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"It Depends"

While the internet has certainly helped to spread good information, it also has spread a lot of misinformation. And in the world of baseball pitchers, where many can be relatively unathletic and underwhelming physically, yet still be successful in their sport due to genetic factors (extreme shoulder ROM, big hands, long fingers, etc), misinformation is rife. An example of this is the dogma surrounding whether pitchers should train arms, specifically the simple bicep curl. The twitter consensus is that bicep curls “make you tight” and “aren’t good for pitchers”. However, what does the actual research say? According to foremost UCL surgeon Dr James Andrews, in “The Athlete’s Shoulder” 2009, “The biceps contract eccentrically along with other elbow flexors to help decelerate the rapid elbow extension that peaks during arm acceleration. This is an important function because weakness or fatigue in the elbow flexors can result in elbow extension being decelerated by impingement of the olecranon in the olecranon fossa, which can lead to bone spurs and subsequent loose bodies within the elbow”. In other words, common sense also applies to the bicep: strengthening a muscle helps improve joint strength and stability (in this case, the elbow), allowing for better performance and reduction of injury. So should pitchers be doing heavy sloppy form cheat curls (as many of our strength athletes enjoy doing)? Of course not. But should they include sensibly loaded and properly performed curls in their program? The research, and common sense, says yes. In a sport and position that is plagued by an alarmingly high injury rate, lazy programming based off Twitter dogma will not do. Rather, training should be built around a strong understanding of the human body, the fundamental needs of the athletes sport, the principles of physics, and sound research. But most importantly, training also must take into account the particular athlete: namely, what can they perform well/not perform well? What fits their needs, and strengths and weaknesses? Is this a proper progression for their training age, and training history? What is their injury history? What movements if any are currently inhibited, or causing discomfort? What is their current on field demands and workload? And what is their specific arm health needs? This is why ultimately the answer to any argument related to training is: “It depends”. As I tell our athletes, training is not a religion. I constantly tweak, refine, and add and subtract, based off not just my experience and sound research, but most importantly, is “this” getting results for this particular athlete? As the late great Charlie Francis said, “One has to be able to thread together scientific knowledge and sport technique while listening to one’s own feelings and the feelings of the particular athlete in question – It is at this point that coaching ceases to be a science and becomes an art.”


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