23 Sep Performance Absolutes for Arm Health in Pitchers
I was fortunate enough during my tenure as a strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres to be mentored by pitching guru Dr. Tom House, work under some great coaches such as Bruce Bochy, and train some outstanding pitchers in Trevor Hoffman, Jake Peavy, Barry Zito, and Cole Hammels to name a few.
These experiences provided myself a fundamental understanding of the stresses placed upon a pitcher during a MLB season and the processes by which a training staff and coaches attempt to maintain the arm health of their entire pitching staff. One of the most basic concepts to maintaining a pitcher’s arm health I learned was from Tom House and is described in detail in his The Pitching Edge book released in the mid 1990’s.
This concept as Tom House stated is the pitcher must Repair, Prepare, and Compete on a weekly basis at the Major League level. This also holds true for pitchers at any level as they will pitch on a regular basis during the season. Breaking this concept down we see three separate components to arm health.
The first component is Compete. Compete refers to the time frame in which the pitcher is throwing in competition. This entails all pitches encapsulated during the time throwing in a game and the coinciding warm up. What we must recognize as performance coaches is the action of throwing down the slope of the mound repetitively stresses the arm and causes fundamental levels of fatigue within the body.
Once the pitcher comes out of the game and is done throwing the Compete phase is complete and the Repair stage begins. The Repair stage is the time frame and processes a pitcher will undertake to get the body to recover from the process of pitching competitively. The Repair process includes rest, therapy modalities implemented by the training staff, and nutritional intakes of the pitcher. These components collectively assist the body and arm to repair itself from the stresses placed upon it during competition.
The final stage prior to Competing again is the Prepare process. Prepare is the process of getting the pitcher ready to Compete in their next scheduled game or appearance. This entails all physical activities such as workouts, side sessions, and bull pens. These actions in conjunction with the repair stage get the body ready again to pitch. As a performance coach it is imperative we monitor workloads, training volumes, and training intensities during this stage to assure we get the pitcher as physically prepared as possible to Compete again at the highest level possible.
The Compete, Repair, and Prepare cycle is continuous throughout an entire MLB season and can be easily implemented into pitchers at lower levels of the game. If fundamental errors are made at any stage of this process the levels of fatigue can increase in the pitcher, performance levels can decrease, arm health can be jeopardized, and the potential for injury increased.
As a result it is imperative for strength coaches, therapists, and coaches to be aware of these fundamental performance absolutes for arm health in pitchers. This will provide professionals within the industry the greatest level of success with their pitchers from a physical perspective.
About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy provides Sean a proven track record of success. He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, Fit to Hit, and Complete Conditioning for Pitchers. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renowned Titleist Performance Institute.