Scap wall slides are great for the overhead athlete to activate the serratus anterior, a big time muscle for the overhead / throwing athlete. The serratus is an overlooked muscle in the grand scheme of shoulder function, but it might be on the of the most important for throwing athletes. Right now, we’re perfomring scap wall slides as an activation warmup series prior to all our upper body work. We usually focus on 2-3 sets of 5 reps with controlled movement and pauses at both ends.
Check out some of these previous posts for more info on the serratus and the scapular function and how to tie more serratus work into your training.
A problem I see often is athletes who dismiss the importance of a proper warm-up and none other come to mind more than pitchers. All too often pitchers throw to warmup instead of warmup to throw. This is still a huge problem in my eyes at all levels of play.
Too often I see young athletes do no warmup prior to competition and begin their throwing program to warmup for their bullpen work that will precede their game.
For years with the Angels as well as at the collegiate level I watched starting pitchers do maybe 5 min of static stretching and a couple of jogs back and forth and then start throwing a baseball at 60 feet. What was even more annoying was on days they didn’t start they warmed up with the rest of the team which usually included a thorough dynamic warmup. It has never made any sense to me that on the days they didn’t play the were more warmed up than the days they actually performed their sport.
I’ve even seen pitchers warm up more for their running program on their “off days” at the professional level. When I would bring this point up to coaches they would always answer with “They’re on their own. They know what they need. It’s whatever they usually do.” The problem becomes that many of these kids come from not really having a structured program at the high school level. So they just do what they did prior to games in H.S.
Our starting pitchers at TCU have a specific warmup prior to their start centered around their movements and needs as an athlete. It begins with a general body warmup but progresses to increasing movement and mobility throughout the hips, thoracic spine, and shoulder as these areas become highly important in the throwing athlete.
We start out around the hips creating movement on the front side to the back side. From there we will move into our thoracic spine progression. Towards the end of our warmup we move up the kinetic chain to the glenohumeral joint and create warmth and mobility here. Our kids are sweating heavily by the time our 12 minute session is completed.
When I first began implementing this warmup with our staff it wasn’t uncommon to see our starting pitchers velocity up by 2-4 mph.
The problem was that they previously weren’t preparing their body for movement, and explosive movement at that. Even though they had thrown for 20 minutes their bodies weren’t really that prepared.
I found a couple of interesting studies done on the effect of fatigue on shoulder proprioception. The rotator cuff has essentially two functions: to stabilize and depress the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa. The following studies show how fatigue can create dysfunction in the shoulder.
In the second study the authors demonstrated that fatigue in the rotator cuff caused superior head migration. In other words the ability of the rotator cuff to depress the humerus was compromised. Allowing the humerus to move upwards decreases the sub-acromial space which isn’t a good thing. This space was decreased by up to 40% which is hugely significant.
The most interesting thing in this study is the authors had subjects perform one set of prone T’s with the thumbs up to failure. Failure was noted after the subject couldn’t raise the weight past 45 deg. and at least 40% decrease in strength was noted. Overall, the average degree of fatigue was indicated by a 54% reduction in prone horizontal abduction. The average weight used for the protocol was 3.94 kg and the average time to fatigue was 84 seconds.
The second study should open eyes as after one set of 90 seconds, the cuff can be fatigued enough to create sub-acromial impingement. Now think of all the athletes with shoulder problems that get blasted with 40 sets of RTC exercises everyday in an effort to strengthen their shoulder.
The problems are not only in a single workout but can carry over to outside of the weight room. If the cuff is constantly fatigued stability fades and we don’t want to lose its strength and stability when a pitcher is throwing 94 mph off the mound in the 7th inning.
The problems with training the cuff to failure is that you create instability, which is something we’re trying to eliminate. Allowing the head of the humerus to move in a joint that is already having dysfunction may eliminate all the positives that are created with actually training the RTC.
A very interesting study was recently published by Dr. Glenn Fleisig in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The study followed 481 youth baseball pitchers ages 9-14 for a ten year duration.
What the study found was that the athletes that pitched more than 100 innings per year were 3.5 times more likely to sustain a serious injury. Those who play catcher on top of pitching are at an even greater risk by doubling, and tripling injury rates. During the 10-year span 5% of the athletes had to quit baseball due to serious injury or surgery.
The study also looked at the curveball which has always been referenced in young pitchers and injuries. The study could not determine whether curveballs were a factor in injuries.
One of the reasons that people believe that the curveball produces more injuries is actually due to the fact that youth pitchers with a curve ball pitch more innings because they ………. possess a curve ball, and many youth baseball players struggle to hit curve balls. So if you’re hard to hit, you’re going to get more innings. It isn’t the curve ball but the number of innings / pitches / games that really produces that damage.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to abide to limiting the number of innings thrown when kids play baseball year round now. They are on a summer team, school team, 2 different select teams throughout the year, etc. Going by the wayside are kids that play 3 or 4 sports throughout the year. If athletes want to make teams they have to play year round to keep up which is terribly destructive to their overall development.
“It is a tough balancing act for adults to give their young athletes as much opportunity as possible to develop skills and strength without exposing them to increased risk of overuse injury. Based on this study, we recommend that pitchers in high school and younger pitch no more than 100 innings in competition in any calendar year. Some pitchers need to be limited even more, as no pitcher should continue to pitch when fatigued,” said Fleisig.
I recently met a college aged athlete who did nothing but pitch from the age of 7. This athlete had the worst imbalances I have ever seen at any level. When you look up imbalances due to pitching in the dictionary, his picture should be by it. He had every one I can think of. Extreme amounts of humeral retroversion, extremely limited internal rotation, unbelievable scapular dysfunction, shortened lats, limited elbow extension, and the list goes on and on. This is what happens when kids aren’t allowed to develop as an athlete and only do one thing over and over during the prime of their developmental stage.
Quickly becoming one of my new favorite movements is the Cable Pallof Press. We have used these with bands for years prior to having cable machines in our weight room, so there are other options for those of you who are without cables.
The movement trains anti-rotation of the the trunk. Creating strength through anti-rotational exercises also produces strength in rotational exercises, so we use them interchangeably. Not only do our athletes feel this in their trunk but this is one of the best exercises for activating the adductors in the hips as well. The movement incorporates everything from the chest to the knees.
Those who have been reading this blog for a while understand this follows in my opinions on training the core as an entire unit. I preach strength and stability of the torso/core all the time. We don’t do situps, crunches, russian twists, leg raises, etc….. This is one of our main rotational strength exercises for the current 3 week block of training our in-season baseball athletes.
Well tonight marks the start of the Horned Frogs 2011 Baseball season. I’m excited for not only tonights matchup vs. the Jayhawks but for the weekend series to see what this years team will be made of.
This is the intro video for this season. I haven’t watched it yet but heard its a great production and if it doesn’t get you fired up a little bit you might want to check your pulse.
It’s been a busy Spring so far and it won’t slow down much. With the travel coming up for the team I should be able to get in a little bit more posting. Until then, GO FROGS!!!