There is a common misconception in the baseball community that you need to go throw to warm-up prior to a practice or game. While it is important to throw prior to playing, throwing should not be the first thing you do while preparing for play. A very common thing we see in the clinic are injuries that could have been prevented with a proper warm-up. Throwing is a very dynamic movement, that uses the whole body. In fact, it may be one of the most dynamic and comprehensive movement in sport. The whole body needs to work together, with no breaks in the kinetic chain, to perform an adequate throw. The shoulder can move at a rate of over 7000 degrees per second - pretty impressive! That can put a lot of stress on your body - and obviously the harder you throw, the higher the stress.
Step One - Dynamic Warm-Up
Prior to a football, basketball, or soccer practice, you see the team going through a dynamic warm-up. Those sports are also start/stop sports, just like throwing. As we said earlier, throwing a baseball is one of the most comprehensive movements in sport - should you not make sure your body is prepared as it would be for those other sports? We'd like to see someone "ready" to throw when they pick up the baseball - not "getting ready". Those who throw immediately are being too aggressive with their warm-up. Throwing has been demonstrated to "tighten up" your body/arm. Those who are more aggressive with their warm-up, i.e. jumping right into throwing, increase their injury risk. Younger athletes with growth-plate still wide open may even be more susceptible to injury.
The dynamic warm-up should include the whole body, as throwing is not just an upper extremity movement. Athlete's should make sure to include both arms, shoulders, hips, and legs in their warm-up. Over all, an adequate dynamic warm-up should take 15+ minutes. Here is a sample of what we are talking about:
Pre-Practice/Pre-Game Dynamic Warm-Up
Line to Line Jog
Walking Knee Hugs
Walking Hip Stretch
High Knee Extend
Walking Quad Stretch
Knee to Armpit
Forward Hops (DL & SL) - 10x/ea
Lateral Hops (DL & SL) - 10x/ea.
DL Vertical Jumps - 10x
SL Squats - 2x15/ea.
Step Two: Arm Specific Warm -Up
Just like the whole-body dynamic warm-up, the arm specific warm-up is essential to adequately prepare your body to throw. These should be done for 10 or so repetitions each. The below list is a minimum, and can be done in 3 minutes. Feel free to do more, especially during the colder months. It should be quick and easy, but will prepare you adequately enough. Most high level throwers will do a version of this before they throw.
Pre-Practice/Pre-Game Arm Specific Dynamic Warm-Up
Should Circles - Both Directions
Alternating Arm Swings (Up and Down)
Hugs (Across Body)
Active IR/ER or 90/90s
Reverse Throws (D1/D2 PNF Movements)
Cross Body Stretch (Holding 2-3")
Forearm Flexion/Extension (Holding 2-3")
Step Three: Post-Throw Arm Care - Next Blog Post!