Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Warm-Up Before Pitching

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Here at Building Better Athletes we work primarily with baseball athletes.  We work in conjunction with a lot of throwing programs and it's a big challenge to get athletes to warm-up properly before getting on the mound or in the field.

It often comes down to players playing catch for 5 minutes, and then stepping out and going balls to the wall.  This is a poor approach and although younger athletes may be able to get away with it for a while; sooner or later it will catch up with them.  Overall here is our motto

Don't throw to warm-up; warm-up to throw

When baseball players throw a couple of things WILL happen, especially over the course of a season
  • Lose Elbow Extension
  • Lose Shoulder Internal Rotation
  • Lose Scapular Upward Rotation 
These in conjunction with the demands on the groin, hamstrings, hip internal rotation, hip external rotation, ankle dorsiflexion, and thoracic extension/rotation give a great deal of things to attack in order to prepare the body for the demands of throwing. 

Overall all we ask for is 15-20 minutes of time before they put the ball in their hand.  These 15-20 minutes WILL enhance performance, but more importantly will put our athletes in a better environment to stay healthy and increase longevity.

Let's take a look at our process.

Movement Prep - Each movement is performed for 20-yards.  (5-7 minutes)
  • Lunge Elbow to Instep with Rainbow
  • Backward Atlas Lunge
  • Lateral Lunge to Overhead
  • Spiderman
  • “A” March
  •  Skips with Hugs
  •  Shuffle with Swings
  • “A” Skip
  •  Lateral Skip
  •  “A” Run
  • Backward Open Hip
  • Forward Open Hip
      The goal of this movement prep period is to warm-up the bodies tissues, gradually increase ROM, gradually increase speed of movement, and get some quality movement in all directions. This will help prepare the body for following activities and start the process of preparing for the demands of pitching.

Soft Tissue (5-7 min) (Pick 5)
  •         Plantar Fascia (45sec)
  •      Foam Roll Quads/Hip Flexors (x30sec ea) 
  •      Foam Roll Groin (x30 sec ea)
  •      Foam Roll Hamstrings (x30sec ea)
  •      Foam Roll Calves (30sec ea)
  •          Peanut Ball - T-Spine (90sec)
  •      Prone Elbow Extension (x10-12)
  •      Posterior Shoulder w/ Tennis Ball (90sec)
  •      Genie Stretch (5x6-8sec)
      After we get some good movement prep and the body is starting to loosen up we like to hit specific soft tissue spots that pertain to pitching.  This section directly targets many of the demands that were stated earlier - loss of shoulder IR, loss of elbow extension, loss of upward rotation, etc.  An important point is to not get too aggressive with our soft tissue or massage work - We don't want to create a lot of muscle/tissue damage before we throw, that will do more bad than good.

      Now while many of these deficiencies are seen in a large population of pitchers it's important that know some of these are not optimal for everybody.  This is where an evaluation or assessment comes into play.  

      If we have athletes that show a lot of laxity, especially in the elbow and shoulder we'll skip out on the elbow extensions, posterior shoulder w/ Tennis Ball, and Genie stretch.  If you try to add mobility and ROM on an already lax joint, you're just further increasing the potential instability within that joint.  

      Moral of the story, don't try to stretch or perform soft tissue on an already "loose" joint, instead look to add some control and stability, which leads us into the final section of our warm-up.

Activation (5-7 min) (pick 4 or 5)
  • Deadbug x12
  • Glute March x20
  • Yoga Push-Up x8
  • Prone Wall Slides x12
  •  Eccentric External Rotation x5
  • Reactive Stabilization (3 Positions) x6sec
  •  Bottoms Up Carry’s (“L”) x20-30yards
      With our activation our goal is to add some control and stability at important locations.  In a sense it "turns-on" musculature we want active and working.  For us this usually means the glutes, scapular stabilizers, posterior shoulder, core, and upward rotators.

    As you can see by looking at the list above, we're also working to attack the aforementioned deficiencies again, this time with some low-end strength work.

    One thing that players and parents are often surprised about it the lack of traditional rotator cuff work we do.  While rotator cuff strength is important; proper sequencing and timing, we feel, is more important.  Many don't even realize that the rotator cuff is made up of 4 separate muscles, each with different functions.  These 4 muscles must work together to keep the humeral head (ball) centered in the glenoid fossa (socket).  This requires great "communication", timing, and rhythm between those 4 friends.

    Typical rotator cuff work focuses on 1 maybe 2 of these muscles and isolates it's action.  This is effective for building some overall strength in that muscle, it falls short on how it actually functions during pitching.  This is why we work on different reactive stabilizations and bottom's up carry's as these will make those muscles work in conjunction to keep the humerus centrated.

     The final thing we like to do is give our athletes plenty of freedom.  They know their bodies better than anybody and we just try to give them the tools and let them decide what they feel works best for them.  The last thing we want to do is make them do something they don't like and get them in a mental funk.

     Go Get 'Em! 

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