Throwing is like many other athletic movements. If a basketball player wants to get better at his jump shot, he has to get in the gym and get the ball in the air. If you want to improve your lower body strength, you have lift. Now, strength training is probably the most similar to throwing a baseball because you can’t max it out every day. But you can’t just go in once a week, crush your lower body, and then shut it down for a week. You need to take care of auxiliary lifts and make sure that you maintain mobility. For many, the body will actually recover better if they are active in between lifting days.
Throwing is an extreme complex movement that, for some, can be very stressful. As the tissue recovers from this stress, it becomes a jumbled mess. In order to get the tissue to align properly, it needs low intensity work that is specific to its normal movement. To say it another way, you need to make low intensity throws. Youth athletes typically fall into three categories: no pain - great performance, pain - great performance, pain and inconsistent performance. We believe that all three groups could benefit from a recovery day.
Starting with the latter, athletes experiencing pain and inconsistent performance need to refine their movement patterns to lessen the stress on their arm and continue to increase arm strength. They may also have major physical contributors to arm pain that need to be taken seriously or corrected with different forms of arm care. If there is pain, then we need to fix both movement patterns and physical constraints, because it is impossible to know which is causing pain. However, if we take care of all of it, we have a better chance at getting rid of the pain.
For the group that is having pain, but still performing well, they need to do all they can to maintain arm fitness, but also need to improve movement patterns. The Oates Training Sock is the equivalent to ⅓ of the stress of normal throwing. We have athletes throw in constraint drills that will keep them moving efficiently while also speeding up the recovery process. These constraint drills allow them to continue to improve their mechanics which could eliminate many recovery issues (if every pitch becomes less stressful, they will recover faster). We can also use arm care to address specific strength or movement issues that can be contributing to their lack of recovery.
For the guys who have no pain and great performance, their need for recovery is simple. If they improved their recovery, they could be able to train at a higher level of intensity. Our data from the offseason shows that if you are able to throw the ball hard more often, your velocity can continue to improve, even in season. Also if they are able to throw a bullpen at closer to game-like speed, they can improve command and secondary offerings. Again research of skill development shows that a majority of work needs to be done at 80% or above, or movement patterns could regress when they get up to game speed. Therefore, their recovery day would be more geared to making their next training day more intense.
We are shifting Healthy Heat to accommodate in-season work. Youth throwers need to continue to improve their routine. They need an arm care program that is monitored to make sure any movement issues are improving. They also need to continue to refine mechanics so their recovery improves. While bullpens are important, there is more work that can be done to improve efficiency. We want to shift the focus from just pitching and continue to make high-level throwers who have the ability to dominate on the mound. And, most importantly, we want to provide a real plan for guys to overcome arm pain.