Pitcher’s Guide to Recovery: Essential Strategies to Maintain Peak Performance

As a pitcher, building your arm is one of the most important goals for training. However, it isn’t the only goal. 

Some athletes make the mistake of spending hours in the gym or getting throws in, but end up neglecting their recovery. However if you want to pitch at an elite level, you have to be just as smart about your recovery as your skill and strength. Proper recovery can give you a competitive advantage.

Ryan Helms, Premier Pitching Performance (PPP) coach, sheds light on the importance of recovery and offers expert advice on how pitchers can maintain peak performance.

The Essentials of Recovery: Hydration, Nutrition, and Sleep

Helms underlines three fundamental pillars of recovery: eating right, staying hydrated and getting sufficient sleep. He reminds athletes, 

"If you’re failing in just one of these three pillars, your performance is going to suffer."

1. Hydration

With over 50% of American teens and children not drinking enough water, Helms emphasizes the critical role of hydration in bodily functions and recovery, 

“Dehydration can severely affect muscle function, both in training and on the field.”

Studies have shown that even being slightly dehydrated can cause decreases in reaction time, mood and focus. To find your target water goal, divide your bodyweight in half and drink at least an ounce per pound during a typical day. For example, a 180 pound athlete should drink about 90 ounces of water a day.

2. Nutrition

In terms of nutrition, PPP has a specialized nutritionist to help athletes achieve a well-rounded diet. However, in general, it’s always good advice to “eat real food”. This means eating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, meats and whole grains. 

Protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats are all crucial for recovery, but the focus should be on the quality and variety of food rather than overcomplicating dietary choices. 

3. Sleep

Underlining the importance of sleep, Helms states, 

"Insufficient sleep can absolutely prevent a player from making gains and maintaining high performance." 

Studies also back this up– one study from the Children’s Orthopedic Center found that adolescent athletes who slept eight or more hours each night were 68 percent less likely to be injured than athletes who regularly slept less. Sleep recommendations vary based on age. For teens and youth athletes, aim for 8-10 hours of sleep and for young adults, 7-9 hours.

How to Develop an Effective Recovery Routine 

After a game or an intense training session, it’s important to consider the essentials: hydration, nutrition and sleep. 

For instance, after a challenging throwing session, athletes should consider:

    • Increasing their water intake to replenish lost fluids
    • Incorporating more protein into their next meal to rebuild muscles
    • Getting enough rest to give the body time to recover

The day following intense throwing or performance, Helms recommends light activity, 

“Focus on activities like mobility exercises, light throwing and bodyweight exercises to stimulate blood flow and jumpstart the recovery process.”

For example, this routine might include dynamic warm-ups, corrective exercises tailored to the athlete's specific needs and a balanced workout with a mix of upper and lower body exercises. 

“The aim here is not to add more stress or volume but to activate and stretch the body– aiding in muscle recovery and preventing soreness,” Helms added.

Why Active Recovery Is Important for Pitchers

Active recovery days on your training schedule aren’t just for taking the day off. They are an essential component of the recovery process. Muscle tissue breaks down during intense activity or performance, and the repair process involves the reformation of these tissues. 

Just as post-throw exercises help your body better adapt to stress, active recovery days help your body manage this stress more efficiently. By increasing blood flow, this process is expedited, leading to quicker muscle recovery. Neglecting active recovery can lead to prolonged soreness and a delay in muscle growth.

Consistency is Key

When developing any training program, including your recovery routine, it’s important to think of it as a marathon and not a sprint. Especially for young pitchers, Helms reminds athletes that consistent effort over time will bring you closer to your goals rather than sporadic bursts of engagement.

“Develop a structure and stick to it, especially when it comes to your recovery days,” Helms commented.

By understanding and adhering to your recovery process, you can significantly enhance your performance and career longevity. Helms points out that recovery days are built into pitching programs for a reason,

“Many players have the misconception that more is always better. But if you lift or throw aggressively 7 days a week, you aren’t going to get to your goals quicker. Recovery is just as important as the training itself.”

Excessive training without adequate recovery can be counterproductive and sometimes even harmful. That’s why PPP assesses each player individually to understand their movement patterns, strengths and deficiencies. This way, coaches can create a program that will help players more effectively manage their workload and train smarter.

Stay Proactive for Peak Performance

Recovery is an integral part of a pitcher's training regime, but the majority of it will take place off the field and outside of the gym. Therefore, it’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle. While your coaches can provide resources, they can’t be with you around the clock so it’s crucial to be proactive in your recovery. Proper nutrition, hydration, sleep and specifically designed active recovery workouts can help you achieve peak performance. 

Want to start training with PPP? Get started here by filling out this form. Get an assessment and meet with one of our coaches to design a training program to fit your needs.

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