With spring training coming up in a matter of weeks, many of our baseball players are starting to throw bullpens and take more swings on a consistent basis. With this increase in baseball activity, we have been getting a lot of questions about arm care. With a rise in shoulder and elbow injuries within baseball in general, “arm care” has become a buzz term to describe specialized routines to help prevent injuries. Our biggest message to our athletes is that arm care is not just a five minute routine of exercises that you go through before or after you throw, but is a mental approach to taking care of your body 24/7.
Arm Care Start With the Legs
Most baseball players have a very acute awareness of exactly how their arm is feeling at all times. This is developed through years of experience throwing a baseball for a living. At the same time, many of these same athletes are equally unaware of how their body as a whole, especially the lower half, is functioning. Our goal at Sparta is to help each athlete understand their Sparta signature and provide them with specific prescriptions that will help them produce force and move more efficiently as a whole. The first key to arm care is that it really starts with a total body training program specific to each athlete's needs that is progressed appropriately through the entire year.
Arm Care Happens Off the Field
It is a part of our consumer mentality to want a “product” that will protect us from injury. However, there are no guarantees and we have talked in the past about the importance of training for performance rather investing time in an “insurance” policy. Sustained performance and injury prevention does not happen on the field, but rather through focused attention to regeneration day in and day out. Some of our first questions to athletes with arm soreness are not about their throwing program but about their sleep, flexibility, and nutrition. So, the second key to arm care is what you are doing during the time that you are not on the field or in the gym.
The Last 10 Percent
For athletes who “get it” and are taking care of the most important pieces of training and regen, there are some deeper layers of training that we can dig into. These layers are specific to the arm and shoulder, specifically posture, stability, and tissue quality. We start by addressing posture and positioning of the scapula and shoulder through soft tissue release of the thoracic spine and band exercises focused on scapular control. Next, we include rhythmic stabilization of the shoulder with the use of the body blade. Finally, we address stiffness and trigger points in the forearm, tricep, and lats. The forearm and tricep have a huge impact on elbow health, and the lats are important for decelerating the arm and sparing the rotator cuff. As a result, these tissues require the most attention when athletes increase their throwing and hitting volume.
- Search for spots that produce and 8/10 on the pain scale
- Focus on “pinning down” a trigger point and moving the adjacent joint to break up stiffness
- Frequency is the most important factor. Release these tissues often enough to make an improvement (2 minutes – 5 times a day)
Arm care is a good thing, but it should not be used as a catch all injury prevention tool or a superstitious routine. Arm care is a 24/7 approach to treating your body like an athlete and training to improve your movement signature, dialing in your regeneration, and spending focused time on shoulder position, stability and tissue quality.