4 Essentials to Physical Recovery for Starting Pitchers

1) RECOVERY PROCESS

The recovery process starts very soon after you are done pitching, before you cool down.  Old school is to run poles to get the “bad blood” out or I’ve heard that running helps to get the lactic acid accumulation out of your body.  I’m not much into poles because I don’t think that is the most beneficial activity for a pitcher. Short sprints, change of direction, plyometric exercises recruit and develop the athlete in the pitcher, so all conditioning is done with that in mind. My understanding is that there is little if any lactic acids built up in the body from pitching.

The right thing to do is to begin the repair process to all the small muscles that are used (and damaged to a certain extent) in the throwing process.  My recommendation would be a 5-10 minute program with the shoulder tube or Crossover Symmetry’s Iron Scaps program that gets the blood flowing in the specific areas stressed during the pitching activity.  Ice has long been used as a recovery tool after the appearance.  Ice should be used for injuries and severe trauma to an area but research has shown that it can be detrimental to the healing process as it restricts blood flow to the arm.  If you ask me why it is still used almost routinely in baseball, I don’t have a good answer for you. Tim Lincecum’s dad, Chris, had this to say about the subject of ice after games: “Ice is good for two things, injuries and cocktails.” I think he is pretty right…

2) TRAINING CYCLES

Think in these terms: Day 1 is the first day after you pitch, Day 2 is 2 days after you pitch, etc…

The biggest conditioning day of the cycle is the day after you pitch.  More mature players, college and professional players that use the weight room as part of their conditioning routines are in the weight room Day 1 or Day 2 after pitching.  A full body lift would be typical of either day. Day 3 (or two days later), would find the pitcher back in the weight room with a lower body lift, so the length of the cycle would determine what days to lift.  Twice a week in a 5-7 day cycle would be very typical of the weight room.  The training/conditioning is greater and more intense in Day 1 and it diminishes as you get closer to the next start so that the day before pitching is generally just a get loose type of day with very light conditioning.

Running for pitchers needs to be short. 10-15 seconds max, explosive, with changes in direction highlighted by jumping, bounding, explosive movements that create the dynamic athlete.  As stated earlier, volume is greatest in Day 1 and gets less as you get closer to the next appearance.   Make sure that appropriate rest is incorporated into the activities.  The training should be dynamic and make sure it doesn’t turn into a slow twitch recruitment of endurance-type systems.

3) THROWING PROGRAMS

Throwing programs have a little different process than conditioning cycles. They move in a different direction.  Conditioning starts heavy and gets less daily.  Throwing starts lighter and builds towards the middle diminishing as the pitcher gets closer to the next start.  Day 1 is a recovery day and on a 5 day throwing cycle (typical of MLB) many pitchers will throw long but easy with lots of arc.  With more time between starts, many pitchers easy long toss on Day 2 and long toss with great intent on Day 3 and pen on Day 3 instead of Day 2.  Pitchers will usually pen on Day 3 and Day 5 if it is a 7 day cycle.

Always remember everyone is different and especially with throwing programs. There can be distances, volumes and skill sessions that feel good to some but don’t work for others.  Certainly feel free to experiment…. but these schedules are typical of throwing programs used in professional and college baseball.

Two things are going on in between appearances, throwing and skill (pitching, delivery and pitch) development.  The pitcher has to throw enough to feed the arm, but not to overwork it and has to continue to improve and the skills that needs to be refined. Pitching coaches and pitchers earn their money and success with the management of their throwing volume and skill development, this is the most critical element in recovery, health and performance.

4) HYDRATION, NUTRITION, AND SLEEP

You can’t play catch up with recovery.  Your performance is driven by a few simple processes.  The routines that address these processes are necessary for consistent performance.  Your body is directly affected by:

a) How you train

b) What you put in your body

c) How you sleep

You have to stay in front of the hydration and nutrition because it takes days to make up the misses.  Pretty simple… drink a lot of good fluids and eat a balanced diet…have a plan and listen to the experts!

Sleep-studies have revealed that performance can be impacted by up to 10% just on this one factor.  Do your very best not to lose 10%.  Understand that sleep is vital to performance.  Sleep time, environment, (bed and light or lack thereof), noise and routines are important to the quality of the sleep necessary for optimal performance.  Don’t underestimate this part of the recovery process.

Follow these 4 steps for the best physical recovery for the starting pitcher!