Smart players at all levels are using an arm care routine to help them fight off injury. The fortunate side effect is arm care improves velocity too. If you look into some of the research, studies show that the addition of arm care can increase velocity by 2-4% (ref, ref).
It’s the reason why some people believe Tommy John Surgery provides magical performance-enhancing powers. Read more about this misconception here, but it’s not the new UCL that leads to throwing harder, rather the strengthening that occurs from the rehab following the surgery.
In this article, you will learn four reasons why Arm Care is the foundation for any velocity plan.
1. Builds your Brakes
Your body is smart and tries to protect you from injury. One of the ways it accomplishes this is by stopping you from speeding up what you can’t slow down. Pitching is highly explosive—in fact, it is the fastest movement in all of sports. To put it in perspective, if an elite pitcher’s arm just kept spinning after a pitch, it would complete 7000 revolutions in just one second (ref). Of course, the arm doesn’t keep spinning like a carnival ride but uses the muscles to slow and bring the arm to a stop. This places a tremendous amount of force on the back side of the shoulder.
The cornerstone of most arm care programs is strengthening the posterior shoulder muscles to apply the brakes to the arm effectively. Without adequate strength, the body places a governor on the throwing motion so that it can effectively stop the revolutions. Thus if you’re struggling to take your velocity gains to the next level, you may need to take a look at strengthening your decelerators as part of the issue (ref).
2. Optimizes Mechanics
Throwing mechanics are an essential part of the velocity equation. While every pitcher has slight mechanical deviations due to their unique build, there are several underlying principles to throwing hard.
Coaching with feedback and correction drills may correct some of these issues. Still, sometimes it’s a strength or mobility problem that’s stopping a player from getting into certain positions and optimizing their delivery. No amount of coaching can overcome these deficits and that’s where arm care comes in. Exercises to improve strength, stability, and mobility of the arm decrease the constraints limiting your movement options. Ironing these things out will free your body up to adapt your mechanics to throw your hardest (ref).
3. Maximize Energy Transfer
Pitching is a full-body action that begins at the ground and moves up. The energy created by the legs transfers through the core and trunk, and then the arm. Muscle contraction helps add to the force output—such as the internal rotators of the shoulder—but pitching performance is mostly via the elasticity of the body (ref).
The muscles act like rubber bands in a sense. By using the sequencing of the body to move as segments, it creates a whiplike effect, increasing speed as it transfers through the chain. However, poor stability in any one section slows down or decreases this energy transfer.
Many times players compensate for this loss of energy transfer at other segments in the chain. Most often, the shoulder or elbow is where players try to make up for the loss in torque. This overreaching is thought to add extra stress and increases the risk of injury (ref). That’s why an arm care program should include hip and core strengthening as well (ref). Not only does it allow for a more fluid transfer of energy for safe and efficient movement, but it optimizes the kinetic chain to deliver performance.
4. Health Drives Velocity
It seems like a no brainer, but if your arm is painful, sore, tight, or fatigued, you are never going to reach your velocity potential and negatively impact your control. Not only are these warning signs for injury, but they also cause you to alter your mechanics, decrease force output, and put a block in your brain from getting into your flow. If you’re on the mound wrestling with an arm that doesn’t feel right, your intent and ability will be less than optimal.
But an effective arm care program will help you address pain, soreness, fatigue or tightness so you’ll feel fresh when you’re out there working on your last out.
Customize Your Arm Care to Unlock Performance Gains
Remember this the next time you’re dragging through your arm care, just checking off the box. It’s not just a routine to stave off injury, but it’s the foundation for building performance.
It needs to be done the right way as well. Just following a basic template will only get you part of the way there. How do you know if you are having these issues if you aren’t testing for it on a regular basis. Click here to learn how Assessment Based Arm Care uses strength and range of motion tests to build a stronger, more durable arm.