there that I know many of you follow actually require recovery in and of themselves. Long distance throwing and weighted balls can create more forces than pitching. If you follow these programs, include recovery from them as part of your protocol.
If your arm does not feel right, take extra rest, think about what could be happening, and reboot your program; a re-start is better than a false start. Get help from your coach, sport professional, or doctor if needed. You will never have the time on your side as you do right now.