Home Baseball Content Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 4

Common Arm Care Mistakes: Installment 4

Written on January 30, 2014 at 7:32 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for another installment of "Common Arm Care" mistakes, and in this go-round, I'm going to be talking about volume management.  This mistake can be summed up in one sentence:

If you keep adding things without taking something else away, you'll eventually wind up with overuse problems.

Effective, there is a "give and take" that is involved with the training of any throwing athlete.  The more throwing these athletes do, the less supplemental training they can incorporate. This can occur in a number of different contexts.

First, on the throwing side, you'll often see pitchers who are always seeking out the latest, greatist throwing programs.  However, they don't "program hop;" they just keep adding.  Before you know it, they're making 300 throws in every session – and throwing seven days a week – because they have to get in their long toss, weighted balls, underweight balls, mound work, and towel drills.  If you told them that practicing their nunchuck skills would help, they'd add that in, too.

Second, you have to be cognizant of the rest of your strength and power training volume.  When your pitch count goes up, you need to pare back on your upper body lifting volume; banging out a bunch of chin-ups isn't going to feel so hot after a 60-pitch outing.  Additionally, your medicine ball work volume needs to go down as the throwing volume goes up.

To give you some frame of reference for this, here's a little excerpt from Marlins closer Steve Cishek's off-season medicine ball programs.  Keep in mind that the total throws equals left-handed throws, plus right-handed throws, plus overhead throws.

October: break from rotation, no aggressive medicine ball or overhead work
November: 156 total throws
December (started throwing mid-December): 138 total throws
January (ramped up throwing): 66 total throws

Once spring training rolls around and he's throwing even more, he'll have even less.  A minor leaguer whose season wraps up a month earlier would actually be able to get an additional month of aggressive medicine ball work in.

639px-Steve_Cishek_2013

Third, pitchers often forget that throwing itself is a huge challenge to the rotator cuff.  So, if your throwing volume goes up as the season approaches, you should be doing less arm care work than you would have done in the off-season.  You can get away with this reduction in arm care work because you've already put in a great off-season to build things up.  Of course, if you throw year-round, then you're already behind the 8-ball when the season starts.

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  • John

    total medicine balls per session I assume. How many days per week?

  • Andy

    Eric,

    We started pitcher/catcher practice last week and I implement some arm care at the end of our practices. It is just the basic scap work such as goal posts and that sort. As the season gets closer and more pitching gets done off the mound and I have added stuff do the arm care, how would i go about taking away some arm care drills and keeping them?

    Thanks.

  • Jon

    Great post Eric, thanks for sharing.

    Question: Back in 2012 you wrote a blog post, “5 things that might surprise you about our baseball S & C programs,” in which you mentioned that your baseball guys may perform anywhere from 240-360 total med ball throws in a given *week* (during high volume phases), yet, in your post today you mention that Steve Cischek only did 156 total throws throughout the course of an entire month. Seems like an enormous difference there.

    Have you changed your stance regarding total volume of med ball work completed each week during the off-season, or does this have something to do with the level that Cischek plays at compared to some of the other high school and college guys that train at your facility?

    Maybe I misunderstood what you were saying in today’s post compared to the other one, but any clarification you have to provide would be great. Thanks!

  • John,

    It’s 2-3 sessions per week, depending on time of year.

  • Andy,
     
    I think that if you work in some band internal and external rotation work at 90 degrees, then some band Ys, you’d be fine.  Two sets each, three times a week should suffice.  I wouldn’t be doing any of the empty can (thumbs down) stuff.

    Best,

    EC

  • Charles

    Mr. Cressey,
    I came upon an article by the Mets Matt Harvey’s trainer, a man from Connecticut Jess Banda, said Harvey’s velocity jumped substantially by strengthening his rotator cuff. Same exercises I’ve seen you support, (external rotation variations, prone trap raises, prone horizontal abduction) however reps were low, like power lifting and strength gain reps, in the 1-5 range and they were doing external rotations upwards of 35 lbs per arm as well as the other exercises I mentioned with heavy weight and not the usual 5 lb weight routine. I’ve never seen anything like this. I know your the “shoulder guy” and wanted your opinion on this type of rotator cuff strengthing. Low reps, very heavy weight, assuming proper form. Have you seen anything or implement anything like this with your pitchers?

  • Harold

    In regards to Andy’s answer you posted. The band internal and external rotations along with y’s… You recommend 2 sets 3x a week. Would it be ok if you did one set of these pre-throwing as a warm up with the band’s daily instead? Or should you do it after throwing and stick to the 2 sets 3x a week?

  • Jeff

    Eric, In part 2 of this series, you mentioned lax or loose guys can do rhythmic stabilizations before throwing as a warmup. How many sets/different positions do you recommend? Supine or kneeling, 3 positions?

  • Rick

    Hi Eric, I know you have stated that you don’t like pitchers overhead pressing, even with a healthy shoulder. Wouldn’t overhead MB tosses also contribute to things like labral fraying, subscap microtrauma and partial thickness cuff tears? I would think that the force created with OH MB Toss would be greater than pressing a 20lb db with a neutral grip.

  • Jeff,

    Usually just one set. I like three positions, and it doesn’t matter much whether they’re supine or kneeling.  Really depends on what you have available (table or not).

  • Rick,

    It’s significantly different.  The heaviest MB we’re using overhead is 12lbs.  If these guys can’t lift six pounds (per hand) overhead, they’ve got other problems.  It’s a lot different than loading things up heavier.

  • Harold,

    Absolutely; that’s fine.

  • Hi Charles,

    It’s fine to train the cuff with lower reps, but I prefer to do it with manual resistance work as opposed to external loading.  I’m not a fan of the elbow on the knee approach that I’ve seen from Harvey with his external rotations, though, as it puts the scapula in a mechanically disadvantageous position.

  • Hi Jon,

    We’ll still have the volume up that high with some guys, but big-leaguers have such a short off-season that it’s hard to build up that level of work capacity so quickly.  That said, we’ve also switched to some more intensive variations that work on sets of 3-5/side, as opposed to sets of 6-8, so that accounts for some of the reduction. 

  • Jon

    Thanks for the reply Eric, much appreciated.

  • Diana Germain

    Hello! I discovered you too late for one son but fortunatley not the other. My younger son is 7 turning 8 and loving baseball. Up here in Canada I am nervous of the information that are young players are getting as my older son ended up tearing his anterior labrum in his throwing arm at 16…. What advise do you have for the 8 year old who just wants to keep on throwing….

  • Diana,

    They need to find other sports to play to get the ball out of their hands for 3-4 months/year.  It’ll make a huge difference.


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