BASIC PITCHER CONDITIONING
by Greg Bartlet
In the game of baseball, pitchers are among the most valuable assets to a team. Often the success of the entire team rides on the throwing arm of a good pitcher. Playing the game is not enough, however, to keep a good pitcher in shape and ready to perform at his best. A comprehensive training program must be maintained both during the baseball season and during the off season.
One of the primary parts of this training program is pitching practice. The absolute only way to improve a pitcher's aim and form is by practicing proper techniques of throwing. In the training stage, more emphasis is placed on correct form than on how fast the ball is thrown. Speed can be improved closer to the actual time the season begins and maintained during the season.
In addition to practicing his pitches, a pitcher must spend quite a bit of time working out in a gym. Strength and resistance training are integral parts of any workout regimen that is focused on strengthening the arm to improve pitching speed. Proper training techniques are also valuable in reducing the risk of injury to the pitcher's throwing arm.
Isometric exercises using a light (3 to 5 lb.) weight are often done which focus on strengthening the rotator cuff in the pitching shoulder. This is one point that is most prone to injury if not properly maintained in and out of season. These exercises focus energy into the rotator cuff rather than the larger muscles in the shoulder.
Strength training by lifting weights is a portion of any comprehensive sports training program. The same is true for pitchers. Yet, the focus is not on building up muscle mass. A pitcher is much more efficient if he is long and lean than one who is bulky. Weight training is focused primarily on maintaining the strength of the pitcher year round, so he probably won't lift as much weight as players in other positions or sports.
A great deal of energy and time go into exercises that focus on the abdominal muscle groups. Strengthening these core muscles serve two vital functions, prevention of back injury and adding strength to the pitches. It is a little known fact that the real strength in a baseball pitch comes, not from the arm, but from the coiled strength in the abdomen and upper body that is released when the pitch is thrown. Building and maintaining the abdominal muscles in peak condition will do more to add speed to a pitcher's fast ball than all the arm workouts in the world.
A final, very valuable, part of the training program involves stretching the muscles of the arms and legs. Proper stretching techniques have been proven to help muscles heal more quickly following damage received in the course of a game. This damage is often so minor that it is not considered an injury, yet if it does not heal properly and quickly, more damage can be cumulative, leading to an injury. Surgical tubing is often used as an aid to stretching because it allows the arms and legs to be pulled farther than they would normally go without assistance. The key is to stretch the muscles out slowly, over time, not try to attain the full stretch all at once.
Following a structured training program that includes all of the above steps is the best way for a pitcher to condition his body to maximum efficiency and strengthen his pitching arm. Training must take place during the off season as well as during the baseball season.
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