The pre-season is simply the period before the start of the season. What you may consider the start of the season may vary depending upon your personal circumstance. If you are a professional pitcher vying for a spot on a big league team, you might want to consider the first day of spring training as the start of your season.
Additionally, if you are a high school player and you know that your coach is not going to adequately prepare you for the start of the season, we would recommend that you consider the first day of spring practice as in-season. The pre-season training starts 10 weeks prior to the start of the season. There is a calendar to map out your pre-season training. Find out the date of what you consider the in-season and work backwards to find out when you need to begin the throwing program.
During the Pre-Season is when you develop your foundation by preparing your arm for the day to day stresses it will endure throughout the season. This foundation is the most important element of the Pre-Season Throwing Blueprint. If the season begins in less than 10 weeks, start on day one and complete as many days as possible prior to the season starting. Just understand that you will need to reduce your max pitch limits until your arm is properly conditioned. Once the season begins, follow the in-season throwing blueprint.
The in-season period begins the day of the first game and lasts until you stop playing for more than 2 weeks. This 2 weeks period takes into account the transition from spring to the summer season.
Most youth, high school and collegiate players move straight their spring seasons into the summer season and generally this period takes less than a 2 weeks. The goal is to have a strong foundation built by the time the season starts. This will undoubtedly improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury.
The off-season period begins after the last game of the season. The off-season is a great time to rest the body and mind, but it is also a great time to train.
Building Your Foundation
Your foundation is the level of throwing and arm care conditioning that you have achieved in the pre-season. A strong foundation built in the pre-season will better prepare your arm to handle the stresses of the season. It will reduce fatigue during outings and the rate at which your arm recovers following an outing.
A strong foundation will also enhance performance. By progressively increasing your throwing workloads (giving your arm adequate time to rest and recover) and using the Crossover Symmetry arm care programs as prescribed (to strengthen and optimize the function of the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder complex), most players see a significant increase in throwing velocity over the 10 week pre-season period.
Pitch Count Limits
Your foundation should be the basis for your pitch count limits during the first month of the season. We recommend that players who complete the 10 week pre-season throwing program set their max pitch count for the first outing of the season at 70% of the Pitch Smart recommended limit based on the age of the player. For example, the Pitch Smart recommended max pitch count for a 17 yr old pitcher is 105 pitches. In our opinion, throwing 105 pitches during the first outing of the year is too much – even for a well conditioned pitcher and could have negative long term effects.
In this case, we recommend that a 17 yr old pitcher, who has built a strong foundation in the pre-season, set their max pitch count at 70 pitches for the first outing of the season. During subsequent weeks (if there are no setbacks), the pitcher will add 10 pitches per week to this max pitch count limit until he has reached the Pitch Smart recommended limit for his age. This should take several weeks to reach the Pitch Smart pitch limit (week 1- 70, week 2- 80, week 3- 90, week 4- 100). If you have not built a solid foundation in the preseason by following a comprehensive throwing and arm care program, we recommend setting the max pitch limit at 40% of what Pitch Smart recommends based on the age of the player. From there, the pitcher will add 10 pitches per week until reaching the Pitch Smart recommended limit for his age.
It should be noted that pitch counts are just a safeguard and true indicators of when a pitcher should be taken out is fatigue. Indicators of fatigue can be: changes in mechanics and delivery, laboring, reduced velocity, missing up in the zone.
Listen To Your Arm
This is not a generalized throwing program. The duration and number of throws are determined by how the individual athlete feels. The athlete’s awareness of his arm health is the best guide to progress or shut down the throwing program on a particular day. Listen to your arm! Listen to your arm! Listen to your arm! If you feel a hinge in your arm that “doesn’t feel normal” or cannot be worked out by continuing to throw, “SHUT IT DOWN!”
Pain or Discomfort
If the player is feeling any pain or discomfort in their shoulder or elbow, immediately stop the throwing program and put them through the Red Flag Shoulder Screen. If any of the four Red Flag Screens are positive, have the player see a licensed medical professional. If the player test negative for all of the screens, they should discontinue throwing for two weeks and perform two sets of the CS Recovery Phase every other day.
Following this two week period, the player can attempt to restart the throwing program from the day one in the throwing program. If the pain returns, the player should see a licensed medical professional.
Unless you live in warm weather states, your pre-season schedule with coincide with harsh winter months making it difficult to complete the program as outlined. There are however, some parts of the program that can be done routinely regardless of the weather.
You can follow the pre-season schedule indoors with limited space by setting throwing time limits on the throwing program. If throwing indoors, the light day would equate to around 8-10 minutes, the regular day would be 10-14 minutes and the long toss day would be 15-18 minutes. Whether throwing indoors or outdoors, always listen to your arm. If you feel like you are starting to fatigue during the throwing program, it is time to stop.
Crossbody horizontal adduction stretch demonstrated better results of restoring internal rotation to the dominant shoulder than the sleeper stretch in a recent study in the JOSPT. Posterior shoulder tightness will limit internal rotation and can cause the humeral head to migrate posterior/superior (backward and upward), creating internal impingement on the labrum and progressively causing what we call a SLAP tear.
Guidelines to stretching the posterior shoulder
Instructions for the genie stretch
- Dominant arm only
- Completed post activity following any Crossover protocol (ie: Recovery, Plyometric, Iron Scap)
- Create a stretch to the back of the shoulder
- Hold static stretch 30 seconds
- Complete two reps
- Lying on dominant arm side to block (stabilize) the scapula
- Reach over the dominant arm with the opposite arm in a genie pose
- Pull the dominant arm just above the elbow across the body
- Once a stretch in the backside of the dominant arm is felt hold 30 sec.
- If no stretch is felt, lightly internally rotate the shoulder by pushing the elbow into the wrist
- Stretch should be felt in the back of the dominant arm shoulder
- Should feel no pain in the front of the dominant arm