Enhance your Pre-game Routine with Arm Care

Written By: Lacey Waldrop

How does your Pre-game Warm-up Impact your Health and Performance?

I've watched teams warm-up many times throughout the years as both a coach and a player. When I was growing up in travel ball, there was little knowledge about arm care or proper warm-ups in general, but times are changing. There is a wide variety of information on proper overhand throwing mechanics that both increase velocity and decrease injury. Although the information on underhand throwing is few and far between in comparison to overhand throwing, the amount of quality information is on the rise. If you are looking to further your career at the college level, maintain longevity, and remain healthy throughout your playing days, it is time to take your warm-up routine seriously.

Typical Team Warm-ups

All too often I see pitchers and position players begin their warm-up routine by simply starting to throw. Whether at an easy pace or firing up to full speed right away, jumping right into throwing should never be your first "warm-up". Studies have shown that completing a proper dynamic warm-up routine can reduce the risk of injury and improve performance in overhand and underhand throwers.

Despite this knowledge, there are many players who spend little to no time preparing their bodies to take on the stress of throwing. A lack of emphasis on a proper warm-up routine accompanied by lack of strength, poor throwing mechanics, and often playing numerous games throughout a two-day period, often lead to overuse injuries.

Warm-up Properly to Combat Injuries and Increase Performance

To combat injuries and take control of your warm-ups, start implementing a dynamic warm-up before every practice or game. For overhead sports like softball, this should also include an upper-body dynamic warm-up. You can use this lower body routine to begin your warm-up. As you progress into the upper body exercises, you have a few options. At Softball Rebellion, I have my pitchers go through a series of band work with Jaeger Bands. I learned this routine from The VeloLab throwing program.

J-Band Routine

Physical Cues:
  • Focus on maintaining your posture throughout each exercise.
  • Think about keeping your ribs down and core engaged.
  • Before each exercise pull your shoulders down and back.

Side Note: Two of these exercises are specific to underhand throwing. Overhand throwers can complete their overhand throwing motion while facing away from the band instead of the split stance arm circles.

I also mentioned, "engaging the scaps" in the video above. I misspoke here, as the scaps are bones and cannot be engaged. The scapular stabilizers (a grouping of muscles in the upper back that is mentioned below) are what the athlete should focus on engaging. To make this easier to understand,  you can ask the athlete to pretend they are squeezing a pencil between their shoulder blades.

Why should you complete these exercises?

Your shoulder relies heavily on muscles that make up your rotator cuff as well as the muscles in your upper back. The muscles in your upper back stabilize the shoulder and protect it from injury. "These muscles include the trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboids, and serratus anterior, and they are referred to as the scapular stabilizers. They control the scapula and clavicle bones — called the shoulder girdle — which functions as the foundation for the shoulder joint."(Anderson).

Many of the exercises above are meant to strengthen your scapular stabilizers. At the same time, the athlete should also work to engage their core to provide stability and proper positioning through each exercise. Warming up with this upper body routine will help overhand and underhand throwers stabilize their shoulder and decrease their risk of injury.

No Bands, No Problem

Although I highly recommend band work, there are other upper body dynamic warm-ups that you can complete without bands. Check out this upper-body warm-up from the Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Creating a Solid Foundation

I am not an expert on the anatomy of the shoulder; however, I do understand the importance of a proper warm-up routine. I encourage you to continue to research ways to improve your warm-up routine and take care of your body. There is an excess of information to learn from at the tip of your fingers; use it. If you choose to ignore these simple steps to improve your overall health and performance, you are only hurting yourself.

References:

Anderson, Kyle. “Shoulder Injuries in the Throwing Athlete - OrthoInfo - AAOS.” OrthoInfo, Mar. 2013, https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/shoulder-injuries-in-the-throwing-athlete.

Naperalsky, Michael E, and John-Henry Anderson. “An Upper Extremity Active Dynamic Warm-Up for Sport... : Strength & Conditioning Journal.” Strength and Conditioning Journal, Feb. 2012, https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Fulltext/2012/02000/An_Upper_Extremity_Active_Dynamic_Warm_Up_for.8.aspx?trendmd-shared=0.

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