Strength Performance Network

Baseball: Strengthening the throwing arm

Those not familiar with strength training as it relates to baseball athletes (or athletes in other sports requiring overhead throwing) may believe that the secret to improving speed and longevity/conditioning in the throwing arm of these athletes lies solely in the continued development of the throwing arm. Coaching specializing in such athletes, however, know that the secret to developing a strong, powerful and well-conditioned throwing athlete resides in the development of the entire kinetic chain. The throwing process requires the hip, trunk and shoulder muscles to exert a maximal amount of force in a minimal amount of time. By efficiently transferring energy from the lower extremities through the torso and finally through the upper extremity maximal force can be produced. Thus, implementing a strength & conditioning program that focus on the proximal-to-distal sequence of motions: stride, pelvis rotation, upper-torso rotation, elbow extension, shoulder internal rotation, and wrist flexion, while also facilitating an increase in motor unit recruitment should be considered.

Plyometric-type exercises have been linked to improving throwing capability and longevity by addressing the movements noted above. I'm curious to know from others what specific plyometric exercises you use in your programs and what other means of development you've implemented to both strengthen and condition an athlete that participates in sports that incorporate overhead throwing (namely pitchers).

That's all for now!

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Comment by Adam Ruszkowski on November 12, 2008 at 7:32pm

This has been a question of coaches for a long time. There has been a grey area in training the shoulder complex for quite some time. Baseball is extremely antiquated when it comes to strength and conditioning of its players. Unfortunately, with these antiquated and extremeley conservative means, training does not have a significant effect on the physiological health of the player. This occurs on all levels including the professional level.
Plyometric movements:
- Weighted bounces off wall. I coach this drill with the shoulder slightly below 90 degrees of abduction varying the angles slightly. The guys that have a straight overhead action do not need to train the shoulder at that specific angle due to the amount of throwing they already do a that position (depending on amount of throwing in the program and part of season). Remember there is a 10 - 15 carryover per angle. There have been studies documenting similar activation for the rotator cuff muscles at and below 90 degrees of abd. compared to shoulder angles of approx. 100 deg of abduction. Varying angles also helps to condition the entrire shoulder girdle.

- Shoulder throws off trampoline - Same deal as above. This allows for a greater range of motion into external rotation more accurately mimicking the 'cocking' motion of the delivery. Don't overdo the load on these. Keep the load of the weighted ball within 10 - 15% increase of a regular baseball. As the shoulder improves, increases can begin.

- Reactive med ball throws off wall or trampoline. Using a semi - supinated grip on the medicine ball it can really hit the long head of biceps. Ive found that there has been a large group of athletes that have had biceps tendonitis do little to train it and consequently it becomes a chronic ailment.
-- This can be done with partners as well. Using a lighter med ball, position the players about 5 - 10 yards apart and toss the ball back and forth really trying to delecerate the throw as fast and as controlled as possible. --
Careful on the volume of these keep it in the 4 x 5 - 8 range initially, then work up. Increase sets, not reps

- Manual therapy, resisted D1,D2, D3 patterns by the athletic trainer.

Overhead throwing athletes should undergo a shoulder evaluation prior to the start of all strength/power programs. Deficiencies should be corrected and gradual implementation thereafter.

Y,T,L,W's, Sidelying Powell lifts for rhomboids and mid traps, shoulder box, Scaption, Inverted retraction, or retractions on low, mid and high cables, Scap depression. Closed chain serratus work. Posterior delt and lat work also. It is extremely beneficial to train the serape effect. A quick note, dont over do functional training. Over - functionality can lead to chasing tails and injured athletes. It should be implemented, but the stronger we get our athletes the easier we make the game. One arm one leg rotational rows with 15 pounds and med ball throws off the bosu is not going to help win championships. Increase GPP first, SPP second. Cardiovascular training and specifics on strength and flexibility protocols will be later.


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