Get to any baseball stadium early enough and you're certain to see virtually all the players warming up through exercises such as arm circles. This simple drill is one of the most important ways for players to warm up their muscles to prevent injury, and players spend several minutes doing arm circles before picking up a ball to play catch. Arm circles help you throw the ball harder because your arm is warm and stretched.
To do a set of arm circles, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms to your sides so they're parallel with the ground. Simultaneously make small, clockwise circles with your hands so that you're moving both arms. After a minute, drop your arms and relax them, and then try a minute of small arm circles in a counter-clockwise motion. Take another short break and move through medium and large arm circles in each direction. Former UCLA baseball coach Gary Adams recommends spending between six and 10 minutes on arm circles as a warm-up.
Arm circles are so important for every player because they loosen all the muscles that are required in the throwing motion, from your chest and back to your shoulders and arms. Other benefits include sending oxygen-rich blood to the throwing muscles, improving your flexibility and giving an isolated workout to the rotator cuff muscles, which are integral to throwing a baseball or softball. Rotator cuff injuries are extremely common in baseball, and many occur when a player hasn't warmed up sufficiently.
It's undeniable that if you attempt to throw a baseball while your arm is cold, you won't be able to throw it nearly as hard or as far as after you've warmed up using arm circles. The difference in velocity is subjective; it depends on your overall throwing ability, muscle mass in your arm and shoulder and other variables such as your mechanics. Two of the main benefits of arm circles, increased strength and flexibility, directly relate to your ability to throw the ball hard.
Over time, it's important to continue to increase your arm strength through arm circle variations. Adams recommends building up to holding one, then two, then three baseballs in each hand during this exercise. Build up to a single baseball after doing regular arm circles for several weeks, as adding weight too rapidly can cause undue strain in your muscles and joints. As you add more strength, you should be able to throw the ball harder, provided your mechanics are correct.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.