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Throw Harder: An Intro to Pitching Velocity Development

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Above all, I am trying to write about what I know, and I know how to squeeze more velocity out of an unexceptional arm.  

How do I know this? Because I have an unexceptional arm, and I’ve done a lot of squeezing.  I learned how to get the absolute best out of it, and for me, I believe the best is yet to come.  

As a high school senior I pitched at 78-81.  As a college sophomore I pitched at 85-89.  By Junior year (before my elbow went) I was sitting at 89-92.  

Thing is, I’m not special.  I just had good coaching, a great strength and conditioning coach, and a terrible, desperate desire to throw harder and develop into a good pitcher, one worthy of a chance at pro ball.  

Stronger Shoulders: Replace Your YTWL with the LYTP Circuit

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You may have heard of the Y-T-W-L circuit, which develops scapular stability by strengthening the shoulders and upper back.  Scapular stability is of the utmost importance for overhead throwing athletes like pitchers.  Talk to someone with healthy shoulders, and they probably have been using the YTWL.

Yet despite it’s popularity, the YTWL circuit is often done improperly, and actually contains some movement patterns that aren’t useful: specifically, the W.

My shoulder routine has consisted of the YTWL for a few years, coupled with an additional standing shoulder/rotator cuff circuit.  However, for the YTWL, it is time for a upgrade, and that is why I have made the switch to the YTLP.

One Reason Steroid Use is Great

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Steroids get a bad rap in sports, and rightfully so.  After all, they give athletes an edge over their competition, and can subsequently take jobs away from “clean” athletes who are physically overmatched by “dirty” athletes.

Yet, a fundamental reason we spectators watch athletics is to witness, and vicariously share in and celebrate, the limits and athletic prowess of the human body.

This is one reason the Olympics has forever been successful, despite the fact that it often features sports that are obscure to the masses for the better part of 4 years.

Thing is, increases in human performance are beginning to taper down as we reach our genetic potential.  Back in the 1900s one could break a world record in the 100m dash by a half second.  Now, world records are lowered only by the hundredth, maybe a tenth if we are lucky.

Where is the fun in that?  We can no longer go out and see something we haven’t (basically) seen before.  If not for the actual stopwatches, no one would know the speed difference between Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis if not running against each other, because the speed difference that translates to even a huge 1/2 second difference in the 100m is likely not perceivable by the human eye.

And sure, sports have incredible value beyond just the limits of a singular performance, but thats not what is at issue here.  I’m talking about the single physical events: the sprint, the distance of the homer, the throw, the swim. These are objective, relevant and salient without mention of other competitors.

Thus, I would like to make an appeal for the greatness of steroids on the grounds that they allow us to continue to explore the limits of the human body, knowing that our natural genetic potential for athletic feats will one day, if not already, be tapped without them.

What to Do if Someone Charges the Mound

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I recently had a run-in during a game, in which I threw behind (I missed) a batter who had gotten a hit off of me earlier and then ran his mouth about how easy I was to hit. A brawl nearly ensued, but he didn’t feel safe coming all the way out to me. Understandable.

Top 5 Good Things That Accompany Tommy John Surgery

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Most good things in life can arise from something bad.  So is the case with Tommy John surgery. TJ is unique among major  arm surgeries in that it potentially provides a greater than 100% recovery.   Getting to 100% or above, however, is a matter of capitalizing on the time off, and making the most of a bad situation.

So here I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 good things one can get out of a little elbow-slicing action…

Foam Rollers = Helpful Torture Devices

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I’ve been familiar with foam rolling and myofascial release for a few years now, starting when I was told I had a lot of inflexibility that needed to go away.  If you’re unfamiliar with myofascial release, check out this article.  It’s from wikipedia, but it gives a pretty thorough overview.  Basically, though, you maneuver yourself over a foam roller, which compresses the tissues beneath, allowing for connective tissue (fascia) restrictions to loosen.  This includes trigger points, which gives a lot of people chronic pain.

I hadn’t done much of it recently, but felt motivated to get back into it.  And having experienced good things with it in the past, I made some time after a workout.

My Tommy John Surgery Checkpoints

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I figured I would write a post of milestones of post-surgical activities, as that is a pretty common question people have.  I asked other guys all the time when they could do this or that, so here you go.  Some of these I can’t remember exactly, so bear with me.

Out of sling: 2 days

Stopped taking painkillers: 1 day

Started forearm rehab: 1 week

Full Range of motion: 3 weeks

A Few Words About Pitchers’ Conditioning

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Pitchers and baseball players in general have an interesting sport to prepare for. Team sports like soccer, lacrosse (if you consider it a real sport), hockey, basketball all require a good amount of stamina, as they require nearly constant motion.  The needs in those sports is somewhere in between anaerobic and aerobic.  Baseball and football are different from the others, and similar to each other as both are played in short, high-intensity bursts followed by rest intervals between plays.

Interesting thing is, though, that pitchers have historically been part-time distance runners, doing tremendous amounts of sustained running between outings.  The validation for this practice was that pitchers needed strong and enduring legs to go deep into games.

pitcher conditioning

While it’s true that during a 7-inning outing a pitcher will be pitching over the better portion of two hours, he isn’t doing it in one sustained effort.

Rather, any pitching performance is broken down into half-inning intervals of pitching and rest, which is further broken down into shorter intervals between each batter, and then even shorter intervals between each pitch.

Training is supposed to make the athlete better prepared for game situations.  If we want a pitcher to best prepare himself for his act of pitching, then it doesn’t make sense to perform sustained cardio work between starts.  Rather, pitchers should be condition like they play: by working in intervals.

Hip Flexibility Problems in Pitchers

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Are you a chronic sufferer of hip external rotator tightness.  You are not alone.  The good news?  There is help.

Pitching is a rotational activity, and the hips and core are the chief couplers of power to the arm.  As the stride foot lands the internal rotators of the hips, along with the core, rotate the midsection to face the plate.  The hip external rotators, if tight and inflexible, will impede this rotation.  (Remember that the hip internal and external rotators are antagonist muscles, which means they oppose each other and that one must stretch while the other contracts.)

So while the internal rotators fire, the external rotators relax and stretch.  If the external rotators are tight and do not stretch to their full and normal range of motion, the whole kinetic sequence is impeded.  This, in turn, makes the arm bear an extra burden by being in the valgus position longer while trying to catch up and get in the proper position to deliver the pitch. Dr. Morgan and others told me that they believe this leads to elbow problems, including UCL tears.

Ed Bach's arm laying back in the valgus position
Ed Bach's arm laying back in the valgus position

The Tommy John Surgery Experience Pt.4

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So at week 12 it was time to start throwing.  Because I was pain free and swelling free I was given the go-ahead.

That first throw was pretty scary, but I knew I was ready for it, and it went fine.  It felt just like it used to. I started out at 30 feet, progressing to 40 feet x 60 throws by the month’s end.  Month two moved me back to 50 feet, and month three to 60. Midway through month three, however, I switched to a different throwing program because I was progressing faster than my throwing program would allow.

I talked earlier about falling on my arm when I was running and how important that was in trusting my arm.  The first day I let a ball go on a line was another such moment.  After every single throw was on a soft arc, letting one go on a line was one of the first tests of my new ligaments.  I can remember that first throw, and how liberated I felt when I did it without pain.  I only uncorked a few of these per session, but they always provided me with a release from the tension of wondering if my elbow was really strong enough to get me back to where I once was.