As I said in part 1 of this 2-part article on How to Prepare Before Your Throwing Program, one common theme that I often hear when players describe how they got hurt was that they did not properly warm up and prepare themselves to throw.
To prepare before your throwing program, you really need to do two things: 1) Prepare your body and 2) Prepare your throwing. If you haven’t yet, please go back and read part 1 of this article to learn how to prepare your body:
How to Prepare Before Your Throwing Program – Part 2: Prepare Your Throwing
Now that your body is ready to roll and start your throwing program, I want to shift gears and talk about how to use your throwing program to prepare to throw. I think it is really import to “prepare to throw, not throw to prepare.”
What I mean by that is that you need to make sure you are properly warmed up, even within your throwing program, before you can start your throwing “work.” You shouldn’t just jump on the mound, or throw at full intensity, or quickly progress to long tossing. That is throwing to prepare, and as I stated in part 1 of this article, I don’t want aggressive throwing to be the first things your body feels.
To prepare to throw, you need to prepare your body (again, in part 1) and then prepare your throwing program. There is a BIG difference between your “warm-up” throwing and your “work” throwing.
Would you ever just throw your max weight on the bar and start squatting or deadlifting without doing warm up sets? Never, right? In strength and conditioning we usually incorporate a gradual increase in load with the weight of an exercise before getting to the weight we want to use to train. You have warm-up sets and then work sets. As an example, if you are supposed to perform 5 sets of 5 reps of deadlifts at 285 lbs, if you first set is 185, second set 205, and third set 225, those don’t count as your 5×5 work sets.
The same goes with throwing.
Prepare to Throw Step 4 – Ease Into Throwing
I’ve played catch with 100’s of professional baseball pitchers. I honestly only remember one that would start throwing 90 MPH at my knees by the third or forth throw (and he’s been injured his entire career). Big leaguers get it and gradually get loose. You’d actually be surprised at how easy they actually play catch initially as they warm up.
On the flip side, one of the more common tweaks I make to my younger athletes is to ease into throwing. Not a week goes by without someone gunning a ball at my ankles on the 3rd throw (I love you GD…).
This is extremely stressful on the body. Remember throwing itself is stressful. You have to gradually apply that stress to get the tissue used to the force.
Not all throwing has to be designed to gain arm strength or velocity. Some throwing should be more similar to just riding a bike with your arm to get blood flow and gradually apply stress to the elasticity of the tissue.
Prepare to Throw Step 5 – Let The Distance Dictate the Intensity
The next step to prepare to throw builds on step 4. Now that you’ve played light catch to get loose, it’s time to start walking back and increasing the distance.
Distance in your long toss program is a variable we use to adjust your intensity. Realistically there isn’t much difference between throwing with full intensity at 150 feet or 200 feet. Full intensity is pretty much full intensity.
Again, resist the urge to start throwing on a line at new distances. Rather, I tell my athletes to “let the distance dictate the intensity,” meaning throw the ball with a bit of an arc to firmly hit your partner in the chest on the descent.
If the ball would sail past your partner another 100 feet if they missed your throw, you are throwing too hard for the stretch out phase of throwing.
There will be time to throw on a line, that is next step…
Prepare to Throw Step 6 – Get Your Work In
OK, you’ve made it! You prepared your body. You’re mobile. You activated your muscles. You did a dynamic warm up. You eased into throwing and long toss. Congrats! Now you can “throw.”
Just to reiterate, there is a difference between “warm-up” throwing and “work” throwing. Step 6 is now incorporating your “work” throwing, whatever that may be for you that day.
It could be long toss, weighted balls, bullpen work, even throwing in a game. That is your “work” throwing and you are now ready for it.
By going through the proper steps to prepare to throw you’ll find that you actually get better work in and throw better, plus you’ll be much more resilient to injuries. These are some of the key steps I outline to all of my athletes and what we follow in the big leagues.
Want to Learn More?
This month’s Inner Circle webinar will be on How to Prepare Before a Throwing Program. I’m going to dive into these topics in even more depth, including showing more of the specific drills I perform, for those that want to learn even more. The live webinar will on Tuesday 2/24/15 at 8:00 PM EST but I will also record and upload soon after. Inner Circle members can sign up for the webinar in the Inner Circle Dashboard
I also have a free 45-minute video on How Baseball Players Can Safely Enhance Performance While Reducing Injuries. Enter your name and email below and I will send you access to the video as well as a handout of the above arm care warm-up exercises that you can take to the field: