Baseball and the Importance of Arm Strengthening Exercises
Written By: Brad Olson, Athlete Performance Coach, B.A., C.S.C.S.
Steven Strasberg, Adam Wainwright, Chad Billingsly, Xavier Nady, and Tommy John, all these players have one thing in common, they all have had ulnar collateral ligament (ucl) surgery, or otherwise known as “Tommy John” surgery. This is when the ligament in the elbow is torn. Now most of the time this injury happens on a certain throw or pitch and the ligament snaps. However, this throw is a result from continuous wear and tear on the elbow, and could either be caused by a faulty throwing motion, or repeated throws causing excessive use as a baseball throw is not a natural motion for the arm.
Now there is no guarantee that an injury to the elbow or shoulder can be avoided, but by strengthening the muscles around these joints, it will help to prevent injuries from happening in these areas. Exercises that include band work, surgical tubing, or light dumb bell exercises are common exercises that will help strengthen the arm. These will target the forearm muscles, biceps, triceps, and rotator cuff muscles. These are all the muscles that are used in the throwing of a baseball.
Some of the exercises that should be done are pronation and supination rotations of the wrist and forearm, external and internal rotations of the elbow, abduction and adduction of the shoulder, and flexion and extension of the wrist. A final simple arm exercise that isn’t utilized by enough people is long toss. This is the best way to increase arm strength, and doesn’t need any additional equipment than what is already used in baseball. It should be done 3 times a week for upwards of 20 minutes a time. This allows the muscles to be stretched out and increase in strength.
As someone who has had “Tommy John” surgery, I can say first hand that after doing rehab exercises and continuing to do these arm exercises, my arm strength improved, the velocity on my throw increases, and the distance I was able to throw increased dramatically. The exercises that are done are not about increasing weight, but more about increasing of reps and sets, range of motion, and the ability to single out the correct muscles.
Staying on a routine is a big deal for baseball. There is no other sport that follows superstitions like baseball does. You wear your uniform the same way, put a specific batting glove or spike on first, have a specific pre at-bat ritual, and don’t step on the foul line just to name a few. You also make sure to take hundreds of swings and groundballs to get your swing and fielding as close to perfect as possible. Adding in one more simple routine to improve arm strength is an aspect that is missed by many players, and needs to be done not only in the offseason, but year round.
By simply adding these arm workouts to your baseball routines and practices, it will not only help to decrease your chances of an arm injury, but will also increase your arm strength overall while adding miles per hour to your throw.