The reason most pitchers who are new to weight training are so quick to throw away their gym memberships when they experience an arm injury, is due to their lack of education of strength and conditioning. If you are reading this article because you are one of those pitchers who are crawling back to the weight room because you are desperate for velocity and you are willing to give it another shot then welcome back. Now that you are ready to come back, how about doing it the correct way this time? If you are not one of these pitchers and you are new to the weight room then this article is for you as well.
Pitching in today's game is a game of power and deception. Back in the day, pitchers could fool hitters without high velocity but in today's game this isn't the case. Pitchers are in serious need for velocity and the best place you can find it is in the weight room. The problem is it isn't that simple. The weight room can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. It is a nightmare for those who do not have the education or the guidance to survive it. The reality is the weight room is a concentration camp, for the lack of a better word. It is a place you go to destroy your body to a point just before injury. The reason for this behavior is to force your body to breakdown and rebuild bigger, stronger and faster. The issue is this takes a lot of trial and error before you get it right because every one's body is different.
The point I am trying to make is that injury is going to happen but serious injury can and must be avoided without abandoning your best friend, the weight room. This is why I put together this article on the most important things to look out for in the weight room when training in or out of season.
10 ways pitchers can injure themselves in a Weight Room
- Over Training - This is when you stop listening to your body because your ego is getting in the way. Weight training for speed/velocity is a science and not a competition. The most important component of this science is the recovery part. So when your body is saying, "I am not recovered yet," then you better listen to it or be forced to face the consequences. This is when you stop and take a day off. Taking a few days off after a hard week of training actually makes you stronger.
- Sacrifice Strength Gains For Joint Integrity - Joint Integrity is balance in a joint. Our entire body is put together and functions around all of our joint systems. If we have poor integrity in these joint system then we have a poor performing machine. Do not push for strength gains when these gains are jeopardizing your joint integrity. A great example is bench press. Guys love to grow big pecs and talk about how much they can bench, which is fine, unless your back is now weaker than your chest. This will cause poor joint integrity in your shoulders because the chest and back muscles are apart of the shoulder joint systems. Remember, to keep integrity you must pull whatever you can push in the weight room.
- Training Outside of Your Sport - This is why the label sport specific training is so popular today. This label isn't for marketing purposes. It is defining the evolution of strength and conditioning. Athletes have learned that less injures occur when you are not training outside of the muscular demands of your sport. A good example would be with base running. If you train for more speed in the off season but your workload was only in a straight line then the day you showed up to spring training to show off your new explosive speed it could have gone down like this. Let's say you got your first hit and when making it to first base the ball went past the first baseman to the back stop and at this point you quickly make a cut to second base. This cut will put serious amounts of pressure on your groin muscles as your body quickly changes direction. Because of your off season linear sprint training program you did not develop these muscles like you developed the quads and hamstrings. This makes you very vulnerable to pulling or tearing these groin muscles in this game situation.
- Goofing Around in the Weight Room - Lifting with a partner or in a group is great for motivation but dangerous if you are goofing around. Do not let the weight room become a place to goof around. As long as you and your friends respect the environment then injury should not occur.
- Bad Mechanics - I am not talking pitching mechanics because this would not fit in this article. I am talking about training mechanics, especially with lifts like the Olympic lifts. The better lifts are usually the more risky lifts. These lifts are considered better because they are the lifts that have a more positive effect on the athletes performance. These are functional lifts like the Olympic lifts. They train the body as a single unit as opposed to isolating a single muscle. They are risky because the movement to perform the lift is more complicated than a single movement isolating a single muscle. Therefore bad mechanics with the functional lifts can easily cause injury. This is why when starting off with these functional lifts you must have an experience trainer guide you through the workout.
- Adding More Weight to Bad Mechanics - What is more risky than training with bad mechanics is adding more weight to those bad mechanics. If you do not feel comfortable with a lift or you do not feel that your mechanics are efficient then DO NOT ADD MORE WEIGHT! This is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Adding more weight when you are not ready can easily cause an injury.
- Poor Training Program - There are a lot of workouts out there today. I was lucky to have been trained by the best because that was all I had to chose from. I can't imagine what you guys are experiencing today with the web and the hundreds of training programs and gimmicks you come across but remember that a training program can make or break a season. Do not find yourself using a training program that was designed for Navy Seals or Hollywood Models. It is very important that you are using a training program that is either developed for the baseball player or the pitcher. If you ignore this piece of advice you could find yourself with an injury or very poor results.
- Too Much Time in Weight Room - The weight room is a positive place until you have overstayed your welcome. I believe that where you spend most of your time has more of a dominate effect on your body. If you bench press all day every day then you will be pretty much a bench pressing machine and it will be very difficult to be as effective with any other skill. This means get in the weight room and do not screw around. Get your workout done and get back on the ball field.
- Poor Nutrition - Most ball players pay little to no attention to diet until pro ball. This is a mistake. If recovery is such an important part of training and diet is such an important part of recovery then nutrition should be a top priority. You have a small window after you workout of about one hour when your body needs optimal nutrition before it goes into starving mode. This mode has an effect on your body chemistry and development and can throw everything out of whack. Miss a good meal after a good workout and you will probably not sleep well that night and you will wake up in the morning feeling like a truck hit you. Overtime this cycle will cause your body to breakdown more than build up. This breakdown is the beginning of injury.
- Illegal Supplements - This is a no brainier. Illegal substances like steroids, amphetamines and HGH is not for the uneducated. Unless you are a medical Doctor then stay away from these supplements. Oh yeah, did I say that they are ILLEGAL. This means don't mess with them. They make this stuff illegal for a reason and it usually has to do with your health. I trained with many ball players on these substances and I could still lift with them. I was blown away by their new found strength but it was always short term. They would either plateau or stop taking the drug and the effects would wear off quickly. Also the majority of the people I know who used these illegal substances wound up with an injury during the time period. Mainly because they over trained due to the quick strength gains.
If you feel more confident about the weight room then I would highly recommend that you start with the Ace Pitcher Handbook. It was developed by a pitcher to train a pitching machine.