3 Keys to an Effective Arm Care Program
While PR’s and velocity increases tend to get all the attention on our social media, something we’re equally proud of is we had another tremendous year for arm health in the facility. From May 2017 to May 2018, from JV high school ball to D1 to the Minor leagues, our pitchers threw 619 innings with zero injuries, and only 1 skipped start. Here’s some of the keys for effective arm care that we build our throwers programs off of:
1) Individual assessment
The biggest mistake many throwers make in terms of arm care is lazily following a one size fits all approach. It’s still common for D1 pitchers and MiLB’s to be handed a generic arm care sheet to follow that is exactly the same as the rest of their teammates. As it is, what one pitcher needs in order to correct his arm inefficiencies, may be the very thing that makes a different pitcher ineffective. Instead of lumping everyone together, a good arm care program should start with a thorough assessment that identifies what an individual thrower specifically needs to stay healthy and improve performance. Furthermore, needs can often shift depending on that individuals workload and recovery abilities, as well as a myriad of other factors. This is why good arm assessment shouldn’t be a one time activity an athletes first day, it’s a constant, fluid process, with the foundation being regular assessment, and good communication between athlete and trainer.
2) Posterior Bias
Everyone has a set of their favorite arm care exercises to prescribe. But besides consideration as to whether those exercises are individually appropriate, it’s also very important to understand the basics of shoulder anatomy. Humans by nature are anterior shoulder dominant; and while that’s helpful for living life, tactical environments, and playing football or basketball, it isn’t good for someone trying to repeatedly throw a small 5 oz object at high velocities and stay healthy doing it. That’s why all our arm care programs, regardless of individualization, are strongly biased to the posterior aspect of the shoulder, both in exercise selection, and volume.
3) Holistic approach
An arm care program cannot be a “buy this set of bands and follow the sheet” or “buy these balls and follow the sheet”. It has to be individualized, but it also must be holistic. It must take into consideration an individuals throwing program, their recent and current workload, whether they’re in season or out of season, and critically, their strength program. What weightlifting exercises should be incorporated and in what intensity, and which ones completely avoided, is of the utmost importance. Let’s say you’ve assessed Billy, and he has G.I.R.D. (Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit). You prescribe arm care exercises for Billy to correct his GIRD, but the entire time in his strength program he’s been doing lots of dumbbell pressing. The odds of Billy being GIRD free anytime soon, despite your perfect prescription of arm care exercises, is slim to none. This is why any arm care program that doesn’t incorporate what’s going on in the throwers strength work won't get results. However, by taking into account all the factors for a thrower, a strong, individualized, fluid program can be put together, that with regular assessment and communication, can meet one of the greatest challenges for any trainer: keep an overhead athlete's shoulder and elbow healthy, and performing at a high level.