How to Integrate an Off Season Throwing Program with Lifting

How to Integrate an Off Season Throwing Program with Lifting

Hey Coach,

How do you correlate a offseason throwing program into an offseason strength program. Also when is it good to perform the light band exercises for the rotator cuff or does my strength program cover that?-Chase

Hey Chase, thank you for your question sir. Before I get to your question, let me tell you a little bit about my college ball experience, hopefully you will be able to relate. For most of my college career I made the mistake of waiting too long to start an off season throwing program. Here is the timetable I followed in college. Depending on what level you play at (DI DII,DIII) and where you play (North East, South, West) your schedule might differ but probably isn’t too far off from this.

Season officially starts around Feb 1st. This includes practice 6 days a week for 3 hours or so. Games start in late February and continue until the middle of May. After the season ends, summer ball starts up right away or in the beginning of June depending on what league you play in. Summer ball continues through July and in some cases August. Typically, you will have 2-4 weeks off before Fall ball starts in early September. Personally, if I stopped throwing during this 2-4 week window, my arm would be deconditioned and I would be hit with the “dead arm” bug 1-2 weeks into fall ball. To avoid “dead arm”, I made sure I was throwing in August. This ensured my arm was conditioned and I maintained my arm strength.

The Fall ball season is 4 weeks (this may differ depending on what level you play at and how many times a week you practice) and the Fall season is over by Columbus day. Typically I took 3 months off from throwing-this was a HUGE mistake. By the time college practices started in Febuary my arm was not conditioned. I will say that the cold weather in the north east definitely affected my arm strength. Once we went down to Florida in early March my arm felt GREAT but once we returned to the 30 degree weather in NJ/PA my arm strength dropped off. It wasn’t until mid season that my arm was at full strength.

Looking back I wish I would have taken only a month off from throwing in college. The Fall season really screws everything up. Ideally, I wish I could just stop throwing after summer ball and pick a ball back up in November but this isn’t an option for a college baseball player. Doing this would have given my arm the break it needed from the repetitive motion of throwing a baseball and it would have also given me the luxury of throwing early in the off season which would allowed me more time to progress and condition my arm for the season.

The key to an off season throwing program is to progress slowly. Its better to do too little in the beginning than overdue it and then take a step back. If I would have followed this rule in college my arm would have been conditioned by the time my practices started. Just think about it. Imagine just throwing 1-2X a week and then boom, you start practicing 6 days a week. Unless you condition your arm for this, your arm isn’t going be conditioned for this stress and it will lead to “dead arm”. I am telling you this because this happened to me for years. Just because you start your off season throwing in November doesn’t mean your throwing 4-5 days a week. Start throwing 2 times a week. By the time December and mid January roles around you step it up to 3-4 days. By the end of January you step it up to 4-5 days a week that way by the time the season comes you are ready to rock and roll.

As you get closer to the season, the throwing program should be tailored to your position ( starting pitcher, relief pitcher and position player). If your a starting pitcher you need to condition your arm differently than a relief pitcher. A starting pitcher needs to condition their arm to throw once a week. I relief pitcher will have to condition there arm to throw 2-3 times a week. A position player needs to have their arm conditioned to throw in roughly 5 games a week.

One thing we did at my college that I think helped the pitchers a lot was throwing to live batters weeks before games started. If you ever pitched before, you know that your intensity will be totally different in a bullpen compared to facing live batters. Should you do this when you start throwing your pens? Of course not, in fact this would be a huge mistake. You should have at least a minimum for a month of bullpens under your belt before you throw to live batters. 2 weeks out from the start of season would be an appropriate time to stimulate a game situation like throwing to live batters. Position players need to focus on conditioning their arms for player position drills.

Personally I preferred throwing before I lifted. This would allow me to focus on recovery drills on my off days. Chase, hopefully this gives you some insight into when and how you should integrate a throwing program into your training program. As far as your second question  “when is it good to perform the light band exercises for the rotator cuff or does my strength program cover that?” That really depends on what your strength program looks like. If you want feel free to send it my way and I’ll give you some insight into what type of rotator cuff work I would add in.

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