There are two primary arm care routines, the Dumbbell Program and the Tubing Program. Forearm maintenance and scapular stability are also addressed in this section.
Setting Your Shoulder Blades
It is important to set your shoulder blades (or scapulas) before beginning any of the exercises in this section. Setting your shoulders is a postural exercise which involves squeezing your shoulder blades together. Think about the feeling of pulling your shoulders down and back simultaneously. The image below (left side) shows normal posture. In the image (right side), the shoulder blades are pinched down and back. Setting your shoulder blades will ensure that you are strengthening the rotator cuff muscles with the exercises includes in this section.
How Much Weight Should I Use?
The exercises in this section focus on the four small muscles of the rotator cuff, not the larger muscles that are emphasized in the strength training routines. When you exercise, your muscles are activated from smallest to largest. Let’s say that you are picking up a 10 lbs box from the floor. You squat down and pick it up with no problems. Now, pick up a 100 lb box. This will require more muscle to be activated to lift the heavy box. The squatting movement would be the same, but the muscle activity will be greater with the heavier weight. In the shoulders, there are multiple layers of muscles at work. When you pick up a heavy weight (over 5-8 lbs) the small muscles of the rotator cuff will be overwhelmed. As a result, the larger shoulder muscles, the deltoids, take over and do most of the work. To maintain posture and strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff, use a weight in the 3-5 lbs range.
When? And How Often?
You should train the muscles of your rotator cuff at least 3 times per week during the off-season! During the season we encourage a daily arm care routine, consisting of a variety of activities. In the off-season, the “base program” (i.e. Tubing and/or Dumbbells) is included on upper body days. Rhomboid rows, an exercise for scapular stability, should be performed on lower body days. Therefore, by following the program you have 4 days of shoulder work already included! When you begin throwing and/or bullpen sessions, you should also perform arm care routines on the days that you throw. Mix up the routines with what you have done during the season. On light days, do ball drops, body blade work or body weight exercises. Keep in mind that your goal is to gradually increase your throwing volume by Spring Training. To help this process, the rotator cuff program volume (i.e. reps x sets) can be more than that used during the season.