Week 2 of the In-Season Restoration Series: Internal Rotation
Each off-season, baseball players have many similar imbalances and dysfunctions as they go into their training. While no two athletes are the same, this series will be aimed at in-season maintenance of functions and balances that are commonly lost over the course of a season.
This week we are covering shoulder internal rotation isometrics. First things first:
Why do we need the Internal Rotation Isos?
Because of several factors which I will go into in another blog, baseball players (especially pitchers) tend to lose a great deal of internal rotation over the course of the season (Escamilla, et al). Taking it a step further, they lose internal rotation degrees over the course of a single outing! Most people suggest passively cranking into internal rotation via the sleeper stretch. When the athlete is not in the midst of the season, this may be pretty effective when paired with adequate training around that. In-season, however, cranking into ranges of motion without adequately being able to train through them seems aggressive to me. The shoulder is already the most dynamic joint in the human body. Simply put, we need to be able to strengthen through the ranges of motion we open up. Yes- a baseball player will be exposed to untrained ranges when they begin to throw every off-season. However, what they are not doing is exposing the body to those new ranges at maximum intent during the season as the body is already developing other compensation patterns.
Why not do the sleeper stretch, then strengthen with bands or something?
Because of the amount of work that is required, recovery becomes one of the most important factors in remaining healthy throughout a long season (Escamilla, et al). When our muscles go through ranges of motion under stress, there is a level of damage done to the muscle fibers (Clarkson, et al). This is generally good. That’s how we grow and gain strength. The most muscle tissue damage happens during the eccentric, or lengthening phase of muscular contraction (Clarkson, et al). Much of the forces the arm has to endure are eccentric or…forces the body has to absorb (Cook, et al). The athletes need to prioritize recovering the tissue. Adding more tissue-damaging exercises will not aid in the recovery process. Then why athletes do band work after they throw? The idea is to generate blood flow through the tissue, which does aid in the recovery process. This, though, is just lazy and inefficient thinking. A little research would show that isometrics can accomplish generating increased blood flow, but here’s the kicker- by eliminating the eccentric phase of muscular contraction, we can take stress off the tissue in need of repair! Wow! What a concept! In addition, we’ve seen improvements in range of motion from using isometrics for specific joints. It would follow, then, that isometrics could be seen as superior to typical post-throwing routines for the purpose of recovery.
So what are we doing here?
These internal rotation isos target the subscapularis (shown in the image below), which is an internal rotator of the rotator cuff. We get specific blood flow, range of motion and activation. Do these after you throw. Watch the video for the instruction!