With Summer Ball over for most, and Fall Ball rapidly approaching, the question is: What is the best approach to continue to progress to be the pitcher I want to be? Do I need to stop throwing for a certain length of time? Do I continue pitching and continue to work on my craft? Or is there some magical happy medium?
Here are some basic rules to follow:
DO take 4-8 weeks of active rest from the mound. The more innings you threw, the more you should be on the higher end of that timeframe. The mound is the only unnatural thing about throwing. It generates 6x your body weight of pressure on your arm. Have a plan for when you are going to take that break and stick to it.
If you do continue to pitch in the Fall, focus more on intent (working on elements of your game) and less on quantity (more innings to ensure victory). If you threw a lot of innings during the spring and summer, DO NOT put yourself in a position where you are continuing to wrack up innings and number of pitches. Communicate with your coach about their expectation of you before the Fall season begins and let him know how you can be used.
DO continue to throw every day (unless you have an injury/tendonitis that needs to heal). Just stay away from or limit time on the mound and especially in a game where adrenaline ramps up the stress on the arm. You can throw anything you want, it can be a baseball, softball, football, wiffle ball, tennis ball, weighted balls, etc. Keep your arm in throwing shape so that you do not have to take 6 weeks to build your arm back up when you are ready to pitch again.
DO focus on your mechanics and nerve patterning. If can be very difficult to fix mechanical issues or movements in the middle of the season where you are in a constant mode of preparing, competing, and recovering. It takes thousands of reps to retrain your body to move a different way. The Fall is a good time to evaluate your mechanical efficiency and begin to work on those things you need to have better mechanics so you can best prepare your body to throw harder, easier (and therefore less stress on the arm) with more accuracy next season.
DO focus on functional strength training and continuing to train in a way that is cross-specific to pitching and customized to you. Work with body weight exercises, light dumbbells, resistance bands, weighted balls (and be sure to include holds with throws in a 3:2 ratio), towels, etc. If you are in the muscle window of trainability (typically ages 13+), you can add weight training to your program, but be sure to continue to throw and work on functional strength. Do not weight train without continuing a throwing program.
DO play other sports, especially if you are 16 and younger. Not only will it help you become more athletic and give you a higher ceiling as your reach the skill window of trainability, but it will also help your body continue to be functionally stronger in your non-baseball/pitching muscles, ligaments and joints and help reduce overuse injuries.
DO put your hydration, nutrition and sleep at the top of your priority list. Drink 2/3 of your body weight in ounces of water (only water matters) per day. Eat a balanced diet with a 40-30-30 percentage of carbs, proteins and smart fats adding in a multivitamin and fish oil. Sleep cool and dark.
With the velocity pitchers are throwing these days, and the amount of arm injuries occurring, arm care needs to be a priority for pitchers. You, not your coaches, have to be in control of it.
Ideally, you have a way to measure your arm health progress ensuring you are gaining strength and remaining balanced between your accelerator and decelerator muscles for optimal performance like the ArmCare app.
Being great is not for for everyone with the amount of time and energy it takes to be the best. Hopefully the above helps you navigate the next few months to get you on the right path.
CLICK PICTURE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS FALL PROGRAM FOR PITCHERS/THROWERS