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5 Key Hitting Drills Guaranteed to Boost Ball Exit Speeds
This has been a Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills must change for awhile now. Myself and the site have been going through the grieving process since adopting the Positional/ITS (Innovative Training Systems) Baseball hitting philosophy.
You see, I ended up at Down & Through hitting my last year at Fresno State, and have "bought" into its principals hook line and sinker since 2005.
My hitting drills world was rocked after I picked up Jaime Cevallos's book, Positional Hitting. Shortly after, this hitting knucklehead comes along, Chas Pippitt, and contacts me about some weird contraption called The Drive Developer. Little did I know, this would change the course of my baseball hitting world, and I know for a fact, his change is coming ;)
I wished to have met this hitting "knucklehead" sooner for crying out loud, like in High School...maybe I wouldn't have gotten so burned out like I did, and could have had the pleasure of playing pro-ball, and God willing, maybe even the Big's. God had a plan for both Chas and I, this is where SwingSmarter.com and Chas's Baseball Hitting Rebellion Blog comes in.
I've been learning a great deal from Mr. Chas Pippitt, and continue to grow in my knowledge of his ITS Baseball Hitting & Teaching System. Heck, the guy has completed over 8,000 hitting lessons since 2005, and just plain gets results, like one of his many successful students Carl (we changed his name to protect the innocent :), who before working with Chas hit .290 with only 1 home-run his Junior year of High School, then after Chas hit over .400 with 13 bombs his Senior year.
Chas not only understands the details of, what I call, "swing technique geek speak," but he is able to translate it, so his students can apply it and get real world results.
Below, I'm going to present the BEST of what I've compiled recently from him and mashed up a bit myself what I think the most beneficial 5 baseball hitting drills any serious ballplayer MUST master in order to hit with more power and consistency at the plate.
Unlock hidden strength within your core using these three key principals,
you can put to use right away,
Keep the head SUPER still throughout the whole entire swing...everyone
knows, you can't hit what you can't see...this particular drill is
unbelievably fun for kids, as well as challenging for the advanced hitter,
Create hip thrust in the swing, which is key to accelerating the barrel
into the Area Of Impact (AOI)...here's a hint, it's NOT the heel drop that
initiates hip thrust,
Using this in-every-household hitting drills tool, you'll be able to
hear and feel the right "deep" barrel path, creating bat "lag" (good) and
as Chas says, hack with a 2-geared swing, and
Our major change to the site has to do with the top hand and it's
important role in creating hand momentum and guidance in the "NIKE Swoosh"/ITS
Baseball barrel path swing.
The above hitting drills can be done without spending too much money ($40-50 or so: Coleman Headlamp and a broomstick, if you don't have one already). Definitely not necessary, but I'll recommend some great baseball hitting aids, fresh from The Starting Lineup Store, and how they can add to chopping down the hitting drills Swing Smarter learning curve.
Before we get started I wanted to pass on valuable information about HOW TO progress your hitting drills optimally:
Master the dry swing first (looking at reflection, then with eyes closed),
Conquer the specific technique you're working on off the tee next,
Once you can repeat the "right" technique off the tee, then advance to soft toss,
After you become consistent at soft toss, then go to live underhand front toss
from about 40 feet, and ultimately
Once technique mastery has been shown in the last 4 stages, then progress to live
Remember, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to perfect practice making perfect for Swing Smarter's Top 5 Baseball Hitting Drills! DO NOT progress unless you're consistent with the "right" technique
1. a. The Kinked Hose Effect Hitting Drills
Everyone knows what happens when you kink a hose right? These next two concepts are just scratching the surface of a brand new concept I'm developing in the coming year, which will revolutionize the way EVERYONE will teach hitting bio-mechanics in the future.
The first concept I want to talk about I picked up watching a Paul Chek DVD in 2009, one of the best talking heads on elite personal and professional fitness out there. There's a lot of debate about this in the fitness world, but I want you to be the judge...announcing the belly button experiment...
Have a friend stand in front of you,
YOU: if you're right handed (opposite if you're a lefty), stand on your left foot
only with the right off the ground, and raise your right hand like you're going to take
FRIEND: pushes against you matching your right hand.
YOU: try to resist your friend's push.
Next, you're going to do this same experiment again, but before your friend pushes
against you, pull the belly button in towards your spine, like you're sucking in your
gut (boxers do this when getting hit in the stomach), and then try to resist him/her.
What happened? Was there a difference in strength between the belly button in versus not? This creates a "clamping" down of the side oblique muscles like a steel cage around your midsection protecting your lower back. This technique disperses impact away from your spine, like how the spokes of a bicycle wheel direct impact of a small rock away from the hot spot and ruining a specific part of the rim.
This next one runs parallel to the belly button experiment...
b. Inward Thigh Tension
I just met with a lady friend of mine, Jocelyn, who graduated from USC with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and she is wicked smart! We were talking about the power of creating an inward tension of the thighs before and during the swing.
Wait a second, let me back track,
My first introduction to this concept was when I went through my Yoga training back in 2007, and our instructor kept queueing us about pushing the thighs together like we're keeping a medicine ball between our legs and not letting it drop to the ground. She had us do this in certain poses: Mountain, Warrior 1&2, and Crescent pose (if you're familiar with Yoga).
Fast forward to my talk with Doctor Jocelyn,
So, we were discussing the power in this technique and what it means to her clients, and mine as well. She says, by creating an inward tension with the thighs, we LOAD the glutes (butt muscles). Which is a fancy way of saying, we wind them up for optimum muscle output...very beneficial to a swing. I tell all my hitter's to do this before and during their swings and the result is more consistent line drives because their body is setup in the right position for the core muscles to communicate through our lower and upper halves.
You might have seen some Big Leaguers go knock-kneed in their stance, I'm not advocating this, but that's what it may feel like. This will also help with Chas's Anchoring the Back Foot & Hip Thrust article from the Hitting Rebellion Blog (HR).
c. LOAD to EXPLODE the hips PRE-Swing Video
You see, the idea of these three core techniques, in the first of 5 Swing Smarter Top Hitting Drills, is most of the torque and power in the midsection is setup before the stride foot touches down.
2. Head Right Headlight Hitting Drills
This is Chas's drill and I'll let him take it from here (snippet from the Baseball Hitting Rebellion Blog):
"...at I.T.S. Baseball, we literally are ALWAYS looking for new and fun ways to teach kids to hit. One way we did this was with our fun idea we affectionately call the Head Right Head Light. The Head Right Head Light forces kids to ‘GET YOUR HEAD RIGHT’ when they hit. We turn the lights off, so it’s pitch black dark, and we hit. How does that work? Well, we strap a light to the hitter’s head, above his nose, that we can angle down at a ball sitting on a tee. The light doesn’t ‘bend’ and the light doesn’t lie. If the hitter moves his head, the ball goes from ‘lit up’ to ‘dark’ and the hitter misses or miss-hits the baseball.
Also, with this Head Right Head Light drill, the light once the ball leaves the tee, should be shining just above where the ball WAS sitting on the tee. This is true even AFTER the ball is
gone." -- CLICK THIS Baseball Hitting Rebellion Blog LINK for the rest of the article.
3. Hip Thrust Hitting Drills
A common fallacy you see, especially with Epstein's teachings, is with the front heel dropping after the stride triggers the hips to rotate. This is dead wrong. The vintage swing, like the one Teddy Ballgame, The Great Bambino, The Mick, and Hammering Hank all used the bigger muscles when they hit, primarily the core and hips were the engines starting and controlling the swing. A heel drop is assuming small muscles are in control.
The back hip turns the knee, which turns the ankle, NOT the other way around...
You see, I believe the hitter should land on a firm flat front foot because the body can only rotate when the kinetic chain checkpoints are firm and stable (ear, shoulder, hips, knees, and ankles). Weight distribution on the feet during the entire swing should be 60% on the mid-strike to ball of the foot and 40% on the heels. I disagree with Jaime Cevallos on this, he believes the opposite.
What initiates hip thrust then?? Besides the core, which is a no-brainer...
It's the straightening of the front leg that initiates hip thrust. As the front knee begins to stiffen and push the hitter behind the incoming baseball, the front hip pushes towards the catcher, which creates an opposite and equal reaction to bringing the back hip through.
Alright, so here's one of the 5 Best Swing Smarter Hitting Drills for hip thrust...
Setup off a tee with the tee and baseball just behind the front leg but over the middle of the plate (Deep Tee Drill). Get into your stride position with 50/50 weight distribution and maybe even 60/40, 60% on back leg and 40% on front side. The front leg should be slightly bent...this drill should be broken up into two-parts:
When we straighten the front leg, we should focus on pushing behind the barrel, like in the "Four Things Deep" article on Chas's Hitting Rebellion Blog (HR). Check out the following YouTube slow motion video of Chas Utley and watch how when his front leg straightens (NOT heel drop), you can see his hip thrust and rotation begin:
In THRUST We Trust!
4. Broomstick Whoosh! Hitting Drills
This is such a super cheap hitting drills tool to include in a hitter's arsenal. There are multiple benefits to swinging with a broomstick, without the bristles...
Because of the long length of the stick, wind resistance is created, and thanks to broomsticks
being light, we don't have to "muscle" the stick around our center axis,
Because of this, we want to make sure when swinging it, the "whoosh" sound starts about off the
back hip and continues through a long Area of Impact over and passed the plate. If it's a short sound out in
front, then our Area of Impact is too short, and we're not getting the most out of a "Mack Truck"
type impact on the ball.
Hitting drills involving a broomstick create bat "lag" (good) where we start with the barrel deep
in the zone, AND lead using the hips, while the Whoosh sound should shortly follow the hips
The Broomstick Drill is on a beer budget compared to the MP30 best 9 baseball hitting aid. Except with Jaime Cevallos's MP30, we can hit live baseballs, with the stick we cannot.
5. "Guiding" Top Hand Hitting Drills
There has been a slight change in theory when it comes to my thoughts on top/bottom hand function in the swing. The bottom doesn't really do anything except maintain palm down through contact along with the front elbow hugging fairly close to the rib cage during Impact.
Before, I said the top hand "pushes" through contact, in actuality with this "NIKE Swoosh"/ITS Baseball Hitting theory, the top hand is more of a "guide." In other words, we've already got the 2-ton fly wheel spinning with the core and hips, the top hand just guides the centrifugal force in the "right" direction.
Remember Swing Smarter talking about that dreaded physics lesson on Centrifugal Force? Recall it as twirling a rock on a string in a circle, then the fingers "guide" the rock in a desired direction by strategically letting go. Centrifugal Force uses rotational energy to guide an object in a general direction.
So, here's the 5th of the 5 Swing Smarter Top hitting drills...
Set up three baseballs on the ground spaced about a ball's length apart starting where contact would be made, over the middle of the plate, just behind the front leg. Imagine those three baseballs hovering past contact and we have to take our barrel palm up/palm down through contact.
***IMPORTANT Hitting Drills Coaching Point***
Just like in the Four Things Deep article from the Baseball Hitting Rebellion Blog I referenced above, make sure to keep your (picture to the right):
Point of Contact...
DEEP!!! We don't want the upper body to drift forward over our hips (as in the below pic), at contact we actually want the back knee to be slightly in front of the belly button. Just like when we fish out on a lake, it would be foolish to cast the bait out with our rod, and jump in the lake after it. What do we do?? We cast the bait out and let the whip of the rod do all the work for us, while we stay dry in the boat.
Just like in the swing, we let the rotational Centrifugal Forces do the work, and our top hand just "guides" the bait (barrel) out into the lake (Area of Impact).
Here are my TOP Hitting Aid recommendations to help refine the unrefinable...
If you want to take this particular 1 of 5 Swing Smarter Top Hitting Drills to another level, then I'd recommend getting Chas Pippitt's Drive Developer Hitting System. With his proven system, and when I say proven, I mean it, you will "feel" what it's like to have a proper drive developing swing. Chas has included instructional videos on how to use the DD system along with your purchase.
Another one of the best baseball hitting aids to help with rolling over and keeping the critical top hand palm up, bottom hand palm down hand positioning through contact, try the ProHammer (NOTE: may be on back order, so link may not work). I've sold 17 of these between March and June of 2011, and have nothing but great feedback from my customers who purchased them. Even Chas loves it and is using the ProHammer with his students!