Plyometric Tips for Baseball Pitchers
NSCA’s Performance Training Journal:
Injuries to the shoulder are common in baseball. Pitchers are particularly at risk of injuring their rotator cuff, a collection of four muscles that originate on the scapula and insert on the humerus (arm bone) (table 1). Even though these muscles are small in size, relative to other shoulder muscles such as the deltoid and muscles are small in size, relative to other shoulder muscles such as the deltoid and the trapezius, they play a crucial role in the overhead throwing motion. Recovery from cuff injuries can be a slow process, requiring the player to miss a significant number of practices and games.
Basic Rotator Cuff Training
Professional organizations, like the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Sports Medicine Institute have done a good job educating coaches, strength training professionals, and athletes to the importance of performing shoulder exercises. Many popular baseball strength training programs exist consisting of rotator cuff exercises such as the side-lying external rotation and the 90-90 shoulder external rotation (figures 1 & 2). These exercises do an adequate job of training the shoulder, but a comprehensive program consisting of general lower extremity exercises, core stability exercises, and upper extremity plyometric exercises should be performed. Plyometric exercises may help prepare the pitcher to handle the significant forces experienced by the shoulder during the deceleration phase of the throwing motion (1). This article will offer a few plyometric exercises that can be incorporated into a comprehensive training program for baseball pitchers.
Perform each exercise for one to two sets of five to eight repetitions. These exercises should not be performed more than two days a week. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) can help design and progress your overall program.
When starting a plyometric program for the first time, take care to select a light to moderately weighted medicine ball. To perform this exercise, begin with both arms holding the ball overhead. Take one step forward and throw the ball to a partner or against a rebounder/trampoline (figure 3).
One-Handed Baseball Throw
This single arm throw mimics the pitching motion. Start with your arm and shoulder in the 90-90 position (figure 4). Throw a light plyoball toward a rebounder and catch the ball with the same arm upon its return.
Hold the medicine ball in both hands. Initiate the exercise by swinging your arms across your body rotating towards the right (or vice versa if you are left hand dominant pitcher). Quickly rotate back toward the left, throwing the ball to a partner or against a rebounder (figure 5).
Kneeling 90 – 90 Catch and Throw
Kneel with your throwing shoulder in the 90-90 position. Have a teammate or coach stand behind and slightly to the side of you. Your partner will throw (lob or underhand toss) a light plyoball forward over your shoulder. As the ball passes over your shoulder catch it (shoulder internal rotation) and quickly reverse direction (externally rotate the shoulder) throwing the ball back to your teammate or coach.
These plyometric exercises presented here are designed to functionally challenge the baseball pitcher. Those who perform a functional strength training routine may enhance their performance and minimize their overall risk of injury.
1. Meister K. (2000). Injuries to the shoulder in the throwing athlete: Part one: biomechanics/pathophysiology/classification of injury. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 28: 265 – 275.
About the Author
Jason Brumitt is a board-certified sports physical therapist residing and practicing in the Portland, OR, area. He serves as adjunct faculty for Pacific University's school of physical therapy. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Science degree at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. To contact the author email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table 1. Rotator Cuff Muscles
Figure 1. 90-90 Shoulder External Rotation (start position)
Figure 2. 90-90 Shoulder External Rotation (end position)
Figure 3. Overhead Throw
Figure 4. One-Handed Baseball Throw (90-90 position)
Figure 5. Side Throw
Figure 6. Kneeling 90-90 Catch and Throw