How to Start a Weighted Ball Program Pt. II – Warm Up and Recovery
By Cameron Castro (@Castro_Turf)
In my last article, How to Start a Weighted Ball Program, I outlined a generic template for the Weighted Ball program our pitchers follow – in a follow up I thought it would be beneficial to lay out some of the things that they do daily for warm up and recovery. As stated in the previous article:
I want to be clear, throwing weighted balls is taxing, but then again so is pitching. Pitching is inherently stressful, so we aim to train the body at slightly higher levels of stress than what is experienced in competition…
In order for our guys to train efficiently they typically spend at least 50% of their training time on warm and up recovery, on a daily basis. Sometimes more, depending on the volume of work in previous days. If you think that velocity training or even training pitchers as a whole should not involve that volume of ‘tedious’ or ‘boring’ work, then you my friend are putting your pitchers at an exponentially higher risk of injury. There’s a great piece on warm-up / recovery on the Driveline Baseball blog. Here’s a sample of how much time our pitchers spend on each facet of their training regiment:
● Soft Tissue Work / Self Myofascial Release (20%)
● Stretch / Mobility Work / Individual Correctives (15%)
● Active Warm Up / Throwing Prep (15%)
● Constraint Training for Mechanical Improvements (15%)
● Catch Play / Long Toss / Velocity Work (15%)
● Active Recovery Circuit (20%)
● Passive Recovery Circuit (Optional: Additional 10-15%)
Okay now let’s focus on that first 20%, Soft Tissue Work and Self Myofascial Release (SMR), with SMR we’re trying to achieve boosts in muscular performance and function as well as joint range of motion (ROM). In a prototypical SMR circuit, our pitchers will go through foam rolling for larger target areas (Quads, Hamstrings, Thoracic Spine) and lax ball rolling for more finite trigger points (Medial Forearm, Teres Major, Pec Major, etc.). Stick rollers are also great for targeting the traps, deltoid and the athlete’s lat.
Other instruments that we commonly use for SMR are the Arm Aid (bicep, forearm, tricep) and Theracane (Pec Minor, Teres Minor).
At the beginning of the fall we also ran each of our athletes (pitchers and pos. players) through a movement screening and built out individual corrective exercises for them based on the results. Surprisingly, we do very little “team dynamic warm up” – if you came and watched one of our practices you would see us spend 5-8 minutes on team stretching / mobility work and then 30+ guys would break out and begin their individual correctives. So no, there’s no “down to the right!” call followed up by a ten count and joint power clap…
The Functional Movement Screen is a great starting point for screening your athletes, simple and user friendly.
Our throwing prep is comprised mainly of a rotator cuff warm up / blood flow restoration using Jaeger Sports J-Bands, stimulating posterior shoulder strength with wrist weights and a shoulder oscillation series using the Oates Shoulder Tube or Fitryo Total Bar. From here we go into the scheduled throwing load, before eventually finishing the day with recovery work.
After a full SMR, team stretch / mobility, individual correctives, and throwing prep we’ve more than likely surpassed over 30 minutes of just warm up work.
Active recovery is a staple in our program, we try to aid the body and its damaged tissue in recovering while continuing to engage the central nervous system (CNS). This is key. At least 2-3 days per week we will dedicate an entire throwing load to active recovery work – dial the effort down to 50-60% and focus on drill fluidity and restoring arm fitness levels (typically done after a high output day).
Part of our recovery circuit features repeating some of our throwing prep work (J-Bands and Shoulder Oscillation). The main focus is on restoring shoulder stability and scapular function. If you walk into any physical therapist or athletic trainer’s office you’ll likely see a trampoline sitting there – if you watch us load the bus for a weekend series you’ll likely see two or three hitch a ride.
Standing rebounder drills using trampolines to stabilize the glenohumeral joint after a throwing workout is something you’ll see our pitchers do daily, and often times our position players as well. We couple this with exercises designed to target scapular function and efficiency, including waiter walks and a band pullapart series.
Another exercise we’ll work in at times is a toss series, either standing or ground based [for constraint] to improve and/or restore the internal rotation component of the shoulder. Considering the amount of overload implement training that we do, we want to make sure we’re not ignoring the internal rotators.
FYI, if you think that throwing weighted balls is why guys lose IR, stop what you’re doing right now and read this article by Eric Cressey. Any pitcher throwing weighted balls or not, is likely going to see an increase in maximum external rotation (MER) over the course of a season. Testing and retesting GIRD is a good way to keep an eye on this.
As for passive recovery, each of our guys differ a bit regarding what they like and what they’ll do regularly. Our passive recovery includes, but is not limited to, Voodoo Floss, Cupping / Graston technique, Marc Pro / EMS and even a second round of myofascial release.
How Long Does It Take?
If you came to watch us practice you might think to yourself “Man, how long do these guys warm up for?” but you should see how long it takes us after we’re done. Point being, if you’re wanting to sling some weighted balls around but don’t think that spending that much time on prep / recovery is all that necessary – then your development isn’t all that likely.
Reaction? Please feel free to send your comments and questions me via Twitter or Email.
Cameron Castro is the Head Baseball Coach at Lake Erie College (NCAA Division II) in Painesville, OH. Castro was previously a trainer at Driveline Baseball in Seattle, WA – a pitching research company that designs programming and facilitates data-driven development for 75+ professional clients, countless collegiate programs and multiple MLB organizations. Castro also spent a brief time at Division II Augustana University (SD) and close to four years at Defiance College (OH) as well as the IMG Baseball Academy and the Northwoods League.