In previous articles, I’ve written about the importance of good mobility and stability in your pitching delivery. But one thing I haven’t mentioned before is that late in my career, I finally got serious about addressing flexibility and mobility issues that were holding me back. And I started doing something I never would have considered in my younger days…

I had tried stretching at night, and that helped to some extent. But I still felt I could do more to improve my flexibility, stability and balance to make my pitching delivery more efficient. So one off-season, I decided to take a different approach and started doing Yoga. I still kept up with my other conditioning (lifting, plyo’s, sprinting).

[h5]Here are some key benefits I saw from adding Yoga to my training:[/h5]
  • Improved overall flexibility
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Improved body awareness
  • Improved strength and stamina

Plus an unanticipated side-benefit…

  • Improved mental focus and toughness

I recently caught up with Gwen Lawrence, a leading Yoga instructor when it comes to training athletes. Gwen has worked with many pro and amateur athletes, including members of the New York Yankees and New York Giants.

One thing I like about Gwen’s approach is that she really makes an effort to understand the individual athlete. She understands the position, and the unique demands a pitcher may have vs. a hitter. And at the same time, some guys may need to work more on flexibility, some more on balance and stability.

Now Yoga isn’t necessarily for everyone… But if you keep an open mind, I believe most pitchers can benefit from adding Yoga to their training.

So if you’re like me, and you’re always on the lookout for ways to be a better pitcher, check out today’s interview!

[h5]Gwen Lawrence[/h5] GwenLawrence.com
•E-RYT 500 experienced registered Yoga Teacher 500 hour, highest accredited
•YTA member of Yoga teachers association
•YA member of Yoga Alliance
•NSCA member National Sports conditioning association
•RY th Registered Yoga Therapist
•RYS register accredited yoga school owner founder director

Power Yoga for Baseball

Power-Yoga-for-Baseball
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[h5]Poses/Stretches referenced in the interview:[/h5]

Gwen-Lawrence-Yoga-Poses

Are little league pitching mechanics the same as major league mechanics?

In a previous post, I wrote about teaching pitching mechanics to Little League pitchers, and how I recommend taking a different approach with very young pitchers than with more mature athletes (you can read that post here).

What I didn’t really get into, though, is what I consider to be the biggest problem with the way most young pitchers are taught “proper pitching mechanics” these days.

Do you work with young pitchers? CLICK BELOW for a FREE Youth Pitching Lesson Framework

Download Your Free Youth Pitching Program

 

I was working with a 12 year old pitcher over the weekend, and we were working on things like creating good momentum, staying fluid, good rhythm and tempo… and then something he said stopped me in my tracks.

“They’ve been teaching us to do this,” and he raised his knee up and paused. Then he separated his hands and made a “T” with his arms, all the while holding that balance position. Then he strode out and paused in the “Power Position.” Then he finished his throw…

I just stared at him. “Wow… okay, let’s talk about this,” and I began explaining that while I’m sure his coaches have very good intentions, what they’ve been teaching him and other young pitchers is not what you see among the majority of successful, major league pitchers. Which raises another question…
 

Are Little League pitching mechanics the same as Major League mechanics?

In theory, Yes… The mechanics used to throw with speed and power are the same regardless of the pitcher’s size and age. But expecting Little League pitchers to move with the same sort of power and athleticism you see among world class major league pitchers is pretty unrealistic (minus the rare exceptions).

So does that mean it makes sense to teach young pitchers using drills that force them to move slower?? Or would they be better off doing things that actually made them more explosive and athletic in their pitching deliveries? In my experience, many of the drills used for teaching “good pitching mechanics” to little leaguers actually work against moving powerfully like the major league’s best pitchers.

Here are the top 3 mechanical issues I see with Little League pitchers:

1. Raising the Throwing Arm Early (lack of early momentum)

2. Opening (Unloading) the Hips Early (front foot points towards home too soon)

3. Collapsing Front Knee after Landing

So what are some reasons young pitchers might have a tough time moving like their major league counterparts?

1. They may lack the necessary mobility and leg strength:
Yes, leg strength IS important for a powerful pitching delivery!
(more on this in a future post)

I highly recommend getting a full assessment by a trained Strength Coach or Physical Therapist. If you’re unable to do that, Eric Cresssey’s Assess & Correct is an excellent program.

2. They likely don’t possess the same overall athleticism:
That’s right… pitchers ARE athletes. Mariano Rivera started out as a shortstop. Dylan Bundy trains like a prize fighter, Tim Lincecum (known affectionately for his athleticism as “The Freak”) can walk around on his hands like a circus clown…

Heck, even the big overweight guys that sometimes give pitchers a bad name are usually a lot more athletic than you’d think.

3. Youth pitchers have been taught to get to “positions” rather than learning the right movements for a big league pitching delivery:
When you teach kids to get to positions, training things like getting to a Balance Point, getting the throwing arm up, and getting to the Power Position, You effectively rob them of their natural athleticism, kill their momentum, and turn them into slow-moving mechanical throwers (see this article for more on why I’m against most pitching drills).

I’m generally okay teaching these positions when kids are just starting out so they can know what that feels like. But once they get comfortable with them, the emphasis should be on staying fluid and dynamic, flowing right through those positions!

And while possessing the necessary strength and athleticism is important, a big part of developing “Big League Pitching Mechanics” is just learning the right motor coordination. This is why video analysis can be so powerful. Nothing speeds up the learning process like being able to see how you’re moving vs. the pros.
 

So if drills that teach getting to “positions” are bad, what do you do?

 

  • Train the athlete: Focus on improving overall strength, stability and body awareness. These things can be developed through conditioning and strength training (beginning with bodyweight exercises) and dynamic balance/stability drills.
  • Train the intent to throw hard: As a young kid, I developed my “arm strength” by throwing a tennis ball against the back of my house and playing with friends at school, throwing against a brick wall (played a game called “butts up,” probably outlawed these days). That freedom to just throw without a coach constantly telling me things like “Get balanced!” or “Get your arm up!” taught me how to recruit my entire body in order to throw with more power.
  • Avoid drills that teach cookie cutter mechanics: No two pitchers are exactly the same, and they shouldn’t be taught to have exactly the same pitching delivery. That said, there are components within the delivery that are consistent among the majority of elite pitchers. Things like Early Momentum, Loading the Hips, creating Torque, and Stabilizing the front side.
 

Do you work with young pitchers? CLICK BELOW for a FREE Youth Pitching Lesson Framework

youth-pitching-lesson

Download Your Free Youth Pitching Program

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!)

 

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