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I had to write a post about stretching for pitchers because of a recent video, and dozens of other outdated articles that I have seen regarding this topic.
In a recent pitching video I watched, I saw an instructor performing static stretches with a pitcher before his throwing session.
What made this video even more frightening is at the end, the instructor says "now this pitcher is ready to pick up a ball and start throwing."
Within seconds any pitcher can access a video or article showing them how to "properly" stretch before throwing. Unfortunately, the majority of these articles are incorrect, and are the result of a long tradition of incorrect pitching instruction.
My question is, why are athletes instructed to use dynamic stretching before strenuous exercise, but instructors are constantly telling pitchers to use static stretching before throwing?
Throwing a baseball is one of the most dynamic movements in all of sports, and should be warmed up that way.
In this post, I'm to explain proper stretching for pitchers that should be used before, and following any throwing session. These stretches can also be performed before any pitcher strength training regime.
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A guide to proper stretching for pitchers
Properly warming up the body and throwing arm is essential for preventing pitching injury, and arm soreness. It's important that pitchers warm up their entire body, not just the arm.
This is simply because every pitcher should be utilizing their body as a single unit when throwing. Your arm is the delivery mechanism, but your legs and core are what generate the power.
- Foam rollers
- Pre-dynamic stretch jog
- Dynamic stretching
- Resistance cords
- Post-throwing stretching for pitchers
A foam roller is one of the most important warm up devices for pitchers and athletes in general. I know that most pitchers will not have the time to use a foam roller before throwing because coaches are constantly telling players to speed up their throwing session. However, if you have the time, I highly recommend that you begin any pre-throwing stretching by using a foam roller.
A foam roller for pitchers will increase blood flow in the larger leg muscles, and will properly prepare your lower half for the subsequent dynamic stretching. If you have the opportunity use this device, focus on rolling out the IT Band, quads, hip flexors, and the upper back where your scapular muscles are located.
If you were able to utilize a foam roller, then this would be the second step in your stretching routine. It will be the first step if you do not have the time for foam rolling.
The pre-dynamic stretch job is necessary because it increases your heart rate, begins the warming up process, and prepares your muscles for the subsequent stretching.
It's important that your muscles aren't cold when you begin the stretching. Typically, you will only need to jog for about five minutes. Just make sure that you increase your heart rate, and even try to break a light sweat.
Following your warm up jog, you will now be ready to begin a complete dynamic stretching routine. If you didn't know, dynamic stretching is stretching through movement. Every pitcher should use dynamic stretches prior to throwing.
Static stretching has its benefits, but is ineffective as a warm up. In fact, some studies have shown that static stretching can actually reduce explosiveness in athletes when used prior to any strenuous activity. In addition, static stretching does not properly prepare the muscles for physical activity.
For your baseball dynamic stretching, begin by warming up the lower half of the body focusing on the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, groin, and hips. Once you have finished with those muscles continue by stretching the lower and upper back muscles.
It is best to warm up the rotator cuff and forearm muscles last. This is simply because throwing will almost immediately follow, so it ensures that your arm is prepared.
This is an optional addition to the pre-throwing stretching. Following the dynamic stretches, many players prefer to run about 4 or 5 sprints. This technique just warms up the body even further, and will prime it for the explosive movement of throwing a baseball.
Using resistance cords for the rotator cuff is also an optional warm up technique that you can use. Many pitchers prefer to not use cords before throwing because it may fatigue the rotator cuff. This is completely optional and is dependent on how much time you have, and the muscular endurance of your rotator cuff.
Just make sure your rotator cuff is at 100 percent capacity when you begin throwing, and avoid warming up to a point of fatigue.
At this stage, you are completely ready to start throwing. Your entire body should be warm, and you should have broken a pretty good sweat. This process I just explained is a true warm up for baseball pitchers. As you can see, a good warm up is much more than just using a couple of static stretches.
Once you have finished throwing or at the end of practice, you will need to utilize different methods of stretching. At this point, it is safe and advisable to use static stretching for pitchers.
Some important muscles to static stretch are the rotator cuff, forearms, scaps, upper back, hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, groin, and hips. Typically, you can stretch each muscle for about 15 to 30 seconds.
If you're a more advanced baseball pitcher, then you can utilize isometric stretching along with the static.
Stretching for pitchers that is designed in this order, will increase flexibility, reduce arm soreness, and potentially increase velocity.
This is the exact order of stretches that I used in college once I discovered the correct methods of stretching. Before then, I was unfortunately using the traditional stretching for pitchers, and couldn't understand why I was still so nonflexible. By following this exact routine, I increased my flexibility tenfold, and I actually increase my stride length as well.
This stretching routine that I just showed you is similar to what you would see in my TUFFCUFF training manual for pitchers.
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
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To get to the next level, preparation is everything. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.
If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my latest strength training, conditioning and throwing programs for baseball pitchers of all ages.
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