East Texas Orthopaedics And Sports Medicine

Steven C. Dickhaut, MD

 

Telephone

936-569-9443

 

Fax

936-560-5667

 

 

 

4800 NE Stallings Drive,

Suite 110,

Nacogdoches, TX  75965

Preseason Interval Throwing Program

In football and basketball, defense wins championships. In baseball, a team only goes as far as the pitching staff can take it.

Most sports allow time for conditioning of the body’s muscles and ligaments. In weightlifting, for example, it is common to begin training with low weights and to work up to heavier weights as the body grows stronger. The same concept holds true for a baseball pitcher, regardless of the level at which he competes.

Throwing a baseball is not a natural process that the body was designed for. Acute injuries, as well as overuse injuries to the shoulder and elbow, can occur.

To help decrease the wear and tear of the shoulder and elbow, many major league ball clubs stress a preseason conditioning program for pitchers. This type of conditioning program is known as an Interval Throwing Program (ITP).

An ITP is based on throwing at incremental distances to build up a pitcher’s arm strength and endurance. Typically these programs begin with a shortened toss (as in playing catch) and work up to a long throw.

This allows the pitcher to develop strength and endurance, as well as gradually increase the speed of his pitch in a safe manner. The ITP should be completed prior to the pitcher attempting any mound or bullpen work.

The preseason ITP that we are recommending for high school pitchers consists of 16 progressive steps over four weeks (see Table 1). Each week consists of four days of throwing (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday), and three days of rest (Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday).

The pitcher must master each step without pain or complications before progressing to the next step. Prior to each day of throwing, it is important to begin with a five-minute warm-up period. This can be accomplished with a light jog.

Throwing incorporates the entire body, and increasing the core temperature helps to increase blood flow to the muscles and joints. Next, the pitcher does some stretching of the upper body, torso and legs. The pitcher then begins throwing warm-up tosses on level ground at 30 feet, and gradually backs up to the desired distance for that day as he feels comfortable.

Once the pitcher is adequately warmed up, he begins throwing at 50 percent maximum, concentrating on throwing a straight ball within a 1-foot (or garbage can lid) radius of the coach’s chest. This is a good time to focus on the pitcher’s mechanics and fundamentals.

The pitching coach is watching for any signs of fatigue, such as the arm dropping to the side during the delivery of the ball. Special emphasis should be placed on good follow-through motion in order to reduce stress to the pitcher’s elbow. When the number of throws for that day’s step has been achieved, the pitcher is not to throw the rest of the day.

The ITP is designed for individuals so that if a pitcher experiences pain during or after a certain step, he does not progress until that step is mastered without any more pain. If the pitcher complains of pain, he is to take an extra day of rest and resume the program at the step where he experienced pain. Once pain-free, the pitcher is allowed to progress to the next step.

By successfully completing this ITP, the player should have increased his endurance and sport-specific strength that he will need to begin working off the mound. Hopefully, he has also decreased the chance of injury.

Table 1: Interval Throwing Program
 MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
Week 1 Step 1
Warm-up throws
45 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
45 ft (25 throws)
Step 2
Warm-up throws
45 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
45 ft (25 throws)
No throwing
Cardiovascular
Step 3
Warm-up throws
60 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
Step 4
Warm-up throws
60 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
60 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
60 ft (25 throws)
Week 2 Step 5
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Step 6
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
No throwing
Cardiovascular
Step 7
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Step 8
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
75 ft (25 throws)
Week 3 Step 9
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Step 10
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
No throwing
Cardiovascular
Step 11
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Step 12
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
90 ft (25 throws)
Week 4 Step 13
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Step 14
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
No throwing
Cardiovascular
Step 15
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Step 16
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)
Rest 10 min
Warm-up throws
100 ft (25 throws)

*Note: This distance may vary from 100 to 120 ft. depending on the space of indoor throwing facility or gym.

 

Baseball/Softball Injury Prevention Guidelines

 

  • Most injuries in bseball and softball involve the throwing arm and shoulder, but these injuries usually occur through a gradual process.  Athletes should not abuse the throwing arm by overusing it. 
  • Players should incorporate conditioning and stretching exercises for the shoulder into their overall program.
  • Players should warm up and cool down the throwing arm properly to minize the risk of injuries.
  • Condition all shoulder muscles, emphasizing muscles in the back of the shoulder that are required to stop the pitching motion.  Muscles in the front of teh arm are natrually longer. Begin with light weights and increase by one-pound increments.  Do not exceed five pounds.  Perform 2- 3 sets of 15 repetitions.