I’ve been getting some questions about pitchers stretching routines, so I’m gonna share what I use as a pretty straightforward top to bottom stretch. In about 20 minutes you can hit all of your major muscles and joints, and be ready to go. I like to start with the lower body, and move between stretches as fluidly as I can.
First, get some blood flowing. 5 minutes of moving around at a good pace to build some muscle and joint warmth will improve all of the stretches.
I am listing these exercises in the most fluid and logical sequence, so do them in this order and they will flow together nicely.
1. IT Band
The IT band is an aponeurosis, or flat tendon band, that stretches from the lateral hip to the knee. This is tight on many athletes, and can restrict the thigh in multiple planes of movement, as well as cause knee problems.
To stretch, straighten one leg and cross the other in front. Lean into a wall while keeping the stretching leg straight, and you will feel a stretch down the outside of the leg.
2. Hip External Rotators
If you don’t know why you should be stretching these, check out my article on hip flexibility. This hits the external rotators hard.
Keep your feet flat, toes facing forward. Bottom of the feet never leave the ground. Bring your knees toward the midline of you bottom as far as you can, and hold.
3. Sleeper Stretch
From the external rotator stretch, roll right onto your side into the sleeper stretch. If you haven’t read my article on performing this properly, make sure you do…
4. Thoracic Spine Mobility
From the sleeper stretch position, stay on your side and pull your hips up to 90 degrees.
5. No Money
Sit up and cross your legs indian-style. This will help open up your hips as you perform the No Money, which stretches the chest and activates the scapulas.
Pin your elbows to your side, and open your arms up as far as they will go, keeping your elbows at 90. Hold at the finish position.
6. Sumo Squat
Stand up. What you started while sitting indian-style will improve as you perform the sumo squat. Widen your feet beyond shoulder-width and squat, getting your thighs parallel with the floor. If you can do this easily, widen your feet for your next two repetitions (more on sets and reps at the end). This doesn’t feel good, but opens up your hips laterally.
7. Warrior Lunge
Move to a box, bench or whatever, and put one foot on it, keeping one foot on the ground. With arms overhead, lean in as far as you can to stretch your hip flexors.
Kneel in a lunge position behind said box or object, and position your back knee BEHIND your back hip. Pull your back foot to your butt and lean forward into the stretch. This is the mack daddy of quad and hip flexor stretches.
9. Spiderman with/hamstring kickback
Move into a pushup position, and bring your right foot up next to your right hand. Lean into the floor with your right forearm parallel to the ground. Next, plant your right hand OUTSIDE your right foot, and kick your right knee backward while lifting your right toe off the ground. The goal is to straighten the right leg. Return foot when done, and repeat on left side.
10. Calf and Soleus
Stay in pushup position, and cross the right foot over the left, and shift weight back while keeping leg straight to stretch the left calf. Then, slightly bend the left leg and continue stretching, to hit the soleus muscle and ankle.
11. Shoulder Joint / Lats
From pushup position, go to your knees. Lay your forearms on the floor in front of you, parallel to each other. Keep the forearms completely on the floor and push your hips and weight back. You will feel a good stretch through your armpit region. Arise when finished.
12. Triceps / Lats
Make your arm into a chicken wing above your head, and pull your elbow across the midline of your body. You’ve done this since middle school gym class.
13. Shoulder stretches
Arm Across. This gets the posterior deltoid and rotator cuff muscles.
Arm behind, pull at the elbow in line with the forearm. This gets the middle deltoid
Arm back and down. This hits the anterior deltoid. Gently pull the arm down straight from the wrist and keep your posture tall and upright.
14. Forearm flexors and extensors
Flexors: Point fingers to sky and pull palm and fingers back.
Extensors: Point fingers down and press the hand down toward the bottom of the forearm.
So there ya have it. Run through those stretches and you will be loose and ready to go. Every exercise should be done 2-3 times with a 20-30 second hold in the stretched or finish position. Problem areas might need more attention, and very loose areas may not need as much.
There is research out there saying that static stretching reduces a muscle’s capacity for contraction immediately after, but the harm done from inflexibility, especially in pitchers, is much more serious than that concern, which is negligible at best. A good dynamic warm up with CNS activation after stretching should wake your muscles up just fine. I usually run through this stretching routine 1-1.5 hours before a start, then start my dynamic warm up 35-40 minutes before a game. If you’re a reliever, then doing this before the game starts or early on in the bullpen is probably the way to go. This same routine can be done after an outing as well, either in whole or in part with emphasis on your tightest joints.