I’ve recently heard from a number of baseball dads around the country concerned about elbow and forearm soreness their sons have been having while pitching. They all basically want to know same things:

[circle_list] [list_item]Is this normal and what could be causing it?[/list_item] [list_item]Could fixing his mechanics help?[/list_item] [list_item]Should he change the way he’s training?[/list_item] [list_item]Are there forearm exercises he should be doing?[/list_item] [/circle_list]

Just based on this sample of emails, I’m pretty sure there are a lot more young pitchers and concerned parents out there who aren’t sure where to turn for advice. So I thought it could help to address these concerns here with today’s post.

[h5]First, we need to ask what causes most arm injuries in young pitchers?[/h5]

Dr. James Andrews knows more about the alarming increase in the youth pitching injuries than just about anyone else. Here’s an interview he did the other day on the MLB Network.

According to Dr. Andrews, the top reasons for youth pitching injuries are:

1. Year-round baseball: According to one study, young pitchers who play baseball 8 months a year or more are 500% more likely to get injured. I don’t believe you have to go so far as to never pick up a ball for 4 months out of the year, but if you’re actually pitching more than 8 months a year… well, it’s not rocket science, people. Every pitcher should take some time off from pitching at the end of the season to give their arm a chance to recover.

2. Young kids training like professionals: Just about every pitcher I ever played with, in college and the pros, played more than one sport growing up. Is pitching year round really helping kids, or just increasing the risk of injury, burnout and limiting their overall athletic development? Just food for thought…

3. Attending too many showcases when the arm is not in shape: This is a huge problem in today’s youth baseball scene. Overuse during the season is one thing, but an even bigger factor is loading the joints with the stresses of max-effort pitching when guys are out of season. At least in season they’ve been throwing consistently and their arm and body should be in good pitching shape.

4. Trying to light up the radar gun: Now personally, I’m not against using a radar gun, but you have to be smart about it. As a training tool, it can be great for giving you instant feedback, making sure you’re training at a good intensity level, etc. But if your whole goal is to light it up and see how hard you can throw from day one, you’re asking for trouble. Pitching at max effort is incredibly stressful on the joints. You absolutely must be conditioned and in shape to handle this load before you break out the gun and go all out.

So to answer the question, why does my son have forearm soreness, here is my response. It’s impossible to know without seeing him in person and knowing his full history and background. But one thing I can just about guarantee…

It’s not just one thing! It’s more than likely a number of factors including:

[circle_list] [list_item]Mechanics (use Video Motion Analysis – if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing)[/list_item] [list_item]Overuse[/list_item] [list_item]Too much too soon[/list_item] [list_item]Lack of proper warm-up[/list_item] [list_item]Lack of proper conditioning (being under-prepared to handle the stresses of pitching[/list_item] [/circle_list]

Whatever the root cause, it’s important to be aware of the difference between soreness and injury. If a pitcher is grimacing every time he makes a pitch, take the ball away and get him in to see a good sports doctor immediately. If it’s just soreness and the discomfort is temporary, rest and a good strength program can do the trick – but it may still make senses to consult with a Dr. or Physical Therapist. Soreness can be a warning sign, your body telling you something isn’t right.

And as far as exercises, there’s a complex of forearm exercises I usually recommend. These are all exercises I did myself and that tons of top-level pitchers do as part of their rehab or pre-hab. They’re all easy to do and can be done anywhere using a band, dumbbell, hammer, or baseball bat.

Hammer-Circuit

Exercises geared towards grip strength can also go a long way towards protecting and building joint integrity in the elbow. A solid routine that takes into account mobility as well as shoulder and scapular stability should also be part of your regular arm care work.

Lastly, for your arm care to be effective, you have to be CONSISTENT with it. For a powerful (but Super-Simple) Arm Care program you can do anywhere without a lot of fancy equipment, click here (it’s Free!):

EZ Arm Care Program For Pitchers

Bottom line: Dealing with soreness is an unfortunate part of pitching, but pitching in pain is completely different. Be aware of the signs and the top causes of arm injuries. Use video, get assessed, train smart, and prepare your body to pitch before you let it loose on the mound!

 

Looking to keep your arm Healthy this season? Having a good arm care program (and STICKING with it) is a must.

Go Here to Grab Your EZ Arm Care Program (It's Free!)

 

Part of becoming a good pitcher means learning how to use and harness the power of momentum. What do I mean by this?

Momentum can be described with the simple equation: mass x velocity = momentum.

If you think of an 18 wheeler, it takes a lot of force applied over a long time to get that thing moving. But once it’s up to full speed, it’s going to take a lot of breaking power to slow it down. That’s momentum in action.

With pitchers, we tend to think about the role of momentum in terms of mechanics. But more than that, you can see the power of momentum at work in every facet of your game. You can see it during the course of a game, between pitches, in a series, over an entire season, in your training… and in every other imaginable way.

[h4]You Can See the Power of Momentum at Work:[/h4]
[h5]In Your delivery:[/h5]

As I discussed in my earlier article on the importance of early momentum, a powerful pitching delivery is all about creating momentum and then transferring that momentum up your kinetic chain as you throw. If you want a more scientific explanation, here is a great research report (worth a read when you have time):

The Kinetic Chain in Overhand Pitching: Its Potential Role for Performance Enhancement and Injury PreventionShane T. Seroyer, MD,* Shane J. Nho, MD, Bernard R. Bach, MD, Charles A. Bush-Joseph, MD, Gregory P. Nicholson, MD, and Anthony A. Romeo, MD

Some highlights:

“The lower extremity and trunk generate and transfer energy to the upper extremity. Coordinated lower extremity muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, hip internal and external rotators) provide a stable base for the trunk (core musculature) to rotate and flex.”

“The legs and trunk serve as the main force generators of the kinetic chain.”

“The baseball throwing motion is a complex and coordinated body event that culminates with a ballistic motion of the throwing extremity…”

Put simply, a powerful lower half and the efficient transfer of momentum up your chain are the key ingredients for a powerful pitching delivery.


Look at this video of the king… that’s a bad man.

[h5]In your training:[/h5]

Momentum isn’t just about your physical movement and your mechanics. You can think of momentum as a tailwind that can work for you in everything you do. A body in motion tends to stay in motion… Allow space for small achievable goals in your training. When you make progress, however small, you want to recognize it, build on it. Let it fuel your fire to keep putting the work in, keep getting better.

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” – Vince Lombardi

That quote speaks to momentum. When you put everything you have into your training over a long period of time, you become almost unstoppable… It’s like trying to stop that eighteen wheeler.

[h5]During a game:[/h5]

If you’ve ever been in a good groove on the mound, you know how momentum can work for you in the course of a game. You feed off every good pitch, every strikeout, your confidence growing as the game goes on.

But there’s also such a thing as negative momentum. When things start going against you on the mound, it’s easy for things to snowball and get out control.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here’s where you need to take a step off and squash that negative momentum before it has a chance to build. Take back control, and refocus your attention on the task at hand. For more on this, click here: The Mental Game of Pitching: Part I

[h5]In a series and over a season:[/h5] You hear it all the time in sports, especially during the playoffs after a big win. “Momentum has shifted back to…” And there’s definitely something to that. When a team plays well, that good experience breeds confidence which can carry over to the next game.

Then there’s the old adage: “Momentum is as good as your next day’s starter.”

And that’s part of what makes pitching so great. You get to create your own momentum. Sometimes this can carry you over the course of an entire season. I’ve seen it over and over, where a pitcher get’s his season off to a good start and then it’s just like he’s coasting. Every time he gets the ball, you expect him to deal, it’s almost automatic. They’ve built momentum and they’re letting it work for them.

So understand the important role of momentum, and start putting it to work!

 
Bottom Line: Learning to truly harness the power of momentum and use it to your advantage won’t just make you a better pitcher… If you apply it to everything you do, momentum will make you more powerful and productive in every facet of your life.

We are all capable of much more than we imagine. Too often we get off to a good start only to get derailed, slow down and get stuck. With momentum on your side, if you keep moving forward, there’s no telling what you can do.

Keep moving, keep growing… don’t be afraid to see what you’re truly capable of… You’ll be amazed.

You often hear pitching coaches talk to young pitchers about the importance of having good balance. And I completely agree… but not in the typical “get to a balance point” meaning.

Read this article to see more about why I’m not a big fan of the balance drill:
Pitching Drills: Why Most are a Complete Waste of Time

For me, Balance is a core principle that applies not just to your pitching delivery, but extends to every aspect of pitching (and LIFE for that matter).

You need balance in your delivery, balance in your mental approach, balance in your pitch selection, balance in your strategy, balance in your training, balance in your diet, balance in your sleep patterns, balance in your off-field activities, balance in your relationships… you get the idea.

[h4]Here are some tips for maintaining good Balance as it relates to:[/h4] [h5]1. Your Mechanics[/h5] Dynamic balance: Stopping in your leg lift and getting to a balance point is static balance… it kills momentum. Momentum is key for a powerful, efficient delivery. So you really want to focus on dynamic balance, or balance while moving. Here’s a good drill for working on dynamic balance and stability.

Glove side/Arm side: In your delivery, your glove arm has a direct effect on your throwing arm, so it’s important to maintain good balance and make sure both arms are working together. Read this article on good glove arm action.

Upper half, Lower half: the pitching delivery is a fast, explosive movement involving momentum and rotational power. Good timing is critical for transferring momentum up your kinetic chain and out to your arm. To accomplish this, your arms and legs need to be in sync. Another way to think of this is the idea of your upper half matching your lower half, or more simply, being balanced.

[h5]2. Your Mindset[/h5] Ups & Downs: There’s an old adage, “keep your lows high and your highs low.” Over the course of a season you’re bound to have many ups and downs, moments of triumph and total failure. If you get too high after a great performance, you risk getting complacent, setting yourself up for a great fall. Get too down in the dumps after a rough game and it can be tough to dig yourself out. The key is keeping things in perspective. Keep an even keel, keep showing up and giving it everything you’ve got.

Control your emotions: It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of competition when something doesn’t go your way on the mound. The ump makes a bad call, your short stop boots a double play ball… it’s natural to get frustrated when these things happen. But focusing on them won’t help you get the next batter out. In fact, frustration and negative emotions can often tip the scale, causing you to spin out of control. Next time this happens, step off the mound and take a breath. Gather your emotions, and focus on what you can control – your next pitch.

For more, check out this article on the Mental Game of Pitching.

[h5]3. Your Pitch Selection[/h5] When it comes to pitch selection, pitching is more art than science. Every pitcher is unique, every pitcher has different stuff. You have to know what works for you, what doesn’t. Learning to read the hitter and adapt to the situation are things you develop through experience and years of pitching. That said, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to increase your odds for success:

Keep ‘em guessing: Warren Spahn has a great quote, “A pitcher needs two pitches, one they’re looking for and one to cross them up.” Simple, but true. It doesn’t matter if you throw gas if the hitter knows it’s coming. Change speeds, change locations. Read this article on the importance of commanding your pitches.

Don’t fall in love with one pitch: Sometimes you might have success with a certain pitch, and the tendency is to go back to that pitch again and again. But go to that well too many times, and you’re bound to get in trouble. Hitters will adjust, and even worse, you may lose the feel for your other pitches. So try to maintain good balance with your pitch selection and use all your pitches.

Note: I’m not suggesting you should throw 16 different pitches… read this article:
How Many Pitches Do You Really Need?

[h5]4. Your Training[/h5] Don’t spend all your time pitching: When it comes to mastering the art of pitching, nothing beats throwing from the mound. But as I mentioned in my article on the benefits of long toss, spending all your time on mound work can increase the risk of injury. But don’t just take my word for it – hear what Dr. Glenn Fleisig has to say:

“The best training for baseball pitching is baseball pitching. If you train from a mound at maximum effort, your muscles and neurological system would benefit. That being said, you cannot train from a mound (continually) because you would get hurt. You want a training program that is similar, but different enough to simulate pitching.” – Dr. Glenn Fleisig

So yes, you want to spend plenty of time working on the mound to develop a consistent delivery and command of your pitches, but as with everything else, take a balanced approach. Mix in flat ground pitching and long toss. And don’t neglect your mobility and flexibility (I highly recommend checking out Eric Cressey’s Assess & Correct). Get in the weight room and work on your strength and joint integrity. Do your sprints and plyo work to condition your ATP system.

Good balance is a key part of being a complete pitcher. And it’s not just about mechanics. In fact, we just scratched the surface here. I didn’t even get into balance with your diet, balance with your attitude, balance with your intensity… the list is endless.

[h5]So what does having good Balance mean to you? Leave a comment below![/h5]
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