Pitchers and Tennis Players

Three months ago I was hired by “Mary,” a Division 1 tennis player to help her with shoulder pain she was experiencing. For the past 15 months, her shoulders had increasingly begun hurting and accompanied by a considerable drop in her serve speed and overall performance. I asked Mary to email me her strength training programs for the past 15 months, from the time her shoulder pain began. After viewing Mary’s strength training programs, it became obvious why her shoulders and performance were hurting. Mary’s strength coach had neglected to have her perform exercises for her rotator cuff muscles. Shortly, you’ll see why her strength coach set
her up for her injuries.
In this post, I’ll reveal one the exercises I used to strengthen her shoulder and in the process, increase her serve speed. I have also used these techniques on a high school pitcher to help him achieve a 97 mph fastball.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff comprises of four muscles: supraspinatous, infraspinatous, teres minor, and the subscapularis. The term “rotator cuff” originates from the fact that the muscles aid in rotation of the joint and their tendons form a “cuff” the around the humerus.
These four muscles are extremely important, as one of their functions is to stabilize and decelerate the arm during overhead motions.
The shoulder joint possesses a high level of mobility, as it can assume over 1,600 positions in three-dimensional space. This mobility however, comes at the expense of stability, as the geometry of the shoulder joint has been described as “a beach ball balancing on a seal’s nose.”
The extreme forces generated by high caliber pitchers and tennis players can accelerate the upper arm up to 9,000°/sec, rapidly followed by intense eccentric decelerative actions. The forces and torques generated during acceleration and deceleration, place tremendous stress on the muscles of the upper body, especially the rotator cuff.

Distraction Forces

Once a tennis player strikes the ball during a serve, or a pitcher releases the baseball, distraction forces act on the shoulder and elbow joints. These forces pull the upper arm and elbow away from the shoulder joint, once the energy in the dominant arm has been transferred to the tennis ball or baseball. The distraction forces encountered on the shoulder/elbow joint is equal to the athlete’s body weight. High demands are required of the rotator cuff muscles, as they decelerate the upper arm and resist these distraction forces after every pitch and swing of the tennis racket.
The secret to faster serves and pitches is to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. Your body will only allow you to throw or serve as fast as it can safely decelerate your upper arm. Remember, your rotator cuff muscles have to resist the distraction forces, and will only allow you to generate forces it can safely handle.

The Proof

Matt Harvey
2007 #1 Ranked High School Baseball Player in the Nation

#4 ranked prospect for the 2007 MLB draft

When I started working with Matt Harvey, he was consistently throwing in the 85-90 mph range. When I asked him to demonstrate some of the rotator cuff exercises he had been performing, he used 5 pound dumbbells for all the exercises. Needless to say, his rotator cuff muscles were only allowing him to throw at a speed they could safely decelerate. It was only when we strengthened his rotator cuff muscles that he started to throw in the 95-97 mph range.
Now, I don’t have any scientific evidence to back up what I’m about to state, but from working with numerous pitchers and tennis players, for every ten pound increase in the weight used for the rotator cuff exercise demonstrated in the video clip below, throwing speed increases up to 2 mph.

When Matt Harvey first performed this exercise, he could only use 5 pounds for 8 repetitions. Once he could perform the exercise with 35 pounds for 8 repetitions, he was reaching speeds of 97 mph consistently.
In the three months I have been working with Mary, she is now pain free, and her serves are faster than ever.
Perform this exercise yourself and not only will your throwing/serve speed dramatically increase, but your shoulders will feel a lot better.

Thanks to Mystic Muscle for allowing use of their facilities.

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  1. July 7, 2010 at 03:22

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