Back foot tip for balance

I believe that the first impulse for the rotation is the back leg drive but soon after that the hips turn on an autopilot and the rear foot usually gets pulled forward as the weight is shifted with the swing. You don’t squish the bug but the back foot releases and slides forward. This is mostly a passive process, the leg is pulled forward by the rear hip.
However I think that one mistake can lead to losing posture and swung plane. You want to maintain that slight tilt over the plate so that you can swing perpendicular to the upper spine ( some tilt the whole spine and some add some side bend so the the lower spine is more upright but the upper spine needs to be tilted).

Now here is the mistake. Many kids bring the back foot around toward the plate with the hip rotation. This causes a balance loss and as a result the player stands up and loses his balance and swing plane.

Here is a demonstration

http://youtu.be/JYdsE6YmNrg
Now the better way is to have the foot pulled forward in a more straight line or actually behind you ( back foot toward shortstop for a right handed batter). This gives you a feel of the rear hip coming forward more in a straight line rather than around ( even though in reality the path still is rotational) and gives some counter balance to the tilt so that you can maintain that posture through the turn.

http://noontimebaseball.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Miggy_fronthigh.gif

It doesn’t have to be that extreme but at least make sure the foot comes forward straight and not to the plate.

For myself I have used the cue slide the back toe to the front heel and it has helped my balance.

Back foot slide drill

It is important to get a drive from the back leg and not lose the back leg load too early (stay back) before you start to rotate. A cue I like to use to maintain pressure on the back foot instep (credit to Justin Stone) until the hips are about a third to halfway open  but then you release all that energy into and against the front side and finish rotation. Don’t squish the bug but drive off the back leg into heel plant and  get all your weight to the inside of the front leg.

Here is the drill ( inspired by Chad Pipitt). You do a swing and try to slide the back foot 5-10 inches forward ( but still stay behind the front side and don’t “stand up”). Then you re plant the back foot and make the next swing. This means you advance a couple inches on each swing, do like 10 swings or cover a certain distance.

4 week program

This is an easy program for starters. Do it 3 times a week. Note that it only should be done by players with stable mechanics, I would not start before 12-13 years old. Before that work on mechanics and other stuff.

Here is the program. Do it 3 times a week on non conscutive days:

1.extensive warmup

This is extremely important because otherwise you can get injured. Especially make sure to warm up obliques and back, I once strained my oblique doing overload/underload not warming up properly and missed half a season. So REALLY warm up.

2. The tire drill

http://batspeedfitness.com/?p=40

Do 3 sets of 10 swings at full force. Two sets of the strong side and one of the weak side to balance it out.

3. Back step turn drill

3 sets of 6 swings as hard as you can.

http://batspeedfitness.com/?p=59

4. Overload/underload training

2 rounds of 5 swings each with the light, regular and heavy bat ( 30 swings overall)

http://batspeedfitness.com/?p=31

5. Jumps for the legs

a. 2 sets of 8 vertical jumps

b. Two sets of 10 skaters jumps

Back step turn drill

Another drill for separation ( hips leading the hands) and sequence. Stand with the back facing the target and then take a step back with your right leg ( right handed batter) while simultaneously loading the upper body. Upon landing that leg immediately drives inwards while the bat continue to go back, then you just do a normal swing. Creates great stretch and an effortless swing.

Diagonal tilted pull on machine

Found this excellent excercise on YouTube done by young star Francisco lindor. It involves a cable machine with a stick at the end that you grip at either end and then you tilt your spine forward and rotate from low to high until the top hand and shoulder is down and shoulders are all the way open.

I did this excercise with a rubber band attached to a fence and the other end to a broomstick. Works just as well if you don’t have a machine.

Excellent excercise for separation, maintaining spine tilt and finishing rotation.

Why bat speed?

Why should you try to increase batspeed? It is pretty simple: batspeed is the biggest factor for batted ball velocity. Here is a site with some pretty cool calculations:

Click

The formula says that off a Tee the exit velocity is around 1.1 times or a little more the batspeed. That means an 80 mph batspeed with a wood bat would lead to around a 90 mph exit speed off a Tee ( if you hit the ball in the sweet spot of course it can be much less if you don’t hit it on the screws).

Pitch velocity also plays a role but only to a much smaller degree.

Batted ball velocity has a very high correlation with performance. Better hitters tend to have higher batted ball speeds. Home runs in MLB usually are hit at a velocity upward of 100 mph. The hardest hit balls in MLB are around 120 mph, anything above 110 is really smoked.

Click

Batspeed is not everything of course, you also need to make flush contact in the sweet spot and hit the ball in the right trajectory ( home runs usually have a launch angle of around 20-40 degrees). Do increase the chance to make such contact swing quickness and “shortness” ( elite swings take less than 150 milliseconds) is needed as well as a good swing plane, timing and barrell accuracy.

But if you want to become a really good batter increasing swing speed really helps.

The tire drill

This is one of the few drills here that I have created myself. It involves using a car tire slamming it repeatedly into a wall.  Hook the tire with your fingertips ( just the 4 fingers not the thumb). It is important that you only hook it and not grip it to avoid injury.

The good thing is that you already drive the hips open while let the heavy tire is still going back. That way you create a lot of separation, create a good sequence with the hips leading plus using the stretch shortening cycle.

 

It it is also a great rotational power training because you are overloading in the rotational plane.

I would recommend doing no more than 8 to 10 reps per set so that you can do every rep at max effort.

Here is a video of me doing the drill:

 

 

Contact

Contact Form Demo

Overload/underload Training

Overload/Underload Training is an old concept to break Speed barriers. The Overloading increases resistance and thus promotes using the big core muscles and the underload Training allows the Body to move faster than it can normally. It mostly works on neuronal aspects allowing the muscles to fire faster.

Soviet Trainers experiemented with that Kind of Training Long ago by having shot putters using heavier and lighter shots. Their studies found out that you should not go more than 20% over or under the Regulation implement because otherwise mechanics would be impaired. There is a lot of excellent Research by Coop deRenne regarding Baseball on that subject.

Note that this is an advanced Training method for breaking plateaus. I would only recommend doing this for older athletes with stable mechanics and good fitness. It is hard to make a rule but I would usually not do it before 14U or so. For younger kids working on mechanics makes much more sense.

but if you have good mechanics and some strength but batspeed is not progressing overload under load training can help.

so how is it done?

First you need a lighter bat that is about six ounces lighter than your game bat (you can use an old softball or a longer youth bat) and a bat that is about six inches heavier.

For making a heavier at use a wood bat, drill holes into it and glue fishing sinkers into it with epoxy glue. However make sure that you don’t change the balance point too much by grouping the weights around the balance point.

if you have those bats make sure that you are really warmed up. After that do some swings with the normal bat and then you are ready for the program. First do 5-6 swings with the heavy bat, then the light bat and then the regulation bat. Make sure every swing is max effort and take a little rest between the bats. Do 2-3 sets of this 3 times a week.

It is not unusual to gain 10 mph of batspeed in a few weeks the first time you do it. I went from high 60s in batspeed to 80 in about 2 months. However later the gains will be much lower because you both improve your mechanical efficiency and neuronal efficiency and those things improve rather quickly. For further improvement you might need to increase absolute strength or sometimes also mechanics. But for a quick boost this kind of training is very good especially for guys who have not trained for max effort.  Again make sure you don’t do it before you have good mechanics.

Also make sure that you get enough rest. I made the mistake of doing it daily and while gains were fast first after some time neuronal fatigue set in and I even regressed a little. 3 times a week is enough.

Mechanical aspects

Technical Aspects:

The Goal here should not be talking technique but biomechanical principles do influence how much power you can generate. You want to use as much muscle mass as possible and in the correct sequence from the ground up into the bat.

It might sound boring but we need to talk some biomechanical principles:

  1. The kinetic chain: Here is a graphic from a golf website showing the velocity graph to illustrate the point (source: http://www.golfinstructionworld.com/aspsmartupload/uploadedfiles/20100117_174712_kinetic-chain.jpg)

chain

The kinetic chain works like a whip. If you crack a whip you accelerate the handle and then as you decelerate it the tip accelerates. A baseball swing works similarly. The lower body and hips accelerate first, then the trunk accelerates and finally the hands and bat. As energy is transfered from one link to the others the prior link decelerates. Basically it is hips accelerate and then as they decelerate the trunk accelerates and then the trunk accelerates an das it decelerates the bat reaches maximum Speed.

It is important that you don’t activate the next link before the prior link. The swing does not start by taking the knob to the ball but by driving the legs and hips. First the hands stay back and closely connected to the body until the hips and trunk have started to open, then the hands turn the barrell into the ball last and then follow through.

posey 1

2.The stretch shortening cycle: In good swings you can actually see that the hips and hands move in different directions for a moment to create maximum stretch. As the hips transition from the coil to the opening oft he lower body the hands are still moving back for a little moment. That creates great stretch. The hands and hips don’t go at the same time. Studies have shown that a muscle that is stretched rapidly and then immediately fires generates more power than a static muscle. For that reason a tennisplayer will do a takeback and then swing without a pause rather than just waiting with the bat back. For that reason baseball players „Load“ before they swing. The Load will be a slight counter rotation oft he hips and a slight back/up move oft he hands. To have it work best the load must be on time. Too late and you are rushed and too early and you don’t use the stretch shortening cycle perfectly.

In good swings you can actually see that the hips and hands move in different directions for a moment to create maximum stretch. As the hips transition from the coil to the opening oft he lower body the hands are still moving back for a little moment. That creates great stretch. The hands and hips don’t go at the same time.

 

 

pujolsseq

 

3. Ground reaction force:

When you push against the earth, due to newtons law the earth pushes back with the same force. A Jumper pushes against the ground and the ground catapults him into the air. In baseball thus is it important to be strongly grounded as you swing.

As you load the rear leg is stable. You gather the weight against the rear leg and then coil the hips back as you stride. The rear leg is rock solid and not swaying back but resisting that coil so that you coil around/against the rear side rather than shift the weight over it. That loads the rear leg like a spring so that the rear leg then drives sideways against the ground to start to open the lower body. As the lower body starts to open the front foot is planted. First only the toe and then the heel plants which triggerst he hips to further open and then block the front side so that this side decelerates and the rear side accelerates more. That means that the ground is used on both legs to accelerate the swing.

The swing:

 

Now that we have talked the principles we can talk about the swing in general.

Here is a swing of Adrian Gonzalez with some interesting positions.

gonzelezseq

The swing starts with coiling the hips as you start the stride. Some players will gather their weight back before that or lift their leg and others start straight forward. As you coil try not to counter rotate the shoulders and hands too much to not lose vision to the ball. Basically you try to keep the chest facing the plate as you coil the hips although the shoulders will usually counter rotate a little. But it is important that this is driven by the hips. That also delays the hands a little so that the hands actually come back during the end oft he coil and continue carrying back after the coil oft he hips is reversed and they violently open. This creates the desired stretch shortening cycle.

pujolscoil

As you coil you are striding forward. The rear leg is loaded and driving inward against the coiling hips. The hips start to open at toe touch. Just after toe touch the heel will plant. That fixates the front side and creates a stable axis fort he body to rotate around. The lead leg extends and the rear knee is driving in, not squishing the bug but driving sideways of the instep as long as possible and the coming up on the toe.

pujolsswing

The back elbow was up at toe touch and the bat pointing to the sky. As the hips are opening the hands are still going back. The shoulders are not opening immediately but tilting backwards a little (start with front shoulder lower than back shoulder at toe touch and then reverse) before they start to open which increases the stretch.The back elbow is lowering and the bat is going down and behind so that it is actually going away from the plate.

poseyload

The hands now finally start to be pulled forward by the trunk rotation (although they are still trying to stay back and connected to the rear side) but the bat is still going rearward, basically continuing to load the hands and forearms. The bat also lowers into the swing plane (talk about that later). The body is turned forward and just the bat is lagging.

 

The body is now mostly in the contact position, only the bat is lagging back. That creates a big stretch in the hands and forearms and now all the hitter needs to do is turning that bathead into the ball. The shoulders will finish their turn but basically the swing is on an autopilot now.

poseyfinish

At contact the arms are still bent. The front arm is stretched across the chest and the rear elbow bent and tucked in into the side.

pujolscontact

Now the arms will extend and at the very end the hands roll over. Basically extension happens because the bathead pullst he arm into extension. Since the hip rotation now delerates the hands that previously travelled in an arc around the body now go forward straighter the the pitcher but you are not trying to push the hands in a straight line. Just whip the bathead with your whole body and extension will happen.

 

The swing plane:

Not only batspeed is important for power but also making clean and hard contact. You give yourself the best chance to do that by matching the plane oft he pitch. A pitch will go down on a 5-10 degree angle on average and to give yourself the best chance to succeed you want to swing UP 5-10 degrees at contact. The swing will start down behind the body, but then level out and go up about two feet behind contact or so. basically the path resembles that Nike „swoosh“ sign.

Here is a great illustration that I found on youtube (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehs-H2V6N5o) showing the plane of world class player Shin Soo-Choo.

plane

It is also important to not that the swing path is basically an arc around the spine. The swing is mostly perpendicular tot he spine which means that the spine is tilted over the plate as you swing so that you don’t drop the hands to hit lower balls. The spine also usually leans a little rearward at contact.

The lead arm and bat ideally form a straight line at contact that is perpendicular to the spine. The lead arm is stretched across the chest and elbow tucked into the side ideally. It does not always work like this and sometimes you need to leave that plane a little or extend the armst o adjust but that ist he ideal you should strive for.

spineplane

Also keep in mind that your swing not only  needs to be fast but also be quick. Pros have times from initiation to contact of less than 0.15 seconds. Keep the barrel and hands close to the body initially for a shorter and more direct swing.

A good device to check batspeed, swing times and other features like the attack angle of the bat is The Zepp device.

More Info On Zepp Baseball

I can recommend Zepp from my experience but there are other companies who offer similar devices too.