By Tom House, PhD, with Lindsay Berra
In a now-famous television incident prior to the New York Giants week 11 NFL match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in late November, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, now an analyst for ESPN, mocked Giants QB Daniel Jones for walking across the field, arms raised goal-post style.
“Daniel, don’t do that,” Young said. “Do that in the locker room. I don’t know what you’re doing. You did it in Kansas city, we made fun of you. I screamed at you to stop doing it. I’m begging you, please, do not do this on the field! And if you want to keep doing it, you have to explain to all of us why you’re doing this!”
Well, anyone who is in-the-know will quickly identify Jones’ activity as a Flex-T Walk, one of the exercises in Block 2 of the National Pitching Association’s training block program. This particular block, entitled “Arm Care,” is used as part of a pre- or post-throwing routine, for quarterbacks and pitchers alike, to increase blood flow and circulation, manage lactic acid levels and increase joint mobility and stability.
I read a recent Sports Illustrated article in which they talked about how quarterbacks have morphed into a new genre, and Steve Young is part of the old genre. But Steve isn’t wrong, he’s just not aware that there is a better way. This stuff is based on scientific measurables that can shorten the path to success, but it’s foreign to him. However, it is not foreign to current NFL quarterbacks and MLB pitchers, and I don’t want it to be foreign to any throwing athlete any more. It really is the best way to warm up, cross-specific to the movement skills required for throwing, and all of the exercises are available in the Mustard app.
Warming Up is the Athlete’s Responsibility
Getting a good warmup is essential, and it is the athlete’s responsibility. If your coach wants you to not warmup or do a warmup that doesn’t get you warm, then take it into your own hands and do whatever you need to do to be ready to throw with 100% intent. Don’t care if it looks weird. Don’t care if the coach is upset. Show up earlier, or do it where no one can see. But get it done. In an ideal world, your coach has the perfect warmup for you, but those coaches are rare. I will run the greatest throwers in the world through my warmup and they’ll still go off and do the specific things they need to do to be 100% ready to throw. We structure warmup so it includes free time, and athletes should fill it with the warmup exercises that work best for them. You’ll have a bunch of different coaches over the course of your career, and they’ll all have different ideas, so you have to own what you do and control what you can control.
Block 1: Core Temperature Elevation
If you use the baseball or football to warm the arm up before your core temperature is elevated, it’s a lot harder on the arm than beginning to throw when you’re already warm. Block 1 is a full-body warm-up designed to be used as part of a pre-throw routine to increase blood flow and circulation and create postural awareness. It includes exercises like jogging, skipping, bounding, Carioca, side-shuffles and spinal rotations, all with a focus on keeping the head still and the trunk stable.
Block 2: Arm Care and Recovery
The exercises in Block 2, which include stationary and moving flex T walks, flex T carioca, walking arm circles and speed towels, are designed to increase blood flow, joint mobility and joint flexibility, optimize VO2 max, or the amount of oxygen the muscles utilize during exercise, and manage the build up of lactic acid. They can be used pre-throw, for warmup and preparation, and post-throw, for recovery. They can also be done with the addition of a baseball or weighted ball.
Block 3: Upper Body Flexibility
The exercises in Block 3, which include in-and-outs, arm saws, hand and finger presses, pulls and pushes, behind-the-back presses and arm circles, should be incorporated into a pre-throw routine to promote shoulder flexibility and stability.
Crafting a Warmup
In a perfect world, every throwing athlete would have enough time pre-game or pre-practice to do all of the exercises in the first three training blocks to get their bodies and arms ready to throw with maximum intent. But, that’s just not always the case. If you’re short on time, pick a few exercises from each block to get yourself loose before you get on the mound. Each block contains seven or eight things, so I recommend experimenting to discover which exercises work best for each individual athlete in a given situation on a given day. It’s also important to change it up, because if we do the exact same thing every day, overtraining of the same repetitive movements can result in neuro-stagnation and the body will require different exercises in order to respond.
Warming Up with Mustard
Training Blocks 1, 2 and 3 are available in the Mustard app, with video demonstrations of all exercises. Block 4 is also available, but with use of the Mustard app, exercises in Block 4, which are designed to promote arm strength and speed, shoulder stability and the patterning of nerves, are specifically tailored to each athlete based on individual needs assessed through his or her bullpen results.