The fastpitch softball pitcher is the hardest working player on the field. Position players that flash those fancy fastpitch gloves around may not want to admit it but they all know it. The Windmill pitch is a very violent motion and one that can cause severe injury to the player if proper injury prevention stretches are not used.
The motion of the fastpitch softball pitcher is that of the so-called windmill. It is basically an underhand motion. In slow pitch softball there is very little stress caused to the arm/shoulder area. However, in fastpitch softball the motion and velocity rivals many major league baseball pitchers. There are girls pitching in the mid 70 mph range and in the next few years we may see them gradually get higher. This is due to advanced training methods and stronger girls, and to some extent just more natural talent being used properly. Many men fastpitch pitchers are pitching well over 100 mph. That is just impressive.
So how do you protect your shoulder, arm, back, body when you are producing such a violent motion over and over again. To top that off, many girls get asked to pitch 3-5 games a day on the weekend tournaments. That is a whole other conversation that needs to be addressed but we'll save that for another time.
Fortunately for today's fastpitch girls, there are many good resources for training to get them into proper shape. There are universities and research hospitals doing studies on over-use injuries for fastpitch pitchers and more importantly how to prevent those injuries.
The most important thing is to stretch those muscles. There are a set of about 5 or so muscles that make up the shoulder and upper arm area. Those along with the pectoral muscles make that ball hurl towards the batter. Those muscles need to be stretched and warmed up before and especially after pitching a game.
Pregame or pre-practice warm up should include dynamic stretching as opposed to static long time stretching - you know "old school" stretching. Begin every workout or practice with a nice 3-5 minute jog to get joints flexed, blood pumping through the muscles and your brain. A slow jog is best, then speed it up at the end. Dancers and fighters both try to work up a light sweat before they begin. You should do the same. You will actually feel better if you do.
Dynamic stretching is moving stretches. Holding the stretch for only 3-5 seconds as opposed to the 60-90 second static stretch. There are some good videos available with complete softball dynamic warmups. Pitchers should do these along with the team.
Start your shoulder warmups with some simple arm circles. Hold your arms out to the sides, palms down. Begin making small circles ( 4-5 inch circle) - about 20. Then increase the circle size to about 18-22 inch circles - do about 20. Then increase to full circles - do about 20. Then repeat but in reverse. Start with full circles, medium and then small circles. You will feel the burn which is what you want. This really warms up the muscles and tendons in the shoulder area. Move on to some stretches.
Some good basic softball fastpitch pitchers stretches are:
1. The L stretch. This one stretches the "meat" of your shoulder. The rotator cuff area that takes so much abuse.
Stand with your arm straight out to the side. Bend your elbow up so your hand is pointing to the sky. Have a friend carefully hold your elbow level while pulling backwards on your wrist. Hold it for 5-10 seconds and release. This can also be done by yourself using a bat or a pole - see picture.
Repeat about 3 times or until you feel loose. Repeat with other arm.
2. Reverse or lower L stretch. Very similar to the L stretch except you are now bending your elbow so your hand is pointing at the ground. Have your friend hold your elbow level while pulling back on your wrist again. Hold stretch for about 10 seconds. Repeat about 3 times also. Repeat with other arm.
3. Behind the back. Stand tall, place your arm behind your back. Have a friend lightly pull your wrist toward the other side. This helps stretch those shoulder muscles but slightly different movements. Repeat with other arm.
4. Rotating Wrist. Stand and stretch arms out in front. Rotate wrists as much as you can. Then use the other hand to help stretch the wrist fully up and fully down. Repeat with other arm.
5. Torso Twist. Great for pitchers with lower back problems. Lay on ground on your back. Arms out to sides, knees up together, twist to one side letting your knees fall to the ground. Repeat for other side.
Add in a good Pectoral stretch and you are good to go. Your pecs are your chest muscles. They play a major role in throwing, both windmill pitching and overhand throwing. So a good stretch will benefit in many ways. Stretch your pecs by standing facing the fence with arm stretched to side. Turn your body away from the fence - you will feel the stretch. Repeat with other arm. These can be done against a tree or in a doorway - some folks call them doorway stretches.
Fastpitch Softball Pitchers should also stretch the major muscle of their legs. The Quads, Hamstrings, and calf muscles get a lot of abuse during a 7 inning game. Warm up your legs with a little jog, after the arm and should stretches do some leg stretches. These can be done dynamically or old school static style. Save the static for after the game to prevent muscle soreness and stiffness the next day. These also help prevent cramping.
A good stretch of the Hip Flexors will keep you on the rubber pitching. These are those tendons that hold your hip area together. Sometimes called groin pulls these are painful and pitching with one is almost unbearable. Stretch before games, at home, after games. There are other exercises to help strengthen this area - find these exercises and do them.
Do these stretches after a long game or practice session to help alleviate soreness and stiffness the next day. Even teenage girls will feel the soreness after a long 7 inning game, or 3 game day.
Doing these stretches regularly will help keep you from getting injured. There are more stretches both static and dynamic to learn. Learning and performing preseason strength training can help tremendously against pitchers shoulder injuries.
Find out more about fastpitch softball gloves, softball pitching and other softball related workouts and equipment for the best girls softball gloves at www.BuyFastpitchGloves.com