5 Ways to Practice Arm Care
There is no doubt that pitching, scratch that, throwing a baseball, is extremely taxing on your throwing arm. If you want to dig really deep into the science of it, throwing a baseball the way you would throw anything is not a natural motion for the human body. Fun fact: the movement of the way a softball player pitches is technically the atomically correct way to throw a ball. It’s the reason why baseball players can only throw 90-100 pitches a game (if you’re pushing it) and softball players can pitch 100+ easily. Is that to say that you shouldn’t pitch? No, not necessarily. What it means is that if you want to pitch, and pitch for a long time, you need to take one thing serious: Arm care. Here are a few tips you can use to ensure that you are taking proper care of your arm and can help the longevity of your career.
Tip #1: Stay Conditioned.
Baseball is one of the longest seasons for any sport, so staying healthy and being able to perform for those 6-7 months or sometimes longer can be key. For pitchers, especially starters, making sure your body is conditioned and ready to take on the strain of 70+ pitches or 5+ innings of throwing is essential to not only your performance, but your arm health as well. Be sure to make sure that you are working out in the offseason and making sure you’re getting your running in (long and short distances) to make sure your body is in the right shape to take on that strain. If you’re in shape, you won’t have to overcompensate or create bad habits to stay playing. Once you’ve trained for that last inning, you won’t have to dig deep – you’ll have already been in that state before and you’ll be ready.
Tip #2: Recovery.
One of the biggest issues I see in baseball today is the idea that kids aren’t taking the appropriate rest times from throwing. I see it all the time in these travel ball teams and with some of the kids I coach. They have kids throwing so much on Saturday and Sunday, then they have 2+ practices during the week. They do not give the kids enough time in between to rest and recover their arms. If you look at any big-league pitcher, most take 5 days in between starts, and these are some of the best players in the world (depending on pitch count, it could be shorter). What makes younger players any different? Take a few days after a long outing or weekend to really let that arm rest. Stretch it out, do bands, go for a few runs, do some sprints, etc. The best way to keep your arm healthy is to actually rest. There is no substitute for it.
Tip #3: Strength Train.
It’s something we have already talked about here, but it’s so important in a lot of aspects that I couldn’t leave it out. I know we already talked about conditioning, but I feel that strength training is so pivotal that it deserves its own tip. Building up your muscles is a great way to not only get more out of yourself, but to keep yourself healthy and strong. Working out breaks down your muscles and the recovery that happens after is what makes you build. So, the kore you workout and recover, the better your body is to perform. Always remember that!
Tip #4: Warm Up Correctly.
Warming up correctly has to be one of the most missed aspects of a pre-game routine. For the younger players, making sure your whole body is stretched and playing a good amount of catch is good enough and if you add in a small bullpen session, even better. But for the more elite/older demographic, getting in your band work, stretching not only your arm, but your lower half, plus a flat ground and then bullpen work is key. Too many times I have seen guys just do a basic static stretch, throw/long toss, head into the bullpen and then hit the mound. Sure, sometimes this may be enough, but most times, not only is your body not fully warm, you aren’t mentally ready to take on your opponent. The better the pregame, the better your performance, the longer you pitch. PERIOD.
Tip #5: Know the Difference between Soreness and Pain.
When you have been pitching or maybe about a day after you pitch, it is completely normal to feel soreness in your bicep, elbow, shoulder, and even your legs. But, there are times when you need to know when it’s just soreness or there is something really wrong or not right. The biggest decider is the kind of discomfort you are feeling. Is it sharp or dull? This is normally the decider. When it’s a dull, annoying feeling, it’s more than likely soreness. Could it not be? Of course. But most times it is just soreness. When the pain is sharp and possibly overbearing? It is the time to be worried. Now, if you are playing and either of these happen, it’s probably best to shut it down. Throwing through some soreness can at times be beneficial, those it isn’t recommended. If you feel sharp pains, you should immediately cease throwing. Throwing more won’t help and neither will moving to another position.