October baseball is quickly approaching and it got me thinking about a few things that my throwing athletes often miss in their training routines. With that in mind, we thought we would give you 5 exercise tips that every throwing athlete should utilize this Fall to come back stronger and healthier than ever!.
“Yeah, I do that every day when I stretch” Wonderful! Just make sure that you are implementing a solid foundation of soft-tissue work into your training. Studies have shown that decreases in shoulder range of motion will increase the risk of rotator cuff injuries in throwing athletes! In order to ensure you have normal range of motion in the shoulder, focus on mobility of the thoracic spine, pecs, and lats.
Rotator Cuff Muscles
Everyone has heard the importance of training the rotator cuff muscles but are those theraband exercises doing the job? Most ballplayers don’t actually realize that the rotator cuff is composed of 4 separate muscles that primarily steer the shoulder where it needs to go, not act as the engine that makes it go. Strengthening these muscles at the right time and in the right manner will go a long way to promote the longevity of your throwing career. Make sure that you never train these muscles to fatigue or complete exhaustion and understand the difference between muscle activation prior to throwing versus muscle strengthening during a non-throwing session (more to come on this).
Stabilize the Scapula
The scapula (commonly known as the shoulder blade) must be stabilized by muscles of the back, shoulder, and chest. If controlled poorly, shoulder positioning will be poorly controlled often presenting as pain or decreased shoulder range of motion leading to pain! Seems important for someone using that area hundreds of times each day while throwing! Frequently forgotten or ignored is the importance of the scapula to upwardly rotate when the arm is raised overhead.
MORE CORE! MORE CORE!
The ridiculous arm speeds generated by throwing athletes cannot be stopped by those little rotator cuff muscles mentioned earlier. Muscles of the core and back are going to assist this deceleration process and take on a larger role than those small rotator cuff muscles. It is important to work all planes of motion when incorporating core work but also different types of muscle contractions. Isometric contractions are static holds such as a plank. The other two, concentric and eccentric contractions, are the shortening of muscle fibers, concentric and lengthening of muscle fibers, eccentric. Think about leg lift exercises, when you lift your legs up your abdominals are concentrically contracting and when lowering down they are eccentrically contracting. Eccentrics are especially important due to the deceleration process mentioned above!
Every athlete’s favorite day in the gym! Most ballplayers know the importance of strong legs and stable legs. What you might not know is the importance of unilateral (single) leg training. Deadlifts and squats are great and will help increase overall strength and power output; however, they lack the component of proprioception (balance). Single leg exercises will in turn assist in the prevention of muscular imbalances and overcompensation due to dominant tendencies. Don’t forget to add a few of these into your favorite day of the week:
Most importantly, make sure that your training regimen is always seasonally appropriate. What you are doing in the off-season should be different from your pre-season as well as your in-season. Use these tips but also remember that your workout should be specifically designed to your functional needs as an athlete!
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