The Thrower's 10 Essential Exercises

Some physical therapists believe that every athlete who participates in an overhead sport, like baseball or tennis, should learn the Thrower's 10 Exercise Program. So what is the Thrower's 10?

If you are an athlete who participates in a sport that requires overhead motions like throwing, then you may understand the amount of stress and strain that may be placed on your shoulder while playing your sport. Sports like baseball or softball and racquet sports often require frequent overhead motions and cause quite a bit of stress on your shoulders. This excessive strain may cause shoulder pain, and it may result in wear and tear type injuries to your rotator cuff muscles or shoulder labrum.

It is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Injury prevention in sports is paramount to help you stay involved in your athletic activity longer and with less lost time.

One way to help prevent injuries while playing overhead sports is to maintain adequate range of motion and strength in your shoulder muscles. These muscles, namely the rotator cuff muscles and the scapular (shoulder blade) stabilizers, help to move your shoulder and arm appropriately when performing overhead throwing and serving.

Other muscles in your arm, like the ones that maintain the position of your wrist, are important to help control your arm as you follow through while throwing or serving a tennis ball or volleyball.

These "Throwers 10" exercises may help you maintain adequate mobility and stability of your arm, elbow, and shoulder during participation in your sport. They may also be done to help you keep your arms healthy to perform everyday household tasks that require reaching overhead.

Before you try these exercises, be sure to speak with your doctor to make sure that exercising is safe for you to do. These exercises can be performed 2-3 times per week. A visit to your local physical therapist may also be in order to learn the best exercise for your specific condition.


Shoulder Exernal Rotation

Photo of a baseball pitcher.
If you are a baseball player, you should learn the Thrower's 10 exercises. Thomas Barwick/ Getty Images

Shoulder external rotation with a resistance band is a simple, yet effective exercise to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.  To perform this, secure a resistance band around a doorknob, keep your elbow bent at​ 90 degrees and tucked into your side, and slowly rotate your arm out.

Hold the end position for a few seconds, then slowly allow your arm to return to the starting position.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.


Shoulder Internal Rotation

After performing external rotation, continue strengthening your rotator cuff muscles with shoulder internal rotation.  To do this, simply turn your body around, keep your elbow bent and tucked into your side, and pull your arm in towards your navel.  Again, perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.


Shoulder Abduction

To strengthen your shoulder muscles that help support the joint during overhead activities, start with your arm at your side, hold your resistance band, and lift it out until your arm is parallel with the floor.  Hold this position for a couple seconds, and slowly return to the starting position.  Perform a few sets of 10-15 reps.


Shoulder Diagonal Patterns

Strengthening your shoulder muscles using diagonal patterns is an effective way to use various muscle groups at the same time.  This mimics actual motions that you may encounter while participating in sports like baseball or tennis.

To perform these exercises, fasten your resistance band to the top of a door, grasp the band with your hand and above your head, and slowly bring your hand down towards your opposite hip in a diagonal motion.

While your hand is moving across your body and down towards your hip, rotate your hand over as if you were putting a sword in a sheath.  Hold this position for two seconds, then slowly release to the starting position.

Repeat the exercise for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.


Sidelying External Rotation

An alternative way to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles without a resistance band is to lie on one side with your arm bent at 90 degrees and your elbow on your side.  Start with your hand in front of your navel, then slowly rotate your shoulder so your hand moves up towards the ceiling.  Hold the top position for a couple seconds, then slowly lower back to the starting position.

This exercise can be made more challenging be holding a 1-3 pound dumbbell in your hand.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of the shoulder external rotation exercise.


Prone Scapular Stabilization Exercises

The shoulder blade, or scapula, is an important player in the mobility of your shoulder, and it is essential to have good muscular control of your scapula during overhead activities.

You can improve scapular control by performing prone scapular stabilization exercises.  The prone "I", the prone "T", the prone "Y", and the prone row all can be performed with your arm hanging off the edge of your bed.  A ​3-pound dumbbell can be used to add resistance to your scapular stabilization exercises.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise.


The Towel Internal Rotation Stretch

The towel shoulder rotation stretch can be done to help improve overall shoulder mobility.  This is important in the follow-through phase of a throwing or serving motion in baseball and tennis.

Perform this by placing a towel behind your back, and grasping it with one hand over your shoulder and one hand behind your back.  Gently pull your lower hand across your back and up.

Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly release.  Repeat the exercise 10 times.


Biceps and Triceps Strengthening

The biceps and triceps muscles in your arms help to bend and straighten your elbow, respectively.  But both muscles cross both the elbow joint and the shoulder joint, so both are essential in shoulder and arm mechanics during throwing activities.

Biceps curls and triceps presses can be performed with resistance bands or free weights and can be done for a few sets of 10-15 reps.


Wrist Flexion and Extension

Strong forearms and wrists are essential to help control the position of your arm and hand as you perform many everyday tasks and as you throw a baseball or serve a tennis ball.

Keep your wrists strong by performing flexion and extension with a 2-3 pound dumbbell.  Hold onto the weight with your arm resting on a table with your hand over the edge.  Then lift the back of your hand towards the ceiling while keeping your forearm on the table.  Hold this position for a second, then slowly lower.

To perform wrist flexion, turn your hand over so you are holding the weight with your palm up.  Slowly lift your palm up while keeping your arm against the table.  Lower slowly.  Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise.


Wrist Pronation and Supination

Wrist pronation and supination refers to the motion of turning your wrist over. Pronation refers to your palm being down towards the floor, while supination refers to your palm being up as if you were holding a bowl in your hand.

Hold a small 2-3 pound dumbbell in your hand with one end of the weight in your palm. Rest your forearm against a table, and slowly turn your wrist over and back. Control the motion as you move from pronation to supination.

Repeat the exercise 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

If you are looking to maintain strong rotator cuff, forearm, and wrist muscles to prevent injury during overhead athletics like tennis and baseball, then the Thrower's 10 exercises may be for you. Of course, not every injury can be avoided, but by keeping your arms strong and mobile, you may be able to reduce the likelihood of injury while participating in overhead sports.

Be sure to meet with your doctor or physical therapist to be sure that the Thrower's 10 exercises are safe for you to perform.

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