Hitting Stance Information Overload? Get Real with Swing Smarter!
Some days my hitting stance resembled the ranks of Ted Williams, Mark McGwire, Geronimo Berroa, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, and/or Sammy Sosa; I would hit almost identical to them or I took pieces of their stance and made them my own.
Trust me when I say I've read and watched almost everything on how the hitting stance should be; here's my compilation, consolidation if you will, of the top hitting queues to starting your swing, and the Swing Smarter "why" behind them.
As most of you may already know my story, I was always told what to do in my baseball playing days, but never was revealed "the why." Today I'm going to give you the reasoning behind every move because with understanding you can truly trust the instruction you're receiving.
Important note on the hitting stance: this is the thumbprint to a hitter's style, so by all means, use this information as a guideline; I don't want to change every hitter into a legion of look-a-like swinging robots...develop your own style, although stick close to the 5 main elements below, and adapt them to your very own.
Let's get started...
They should be almost the width of your bat, however not so much for younger Little League ballplayers because of their shorter legs. We want to:
- Cultivate a good strongly rooted foundation,
- Eliminate the tendency to over-stride, which jumps the eyes and moves them forward making the pitch appear to dance and speed up to the hitter,
- Be in a good balanced athletic position, like you would stand squaring up to an opponent in soccer or basketball.
The Knees & Inward Tension
The knees should be at least slightly bent, the most athletic position your body can get into where you aren't going to tire quickly. And this can be different for a lot of people, just think about a Albert Pujols as opposed to an Evan Longoria.
In addition, we want to create an inward tension using our inner thighs in the hitting stance; we want to imagine squeezing a big bouncy colorful exercise ball between our legs, and keeping it from falling and hitting the ground. NOT to the extreme of being knock kneed though.
What this does is level off the pelvic floor setting our hips, and with the next step, allows for maximum hip load, which means increased bat speed and distance on the baseball.
This is the most important part of the hitting stance because your hips are the engine that drives your swing. Proper hip movement throughout the swing is crucial to bat speed, power to all fields, and maximizing economy of motion (tempo)...in other words,
The hips should be rotated underneath us with the leveling off of our waist belt line, using the lower abs (psoas muscles) to do this in the hitting stance. For an in-depth explanation of "the why," please check out this Swing Smarter article.
Posturally, the shoulders need to be in the optimum position to be rotated around the spine's center axis, so we set the shoulders by moving them up, back, and down. This position maintains the natural upper "S" shape curve of our spine, just look at guys like Jason Morneau and Joe Mauer of the Twins, their posture is as right as rain, not to mention they're bad ass hitters.
Keeping the shoulders up, back, and down also allows for friction-free deep breathing, which lowers the heart rate and relaxes the muscles...very important, by the way, for quicker bat speed.
Eyes & Hands
In the hitting stance, the eyes and head should be square to the pitcher; we don't focus on the pitcher like a parrot, out of one eye. We also want to keep the crown of the head high...posture is real critical when it comes to swing balance and execution.
Lastly, about those meat-hooks,
I like the hands to be above both elbows; if the elbows are elevated higher than the hands in the stance, then there will be shoulder muscle tension, a no-no for swing efficiency. The hands and arms are in a relaxed comfortable position, hands in-line with the rear shoulder delt, and bat going behind the head at a 45 degree angle.
The hitting stance phase of the swing is a vital time to use a relaxation trigger(s). This could be putting the bat in motion as you await the pitcher going into their movement; other tendencies you may see a hitter do to stay relaxed are:
- Opening and closing the hands,
- Swaying back and forth,
- Tapping the front foot,
- Slowly swinging the bat towards the pitcher, or
- Using the bat to cut the strike zone a few times.
There are lots of different things a hitter can do, so pick one physical relaxation trigger (above) and couple it with a deep 8 count (4 second inhale plus 4 second exhale) deep breath by expanding the belly...NOT by heaving the chest or raising the shoulders.
Remember, recognize that each hitter will be different, and definitely preserve their own hitting style thumbprint, however these 8 principals should remain unchanged:
- Have a good strong foundation,
- Keeping the knees slightly (at least) bent,
- Inward tension between the thighs,
- Leveling off the hips,
- Shoulders up, back, and down,
- Square up the eyes,
- Hands are above the elbows, and
- Have a couple relaxation triggers.
You can hit standing on your head, as long as you're in good posture and relaxed doing it! Every good hitter will fall into line during the Load, Launch, Down, and Through Phases of the swing, the only other difference being whether they finish with one or two hands on the bat.
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