In Soft Tissue Troubleshooting For Pitchers (Part 1), I ran through a few areas in the upper body where we as pitchers tend to get knotted up, then outlined some solutions to combat those soft tissue restrictions. Here in Part 2, I will do the same, but for areas in the lower body that tend to give pitchers trouble as the season wears on.
First, lets just pose a scenario where someone asks me to look at a professional pitcher’s delivery. Then, after watching, that person asked me what parts of that pitcher’s lower half I believed would become the most restricted, knotted up, or troublesome from a soft tissue standpoint throughout the season.
After thinking about how I would answer, I believe the first thing I would say is that I really didn’t need to see that video to give an appropriate answer. The questions I would ask them instead would be, 1.) Was this pitcher wearing cleats in the video? 2.) Did this pitcher participate in a full spring training? 3.) Has this pitcher already logged a ton of innings or appearances at the time of this video?
You might be wondering where I’m going with this, but coming from someone who has been to 6 spring trainings and pitched in parts of 7 professional seasons, I believe that from my experiences as well as discussions with fellow teammates about our aches and pains, I could cite at least a few areas in the lower body that tend to get aggravated at different stages of the season. Here are some…
1.) Bottoms of the feet– Often pitchers go entire off-seasons without putting on cleats. We train hard all winter in bare feet or minimalist footwear, and are happy campers when we finally get to finally move around without baseball spikes. Then, once spring training or spring practice rolls around, we are suddenly wearing spikes all the time again. Our feet start to get crammed up again, and as a result the arches of our feet get weak and sore. Heres a quick fix!
Tool– Batting cage ball- Sore Spot– Arches of feet
Find the meat of your foot and roll the pain away. I always tend to try and find the sorest spot and just hold the ball there with added pressure until the soreness subsides. After rolling for a bit, walk around without shoes. You should notice an appreciable difference.
2.) Shins, Shin Splints, or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (for the geeks)- Working our way up the chain, this area is a common problem amongst pro ball players coming back to spring training where we #1 Start wearing cleats again for a good part of the day #2 Stand around in sub-par posture most of the day shagging batting practice, and #3 Run absurd amounts (often in cleats) after standing around with sub-par posture. In my opinion and experience, this is a recipe to turn super strong and athletic pitchers into sore, immobile, and dysfunctional pitchers. Here is a way to help maintain decent soft tissue on the both sides of that tibia.
Forget the ultrasound, ice, or lovey dovey massage. If you want to feel better, you’re going to need to get in on that calf and around your shins. Have one of these rolling sticks or Tiger Tails handy to roll up along your calf and alongside your shins to get that crap outta there. It’s gonna hurt, but the pain is temporary. You’ll feel better after a few min of this focused soft tissue work. Pair this with a little static calf stretching and you’re golden.
3.) Lead Hip- This pertains to the final question I asked about the professional pitcher in the scenario mentioned at the beginning of this post. It’s no mystery that pitching is one of the most violent motions in all of sports. Not only is it violent, but it’s repetitively violent. The same joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments take a beating. When we look closer at a pitcher’s delivery, we can see precisely which areas those are. When it comes to a pitcher’s lower half, I would argue that the lead hip (hip closest to home plate throughout delivery) is the most important area to narrow in on for the most soft tissue maintenance.
Tool– Batting Cage Ball- Sore Spot- Outside of Lead Hip
For right-handed pitchers, cross your left leg over the right and roll over the tight fascia in your glute and outside hip on the left side. Opposite for lefties of course. This position is beneficial because it allows all your weight to sink into to the ball, ensuring you free some of that junked up soft tissue to allow for better hip internal rotation lost from driving through that front side so aggressively while pitching.
When it comes to being a healthy pitcher, the things that first come to mind are proper mechanics, strength, flexibility, mobility, and shoulder/elbow health. Still, one of the most important pieces to the puzzle, soft tissue, often gets overlooked. In professional baseball it is seen by some as weak, coddling, or pampering, all labels you want to avoid. Still, so many pitchers tend to break down over the year, many of them which could have been prevented with diligent soft tissue maintenance. If you are a pitcher, do yourself a favor and add some of these techniques to your program or routine. You can thank me later!