In my many years of teaching and coaching baseball, mainly pitchers, I have been asked by young players and dads, ‘ What should a player or pitcher do to get his arm in shape for the season or to begin throwing off the mound?’. While at the University of Michigan I developed a five week progressive throwing program to strengthen arms to get pitchers ready to start throwing off the mound and to get regular players ready for the rigors of everyday practice and a 5 to 6 games a week schedule. Obviously this program is meant for players from age 18 on up but I believe it is applicable to high school players as well. Younger players should modify the distance according to their age and should also shorten the time that they throw accordingly.
This program is an adaptation of the "Progressive Shoulder Throwing Program" authored by the Kerlan -Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, which is used to rehabilitate injured throwing arms. This program is not meant as a rehab program but a program to get an uninjured throwing arm into shape to withstand the rigors of the season. It is meant for pitchers and regular players alike. It covers a period of 5 weeks. If you have had trouble with your arm or you are coming off of an injury you should follow the advice of your doctor for a more extensive and lengthy program.
If you are having trouble with your arm, It is important to use heat prior to stretching. Heat increases circulation and activates some of the natural lubricants of the body. Perform stretching exercises after applying the heat modality and then proceed with the throwing program. Use ice after throwing to reduce cellular damage and decrease the inflammatory response to micro trauma.
Ideally, you should schedule your throwing program and a strengthening program on alternate days. If you are going to do both on the same day always make sure you do your throwing program before your strengthening program. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ACCELERATE THIS PROGRAM. For instance, if you have given yourself exactly 5 weeks to complete this program before the first day of practice and for some reason you miss a week, do not try to make up the throwing by just skipping a phase of the program. Your arm will not take it and you will stand a good chance of injuring yourself.
If at any time during this program you have any problems or have any pain or discomfort you should stop and allow your arm to recover or if it doesn’t recover see a doctor.
A chart is provided at the end of this program for you to record your results.
Prior to starting this program you should be able to play catch at a distance of 40-50 feet for 20 minutes 3 times a week.
The pitcher's throwing program
STEP 1: Play catch at a distance of 60 feet throwing half speed for 20-25 minutes per session, 3 times a week for one week.
STEP 2: Perform long easy throws of 150-200 feet getting the ball barely back to your partner on 5-6 bounces. This is to be performed for 20-25 minutes per session on two consecutive days, (Monday and Tuesday). Then rest the arm for 1 day. Repeat the sequence one time for the next two days, (Thursday and Friday). Then rest the arm for 2 days.
STEP 3: Perform long easy throws from 200-250 feet with the ball barely getting back to your partner on numerous bounces. This is to be performed for 20-25 minutes per session on two consecutive days, (Monday and Tuesday). Then rest the arm for one day. Repeat the sequence one time for the next two days, Thursday and Friday). Then rest the arm for two days.
STEP 4: Execute stronger throws from 150-200 feet getting the ball back to your partner on one to two bounces. This should be performed approximately 30-35 minutes per session on two consecutive days, (Monday and Tuesday). Rest the arm for one day. Repeat the same routine for the next two days, Thursday and Friday). Then rest the arm for two days.
STEP 5: Perform short, crisp throws from a distance of 120 feet with a relatively straight trajectory hitting your partner in the chest. These throws should be performed for 30 minutes on two consecutive days, (Monday and Tuesday). Rest the arm for one day. Repeat the sequence one time for the next two days, (Thursday and Friday). Then rest the arm for the next two days.
As a result of this program your arm should be ready to start practice and if you are a pitcher you will be ready to start throwing off the mound.
Geoff Zahn, of the Master Pitching Institute, pitched 12 years in the major leagues. He also is a former head baseball coach at the University of Michigan.
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