By Dana Cavalea. CSCS, N.Y. Yankees strength coach
As a pitcher, swimming is one of the best methods to build shoulder strength, endurance, and stability. Whenever you have the opportunity to train in the pool, you will find that the water creates a very low stress environment on the shoulders, but provides a tremendous amount of benefits.
Often times, many pitchers will go through their Jobes routines and shoulder exercises at relatively slow speeds and choose paths and ranges of motions that are restricted. The slow speed a lot of times are because of the pitchers lack of ability to stabilize the scapula, or shoulder blade.
When pitchers train in an aquatic environment, keeping their shoulders submerged, they are able to work full ranges of motion, at high velocities, while at the same time they are forced to stabilize their scapula. To make reference to scapular stabilization, I am referring to the ability to keep the shoulders pulled back, with the shoulder blade hugging the spinal column while the shoulder and arm are moving.
Performing your shoulder exercises in the water can be as challenging as you want to make them. The harder you push the water, the greater the resistance. So, there is no need to keep changing weights, or increasing the strength of the bands you are using, all you have to do is increase the force you apply on the water and that will increase the intensity of the movement.
To make water movements more challenging:
Submerge your shoulders under the water
Increase the speed of the movement
Open your hand going from fingers spread to fingers together
Increase the amount of time or repetitions you perform in the water
Following those aforementioned ways to make water exercise more challenging, you will be able to constantly progress.
Baseball pitcher's swimming exercises
When working out in the pool, be creative. I love to have my pitchers swim to not only increase shoulder strength and endurance, but at the same to regenerate their tissues for recovery and provide them with a total body low-trauma workout. The great part about training in the pool is that you can give you workout a theme just as you do out of the pool.
As an example, if you want to condition in the pool, you could:
Free-style swim for 2 minutes
High-knee runs for 2 minutes
Breast stroke for 2 minutes
Flutter kicks on the wall for 2 minutes
If you don't think 8 minutes of work is a good workout, go ahead and try it!
At the same time, however, we aren't just looking for a good workout, we are looking to achieve our goal for that particular day, and that was to increase our current levels of cardiac fitness.
If the theme for the day is a shoulder routine, an option might be to perform all your Jobes exercises and other shoulder exercises in the pool with no weights, just the water pressure.
Go through each exercise for about 15 to 20 seconds, instead of doing a certain amount of reps, and remember: since we throw at high speeds, go through your shoulder exercises and high, but controlled speeds.
In the pool the key is to have fun and be creative. Just be careful about training in the pool the day before and the day that you throw, since you will find that your shoulders will get fatigued rather quickly from aquatic training.
Dana Cavalea is the director of strength and conditioning for the New York Yankees. He is a national speaker on baseball performance training, as well as the owner of Major League Strength, www.mlstrength.com.
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