Power arms: Pitchers use weight room to maintain strength throughout season

Not on the diamond.

Not on the mound.

Not during bullpens.

You will not see this component of a pitcher’s preparation for a game or a season.

But it is absolutely crucial to every step and every pitch they make in their career.

It is strength training.

So with fans not getting a chance to see what a pitcher’s work is like in the weight room, several fans have asked what the weight training regimen is like for each pitcher before and during the season?

How much should pitchers lift? Should they lift more or less during the season? Do they lift less right before they pitch? Is it like a basketball player who does not lift before shooting because it can mess up his touch and range?

Nationals left-hander Zach Duke says weight lifting is different for him before the season begins.

“The offseason is kind of the strength building time,” Duke said. “Regular season is kind of the time to maintain what you built in the offseason. I tend to lose some weight during the season. So the main thing for me is to maintain my strength.”

During the season, Duke prefers to not lift heavy weights right before he pitches.

“You don’t want your arm to get tired when you are out there doing what you get paid to do,” Duke said. “We tend to take it a little easier in the weight room (during the season), but you still have to get in there and make sure you are staying strong.”

But what if you are coming off an injury? Do you need to be more careful if you are, for example, easing a surgically repaired shoulder back to 100 percent?

Nationals right-handed prospect Nathan Karns, the franchise’s minor league Pitcher of the Year for 2012, bounced back after labrum surgery to have a breakout 2012 season. He said getting back into the gym actually helped to accelerate his drive to get back to 100 percent.

“I feel like that is what has pushed me more now,” Karns said. “I missed so much time from the gym (with the shoulder injury). The time I spent in the gym getting myself back to where I am now has kind of given me a new-found love for the gym. I need to stay in the gym to keep my body prepared.”

But Karns said not every pitcher has to do that. And sometimes how much weightlifting one pitcher does might depend on where they are in their career.

“It comes down to personal preference,” Karns said. “I have heard from guys who love lifting heavy to guys who don’t like to lifting weights at all. It comes down to people knowing their body and knowing what their body likes. For me, I like to train my body and I like to push it. Other guys are in the part of their career where they feel like weight training is not necessarily a key for them.

“It all depends on personal preference or even the time period of your career, whether it is the beginning or the later stages. It really comes down to what people like. I can only comment on what I like. I am a gym rat. I love to push my body. My body feels better after I get to exert all that energy and get to relax after a hard workout. That is something I like to do.”

Not putting that much pressure on your pitching arm and concentrating on core strength and leg training is also critical for a pitcher to maintain as the season rolls along. Duke said it has been important to keeping him healthy during the rigors of 162 games.

“We do legs a lot, core exercises almost every day,” Duke said. “If you can use your legs and core while pitching it takes a lot of stress off your arm. It really adds a lot of durability. It is something I take pride in throughout my career. I haven’t had many injuries. I feel a lot of that has to do with keeping my lower body and my core strong so that my body can absorb most of the shock and repetition instead of my arm.”

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