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WARM UP/GAME PREP
Simple answer…it’s better for the health, performance and recovery of the athlete. The more important question is….
One of the main things to understand here is that cold, static stretching is detrimental to performance and recovery. Instead, focus should be on things like myofascial release (foam rolling, lacrosse ball, trigger point, etc.), dynamic movements (body squats, lunges, agilities) and band work (mandatory for pitchers!). Generally speaking, your team should be able to get a full-body warm up completed in 8-10 minutes (this does not include pre-throwing work).
The following link is a good source of warm up exercises that can be implemented and includes a description of how to perform them. At the bottom of the page is a video, as well…
After the general warm up and before the throwing program, your athletes should be prepping their arms. This, at an absolute minimum, will be a series of bodyweight exercises like arm circles. Preferably, they will have access to J-Bands or some other version of tubing. Here is a link to Jaeger Sports suggested pre-throwing tubing exercises:
Although these exercises are not set in stone, some of them should definitely be staples. The internal/external rotations and forward/reverse throwing are a few of these. The players can also feel free to add movements that they prefer, but it should be reinforced that the intentions for a warm up are simply that. In other words, this is not a workout and they should not feel fatigued when they are finished.
From here, some of the players will have been introduced to plyo care balls. Plyo care balls are essentially small rubber medicine balls. They are implemented through very specific drills to teach/reinforce proper arm action and to complete the pre-throwing warm up. Each player who is familiar with plyo care drills should do these before games as well. These players should also understand that they will need to vary the intensity and volume based on how they feel. For example, if Johnny threw 75 pitches on Saturday, he’s going to want to focus more on the recovery drills and go easy on the others. It is also possible that some fields/complexes will not be conducive to using plyo balls in the manner the players are accustomed to. For example, a wall or screen may not be available to throw them against. In this case, an alternate method can be used. One option is to essentially play catch. There are plenty of partner exercises that use medicine balls. Plyo balls are not much different other than the fact that they will likely need to be farther apart. We have recently adjusted our pivot pickoff drill to always be done in this fashion. Another option is to reduce the intensity of each rep and hold onto the ball. This is not ideal as it can create unwanted tension throughout the arm, but is an acceptable short-term solution that is better than not doing them at all. Here are links to videos showing the main 3 drills we use in our pre-throwing routine.
Reverse Throws: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AUF2tKP6wo
Pivot Picks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=espdyF-BEUU
Warming up is easy but can be perceived as boring. It is important that we turn this into a part of our players’ normal routine to promote good habits that they can carry forward throughout their careers. And it cannot be understated how important this time is for them in regard to preventing injury and reducing recovery time. Also, feel free to be creative by introducing new exercises and movements whenever you get the feeling that the players are just going through the motions. We all know how quickly some of these players can lose focus. Their warm up time doesn’t just get their bodies prepared, it should also be the time when they start to lock in mentally.