Conditioning a Pitcher’s Arm

2015-04-23 06.49.31What does it mean to “Condition” an arm and why is it important?

Conditioning an arm means to get it in shape. This takes, at minimum, a month (I recommend 2-3 months) of a regimented throwing program. You can compare this to a marathon runner training for that 26.2 mile run. If they were to go out and try to do the whole run on day one, they will fatigue quickly, have a hard time finishing the race and put themselves at risk for injury. They need to work up to that type of distance, which takes weeks, to be completely prepared and ready to run a strong race of that length.

Now, think about our pitchers. Throwing bullpens leading up to the season is a must. This is how we get comfortable with our deliveries, fine tune our command, get feel for our changeups and tighten up our breaking balls.

With that said, just because a pitcher has been throwing regular bullpens, 30-40 pitches, does not mean they are ready for 60-80 pitches their first game out. They NEED to be built up to this type of number. This can be done before the regular season games start with throwing simulated innings (throw their pregame routine, rest, get back up and throw their warmup pitches followed by simulating three outs and repeat this to build up stamina and strength) AFTER their bullpens or if they have not done that, they need to build up their pitch count over the course of games pitched. For example…

Game 1 = 2 innings or 30 pitches
Proper days rest!
Game 2 = 3 innings or 45 pitches
Proper days rest!
Game 3 = 4 innings or 60 pitches
Proper days rest!
Game 4 = 5 innings or 75 pitches
Proper days rest!

Sending a pitcher out there, whether he is 9 or 29, and throwing them 60+ pitches for their first outing of the season without being properly conditioned, is setting that pitcher up for failure and an injury. Fatigue will instantly set in and with fatigue comes a higher risk of injury.

Another common issue is when pitchers have an extended period of time between games pitched. The arm loses stamina very quickly and when pitch counts aren’t maintained week after week, that game a pitcher had 3 weeks ago where he threw 80 pitches, means nothing today when deciding how many pitches to allow them to throw. He most likely will be good, arm health wise, for 30-40 pitches.

Let’s also be clear that all pitchers need proper warmup in the bullpen before they go into a game to pitch. They should have a 20-30 pitch routine they like to do that will help them be prepared for battle! I know sometimes, this is not possible in youth baseball as you may only have enough players to field a team, but if you do have enough players, have the pitcher you plan on using next, on the bench ready to warm up if the situation presents itself.

Chris Gissell (140 Posts)

Founder of Baseball Dudes. Blessed with three beautiful children and an amazing wife. Baseball is my life, after my family, and I love sharing what I have learned from it. Thanks for taking the time to view what we offer here at Baseball Dudes.