Under the Microscope: Arm Care

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ARM CARE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I recently attended the Elite Pitching Seminar at Champion PT and Performance in Waltham, MA and drove away with a lot of great information. The crowd was a blend of strength and conditioning coaches, current players, and baseball coaches all aiming to learn from one another.

One thing that I’ve learned from being a Performance Coach and Baseball Coach is that I must constantly bridge the gap between performance and injury reduction.

Rather than solely focusing on getting kids stronger to enhance performance, I must make sure their body moves well. This includes making sure that their arm should look like an arm.

We are in a velocity hungry game. There are way too many kids out there who only focus on their throwing, which increases their risk of injury.

Shutting down for 4 months of high-intent throwing has been shown to reduce risk of injury by 5 TIMES! 5 TIMES! It’s not JUST about throwing.

Here is a diagram of the factors that go into throwing velocity, and where I think we are. NOTE: the closer the factor is to VELO, the more important it is

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 8.57.11 PM

Here is where we SHOULD be…

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 8.57.27 PM

One of the topics that was brought up at the Elite Pitching Seminar was arm care. We hear this term all the time, but what does it really mean?

I personally think it’s a combination of arm health and arm fitness. Let’s dive into these two concepts, and what makes them different.


Arm Health

A healthy arm is both strong and resilient. The throwing motion is not good for your body, with one reason being that it’s the fastest motion in all of sports.

Repeated throwing results in the surrounding musculature to tighten up as a protective mechanism. To restore arm health, we should focus on restoring some range of motion loss and making sure the arm should work like an arm.

What does a healthy arm look like?

What we want to achieve is simple: keeping to humeral head (the ball) within the glenoid fossa (the socket) where it’s supposed to be at REST and during MOVEMENT.

Shoulder External and Internal Rotation

 

Shoulder Flexion and Extension


Lots of times, a faulty shoulder will result in too much scapular elevation during shoulder flexion. During shoulder extension, we must be careful of that humeral head shifting forward in the socket.


Horizontal Abduction and Adduction. Most baseball players lack horizontal adduction due to a tight posterior shoulder.


As we lift our arms overhead, we want to see the bottom part of our shoulder blade ride along our rib cage and essentially “disappear” in our arm pit.

If you closely look at the bottom video, you can see that my shoulder blades actually do a good job at upwardly rotating along my rib cage. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t throw for a long time!

​​


Arm Fitness

This part focuses on strengthening the rotator cuff, maximizing cuff endurance, and optimizing scapular strength. Part of this can be achieved with a throwing program, but most of it can only be achieved in the weight room.

Once the arm moves like an arm should (or achieving good arm health), then we can begin to strengthen it rather than layering a dysfunction with even more dysfunction.

We know that baseball players will lose a little bit of internal rotation and gain some external rotation, that’s totally fine. However, I think since there is a gain in external rotation, the shoulder will have a little less stability so we must strengthen it throughout the entire range of motion.

Baseball players need to be strong at MULTIPLE joint angles in their throwing shoulder. Find out where they are weak, and strengthen it. It ain’t rocket science, it’s baseball-science!

I love using rhythmic stabilizations and isometric contractions to attain strength at a specific joint angle.

Any rotator cuff exercise shouldn’t be done to failure. For example, oscillation drills and maximal contraction drills should last no longer than 10 seconds. Start at a 5 second mark, and slowly build up from there.


Application

Just to recap, arm health is about making sure the throwing arm should move like an arm, first and foremost.

Do you have limited strength in external rotation? Can you lift your arm over your head? Are you able to control shoulder extension and flexion without any compensation? These are important questions to consider.

Arm fitness is about how strong your arm is in each plane of motion and how resilient it is when performing maximal contraction drills. You can’t slam the gas pedal without brake pads!

Look out for a future arm care program in the future…that is all.


Strong and resilient,

Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS

 

 

 


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