Stretching and Arm Care Routine
What is your routine to get ready to pitch? Learn how to warmup properly to pitch with Adam Wainwright.
Stretching and Arm Care with Adam Wainwright
A practical warm-up program any pitcher can incorporate into their routine.
Nothing is more important for a pitcher than arm health.
And no matter how good your current hot streak or how well you’ve thrown this season, all your hard work will come crashing down if you hurt your arm.
Arm care is an important topic all on its own. Taking good care of it involves several targeted strategies to prevent injury and improve performance.
But the one commonality for everyone—no matter whether you’re a pro or beginner—is that arm care always starts with a proper warmup.
To give us a stretching and arm care warm-up program that's shown actual results, we’ve called in veteran MLB pitcher Adam “Waino” Wainwright.
Still Throwing Strong with Over a Decade in the Majors
Adam hasn’t only had an impressively long pitching career (17 years and counting), but he’s also led the Majors and has been a top-ten finisher multiple times in wins, innings pitched, ERA, games started, walks, strikeouts, and hits per innings.
He’s won more than 150 games, had two golden glove awards, three all-star selections—and in 2014–set the record as the first pitcher in MLB history to post nine of his first 18 starts with seven innings pitched and no runs allowed.
Not showing any signs of slowing down, Waino won the Roberto Clemente Award in 2020, then went on to have one of his statistically-best seasons in 2021. At 40 years old, Wainwright just signed a $17.5 million deal with the Cardinals for the 2022 season.
None of his success has been luck. Waino has had his fair share of injuries to overcome, one of which we covered in detail in our article—How to Turn Adversity Into Opportunity.
Versus has recorded a whole series of skills and mindset training videos with Wainwright, all of which you can access with a subscription.
A good place to start is the video on Stretching and Arm Care, which we’ve based this article on. You can then follow up with Playing Catch With a Purpose—before exploring the full library of exclusive training videos and resources by Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols—and several other world-class athletes and coaches.
If you want personalized instruction from some of the best performers in the world—without the hefty price tag—Versus has you covered.
Alright, now let's take a look at the program.
Why a Full-Body Warm-Up is a Must for Pitchers
One thing you’ll notice when going through Waino’s training videos, is that everything he does has a purpose.
Even when he’s stretching and warming up, or playing catch—everything Waino does is focused on getting the most out of practice—so he can be as prepared as possible for game time.
Something that might surprise people looking at this routine for the first time, is how much of it focuses on the lower body. This might seem counterintuitive for throwing athletes, but there's a good reason Waino is concerned about lower body mobility. Here’s why.
Even though pitching is an overhead throwing movement, it utilizes energy from the entire kinetic chain of the body. A pitch begins at the feet with the windup, then finishes as the ball leaves the fingers of the throwing hand.
To transmit the most amount of force into the ball and accurately control the throw, every link of a pitcher’s body must work in as close to perfect connection as possible. While it might seem unrelated to upper body movement—reduced mobility in the ankles, pain in the IT-band, poor hip mobility, or a tight lower back—can all greatly reduce pitching performance.
Now that we’ve got that out the way, we’ll get to the first part of the routine—stretching with a foam roller.
Foam Roller Stretching
Waino begins with this simple floor routine using a foam roller to loosen up his back and legs.
For this, you ideally want to use a longer foam roller that’s not too firm.
Lower Back Stretch
Lie down, place the roller under your shoulders, then gradually work it to your lower back—just above the hips. Hold this stretch for 10 - 15 seconds.
Spend as long as you need to work the roller from the shoulders down to your hips. If you’re tight in your upper half, take some time to loosen up—otherwise, it can feel uncomfortable going straight into the lower back stretch.
Hip Flexors Stretch
While laying on the foam roller in the same position—lift one knee to around waist height—grab it with both hands, then gently raise the knee towards the chest, keeping the other leg extended.
Hold for 10 - 15 seconds, then switch to the other leg.
Keeping the roller under the lower back—lift both knees to a 90-degree angle above the hips.
Maintaining knees and feet together, lower the knees toward the ground on one side as far as comfortable, then rotate through to the other side.
Repeat for 10 - 12 reps in total (moving knees to both sides = 1 rep).
For the final stretch with the foam roller in the lower back position, Waino states, “I’m just gonna do a little modified split here to make sure nothing breaks when I stand up!”
Nothing too complicated. Legs up, soles of the feet facing the sky—then slowly move your feet apart, while trying to maintain that straight-legged position.
Hold this stretch for 10 - 15 seconds.
Now, stand or kneel and place the foam roller laying on the ground.
Sit your left glute in the middle of the roller, bringing the left knee in line with the top end of the roller. The left foot can rest on the ground in front at a horizontal right angle.
Extend the right leg and knee backward, then lean forward, using the hands out front to stabilize as needed.
Hold for 10 - 15 seconds, then switch sides.
As well as the glutes, this stretch will also help loosen the IT band around the knees. If you’re tighter on one side than the other, Waino recommends spending a little longer on the tight side.
Reposition yourself to lying on your back, with the foam roller running parallel to your left leg.
Rolling to your left side, bring the right knee across the midline and rest it on top of the roller at a right angle.
Keeping the right knee where it is, try to lie back flat on the ground. You want to aim for your back flat—shoulders flat—arms out—head straight—and breathe.
Depending on your mobility, you may not be able to get both shoulders flat on the ground. If that’s the case—don’t worry. Spend some time deep breathing into the stretch, gradually letting your shoulders fall further to the ground with each slow and steady out-breath—you’ll get there eventually!
Hold for 10 - 15 seconds, then switch sides.
Last in this series is a simple runners stretch to finish loosening up the hip flexors (roller only needed if you want it for balance).
With the left knee on the ground, reach the right foot forward, planting it flat on the ground out front as far as is comfortable. Then lean forward leading with the chest, trying to bring it as close to the right knee as possible. Use your arms either side, or the roller as a prop for stability as needed.
10 - 15 seconds on each side.
Loosen Up With a Vibe Roller
For the next step, Waino uses a vibe roller. If you’ve got one, great, but if not that's ok.
Just use either the same roller you used for the first stage—or you might prefer a firmer, smaller roller or ball to target specific muscles.
Either way, you’re going to roll out all the muscles in each leg and around the knees, including:
Calves (especially behind the knee)
Above the Knees
Waino recommends covering all areas to get them warmed up and the blood flowing—paying particular attention to any tight areas.
After you’ve finished rolling out, do some brisk jogging for 1 - 2 minutes, then it’s time for band work.
Now that your lower half is all loosened up and warm, it’s time to get the upper body going.
In the video, Waino uses tube-style resistance bands with handles. If you can get a set of these that’s best, but regular bands will work fine also.
You only want to use a light, low resistance band. The goal here is to warm up and prime the upper body before throwing—not to fatigue the hands, arms, or shoulders.
Arm Warmup 1
Set the band around shoulder height and grab it with your left hand.
Stand side on with your left shoulder facing the wall (or whatever the band is anchored to), then tuck the left elbow to get into your starting position, like this.
Keeping the elbow tucked close in by the bottom of the ribcage, move the left hand away from the torso. Make sure the elbow stays at a right angle throughout the movement and your hand doesn’t shoot up or down (if you can’t maintain position, the band is either pulled too tight or too strong).
Do 8 - 10 reps, swap sides—then turn to face the wall.
Arm Warmup 2
To get into the starting position for this movement, grip the band in the left hand, then move the left elbow to shoulder height, out to the side.
Check the picture below to make sure you’ve got it right.
Then, try to keep your shoulder, elbow, and forearm where they are at right angles—and move your hand up to face the sky, in line with your head.
Here’s a picture of the finishing position.
Again, do 8 - 10 reps on each side.
Next, Waino takes us through some more pitching-specific movements…
Grab the band with your throwing hand and turn side-on. The opposite shoulder to your pitching hand should be facing the wall (ie. if you throw with your right hand, face your left shoulder to the wall).
Then you’re going to mimic the breakout position while gripping the band in your pitching hand.
Run through the movement just like you're taking your hand out of the glove and getting it up into the slot where you throw from. Keep your other hand over the top of the band—like this.
Do 8 - 10 reps—then to finish off, we’re going to mimic a pitching movement.
Grab the band in your pitching hand and get your front arm into the right spot for when you are about to throw.
Then replicate a pitching movement.
Waino’s main tips here are to focus on your front arm position, then really make sure to get your upper body out over your front knee.
Again, run through 8 - 10 reps of this one.
Ok. One more drill to go…
Tap Baseball Sock
The final part of Waino’s stretching and arm care routine is a new addition. He states he discovered the TAP™ Baseball Training Sock just two years ago—and has used it regularly in his routine since.
This device is simply a bag with a heavy ball inside, that gets strapped over the hand.
Once it’s on, you can throw and release the ball inside the bag.
Aside from not having to go get the ball each time, the main reason Waino uses the TAP™ Baseball Training Sock—is that when the ball hits the end of the bag, it pulls on the shoulder—making it stabilize.
Waino does around 7 reps of this movement, running through his whole delivery each time.
He’ll even include some balance in there—lifting his front foot off the ground to mimic the windup for a pitch—but waiting until that foot completely stabilizes before the rep.
Getting Your Body into the Right Spots
In his closing comments about the balance drill, Waino returns to the point from earlier in this article, stating
“So much of what we do as the pitcher starts from the ground up. It’s not just about throwing the ball. It’s about getting your body into the right spots”.
That's the reason Waino’s stretching and arm care program incorporates the whole body.
Because even for athletes solely focused on throwing—it’s essential that the entire body is warm, mobile, and free of restrictions. This makes sure the pitcher can get into the right spots to throw with maximum power, control, and accuracy, plus reduces the risk of injury.
If you liked this article, please make sure to subscribe to Versus, so you can watch the exclusive training that goes with it.
You’ll be able to see Waino run through all of the stretches and drills we just covered in real-time. And most importantly—get access to the next lesson in this series—Playing Catch With a Purpose.
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