Baseball is a physically demanding game. It requires fast reactions, sprints, dives, powerful hits and a strong mental attitude to focus and predict plays. All of these aspects of the game are essential for anyone looking to take their baseball ability to the next level. However, one of the most important and most coveted weapons in a players’ arsenal is their pitching arm.
Developing your arm strength and increasing your pitch velocity brings a lot of tension to the muscles surrounding your arm, shoulder, back, chest, and even your neck. With training and a full season of games, pitchers can be expected to throw thousands of balls a year, each one adding to the strain on your body.
Injuries amongst pitchers are not uncommon and it’s not surprising given the rapid, powerful movements that the arm has to endure over a wide range of angles. Pitcher’s elbow, tendinitis and even stress fractures in the elbow can occur from overworking your arm and poor technique but one of the most common causes of injury is avoiding arm care.
There are so many different ways that pitchers can look after their arm in order to help recovery and prevent injuries. If you’re not taking any precautions, chance dictates that you’ll end up with some long-term problems further down the line with the potential to stop you playing baseball altogether.
Arm care should be an important aspect of every player’s game but especially younger age groups starting out in the game. Younger kids and teenagers may not have mastered the mechanics of pitching yet and at the same time, their bodies are growing and their muscles are developing so proper arm care is crucial at this stage.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide of the key methods of arm care for pitchers. Putting these tips into practice will really give you the upper hand when it comes to injury prevention and allow you to throw comfortably and safely.
Remember, these arm care solutions aren’t exclusively for pitchers. Outfielders, infielders and catchers are also at risk of suffering injuries through poor arm care and overworking their arms so all baseball players should consider taking these precautions regardless of their position on the field.
Pitching Arm Care Routine
It’s going to be advantageous to set an hour or two aside for a few days each week to carry out a pitching arm care routine. We recommend using a light resistance band (check out my band warm-up drills here) as they are the perfect tool for the job.
These exercises are designed to help develop the muscles, giving them more flex and stability without overloading them or straining them so use a resistance band that feels comfortable.
How To Warm Up Your Pitching Arm
An efficient and dynamic pitching warm-up before a training session or a game is crucial to avoiding injury.
Warm-ups are designed to get the blood flowing and oxygenate your muscles so that they are fully prepared for exercise. An effective warm-up should gradually increase your heart rate without busting a gut.
Your warm-up should be dynamic – this means that your stretches should be active or on-the-move. This really helps to get the blood flowing and prepares your body for the game. Check out these excellent warm-up exercises and apply them to your pre-game routine.
Pitching Arm Strength Exercises
Pitching Arm Strength Exercises
One of the best ways to prevent injury and keep your pitching arm healthy is by regularly exercising it to strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility.
Ideally, pitchers want to strengthen the muscles surrounding the rotator cuff. These are the muscles that really give you control over the pitch. In terms of pitching mechanics, it’s these muscles that decelerate the arm during the throw which allows you to throw safely.
There are a range of pitching arm care exercises that you can do with and without equipment that will really keep your muscles healthy and at the same time, improve your pitching mechanics. Take a look at this video for a variety of easy and basic arm strength exercises.
Post Pitching Arm Care: What to do After Pitching
If you’ve just had a game or a training session or just gone out with a friend to launch some balls, it’s a great idea to have a post pitching routine to maintain the health of your throwing arm. Here are a few steps to follow when you finish exercising:
- Cool Down
Your cool down is just as important as your warm up. After a big session at the pitching mound, your arms are going to be pumped with blood and your heart rate is going to be accelerated and an effective cool down helps regulate this. It also prevents cramp and encourages faster recovery.
Therefore, your cool down should be something steady and nothing too explosive. A gentle jog around the field incorporating long, smooth, controlled arm rotations is a good place to start. Follow this with shoulder rotations (forwards and backwards) and then move your head gently from side to side to release pressure in your neck.
- Static Stretches
We suggested using dynamic stretches when warming up as they help get the blood flowing to carry oxygen to the muscles. Post exercise, your muscles are going to be screaming at you due to the pressure they’ve been under.
Static stretches are the best way to prevent stiffness and tension and prevent your muscles cramping up. Take some time to stretch out your arms, elbows, neck, back and shoulders.
Always drink plenty of water or an isotonic drink to rehydrate after exercise. Water will do the job of rehydrating your muscles but isotonic drinks also contain trace amounts of the minerals that you lost through perspiration which helps you rehydrate more efficiently.
- Rest & Recover
So you just finished a game and you’ve cooled down, done some stretches, and had a drink. Now you need to rest. The last thing you want to do is go and hit the weights or start tossing a ball around again. Give your body ample time to rest and recover from the strain it’s been under
Youth Pitching Arm Care: Careful Considerations to Make for Younger Players
Injuries in younger baseball players is a huge cause for concern amongst coaches and parents alike and rightly so.
The last thing that youngsters need is an injury early on in their baseball journey because it’s going to a) cause long term issues, b) stunt their development or c) put them off baseball altogether. So what considerations are needed to be taken into account when working with youth pitchers?
- Proper Mechanics
Any bad form needs to be nipped in the bud early on. Bad habits left unchallenged are one of the main causes of injury in youth pitchers.
Kids shouldn’t be put under too much pressure at anything, let alone baseball – it’s meant to be fun after all. Reduce the amount of time spent on fast balls and focus more on encouraging good technique. Don’t have youth players throwing for hours upon hours and make sure they have rest days.
- Pitch Counts
Ensure that your youngsters are adhering to the pitch count regulations. These rules, if you’re unfamiliar, dictate that youth players require a certain period of rest after throwing a designated number of pitches. Check out the rules here: https://www.littleleague.org/playing-rules/pitch-count/
- Time off
Youth players and kids, like adults, need an annual break from pitching. The off-season provides the perfect window of opportunity for this.
- Diet & Hydration
Always promote a healthy and balanced diet to ensure that your youngsters are getting the best nutrition. Make sure that they take a drinks bottle to every game and training session and give them water breaks, especially on hot days.
Arm Care FAQs
- Can I Ice my Arm After Pitching or is it Bad?
This is a great question! We see pro pitchers icing their arms and elbows and shoulders all the time so surely it’s a good thing, right?
Well, not always. The idea behind icing is to reduce swelling and provide pain relief. The guys playing in the big leagues are throwing at ridiculous velocities which causes microscopic muscle tears. Over the period of a professional pitching career, this is bound to take its toll and cause these guys some pain.
Similarly, every time you throw a pitch, you’ll do some damage to your muscles too, but it is in repairing this damage that your muscles get stronger. Your body needs to bring oxygen and glucose to the muscles and to do this, they need to be warm. Icing your arm immediately after a game will slow this process down, so a good cool down and plenty of water should do the trick.
However, if you’re experiencing pain, or swelling around the shoulder or elbow joints, applying ice will help reduce it.
- What Should I do if my Arm Hurts After Pitching?
If you’re experiencing pain during or immediately after pitching, chances are that something’s not right and you need to take a break.
A rest period will be necessary to prevent the injury from getting worse. It’s advisable to take at least 2 weeks off, and perhaps even longer if the pain is significant.
Applying ice or taking anti-inflammatories will help with the pain and swelling and getting hold of an elbow support will also aid recovery.
- How Many Rest Days Do Pitchers Need?
Throwing every day of the week is not recommended. 2-3 days off a week provides your body enough time to recover and rebuild muscles, but if you’re feeling discomfort you should prolong the period of rest.
It’s also important to take roughly two months off per year and focus on other areas of your fitness and skill set in order to keep your arm healthy.
Pitching Arm Care Equipment & Gear
Nowadays, there’s a huge range of gear out there specifically designed by pitchers for pitchers to aid them in arm care. We’re going to take a look at the best bits of equipment that really do help protect and encourage healthy throwing.
A well-fitted throwing sleeve can really boost your performance and provide great arm care. They increase circulation, keep you warm and prevent sunburn and skin abrasions when skidding on the dirt. They also keep all of the muscles surrounding the elbow joint tight and secure which helps prevent injury.
Often, after an intense workout, a good cool down and a set of deep stretches might not cut it and you can still feel tensed up in your arms and shoulders (the older players reading this will definitely know what I’m talking about!).
That’s where a solid foam roller can come in handy. They’re the perfect tool for massaging out any kinks in your muscles and are great for your back and legs as well as your pitching arm.
There’s an endless amount of arm care exercises that you can do with resistance bands.
They’re great for rehabilitation as well as warming up and cooling down because they don’t involve ridiculous weights. They allow you to safely train against your own body and energy and you can set them up virtually anywhere.
Resistance bands are probably the first place you should be looking as they are versatile pieces of equipment that can used across a whole range of needs in your pitching game.