Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: Hitting May Be Dangerous To Your Spine [Zepp Swing Experiment]

https://hittingperformancelab.com/baseball-hitting-drills-off-tee/
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Question: Does Having a ‘Hunched Posture’ Boost Bat Speed Over NO Hunch?

Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: Hunter Pence v. Derek Jeter Spine Position

Look at the difference between the spinal positions of Hunter Pence & Derek Jeter. Photos courtesy: MLB.com

In this baseball hitting drills off tee experiment using the Backspin batting tee, I wanted to use the Scientific Method to analyze the benefits of swinging with a ‘hunched posture’ versus ‘NO hunch’, by taking:

  • 100 swings with a ‘hunched posture’ (Global Spinal Flexion) – think Hunter Pence, and
  • 100 swings with ‘NO hunch’ (Spinal Lordosis) – think Derek Jeter…

 

Background Research

First I wanted to start off with the application of what a ‘hunched posture’ looks like in the MLB.  Look at the following hitters/pitcher, and note the similarities in the shape of their backs (or spine) before they begin rotation:

There are many more, especially in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  These hitters/pitcher either start with the ‘hunch’ or move into it before they start turning.

For the science, I recommend you read Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine.  I will go over a few talking points about the Posterior Ligamentous System (or PLS).  Think of the PLS as a connective tissue harness you’d use to scale down a large building.

In Dr. Gracovetsky’s aforementioned book, I’d like you to read under the subheading “Lifting While Lordosis Is Maintained” p. 82., and nd “Lifting While Lordosis Is Reduced” on p. 83.

I’m paraphrasing, but Dr. Gracovetsky says when the bend in the lower back is maintained (NO hunch), then we’re using a “muscle-predominant strategy”, and when the lower lumbar curve is taken out (hunch), then we’re tapping into the “muscle relaxation response”.

What Dr. Gracovetsky found in his research and study was that when a person picks something up from the ground that is heavier than we’re used to picking up, the back will round (hunch), muscles will turn off, and the PLS system will kick in.

You can experience the two systems (muscle v. ligament) by trying to see how long you can sit up straight in your seat…once your muscles get tired, then you’ll take on the hunched posture, letting the PLS take over.  This is why it’s so comfortable to sit slouched, and hard work to ‘keep your back straight’.

The reason for this ‘spinal safety net’ as Dr. Serge Gracovetsky alludes to, is to put the vertebrae of the spine into a safer position, also known as decompression.

My friend D @SelfDecompress on Twitter is doing just this with his clients.

One last note on the research…

CLICK HERE and read under the sub-heading “The Hitting ‘Governor'” in this HPL article about how our brain puts a limit on performance because of movement dysfunction.

Hypothesis

Based on Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s research and study,  it is my forecast that taking on a ‘hunched posture’ before the turn, will increase average bat speed over not hunching.

I also add the same results is because of the information I included under ‘The Hitting Governor’ sub-heading in the aforementioned HPL article.

In other words, by hunching the back, thereby decompressing the vertebrae of the spine, we remove ‘The Hitting Governor’ Effect, and allow the body to optimize turning speed.

Not to mention we make the swing safer for our rotating athletes’ bodies.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: ‘Hunched Posture’ Experiment

Equipment Used:

Setup:

  • We used the Zepp Labs Baseball app to gain swing data.  Our concern is for an apples to apples comparison between the two sets of 100 swings.
  • All swings for the baseball hitting drills off tee ‘hunched posture’ experiment were taken off a Backspin batting tee.
  • I stayed as consistent as I could with keeping the ball height and depth the same for most swings.
  • I used two yellow dimple ball markers to make my stance setup consistent…one was placed inside my back foot, close to the plate.  The other was placed one bat’s length plus two baseballs in front of the back marker.
  • The two tests in the baseball hitting drills off tee ‘hunched posture’ experiment were counter-balanced.  Which consisted of eight blocks of 25-swings done in the following order ABBA BAAB.  ‘Hunched posture’ was letter ‘A’, and ‘NO hunch’ was letter ‘B’.  200 total swings were completed in the experiment, 100 per test.  Counter-balancing helps remove the “getting tired” and “not being sufficiently warmed up” factors.
  • Throughout the baseball hitting drills off tee swing experiment, I was drinking a Strawberry Lemonade Gatorade (because I like it!) and a chocolate milk to replenish my body’s protein, sugars, and electrolytes during the 2-hour experiment.
  • I did an 8 exercise dynamic warm up before taking about 15-20 practice swings off the tee.

 

Data Collected (Zepp App Screenshot)

Baseball Hitting Drills Off Tee: Low Back Bend Zepp Swing Experiment

Please pay particular attention to the differences in Time To Impact & Attack Angle from the Zepp metrics…

 

Data Analysis & Conclusion

As you can see from the baseball hitting drills off tee Zepp screenshot and metrics above, the big differences between the two groups of 100 swings were the average:

  • Time To Impact: the ‘hunched posture’ was .004 seconds less than ‘NO hunch’, AND
  • Attack Angle: the ‘hunched posture’ was 4-degrees more positive than ‘NO hunch’

It looks like my baseball hitting drills off tee swing experiment Hypothesis was wrong in thinking there would be a boost to average bat speed with the ‘hunched posture’ swings.  However, there were three MAJOR benefits to swinging ‘hunched’:

  • According to Dr. Gracovetsky’s research, we can conclude it’s safer on the spine,
  • A DECREASE in Time To Impact, which buys a hitter more time to make a decision to swing, and
  • A more POSITIVE barrel Attack Angle, which puts a hitter into a better position to hit more consistent line drives.
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Joey Myers

I’m a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), the International Youth and Conditioning Association (IYCA), and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).I’m also a HUGE supporter of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

I’ve spent 11+ years in the corrective fitness industry, and have too many alphabet-soup certifications to bore you with.I also played four years of Division One baseball at Fresno State from 2000-2003.

It’s NOT how you study, but what you study that counts.I apply human movement principles (or rules), validated by science, to hitting a baseball and softball.
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21 Comments

  1. Djura

    Hey Joey great article! I get so confused with some of these things… You know I’m not a fan of cues and really don’t like the term “Spine angle”… It seems like it can be confusing… When I see the picture, what I see in the hunched batter is just a matter of the hands and bat placement… If Jeter pumped or loaded his hand in a similar manner wouldn’t that lead to the same posture as the pelvis and T-spine would adjust to the hands and bat position…. Man it’s seems like most are easy to indentfy and observe… To me the 2 hardest things regarding the baseball swing is (1) the hands and (2) the spine… I would add connection but if you review fasica, in hindsight, it all falls in place….

  2. Djura "Judo"

    Interesting indeed… I think I mentioned thumbs, forefinger across the chest… Locking into you shoulders… To give you another angle… How about getting that back extension and orienting the pelvis level and continuing the pre hand turns in order to get as coiled as possible… At some point I would image this wouldn’t be good for you… Well, the baseball is extremely explosive… But I’m assuming you can extend more and more and get hunched more and more… I really dont know… But I would always think the hip hinge or pac man shape is telling… Interesting results….

    I would image it’s winding another fasica line… Not bottom 3…it works like a little gear… Turning the hands is like a wind up… You get coiled and more coiled … Than you get stuck… And just raise your arms up and turn the hands…by raising your arms… Your really just getting more upper back hyperextension I presume…That can’t be healthy…

    Or having the pelvis the other way and coiling it to a forward tilt…with your hands… Anyone not connected would think I’m from MARS… But I’m not I played stick ball… That shit doesn’t get old… Still funny…

    What I would find interesting would be is getting short just giving you more upper back and turning of the hands… I think you call it pre turn… I haven’t given much thought… For another day… Or perhaps you can comment any of your thoughts…

    So I take your interesting and perhaps maybe… A little… Give you a little ” interesting observation”…If I’m wrong… I’ll call take back…

    ~DM

  3. Djura

    Question? Does Bonds, Harper and Aaron use the weight of the bat along with some sheer force to get from either hyperextension to flexion in order to multiply the energy transfer by using a fascia line not in the X pattern… Said another way… Can we redefine hitch and X-pattern…also can you set up so a hitch had more effect on the particular fascia lines…

    By the way is there another blog where there is more discussion on these things… I know your blog is not intended for a million comments and I hope it’s understood that I just want to brainstorm and talk some mechanics… I do appreciate all you do Joey… I hope you know I’m just getting thoughts out and than there’s 15 comments… It’s like once I start I can’t stop… Funny I have a thousand more observations…Hope all is well. Later.

    ~DM

  4. Djura

    How does hitch effect your back?

    Basically I’ve heard by just about everyone that a hitch is terrible and used for timing… I usually ask what am I timing… Definitely not bat ball contact… I don’t need to “hitch” in order to do that and a hitch just adds another move before bat ball collision… Joey it seems like a “Hitch” pulls/compresses 4 arm fascia lines and the some of the other fascia lines… Shoot it might all of them… I always said that that movement (“the hitch”)…was a power thing and if you can’t get power from it and can’t control it… Shouldn’t that be a reason to question your method or approach not the claims of others that the so called hitch provides strength and smoothness…

    Obviously all “hitches” are not equal just like all “strides” are not equal…

    Please do something about “Hitches” if you need a topic just in case your running out of topics…Obviously you may be able to give some guidelines for the ones who don’t know… Also hitches don’t have to be down to up… They can be out to in and the location can be different see Harper, Bonds, Aaron….Obviously having this so called movement would need to be noted when the players move up… Better or faster pitching
    Doesn’t eliminate the movement just adapt to the new timing…Anyway… Thanks….

    ~DM

  5. Djura

    What up Joey. Although I’m a Yankee fan, growing up in Queens, everybody was a Darry strawberry fan… I grow up borrowing everybody’s stance or style… I truly believe Straw’s style got me into my fascia lines better than everyone else including Donnie baseball… I think Eric Davis had a good move too… Not for hitting but for feeling the lines…It would be awesome to watch someone ? analyze Straw’s swing with regards to fascia lines and his like wiggle or hand movement… Just a thought Joey…Hope all is well…

    ~DM

  6. Djura

    For me… I apply a bunch of pressures (I.e., squeezes, pulls, pushes, pinching) with BOTH hands during this movement…

    • Joey Myers

      Djura, can you shoot a quick video of you demonstrating the “pinching” you refer to? I’m having trouble getting a picture from reading it…also, you may want to invest in a Zepp or SwingTracker app to experiment with some of these thoughts in your head to see if they have relevance. I’m an imperfect human, and it’s hard for me to evaluate based on theory…I have to try it and test for myself. Looking forward to the demo video.

  7. Djura

    For me Joey, you have to get into all the lines and lock them up with flexion or extention of the wrist so the wrist/hand can ONLY do one thing for it to work best…

    ~DM

  8. Djura

    I’ll try to make a video… To give you more particulars… To start performing what I’m suggesting will give the batter strong individual fingers… That’s different than strong grips or strong hands but strong fingers… With incredible ability to use one after the other… Additionally the batter would have incredibly strong wrist, forearms and shoulders…

    I revisited your Aaron video and you expressed that you don’t particular care for the dropping and lifting of the hands… So I’ll put Bonds, Harper and a bunch more in the same style… So as far as I can tell, Aaron holds his bottom hand pinke very hard… So it’s like the bottom 3 for the bottom hand and you end up holding that last pinkie hard… Hard… Than he does the top hand thing… So if you follow… That bottom hand bottom 3 with holding the pinkie is like the floor that the rest of the hands— bottom hand top ( forefinger and thumb area and the top hand is slamming on… So that dropping is not dropping but slaming into a floor and isle we think of a spring it will stop and fire back… So the lift isn’t raising the hands but the counter action of the the spring… So the batter just LETS it happen…and as you let it happen you pinch the bottom hand forefinger area to activate the swing….

    To start you have to have the right grip to do it…. And then the right flexion and twirls…etc…Among a great free fall which is just knowing how to move your hands or slam your hands…said another way… Don’t think of anything but how to move your hands and the ” stride” will happen… Again… Set your hands and manipulate them and let your body do the rest… For example… The free fall…

    there are many ways of doing it… The turn starts with the pinch… The pinch is a push… But that pinch with the bottom hand depends on how rotary you want to be… Which depends on pitch location.,, The bottom hand (top) pushes behind you and the top hand (top) pushes foward…So a general sequence would be…. Bottom 3 squeeze (bottom hand ) than HOLD the pinkie HARD ( this ought to make your hand and forarm link or strighten, the bottom 3 top hand than the forefinger and thumb area HOLD HARD…. So you are strong with the top hand bottom 3 and other two… Just hold the top…Don’t do anything else with the top but HOLD… Just Hold and let the top hand follow the bottom… Because you just get on plane with your pinch… So pinch hard… Push and/or pinch through… The ball…For example from your forefinger to the middle and the pinkie… Follow through and all…You should have a strong pinkie on the bottom hand… So only use the bottom hand pinch to swing the bat….So only the bottom hand to swing Joey….I’m not saying it’s like this I’m saying doing it this way will be the ahhhhh moment… Try to get free fall right… Remember once your front heel is down you took weight off the rear foot… The bottom hand is pushing against the back foot… So get you toe down or just before your front toe hits pinch and think about pushing your lead hand against your rear foot….You might want to start with a light bat or a whiffle bat first just to get it down… Also you should feel a lot of pressure in the bottom hand because your hands are fighting but it’s the bottom hand getting the worse if it…and the pinkie and index getting the brunt of it…Try doing it without the top hand on it or just top hand appling pressure…

    Remember the bottom hand especially the bottom pinkie making that ceiling with the forearm meaning the rest of the bottom hand and the top hand are fighting against that point…Also notice that both hands have two areas bottom 3 and top 2 are fighting each other…But are going with each other… So the bottom 3 of both hands and the top 2 of both hands go together in sequence…

    Than you will understand why when I started my son in baseball and I saw all these cues I was confused.. Why would you go around like that… Why would you step forward… Why would you dig into the ground and turn your foot that way…. Blah blah blah… And why would you say my theories…? Gravity is a theory too… Believe me Joey this is it but if you never done it before it doesn’t come natural and once you get the swing try timing it to a pitched ball…you have to retrain your instincts… And retraining your instincts in one of the most explosive moves the body can make is hard….

    Again this a part of it… You can use an armpit move and a bottom hand and than a top hand pinch… But if you want to hit the inside pitch… This has to be the best way… Again.. Just try it and modify it… I seen your swing and you like pulling the handle in… Perhaps with the middle finger or your bottom 3… I would just set that up prior to the swing and raise my hands up in order to make it more like Arron or bonds… So think about it as bottom 3, bottom 3, top 2 and top 2… So yes, there’s different ways of doing it… One is us ring all the fingers… Another using 3 of the 4 areas… And 2 of the areas…

    Just hold and turn…. The turn is the pinch…. Think pinch and turn…Hopefully this helps or else I guess I can video it….Let me know if it makes sense… Or what you think….Later… Just one thing… If this works… Just keep the HOLD and TURN…. I love that… Remember the Hold has to be the bottom hand 3 especially the pinkie and forearm and the top hand fore finger thumb area…And if you do it with your stance you will have to raise your hands up… Watch staton from Florida…. You can see it clearly… His bottom hand pinkie turns and holds while the rest goes…

    I hope this is clear… Later

    ~DM

  9. Djura

    There are many things to consider… One is slamming into your bottom hand bottom 3 with the pinkie hold… How slamming into it affects the rest of your body especially your feet and back foot.. To me it’s all about your hands and feet…, you get those right well everything in between falls into place… So your feet levarage your body against the EARTH and the hands levarage the bat against the body… While the body including the hands and feet levarage the EARTH with the bat…So if you get the hands and the feet you need to know how to LET it happen.. So if I had to note one major thing in it all… There a bunch…. Free fall, grip which is important (it’s more like a golf grip or vice versa the golf swing is like the baseball swing)…. Etc…

    My notice would be the most important thing is your lead hand and back foot… They are connected… If your applying REAL pressure to the system with your lead hand, good things happen… And you must have a fixed back foot…. What I see in youth baseball a completely useless lead hand… The kids are super top hand dominate and Bailey use there lead hand than everyone ask why everyone teaches squashing the bug… How about hold the bat tight really tight with the lead arm… That would help get the rear side and that back foot turning or moving…. There’s no one thing but the lead hand and back foot connection must not be ignored and the whole the hands squeeze and there there just for a ride is so messed up…. I think most MLB players notice how they feel hands… Many say it’s all in the hands… Well the hands and the feet… Meaning the endings of the fascia connections… Perhaps!!!! But yea… It’s the lead hand and the back foot…. Remember you throw the bat for outside pitches and the lead foot goes nowhere until the lead hand starts and the back foot foes it’s thing… We have to know how to use the lead hand and notice that the top hand hold is power… It’s holding the power and needs to be released or if hitting an outside pitch throw out there for last resort… Shoot if it’s a throw like how some doctors and others have suggested at the least its a TWO handed throw…,with basically two pinches (forefinger) and two pulls ( bottom 3)…. Alright hopefully this makes sense to you…Hope all is well…

    ~DM

  10. Djura

    I would also go in opposite directions with the bottom 3 and top 2 in order to feel that..do it within the same hand… So with the lead hand…. Bottom 3 down and around to catcher and top 2 up and around to catcher.. Then flexion… Is one example… There ways to lock in the first movement so the second movement is one movements that has both movements….

  11. Djura

    By the way… The players who are lead hand dominate would have issues hitting the other way… Because they don’t know how to use there top hand… And everybody teaches top hand throws…Go figure!

    You would think why are so many pros not able to throw the barrel outside…Because that is not what most are doing… If they did you wouldn’t see all the shifts we see today…

  12. Djura

    So if I’m right… I guess at this point that’s a big if… But if it all makes sense… I’ll take two with me…. (1) The HOLD and TURN and (2) it’s all in the hands and feet….

    Really the hands, neck and feet but that sound stupid ?

    By the way if you flex your wrist it appeared you get upper back hyperextension…. I’m not sure that’s right but it appears you get some t-spine action…So if you wind them you get flexion… So if you unwind them you go back to the original settings… I think that’s where you get that nice lean back… Anyway I have a thousand comments… No point started that again… Later.

  13. Djura

    By the way if you never swong like this you have to really look at your grip… They are like opposite grips in the hands… The lead is more about bottom 3 where it meets the palm and making sure your back Palm gets below your pinkie to apply pressure… The top hand is like from the thin to the pinkie the other way… Thumbs are different too… In the lead the thumb is out of the way low and close to the index… The top has it looped around. So you can push with both top 2 fingers ( areas)….

  14. Djura

    Question ??? Since you do body work and know these things especially related to the swing… Is it possible that the baseball swing is setting up in a good athletic posture and then ( notice that in one of my thousand of comments I said you feel weak for a fraction of a sec than you get strong, really your at freefall and the weight is moving forward but you haven’t landed yet)…you freefall and than get to good posture again… If you remember I said there are two planes, the back and the front… So is it possible we just set up in good posture, LET IT GO, than go back to good posture…. And here is my biggest point… As an ignorant person with body work… And the anonomy… If you have really bad posture it works really well… Because when you dump your posture, you naturally, give your self a huge move to make the transition…Again, I may have no idea what I’m talking about and wouldn’t want to touch that thought but perhaps you may have something to add to that thought..Later. ~DM

  15. Djura

    Im not sure Joey but I tried looking at one of your swings… So when your about to load… Hold the pinch… Than do your bottom 3… And try swinging the bat holding your bottom 3 and activating the pinch… So the pinch in this instance will be a hold than pressure or loading that same pinch and than you can just use that pinch as your swing so you push with it… I think this might have some “throwing of the hands” but just use the pinch while maintaining the rest of the hands integrity as usually or at least holt the top hand… This could help you feel it… And if your too rotated to get a good look at the pinch/push to the ball… Just pick your hands up and than set up as usual…. It will take some time but our memory’s would be different… Again this is not the whole thing but a part that is most important… Once this is understood than you may find it as I do… Most important to the approach or meaningless… Who knows! Hope all is well…

    ~DM

  16. Djura

    Joey I haven’t heard much of your thoughts… Does any of what I said make sense… So to add some more dept… Your “on and off” phrase of making the pinch more of a switch was pretty good… For example, for me it’s not in terms of the connections… You have to follow me because I might lose you as I only played stickball ?

    What I feel as you termed it as on/off is more to the extend of a timing mechanism which allows me to time the tightening of my core…by using the rib cage, serretus aniterior, rotators… Blah…blah… Blah…I’m sure you know what I mean… I think… There’s a dropping of the ribcage somewhat… It’s hard to tell..but you have to have a solid core when rotating through the ball… It’s easy once you have the pinches down… Than its almost like your not pinching or tightening your core… So yea.. It’s all in the hands and feet… Than you meet in the middle but if you can’t use your hands and feet correctly than what is your core leveraged against…Said another way… If you use your hands and feet correctly at some point you’ll get closer and closer to the center… And unless you use some cue that makes no sense, you’ll get it…At the end it’s all about your posture and knowing how to manipulate it…

    I would think the batter just starts at the end of the swing… Extention and wind up…. But you have to set at the end and go back to the beginning and leave some room to load some more in order to give the batter rhythm to go forward…That posture is great for baseball but I’m not sure how that effects your overall posture…What say you? Any thoughts Joey?

    ~DM

  17. Djura

    I think that when your working with your hands, when your transferring big energy from your big muscles to your little muscles and we are working our rib cage and shoulders…and lastly we are talking core… The Shrug is extremely important…. What say you?

    ~DM