Written on February 17, 2009 at 11:09 am, by Eric Cressey
EricCressey.com Subscriber-Only Q&A
Q: My question pertains to medicine ball workouts for pitchers. Are they only off-season training drills, or can I do them with my pitchers between starts? And, are there good ones for pitchers arms, in particular? I know you mentioned doing some one-arm drills with your pitchers.
A: It’s safe to say that we probably do more medicine ball work than anyone on the planet. In fact, we’ve broken 17 medicine balls (16 featured in this photo) thus far this off-season.
Our destruction of medicine balls has been so epic that our equipment supplier actually asked us if we were throwing them against a wall with “jagged edges,” as nobody had ever had similar problems, much less with as much regularity. So, suffice it to say that we hammer on medicine ball work a ton in the off-season, and the useful life of a ball around here is 4-6 weeks. But, I don’t want to digress…
After the season ends, pitchers usually get a two-week break from anything that involves overhead throwing or rapid elbow extension after they are done throwing before we integrate any of this. Position players start right up with it. I think it’s crucial to start up right away so that you can teach proper scap and hip loading so that guys will get the most out of it when the time comes to throw with more volume and complex exercises that help to maintain pitching-specific mobility, as Stanford-bound Sahil Bloom shows:
We typically go 3x/week medicine ball work with anywhere from 80 to 120 throws (never more than eight per set) per session from October through December (the last month overlaps with throwing programs where these guys are just tossing – nothing too challenging). This continues right up through spring training for all our position players. For pitchers, though, as January rolls around, we add in more bullpens and aggressive long tossing (and weighted balls, for some guys), and the medicine ball work drops off to two times a week with less volume and a more conservative exercise selection. This twice a week set-up goes right through Spring Training.
We always pair our medicine ball work with various mobilizations so that guys are addressing flexibility deficits instead of just standing around. It might be thoracic spine and hip mobility drills from Assess and Correct. Combining these mobilizations with all our medicine ball work, warm-ups, foam rolling/massage, and the static stretching programs guys are on, we have no concerns about pitchers “tightening up” with lifting. Blue Jays prospect Tim Collins doesn’t seem to be all “muscle-bound” here, for instance:
I don’t do a ton of medicine ball work in-season with my higher level guys; it’s usually once every five days. A lot of the focus is on the non-dominant side. So, a right-handed pitcher would do more rotational stuff from the left side to keep as much symmetry as possible. With high school athletes, on the other hand, I see no reason why you can’t use a slightly higher volume of medicine ball drills in-season. Kids are resilient and in many cases, undertrained, so there is always a big window of adaptation ahead of them.
With respect to the one-arm smaller medicine ball work, we use those two variations around this time of year. It’s usually just two sets of eight reps right after throwing sessions twice a week. I like the idea of consolidating the stress with throwing outings. That said, there are some people that do them as warm-ups prior to throwing. Here, Atlanta Braves prospect Chad Rodgers demonstrates a few with a 1kg (2.2lb) ball.
As a random aside, off to the side in this video, you’ll see how we tend to pair mobility/activation movements with power training, as Royals catching prospect Matt Morizio goes back and forth from clap push-ups to scapular wall slides.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg, so for more information, I would encourage you to check out our resource, Functional Stability Training; it is incredibly thorough, including plenty of options for both off- and in-season medicine ball work.
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