by nlindsley, April 29, 2020
As we have discussed before, the art of pitching is far more than the end result, that being throwing a baseball. In order to generate the force needed to complete this action, it is pivotal that we utilize proper mechanics to not only complete the task, but to complete it safely and efficiently. Now when you consider how many times a pitcher has to repeat this motion throughout the course of a game you can see why the need for proper mechanics becomes so essential.
When trying to get the most out of your body for pitching I think you have to look beyond just the pure strengthening aspect of the training required to be at your best. You also have to examine how well you move can move your body. This comes down to flexibility and mobility, and yes there is a difference.
Flexibility is purely range of motion, or in other words, how far you can move a particular body motion. Mobility on the other hand is strength through a range of motion to complete a desired task. See how this becomes very applicable to pitching?
You could be the strongest person on the planet, but if you cannot move your body properly through your delivery off the mound to throw a baseball then all that strength does you no good. You have to be able to move your body well through the pitching motion in order to physically be at your best when pitching. In this article we will look specifically at how your scapula and thoracic spine play into overhead movement when it comes to throwing a baseball and what you can do to improve these areas of the body.
Whenever you raise your arm over your head to throw a baseball your scapula (shoulder blade) glides along your rib cage in what we call upward rotation. When you then lower your arm back to its resting position the scapula (shoulder blade) moves in downward rotation. There are specific muscles that work together to complete both upward rotation and downward rotation.
Now at the same time that your scapular muscles are working to raise your arm overhead your thoracic spine (middle of your back) is also utilizing muscles to help move it into extension/rotation and then back to neutral when the arm comes back to rest. The problem is when you lack either the strength, mobility, or both, your body utilizes dysfunctional movement patterns to compensate that inhibit you from getting the most out of the pitching motion and puts you at risk for injury.
Now before you simply start giving someone stretches and exercises to improve scapular and thoracic movement you first have to assess the movement an individual has at the present moment. This is something that our Physical Therapists at Amity Physical Therapy are well trained to do. Once they establish your baseline they can create a plan of care to meet your needs. Below are some examples of exercises from Driveline Baseball to improve scapular upward rotation, thoracic extension, and thoracic rotation.
SCAPULAR UPWARD ROTATION EXCERCISES
Serratus Wall Slide – Push away from wall to fill up upper back and get serratus engaged. Drive the inside of the shoulder blade toward the armpit.
Yoga Push Up – Standard push up while going into a downward dog position at the top.
Serratus Upward Jab – Drive the band out and across to activate serratus anterior and drive scapula under armpit.
Thoracic Spine Extension EXCERCISES
Bench T-Spine mobilization– Straight line from hips to head with elbows out in front of head. Rock back and take heels to butt.
CAT CAMEL– Round your upper back driving your scapula underneath your armpit, exhale into starting position and drive your scapula toward your spine to extend the upper back.
Thoracic Spine ROTATION EXERCISES
QUADRUPED EXTENSION ROTATION – Pace one hand by your ear and rotate through your upper back following your elbow with your eyes.
½ MOON STRETCH– Follow hand with eyes. Move through your upper back.
(EXERCISES AND IMAGES FROM DRIVELINE BASEBALL)
Nathan Lindsley, PTA is a 2015 graduate of the Mercyhurst University PTA program in Erie, Pennsylvania. He previously graduated from Mount Aloysius College (Cresson, Pa) in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science where he was a member of the men’s baseball team and male scholar athlete of the year. He has special interests in orthopedics and sports performance. Nate prides himself on utilizing a varied skill set of manual therapy techniques, neuromuscular reeducation, and therapeutic exercise in order to individualize his treatment for his patients. A native of Narragansett, RI Nate is an avid sports fan and enjoys spending time with his wife and dog. Nate can be reached in our Branford, CT location at (203) 433-4683