Tony Gwynn: Don’t Let This Happen

 

Tony Gwynn Hitting Video: It's Never Too Late!

Tony Gwynn photo courtesy: Sports.ESPN.Go.com

Baseball lost one of the hardest working hitters EVER.

In this video blog, I want to answer the question of why Tony Gwynn couldn’t hit for repeatable power.

I’m keying in on a two interesting points mentioned in an article at Deadspin.com, “How Tony Gwynn Cracked Baseball’s Code And Became A Legend, after his passing.

We’ll talk about:

  • How baseball history is made on the inside pitch,
  • How the front shoulder is crucial to repeatable power, and
  • Why Mr. Padre’s swing didn’t have built-in power.

 

How Baseball History is Made on the Inside Pitch

The Deadspin.com article mentioned a 1992 All-Star game conversation Tony Gwynn had with Ted Williams about how Williams preached that baseball history was made on the inside pitch.  Quoted from the Deadspin article:

“The year before Williams offered his counsel, Gwynn hit .315 on pulled balls; the year after, .587. And in the five years following it, he hit .368, won four batting titles, and made a very serious run at being the first hitter since Williams to hit .400, which he may have done if not for the 1994 strike.”

Increased average, check!  But, according to Baseball-Reference.com, over his 20 year career Tony Gwynn only hit over 10 home runs five times in a season.  Although, four-out-of-five of those seasons were after the Ted Williams conversation.  His career high was 17, in 1997. In the video, I offer an explanation of why it wasn’t too late for Gwynn to develop power after that Williams conversation.

 

Front Shoulder Crucial to Repeatable Power

Tony Gwynn "Staying on the ball"

Tony Gwynn photo courtesy: MLB.com

The last point, mentioned in the Deadspin article, was in a conversation George Will had with Tony Gwynn in his book Men At Work, where Gwynn explains – during video analysis of his swing – if he was “staying on the ball”:

To know if he is swinging correctly, he counts the frames from when the pitcher lets go of the ball until his, Gwynn’s, front shoulder “opens up”—turns to the right…There’s one… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten… There,” he says with satisfaction at the high count, “ten frames. That means I’m staying on the ball. I’m keeping my front shoulder in and staying back. If I open it up before then, I’m through, I’m out in front.” 

How interesting.  Mr. Padre may have been ahead of his time here.  In the coming swing breakdown, you’ll discover how to not lose the repeatable power opportunity that Tony Gwynn did.

 

Why Tony Gwynn’s Swing DID NOT Have Power Built-In

Tony Gwynn Vertical Spine Angle at Contact

Tony Gwynn photo courtesy: MLB.com

What I reveal in the video, is proven human movement science.  I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, body workers like Ida Rolf, Judith Aston, Thomas Myers, and Dr. Erik Dalton.  I borrow from Dr. Serge Gracovetsky and his theory on Spinal Engine mechanics, and Dr. Kelly Starrett’s work in optimizing human movement.

Nowadays, we have a solid framework for producing power in the body through dynamic movement without having to worry about this hitting theory or that.  Here are my top THREE fixes that would have built repeatable power into Tony Gwynn’s already consistent swing:

  1. Down shoulder angle (spinal engine mechanics)
  2. Hiding hands from the pitcher (loading springy connective tissue in the torso), and
  3. Better spine angle at and after contact (pictured to the right, spine is too vertical).

My family’s thoughts and prayers go out to his family.  We lost a good hard working man.

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

Online Baseball Lessons: Dead Simple Plan I Used To Help Aidan in Illinois…

 

…when I’m in California!!

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

Aidan B. (15 yo) all AFTER photos courtesy: Dad

Aidan B. (15 yo) signed up for online baseball lessons back in the middle of April 2014 when I opened The Feedback Lab.  What is The Feedback Lab?

It’s the #1 strategy to repeatable power. It’s clear focused step-by-step video feedback & accountability in less than 48-hours.

The 90-Day Sprint empowers parents and coaches to help young hitters achieve their full potential of consistent power through scientific movement principles, and sticky coaching strategies proven with empirical research.

This baseball lessons blog post will show the dead simple plan we used to build repeatable power into Aidan B.’s swing.  We’ll go over:

  • Aidan’s before and after swing (2-week difference),
  • The “WHY” behind the change, and
  • 2-steps to spinal extension & “getting shorter”.

 

 Aidan’s Before & After Swing (2-week difference)

This video is a snapshot of Aidan’s swing from June 6-17th, 2014).  The swing was captured during soft toss.  In my notes,

  • BEFORE – on June 6th, Aidan had an excessive side bend at the waist after contact, and had a back leg angle of 115 degrees after impact.
  • AFTER – on June 17th, Aidan was extending up and over the catcher with his spine, and had a 105 degree bend in his back leg after contact.

Baseball lessons result?  More repeatable power.

 

The “WHY” Behind the Change

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

The challenges Aidan B. from Illinois was having were faulty spine engine mechanics, and not getting on plane with the pitch…here’s the baseball lessons breakdown:

  • Spine Engine Mechanics (according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky) – During the Final Turn, the spine NEEDS to freely spring up and back over the catcher (extend through the head).  This is because we’ve already engaged two of three possible spine engine movements: 1) Side bending (down shoulder angle), and 2) Axial rotation (showing pitcher our numbers) before stride foot lands.
  • Get on Pitch Plane – And in order to get on a level plane with a downward traveling pitch, we must “get shorter” with the back leg.  The back foot placement has a role of swing stability as well.

To see the latter point in action, CLICK HERE for my YouTube video analysis of Barry Bonds.

 

2-Steps to Spinal Extension & “Getting Shorter”

Baseball Lessons Online: Aidan B., Illinois

  1. Back Foot Variance Drill – sets the back foot into a more stable position to get a good efficient stacked spinal lean.
  2. Lean Drill – using RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) to “feed the mistake”.

If you’re interested in baseball lessons online (or softball), then CLICK HERE to get more information about The Feedback Lab.  

 

 

 

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

 

Shin Soo Choo Missing Power?

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

Shin Soo Choo is well-above average when it comes to On-Base Percentage, .389 over a ten-year span.

He also averages 37 doubles per season over the same career span.  However, his 162-game average for home-runs is ONLY 19.

Keep in mind that Shin Soo Choo is 5’11”, 205 lbs. (all stats are according to Baseball-Reference.com).  Let’s look at:

  • When to bend, when not to bend (rotating speed v. moment of inertia),
  • How Shin Soo Choo may be dumping bat speed pre-impact, and
  • How-to increase rotational speed at home.

 

When to Bend, When NOT to Bend (rotating speed v. moment of inertia)

We’re talking about the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  Take Olympic ice skater Adelina Sotnikova, who won gold in the 2014 Winter Olympics for instance.  Here’s how she increases her rotational speed:

delina Sotnikova 2014 Winter Olympics

Adelina Sotnikova photo courtesy: NBC Sports

  • She moves her arms into her center of rotation (Rotating speed increases, moment of inertia decreases).
  • To go slower, she moves her arms and a leg away from her center of rotation (Rotating speed decreases, moment of inertia increases).

Moment of Inertia (or MOI) just means a body’s tendency to resist angular (rotating) acceleration.  Rotating speed and the moment of inertia have an inverse relationship.

 

How Shin Soo Choo May Be Dumping Bat Speed Pre-Impact?

Let’s apply the answer of “when to bend” to hitting…in hitting a pitched ball, we don’t know what:

  1. Location,
  2.  Speed, or
  3. Plane the pitch is arriving on beforehand.
Shin-Soo Choo Arm Barring

Shin-Soo Choo photo courtesy: MLB.com

Unlike golf, hitters have a split second to commit and accelerate their barrel.  So in the first part of the Final Turn, a hitter MUST accelerate the barrel quickly with the torso using a bent front arm.

The second part of the Final Turn – when the barrel gets on plane of the pitch – the front arm begins to straighten to increase the moment of inertia (resisting rotational acceleration).

And of course, the front arm straightening at impact will depend on pitch location…lower or outside the zone, more straight at impact…versus, inside or higher, more bent at impact.

A hitter’s post-impact objective, MUST be to get both arms extended.  This would ensure proper transition of Centripetal (center-seeking) v. Centrifugal (center-fleeing) Forces.

Therefore, keeping the front elbow bent from the start of the Final Turn is critical to increasing turning speed and barreling the ball, particularly in high EV zones (Effective Velocity – Perry Husband).

 

How-To Increase Rotational Speed at Home

Here are a couple spine engine mechanics we could work on at home that would give us a repeatable power advantage at the plate (and what Shin Soo Choo isn’t doing).  Before the stride foot touches down, we need to:

  1. Have a downward shoulder angle,
  2. Show the numbers better, and
  3. Keep a slight bend in the front arm.

Fixing this can take Shin Soo Choo’s 162-game average of 19 homers to over 30 for sure.  Basically, it makes his swing more adjustable to higher perceived velocities, if we’re talking about Perry Husband’s EV system.

Does Jose Abreu Use a Unique MLB Power Technique?

 

Jose Abreu Power Secret Found In Unlikely Place?

Jose Abreu photo courtesy: MLB.com

I received an email recently from a top-5 Shot Putter in the mid-80’s named Rob Suelflohn.  He threw for over 70 feet!  A pretty special feat.  CLICK HERE to see YouTube footage of Rob.

He contacted me after watching a couple of my analysis videos.  Shortly after, he purchased The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power course to refine his Shot Put technique, as he still competes in Masters Shot Put competitions.

Wait…a Shot Putter buying my course on hitting?!

What really struck him about my mechanical breakdown was that I was speaking his same language, even though I was discussing a completely different competitive human movement.

Or is hitting really that different than Shot Put?

This video compares Jose Abreu to Randy Barnes (holds world record in the Shot Put).  We’ll look at:

  • Methods v. Principles,
  • Top Secret Power: Springy ‘X’ Pattern
  • Jose Abreu v. Randy Barnes

 

Methods v. Principles

Randy Barnes Shot Putter 1996 Olympics

Randy Barnes 1996 Olympics (won gold) photo courtesy: PBS.org

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,

“As to the methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” 

In hitting, methods are the drills we do.  Just do a search for “baseball (or softball) hitting drills” on YouTube and you’ll find plenty.  Principals are human movement rules governing EVERY athlete in motion.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it,

“The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” 

What principles do rotational athletes like Jose Abreu and Randy Barnes have in common to efficiently create repeatable power?

 

Top Secret Power: Springy ‘X’ PatternSpringy 'X' Pattern

One of the principles they use is something I call the Springy ‘X’ Pattern.  Imagine a big ‘X’ on your chest connecting shoulder to opposite hip.  The same goes for the backside.  To load springy connective tissue, called fascia, shorten one leg of the ‘X’ while the other leg lengthens.

Springy fascia is (according to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains):

  • What the bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape,
  • A spider web or cotton candy-like material, and
  • Made of mostly springy collagen fibers.

 

Jose Abreu v. Randy Barnes

Returning to our original question of does Jose Abreu use a unique MLB power technique?  Nope.  He uses a unique power technique to human movement!  This is also why – according to Wikipedia – Randy Barnes qualified for the 2005 World Long Drive Championship in golf.  Golf!!  He’s mastered the principles of explosive rotational power.  CLICK HERE to put proven human movement science to work in YOUR swing today…

“Staying Closed” for Fastpitch Softball & Baseball (NOT What You Think)

 

Josh Donaldson: Stay Closed & ADD Bat & Ball Exit Speed

Looks as if Josh Donaldson is reaching out with his barrel to touch the catcher’s glove! Josh Donaldson photo courtesy: www.todaysknuckleball.com

In this article, we’ll compare the swings of Oakland Athletic’s (now Blue Jays) Josh Donaldson and Toronto Blue Jay’s Jose Bautista (aka Joey Bats).  In the video, we’ll discuss:

  • Donaldson v. Bautista metrics,
  • What “staying closed” means to spine engine mechanics, and
  • Where Josh Donaldson might be leaking force at impact.

 

Josh Donaldson v. Jose Bautista Metrics

This section is split up as follows:

  • Physical
  • Swing analysis
  • Key offensive stats

 Physical

Tale of the tape (according to Baseball-Reference.com):

  • Josh Donaldson – 6’0″, 220lbs
  • Jose Bautista – 6’0″ 205lbs

Swing Analysis

Both hitters:

  • Use a distinctive leg kick,
  • Have an early start to their swings (pick up front foot when pitcher breaks the hands)
  • Use forward momentum,
  • Stay tight in final turn,
  • Use Catapult Loading System (down shoulder angle & show numbers to pitcher), and
  • Start their first name with the letter “J”.

Key Offensive Stats

Here are FIVE key offensive stats based on a 162-game average (Baseball-Reference.com in May of 2014):

  1. On-Base Percentage (OBP) – JD* = .351, JB** = .365
  2. Slugging Percentage (SLG) – JD = .467. JB = 489
  3. On-Base + Slug (OPS) – JD = .818, JB = .854
  4. Doubles – JD = 36, JB = 28
  5. Homers – JD = 24, JB = 31

*JD stands for Josh Donaldson

**JB stands for Jose Bautista

So why does Jose Bautista come out on top even though he’s outweighed by 15lbs?  Consider this…

Josh Donaldson: CLICK HERE to see a scatter graph of his dinger disbursement in 2013 (according to ESPN Stats & Information Group).  In the 158 games he played in 2013 (24 homers) his…

  • Average true distance was 391.3 feet, and
  • Average speed off the bat was 103.7 mph.

Jose Bautista: CLICK HERE to see a scatter graph of his home-run disbursement in 2013 (according to ESPN Stats & Information Group).  In the 118 games played (hand/wrist injury) in 2013 (28 homers) his…

  • Average true distance was 400.3 feet, and
  • Average speed off the bat was 104.8 mph.

The bottom line?

Jose Bautista Staying Closed

Jose Bautista photo courtesy: MLB.com

Joey Bats played 40 less games in 2013, but still outhit Josh Donaldson.  So let’s answer the question of how Bautista hit each homer, on average, 9 feet further, and drove the ball 1.1 mph faster off the bat.

Let’s begin building a case as to where Josh Donaldson may be bleeding force at impact…

 

What “Staying Closed” Means to Spine Engine Mechanics

Most confuse the meaning of the coaching cue “staying closed”.  The hitter DOES NOT “stay closed” with the bottom half.  For maximum energy transfer, the pelvis should open when the body weights the front foot after striding.  Both hitters seem to prematurely open their pelvis before the heel hits the ground.  This isn’t efficient!  We’ll talk about:

  • The truth about staying closed,
  • The importance of heel strike to locomotion, and
  • Swinging in sand: effortless power or powerless effort?

The Truth About Staying Closed

Jose bautista Impact

Jose Bautista photo courtesy: MLB.com

In the video, we apply two of three coupled motion of the spine actions, according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine:

  1. Side bending (evidenced by a down shoulder angle), and
  2. Axial rotation (hitter shows numbers to pitcher, while pelvis stays parallel to the plate)

In the video, we clearly see both hitters do this.  Donaldson more than Bautista.  I mentioned both hitters prematurely open their pelvis before heel strike.  Let’s look at the gravity (pun intended) of doing or not doing this…

The Importance of Heel Strike to Locomotion

In the book, Gracovetsky offers one of several meanings for maintaining a healthy spine using spinal engine mechanics (p. 168):

“…the compressive pulse generated at heel-strike is essential to the locomotion process.  The shape of this pulse must be very specific if maximum energy is to be transferred from the earth’s gravitational field to the rotating pelvis.”

Both hitters “stand tall” before falling forward and “getting shorter” into the turn.  This lifting of the torso is like running versus walking.  When running, our heel hits the ground creating a compressive force that is equaled to NINE-times our body weight, Dr. Gracovetsky says.  Gravity pulls our body down (Un-Weighting Principal), and at heel strike, the ground pushes back in a compressive force.  The greater the force, the faster the pelvis opens.

The following is where I foreshadow the problem with Donaldson…

Swinging in Sand: Effortless Power or Powerless Effort?

Josh Donaldson Staying Closed

Josh Donaldson photo courtesy: MLB.com

Dr. Serge Gracovetsky offers this example in the book (pgs. 168-169),

“Running or walking on soft sand is not easy and is very tiring,  In this particular case, the energy leaks into the sand, the impact force is reduced, and the compressive pulse through the spine is attenuated [disabled] as the total energy recovered is reduced.”

The compressive force is softened by the sand, which doesn’t allow the pelvis to turn using efficient spine engine mechanics.  To maneuver, the brain has to recruit big muscles to do the work.  This is why you get a workout walking on sand…it’s powerless effort, rather than effortless power.

Donaldson is basically turning his pelvis using muscle mass (like walking in the sand).  Whereas Bautista looks more effortless because he’s using efficient spine engine mechanics, gravity, and gravitational reaction forces…

 

Where Josh Donaldson May Be Leaking Force at Impact

In the video, you’ll see Donaldson start opening his pelvis five frames before he weights his front foot.  His front foot looks like it almost “hovers” over the ground for 3-4 frames.  Opening the pelvis without a true compressive force (gravity and gravitational reaction forces) would be like hitting a baseball while standing on sand!

Bautista starts opening his pelvis only two frames ahead of weighting his front foot.  Joey Bats experiences a higher compressive force at landing than Donaldson does.  This is why “staying closed” with the upper half, and committing the body to landing on the front foot is crucial to an average increase of:

  • 9 feet to batted ball distance, and
  • 1.1 mph to ball exit speeds.

Post UPDATE: after Josh Donaldson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, this post was picked up by the Canadian National Post (Just above the Jose Bautista image).  Also, there was an “upgrade” to his hitting mechanics since this post was first published in 2014.  CLICK HERE for a link to an Athletics Nation article talking about a difference in J.D.’s 2013 & 2014 swing mechanics.  In 2015, Josh Donaldson reverted back to his minimalist “barrel tilt” 2013 hitting mechanics.

Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez: A Killer MLB Power Strategy You Can Use Too…

 

Carlos Gonzalez Spine Angle

Carlos Gonzalez photo courtesy: MLB.com

I’m comparing two Colorado Rockies hitters, Carlos Gonzalez (aka Car-Go) and Nolan Arenado (2014 franchise record 28-game hit streak).  What repeatable power advantage does a guy like Car-Go have that Arenado may not?  Is it height?  Weight?

Neither.  Look how similar Car-Go and Arenado are physically (resource: Baseball-Reference.com):

  • Carlos Gonzalez – 6 foot, 1 inch, 220 pounds
  • Nolan Arenado – 6 foot, 2 inches, 205 pounds

In this video, we’re going to:

  1. Compare 5 key offensive numbers (based on a 162-game average),
  2. See what Car-Go and Arenado’s swings have in common, and
  3. Reveal the killer MLB power strategy.

 

Comparing 5 Key Offensive Numbers…

Here are key offensive numbers from the charts below, between Car-Go and Arenado:

  1. On-Base% (OBP)…Carlos Gonzalez = .355, Nolan Arenado = .309
  2. Slug% (SLG)…Car-Go = .527, Arenado = .432
  3. On-Base%+Slug% (OPS)…Car-Go = .882, Arenado = .741
  4. Doubles (2B)…Car-Go = 36, Arenado = 40
  5. Home-runs (HR)…Car-Go = 29, Arenado = 15

Sure we have more data points for Car-Go (7-years) than Arenado (2-years).  However, looking at how efficient each moves when swinging the bat, we’ll be able to assess the potential for Arenado’s performance in the future.  In addition to learning how Gonzalez may be able to improve.

CLICK HERE to get a brilliant Sabermetrics point of view for Car-Go 2.0.

What Car-Go & Arenado’s Swings have in Common

Nolan Arenado

Nolan Arenado photo courtesy: MLB.com

These are the human movement rules in common from the analysis:

  • Vision
  • Forward Momentum
  • Tight Turns
  • Engage Catapult Loading System

 

The Killer MLB Power Strategy

In comparing the two swings, what steps would Arenado have to take to hit for more consistent power like Carlos Gonzalez?  One of the secrets to repeatable power lies in the spine angle, which is achieved by the bend in the back knee.  The spine’s angle can allow a hitter to:

  • Get the barrel level on the downward plane of the pitch (slight upswing),
  • Stay in the impact zone longer (increased margin for error),
  • Keep the eyes and head from moving forward during the Final Turn,
  • Fully transfer linear (forward) into angular (turning) momentum (increased bat speed).
  • Drive the ball!!

Does Miguel Cabrera Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #3 (of 4)…

 

Miguel Cabrera REVEALS Torque Timing

Photo courtesy: MLB.com

The third installment to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, stars 8-time All-Star & 2-Time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.  I’ll show you how hitting instructors get torque timing wrong, causing reciprocal inhibition to occur in reverse.

In this Miguel Cabrera video, we’ll look at:

  • Why walking mechanics hold the key to repeatable power,
  • Whether we should land front foot closed or open?  And
  • Why the timing of torque is important.

Thanks to Bob Hall from Canada for the subject of this video blog article.

 

Walking Mechanics: Key to Repeatable Power?

The following “compression signal” sequence is according to Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s spine engine mechanics:

  1. Left front leg heel strike – compression signal travels up the leg into the pelvis telling it to open to the right,
  2. The signal continues up the spine into the shoulders, telling them to counter-rotate (left), and
  3. This is why your opposite arm and leg come forward at the same time.
Walking Mechanics

Photo courtesy: WalkezStore.com

Land Front Foot Closed OR Open?

Ryan Braun Front Toe Open

Photo courtesy: OnMilwaukee.com

Big guys like Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera land closed (less than 45-degrees). Small guys such as Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista tend to land open (more than 45-degrees).  Which way is the right way?

4 reasons to keep the front toe open (minimum of 45-degree angle):

  1. Joint Connection – Toe closed? So is knee and pelvis.  The compression signal travels fast after heel strike, so pelvis must be in neutral (or parallel to the plate) in order to open without friction,
  2. NO Separation – If toe, knee, and pelvis are closed after compression signal, then front shoulder has to compensate by flying open the same time as the pelvis.  This doesn’t engage our elastic energy systems.
  3. Compensation is Inevitable – We find the closed toe in hitters like Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera just end up peeling or jumping open anyway at or shortly after contact.  So why not get the toe out of the way to begin with?
  4. Pitchers Land Open – And also if you look at Olympic Throwers and Shot Putters, they all land open before they throw or “put” their objects.

 

Why the Timing of Torque is IMPORTANT

Jose Bautista Front Toe Open

Photo courtesy: OttawaLife.com

Torque timing in the swing, also known as shoulder-pelvis separation, is often cued wrong.  Instructors often yell, “Fire the Hips!”  In high level swing mechanics, we find the hips (or pelvis) does fire first.  But, the timing coaches cue on is all wrong.  Shoulder-pelvis separation occurs before the front heel touches down, NOT after.

If you missed the following parts to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series:

  • CLICK HERE for Common Mistake #1 featuring Ryan Braun
  • CLICK HERE for Common Mistake #2 featuring Adrian Gonzalez

Stay tuned for Common Mistake #4, where we debunk whether the friction-free swing is pushing or pulling the backside through

Does Adrian Gonzalez Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #2 (of 4)…

 

Adrian Gonzalez: Power Secret You Are Missing?

Photo credit: MLB.com

In the second installment to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, starring Adrian Gonzalez, we discuss why “walking away from the hands” doesn’t make sense.  A-Gon is a bigger hitter (*6’2″, 225lbs) who uses human movement science correctly to generate explosive rotational power.

*(According to Baseball-Reference.com)

We’ll use Adrian Gonzalez’s swing to talk about:

  • The simple science of loading,
  • How big hitters get away with ineffective mechanics, and
  • The power secret you are missing.

Contrary to popular belief, “walking away from the hands” is NOT how we load properly.  It decreases turning speed by arm barring.  In the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, if controversial gold medal winning ice skater Adelina Sotnikova could turn faster by barring an arm out, then don’t you think you’d see her do that?

 

The Simple Science of Loading

Cotton Candy Fascia

Photo credit: Thomas Myers

According to the book Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, the human body is loaded by connective tissue called Fascia, which is:

  • A cotton candy-like material,
  • To the body, like steel is to the building industry,
  • Connective tissue your bones and muscles float in,
  • Gives muscles their shape, and
  • At a constant battle to balance compression and tension forces within the body…Thomas Myers calls this Tensegrity (Tension-Integrity)

Big Hitters Get Away with Ineffective Mechanics

We’re studying the wrong hitters.  Pujols.  Hamilton.  Griffey Jr.  Paul Goldschmidt.

Ken Griffey Jr. was the perfect example of “walking away from the hands”.  People don’t realize, he succeeded despite ineffective mechanics, not because of them.  Here are some other notable athletes getting away with ineffective mechanics:

  • Kevin Durant, NBA’s leading scorer, succeeds despite flawed shooting mechanics.  His knees crash in, which is called Knee Valgus.
  • Tiger Woods succeeded despite being ineffective mechanically, later in his career (4 knee surgeries, in addition to numerous Achilles and back issues). CLICK HERE to read this “Muscle Power Golf, Not!” post about this.
  • Numerous pitchers throw 95+mph despite career shortening flawed mechanics (Kerry Wood and Mark Prior just to name two)

Spend more time analyzing hitters like: Braun, Cano, David Wright, Jose Bautista, McCutchen, Hank Aaron, and Sadaharu Oh (Japan’s career home run leader).  These small-sluggers have to move friction-free (or nearly) to compete.  Big-sluggers with friction-free swings include: Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Chris “Crush” Davis.

 

Power Secret You Are Missing

Of the nine fascial lines mentioned in Thomas Myers’ book Anatomy Trains, the Spiral Fascial Line (SPL) is very important to hitting…according to Thomas Myers:

Science of Loading the Body

Photo credit: Thomas Myers

“The overall movement function of the SPL is to create and mediate spirals and rotations in the body, and, in eccentric and isometric contraction, to steady the trunk and leg to keep it from folding into rotational collapse.”

I call this the ‘Springy X Pattern’.  Imagine an ‘X’ on the front and back of the torso.  When one leg of the ‘X’ shortens, then the other stretches.  Golf training expert Jason Glass of Jason Glass Performance calls these Rotational Power Slings.

Adrian Gonzalez “spring loads” his swing using what I call the Catapult Loading System (CLS).  It takes the Stability ‘X’ Pattern or Rotational Power Sling concepts and applies them to hitting.

Here are a few other world-class spring loaded athletes who’s movements are very similar to a hitter’s:

  1. Golfers,
  2. Olympic Shot Putters
  3. Olympic Throwers – Javelin, Discus, and Hammer
  4. Lacrosse

CLICK HERE in case you missed Part-1 to the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitter’s Make video series.  And CLICK HERE for Common Mistake #3, where we look into why a friction-free hitter SHOULD NOT land with the front toe closed

In This Softball Hitting Drills: Andrew McCutchen #1 Fix Video (4 of 4),

 

…of the Do This For Longer Drives softball hitting drills series, we’ll talk about:Softball Hitting Drills: Andrew McCutchen #1 Power Fix

  • #1 Fix to consistent power,
  • Science of compressing the spring, and
  • How Andrew McCutchen and others get springy…

 

#1 Fix to Consistent Power

According to Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains, consistent power doesn’t come from conventional softball hitting drills teaching:

  • Load hands back towards catcher,
  • Pull front arm,
  • Fire back hip,
  • Push back knee forward and/or down, or
  • Pull knob straight to the ball.

According to Dr. Erik Dalton in his collaborative book Dynamic Body, the brain-body connection doesn’t work in this way:

“Modern Science reveals the brain does not recognize individual muscle activities due to lack of practical purpose.”

 

Science of Compressing the Spring

The secret to consistent power lies in springy connective tissue called Fascia…Cotton Candy Springy Fascia

  • Cotton candy or spider web-like material,
  • The bones and muscles float in it,
  • Is made up of mostly stiff collagen…which to the body, is like steel to the building industry,
  • Compression and tension forces are acting within the body at all times, and
  • Compressing the spring happens in an “X” pattern across the front and back of the torso.

I call it the Catapult Loading System.

 

How Andrew McCutchen and Others Get Springy

Watch how similar the following athlete movements are…front shoulder down and back to back hip…

Andrew McCutchen – 2013 NL MVP:

Andrew McCutchen Gets Springy

Paul Rabil – USA Lacrosse, fastest throw on record:

Paul Rabil Springy Lacrosse Throw

Jurgen Schult (German) – Discus World Record Holder (since 1986):

Jurgen Schult (German) - Discus WR Holder

So, when doing softball hitting drills, charge the body’s springy fascial tissue.  This is the #1 fix to consistent power.  CLICK HERE if you missed Part-3: losing force transfer with a bad head-spine connection.

In This Andrew McCutchen Baseball Hitting Drills Video (3 of 4),

 

…of the Do This For Longer Drives series, we’ll talk about:Andrew McCutchen Baseball Hitting Drills Video

  • Breaking the One-Joint Rule,
  • Whether Cutch is ‘kinking the hose’, and
  • How-To re-pattern the impact position.

 

Breaking the One-Joint Rule

From the book, Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance, Dr. Kelly Starrett (KStar) says:

“The musculature [in the spine] is designed to create stiffness so that you can effectively transmit energy to the primary engines of your hips and shoulders.  If you don’t preserve trunk stiffness while moving from your hips and shoulders, you will lose power and force.    The is the basis for the one-joint rule: you should see flexion and extension movement happen at the hips and shoulders, not your spine.”

 

Is Cutch ‘Kinking the Hose’?

Just as kinking the hose while watering the lawn stops the flow of water.  Bending at the spine halts the transfer of energy at impact.  KStar says this about losing head-spine alignment:

“Hinging at one of the segments [vertebraes in the neck]…when we put a hinge across the central nervous system, the body recognizes that as a primary insult, or threat to the body, because you’re basically guillotining or kinking the nervous system.  You’ve kinked ‘the tube’, so it [force production] just drops off.”

 

How-To Re-Pattern the Impact Position

Follow this 12-week exercise progression (at least five days per week):

  • Super plank – week one: 1 set, hold for 30 secs, week two: 1 set, hold for 45 secs, week three: 2 sets, hold for 45 secs
  • Loaded super plank – week four: 2 sets, for 30 secs, week five: 2 sets, for 45 secs, week six: 2 sets, for 60 secs
  • Hip hinge with stick (patterning) – week seven: 2 sets X 12 reps, week eight: 2 sets X 15 reps, week nine: 3 sets X 12 reps
  • Loaded hip hinge (dead-lift) – week ten: 2 sets X 12 reps, week eleven: 2 sets X 15 reps, week twelve: 3 sets X 12 reps

Maintain head-spine alignment.  Perfect reps.  Use Coach’s Eye or Ubersense phone app (free) for feedback.   CLICK HERE for Part-4 for the #1 power fix…also, CLICK HERE if you missed Part-2: the faster turn.