It is truly amazing how athletes, and anyone involved in fitness for that matter, get so caught up in only training areas that give you those visible results. As a thrower, this so happens to be a HUGE problem. You hear all of these promotions including "call now and get six-pack abs in four weeks," or "order now, and see your biceps and chest blow up ten times larger." The way the fitness world attacks consumers, is simply idiotic. It really is sad, because so many of these fitness gurus do not care. All they care about is the money in their back pocket. Many people forget how important the tricep and back muscles are when throwing (I am not even going to get started on the legs). Why work the triceps, when you can do a million bicep curls and flash those so-called "guns" off at the beach? You laugh, but this concept is so true.
Many people, including myself, put tricep extensions and dumbbell rows on the back burner simply because you do not see those visible results. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not the type of person who sits in the gym and attempts to find every muscle that I can possibly isolate. I am a big believer in performing lifts that get the whole body involved, and that test your mind. Let's be honest, anyone can do tricep extensions or dumbbell rows. You actually have to maintain a passion to lift in order to do whole body lifts. But that is not my point. The point is that there are two areas that are highly overlooked; triceps and back.
Okay. Let's get to where your back/shoulders come into play as a thrower. The continuous throwing motion that a thrower frequently endures throughout the season will cause the shoulders to almost slouch inward. You can see this pattern in the majority of throwers. The constant contraction of the chest area and extension of the back area is what causes this inward slouch. Ideally, you would want an equal stretch between the two muscles. This is why any kind of rows are so important as a supplemental exercise in any throwers workout. Rows allow the muscles to get back to a normal anatomical position. You want to counteract the contraction of the chest area when throwing, with the contraction of the back area when doing rows.
The triceps are a whole different story altogether. The amount of force that the triceps have to go through when throwing the shot put or discus is tremendous. It is actually amazing that our bodies are able to handle all the stress caused by throwing. If you are not aware, I ran into an injury this season which involves that wonderful little beast called tendonitis. It is one of those things that just sticks around and never wants to go away. I have been dealing with it for a little over 5 months now, and it has kept me from throwing over that period of time. Here's the deal. I was talking about how it is amazing that our bodies are able to handle the stress and the force that is put on it with throwing. Just like anything else though, our bodies have a threshold. A threshold where it can only take so much microscopic tearing until injury starts to set in and symptoms start to occur. As you throw over and over and over again, your arm starts to break down. It does heal, but it heals as scar tissue. This scar tissue is much weaker, and is layed in a scattered, unorganized fashion. Eventually this scar tissue builds up, and the muscle becomes weaker; weak to the point where it cannot be used anymore. So how do you fix this? Well, you need to break up this scar tissue, and allow it to re-lay in an organized fashion to form new tissue. This can be done through massage therapy.
The real question is, how do you prevent an injury like this from happening? Basically, it requires the right training and proper precaution. Quality over quantity. I am a HUGE believer in repetition when it comes to learning the rotational technique in throwing. I have always been one to throw countless number of throws per day, day in and day out. I have never dealt with any problems from this method, until this year. Unfortunately, my arm reached a threshold of how much stress it could take. As a thrower, I am still a HUGE believer in repetition. I think repetition is key, but I think there are other ways of getting that repetition. Instead of using a discus, throw a little ball into the cage. Not only will it save you some stress on your arm, but you will be able to get even more repetition since you do not have to chase the implements. Instead of using a shot put, maybe use a softball and throw it into a wall. I have found that this also saves the arm a lot of stress. Also, sometimes when you are throwing and you have an actual implement in the hand, you tend to disregard the technique and key in on how far the implement is going. When using a softball or just a ball, it doesn't matter how far it goes. It allows you to focus solely on the technique. This is probably my favorite perk of throwing these alternative implements. Smart training, rather than dumb training. Let's do it!
One last very important concept on preventing these overuse injuries, is that you have to learn how to listen to your body. When the tendonitis slowly started to build, I could feel quite a bit of discomfort. However, this discomfort was minor enough that it allowed me to continue throwing. Due to my stubbornness, the discomfort that I was feeling was not enough to make me stop doing the one thing that I loved to do. Slowly enough, my arm started to get weaker. I started to get greatly irritated because the distance continued to decrease. This only made me want to throw more. My body was telling me to stop, but my mind told me to suck it up and keep going. The moral of the story is that you have to listen to your body and trust what it tells you. It could save you months of agitation. TRUST ME! I know.
My brother is actually suffering from the same tendonitis issue right now. Fortunately, he caught it before it reached my level of not being able to do anything. He is going through that same mind-body battle that I went through. His body is telling him he needs to stop, but his mind is telling him to suck it up and throw. Luckily, through my experience, I can help guide him to take the path that I wish I would have taken. I hope as you are reading this, my experience has also helped you find the right path. Listen to your body! Overuse injuries are no joke!
Comments? Questions? Hit me up!