In our previous article, we discussed the importance of stretching and strengthening the hand. (Didn’t see it? You can read it right here!) However, there is more to the upper extremity than just our hand and forearm; it is also important for baseball players to stretch and strengthen their elbow and shoulder joints.
Moving up the chain, we will discuss the muscles that cause flexion (bending) and extension (straightening) of the arm at the elbow joint. Baseball players tend to focus on the triceps (muscles located on the back of the arm) because it is involved in the extension of the elbow, which as we know happens when you throw a ball. The concept that most people forget is balance in the body. Every joint in the body has muscles that allow for movement to happen. If we have muscles which extend the arm, we have muscles to bend the arm as well. The biceps’ action is to flex the arm (think when someone says “make a muscle”). This muscle needs to be able to stretch very quickly when the ball is thrown and needs to be strong enough to handle the force that the triceps are putting on the elbow joint to help with elbow health. Strengthening both the triceps and biceps, as well as, stretching these muscles can contribute to increased velocity, distance, endurance, and overall health of elbow and shoulder.
The third portion of the upper extremity is the shoulder. Most baseball players know the importance of a proper warm up because it helps to loosen up the shoulder joint. But starting at the fingers and moving up the arm to the shoulder will allow for the muscles to warm up and strengthen in a functional way. (Remember our post about the hand from January 19?) Just like the other joints, you want to strengthen the opposing muscle groups; however, the shoulder joint is a little more complex. Since the shoulder has a larger range of motion than the elbow, it requires more muscles to create the movement. Strengthening the shoulder properly in all ranges is important for increased performance and joint health. Stretching the shoulder is vital because of how aggressive the movement of throwing is. Muscles are contacting and relaxing so quickly, that if not properly warmed up it is very easy for an injury to occur in any part of the chain if not moving properly.
By Corynne Pereira