Dynamic stretching is MANDATORY for all of our pitchers, and should be for your’s too! To perform at our best we need to be flexible and have good range of motion. However, not all stretching is created equal. Different types of stretches benefit pitchers in different ways. Research shows that dynamic stretching better prepares athletes for performance, and should be done before practices and competition. Static stretching is great for improving flexibility, but can actually hinder athletic performance when done prior to competing. The key is making sure your pitchers are stretching properly and consistently.
Dynamic Stretching Defined
Ever done jumping jacks, high knees, or grapevines as part of a warm-up routine? Then you’re familiar with dynamic stretching whether you know it or not! Dynamic stretching is stretching through movement. The key to a proper dynamic warm-up is to slowly increase body temperature and intensity. You also want your dynamic stretching routines to mimic the movements that you’ll be doing during your practices/games. Therefore, pitchers should have a dynamic warm-up for their shoulders, core, and lower body.
Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
If you’ve ever searched for information about stretching and proper warm-up routines, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed with information. There is TONS of it out there. I’ve simplified a list of benefits (demonstrated by research) explaining why dynamic stretching is the way we encourage pitchers to warm up before EVERY outing (practices AND games).
- increased power, endurance and speed (all things pitchers want)
- improved coordination and balance (also a MUST in softball pitchers)
- injury prevention (DISCLAIMER: proper stretching is not an absolute for injury prevention, but it definitely contributes to a pitcher’s safety)
- less muscle cramping
- better mental preparedness (we all know the importance of the mental side of the game)
- improvement in overall performance
NOTE: This list is a compilation of several sources mentioned at the bottom of the article. If you’d like more information about this research or would like to know more about the benefits of dynamic stretching, feel free to contact me!
Elite athletes all over the world use dynamic warm up routines prior to competition, including members of Team USA. Perhaps you’re familiar with 23 time Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps, doing his infamous back slap prior to beginning his races. (We’ve paid homage to Michael Phelps in our own Dynamic Shoulder Warm Up Routine using his move. See if you can find the “Phelps Flap” in the video below).
A good dynamic warm up routine should include light aerobic activity for 5-10 minutes and increase body temperature. You want to slowly increase intensity in your dynamic stretching routine to reduce chance of injury. For the dynamic movement to benefit the pitcher, it needs to mimic the motions that the pitcher will use in her pitching motion. Obviously, arm circles are certainly a key element in a dynamic shoulder warm up for a softball pitcher. However, you’ll want to include movements that work all parts of the rotator cuff, back, abs, scapula, lats, etc. The movements should be slow and deliberate, but increasing intensity as the muscle’s temperature rises.
Sample Dynamic Shoulder Warm-Up
This is an example of the shoulder warm-up routine we use for our pitchers. It should take about 3-5 minutes to complete, however, it is important to remember to warm-up the lower body prior to beginning your workouts as well.
Static Stretching Defined
For most of us, when we think of stretching, we think of holding a specific pose for several seconds while we feel a slight pressure on the muscle we’re trying to stretch. This holding still and stretching is what we refer to as static stretching. Not too long ago, this is how most athletes would prepare themselves at the beginning of practice or games. Recent research has shown that static stretching prior to competition actually hinders athletic performance. If that’s the case, then why should we do it at all then? Static stretching still has it’s place and importance on creating an all around great athlete, just not as the warm-up. We’ll discuss more about static stretching and its place for pitchers in a future article.
Pitchers need to warm-up their arms to throw, not throw to warm-up their arms! They must get their body temperature warmed for each muscle group that they’re going to use in their pitching motion. Simply running laps is not going to warm up a pitcher’s upper body enough to keep her safe from the pulling and stretching in her shoulder joint. To protect your pitcher and get the most out of her warm-up routine, incorporate dynamic stretching into daily practices and game warm-ups! The video above is just one example of a dynamic shoulder routine that you may find useful. There are also resistance bands (such as J-Bands) that are helpful when doing a dynamic shoulder warm-up. Stay tuned for a future article explaining how to use resistance bands for warm-up and injury prevention. Pitchers MUST take care of their arms, and it starts with proper stretching.
To learn our dynamic shoulder warm up in its entirety, come train with us! You can reach us through our contact page to set up lessons! Join our FREE mailing list (see green button below) to receive helpful articles and discounts delivered directly to your email address. Additionally, for more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel! Visit our online store to purchase all your softball pitching tools!
Edelman, George T. (2016) Static Stretching and Dynamic Warmups: When to Apply Both. http://www.usaswimming.org/_Rainbow/Documents/457db712-c31f-471a-b79f-cb46111be94e/Stretch%20vs%20Dynamic%20Warm%20UP%20Edelman%20USS.pdf
Avoiding Injury: How To Get the Most Out Of Static Stretching