What is arm pronation?

Arm pronation is a condition that turns the palms of the hands out and behind the body. This is a natural position for some people, while other people may find this condition difficult to achieve. Many athletes, especially baseball pitchers, can benefit from arm pronation, as it sometimes helps the natural movement of the arm. Weightlifters can benefit from this guidance when performing certain exercises. However, in other cases, this orientation of the arms can cause pain or discomfort due to unnatural movement of the shoulders, elbows, or wrists.

Athletes are often more concerned than any other segment of the population about arm pronation. Baseball pitchers will need to work on proper form throughout the stride to ensure pronation occurs, as arm pronation helps protect the elbow and rotator cuff from injury. Without pronation, the pitcher can end up locking the elbow, which can lead to several painful conditions, including sprains, strains, or even stress fractures. Repeated movement can increase the chance of injury, but pronation can help prevent injury during such repeated stresses.

Weightlifters also focus on arm pronation to prevent injury during exercises and even to improve muscle performance. The orientation of the arm will often dictate how efficiently an object can be lifted. There is likely to be more pronation of the arm as the weight of the object being lifted increases. This is why baseball players are more susceptible to injury when throwing: A baseball is very light, which means there is likely to be less pronation. However, a throwing pitcher typically uses a much larger object to throw, which means more pronation will occur. Pronation, of course, does not completely prevent injury, although the risk of injury is significantly reduced.

The transfer of tension in the muscles is also reduced by pronation. When an athlete throws an object, most of the muscles in the arm will be stressed in some way, but if the arm is properly pronated, less stress will be transferred to smaller, weaker muscles, such as those in the rotator cuff or the elbow. Instead, the load is transferred to larger, stronger muscles that can handle the excess force of the throw. During the course of the throw, much of the stress can end up on the back instead of the arm. These muscles are longer and stronger, as well as better prepared for the repeated stresses of physical activity.

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