By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
The best baseball pitching workouts are those that allow you to gain functional strength and power that is, of course, specific to pitching - while allowing you to remain flexible.
Stretching and flexibility training is a major component of all major league baseball pitching workout programs.
Sure, you can work out with weights, blast your core, and condition your legs with running and agility exercises, but if your baseball pitching workouts don't allow you to improve your flexibility, your setting yourself up for potential injuries.
Stretching helps the muscles, big and small, prep for the pitching-specific movements that will be performed on the pitcher's mound.
Perhaps more than any other component of your pitching workout, increased flexibility directly correlates to increased velocity because a pitcher can get the most out of his loose and elongated muscle fibers.
There are 3 kinds of stretches a pitcher can and should perform. All three (or combination thereof) will greatly benefit a pitcher before, during, and after competition, as well as during their training and pitching workouts during the off-season.
The first is called static stretching or stationary stretching. This stretching technique is the most widely used by professional baseball players. It's a slow, constant stretch held for 8 to 30 seconds and performed 1 to 3 times. Although many baseball players perform static stretching before activity, it's actually best utilized after a pitching performance or pitching workout.
The second is called active stretching. These are sport-specific stretching movements in a stationary position. Stretch to maximum tolerance and release, repeating 8 to 12 times. It's almost characterized by a bouncing movement which increases the risk of injury, but better prepares the muscles than static stretching because pitching specific movements are involved.
The third is called movement stretching or movement prep. Again, sport-specific stretching movements, but movement stretching is preformed actually moving (butt-kicks, high-knees, tapioca, walking lunges, etc.).
Movement stretching takes active stretching one step further by adding an aerobic element to it, thus benefiting pitchers on colder days because more effort is required to perform the stretch, resulting in increased body heat.
When it comes to pitching a baseball, never pick up a baseball to throw unless you have done some sort of stretching to increase the body's core temperature.
The same is true both before and after your baseball pitching workouts. Stretching will help you prevent injury and, even more, you may reap the benefit of throwing harder over time if stretching is a staple of your daily workouts or pitching routines!
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