Little Known Way To Optimize Bat & Ball Exit Speeds By Rotating “Under Load” (not what you think)

In today’s video, you’ll learn how to fix your flat feet

…(insert record scratch sound effect)…

“Wait a cotton pickin’ minute, so you’re showing me a video on how to correct ‘flat feet’?!  How is this suppose to help my hitters?”

…Someone somewhere might be saying 😉

The above video will be a game changer for the progress of your hitters.  It may even improve bat and ball exit speeds over time.  It may even fix some of the hitting faults you’re having a challenge correcting right now.  The content in the above video will improve both the rotational effectiveness and efficiency of your hitters.

Strength & Conditioning Coach Naudi Aguilar understands and applies Thomas Myers’s springy fascia principles in Anatomy Trains, and that’s WHY I follow him.  I highly recommend you CLICK HERE and “Subscribe” to his YouTube channel FunctionalPatterns and look into the courses on his website.  He already has  183,942 YouTube subscribers!

Oscar Pistorious Blade Runner

Oscar Pistorious (the Blade Runner) won 3 Gold Medals in the 2008 Olympics. Photo courtesy: DailyMail.co.uk

He’s a locomotion expert, and by the way – he talks really fast!  Here are a couple notes I took while watching the above video:

  1. Naudi talks about how the body doesn’t need lower leg to sprint at the highest level. Don’t believe me, CLICK HERE to watch this video of South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious who won 3 Gold Medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (about 0:45 minute mark).
  2. Relationship between pecs, lats, and glutes – anterior and posterior oblique slings, highly neglected part of training and carries a bigger influence on efficient movement (about 1:45 minute mark).
  3. Leg and knee should land as close to neutral as possible when running or walking with effective rotation.  If deviation occurs, then most likely there’s a deficiency in either the anterior and/or posterior oblique slings (about 3:05 mark).
  4. The idea of rotating “under load”. Using feedback mechanism – the resistance band – to “feed the mistake”.  Click to get WODFitters Pull Up Assist Bands on Amazon. (about the 4:45 mark).
  5. Practice functional movement patterns, walking, running, or hitting while using the feedback bands (about 8:30 mark).

 

In Application…

About point #1 above, as most of you know, I’ve been promoting a spine driven swing for the past 4+ years.  If you read Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s book The Spinal Engine and Thomas Myers’s Anatomy Trains, then you’ll discover that the legs aren’t necessary for locomotion, they’re an enhancement.  CLICK HERE for a post on this titled, “The Swing Does Not Start From The Ground And Move Up?”

About points #2 & #3 above, some experts call this the “Serape Effect”, “Power Slings”, or Thomas Myers labels these a combination of Spiral, Functional, and Lateral fascia lines.  Hitters, both young men and women, will have a deficiency here. Since a majority of hitters DO NOT take the same amount of swings and throws from the opposite side, there will be an imbalance created that MUST be addressed.  Diversifying in other sports does help, but most likely, there MUST be correction.

About point #4 above, Naudi Aguilar uses a band that’s much longer than the one I use at home, so you may not need to wind it around the mid-section as much as he does in the above video.  For me (I’m a right handed hitter/thrower), to correct dysfunction in rotational locomotion, I wrap my band over my left shoulder, then around my middle back, and then loop the end around my left leg.  You’d do the reverse to enhance rotation for a lefty.  I put this on at least 5 days per week, and wear it for about an hour while doing my morning routine.  I’ve found the tightness in my right foot, Achilles, and inside part of my right knee almost vanished within 3-4 weeks of doing this.

Also, CLICK HERE to learn where I talk a little more about “feeding the mistake” using Reactive Neuromuscular Training, or RNT to correct ‘stepping in the bucket’.

About point #5 above, Naudi mentions rotating “under load”.  Coaches, I’d advise having hitters experiment using the feedback bands while hitting, and recommend they wear it at home too, as a recovery tool.

These bands are a great way to counter-balance the imbalanced movements baseball and softball inherently promote.  If your hitters move better, they’re perform better.  Swinging smarter by moving better.

If You Don’t Pre-Hab or Rehab Your Ankles Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

 

Ankle Mobility: Freo or Slant Board
I sought out to do a 4-week case study – on myself – to see what the Freo Board could do for the chronic tightness on the inside of my right knee.

This was caused by playing 17 years of an unbalanced one-sided sport, baseball…along with a bad ankle sprain my Freshman year in college, and jamming my right leg into the hip climbing a wall going back on fly ball during a game against Fullerton my Sophomore year.

Also dumb knuckle-headed-ness like running a marathon in 2008, and doing high repetition Cross-fit WOD’s post marathon were straws that FINALLY broke the camel’s back (or in my case my knee).

I had been using a Foam RollTrigger Point, and stretching strategies in the past, and would feel better that day, but the tightness would return the next day.

And I’m happy to report that after one week of using the Freo Board, I haven’t had to Foam Roll or Trigger Point my TFL or IT Bands, or stretch out my hamstrings and calves in the last 3 weeks!

Some benefits I’ve felt:

  • Little to no tension on the inside of my right knee,
  • Better stability when changing direction,
  • More hamstring flexibility when bending over and picking things up,
  • Less calf tightness, and
  • Lighter on my feet.

Overall benefits of using a Freo or Slant Board…

  • Build better ankle mobility,
  • Secure better knee stability,
  • Make hip mobility better,
  • Overall better balance,
  • Great pre-rehabilitation for ankle, knee, and hip, and
  • Superb ankle, knee, or hip rehabilitation post injury.

Benefits for hitters…

  • Better dynamic balance on off-speed and breaking balls,
  • Will move better, therefore will perform better,
  • Boost in running speed and agility, and
  • More effective in dealing with and transferring Gravitational Forces.

Training Protocol

  • At least 4-5 days per week,
  • 5-10 minutes per day,
  • Do the “cross” foot positions on Days-1-3-5, and
  • Do the “X” foot positions on Days-2-4
  • Progressions: move the non-balancing leg in front, to the side, and behind the athlete

Resources mentioned in the above video

  • Yoga Mat,
  • Slant Board,
  • Freo Board (what I’m using in the video), and
  • GymBoss – Interval timer which I suggest setting at 20-secs work time, and 5-secs foot position switch time.

Look, whether you’re trying to reduce your risk for injury, currently rehabbing a recent injury, or the injury was a decade ago, the Freo Board will help…A LOT.

Please keep me updated on the progress of your hitters by using the Freo or Slant Board by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below…

David Weck & the WeckMethod are Turning Rotational Power Training on its Head

 

David Weck: WeckMethod RMT Club

You asked for it!

I had quite a few of my readers ask me about the WeckMethod of training by David Weck.  Btw, David is the inventor of the Bosu Ball, for those that train athletes for a living.  And the readers who kept bringing up his training referred to his new product the RMT Club (CLICK HERE to get it on Amazon), which you’ll learn more about in the above interview.

If you’ve never heard about the WeckMethod of training, and want to know what sets it apart, please CLICK HERE to view the following 35-min video.

If you’re short on time, then here’s a brief introduction to the WeckMethod of training from David Weck:

“What I do is more fundamental foundational work than specific hitting instruction.  My focus is improving systemic strength and power concentrating on Tensional Balance and Rotational Power – as well as non-dominant side training to provide a stronger foundation for sport specific skill.”

I feel like he’s onto something that most trainers ARE NOT. And it’s because he understands the foundation of locomotion.  He has a fantastic understanding of the human movement “rules”.

In my research, I fell into the following David Weck Carpool Tunnel fix video that helped get rid of the pinching in my right wrist, at the bottom of a push-up position, in about a week (I haven’t been good lately with my gymnastics wrist stretches 🙁:

Another great article I ran into in my research – and posted to social media – was an interview that Chris Holder did at BreakingMuscle.com with David Weck titled, “The Key To Speed Is In Your Spine”  There are great nuggets in there along with a few training videos.  It’s definitely worth your time.

The main video above is a Skype interview I did with David Weck that’s about 45-minutes.  A lot of great information in there that translates to hitters and HOW TO train power.  What follows are some of those talking points…

The Show Notes

  • How would you explain to a complete stranger what it is that you do? (1-min, 22-seconds)
  • DW explains Tensional Balance – relationship between suspension and transmission throughout your body, requires perfect alignment of skeleton, muscles, and connective tissue (1-min, 48-secs)
  •  When tensional balance & rotational power are dialed in, you can express more speed, control, power, etc. with LESS wear and tear on the body (3-mins, 10-secs)
  • Where did DW’s passionate curiosity into this realm of training come from? (4-mins, 20-secs)
  • DW discovered slow motion analysis while playing D3 college football – you cannot understand human movement with that slow frame by frame motion analysis, the eye in the sky does not lie…clock doesn’t lie…measuring tape doesn’t lie (6-mins, 0-secs)
  • Unmatched degree of intensity to enhancing human locomotion because of Bosu Ball success…was able to devote entire focus to seeking and finding answers. (7-mins, 23-secs)
  • Deep appreciate that locomotion is the key, developing straight ahead speed, is the key to developing the greatest rotational power (9-mins, 0-secs)
  • Human movement industry is about to be flipped on its head because of this breakthrough understand of “core” strength…the “Bracing Core” (weight room and picking up heavy objects) versus the “Coiling Core” (engaging in lateral movement – side bending and head over foot) (9-mins, 40-secs)
  • Real versus Feel coaching, “My athletes are doing something that I’m not coaching them to do”, high level athletes have an innate sense of speed and power, but coaches are trying to coach it out of them, elite athletes (like Olympic Gold Medal winning sprinter Michael Johnson) saying to do the exact opposite of what they’re doing on film!  Experts are teaching on a faulty foundation (11-mins, 40-secs)
  • DW is meeting with Marlon Byrd on getting specific with the WeckMethod exercises (14-mins, 7-secs)
  • Quick movement experiment…stand up right now and going through a throwing motion WITHOUT any side bending…how did that feel? Without side bend you’ll destroy your spine. You can train side bend. Locomotion is your foundation. (17-mins, 50-secs)
  • DW responds to the reader comment, “Is it logical to say that average kids can perform at a tier-1 level?” In context, the reader comment was to the claim that my 100-lb hitters consistently driving the ball 300-feet are standouts athletically.  Also, what makes a kid athletic? (20-mins, 10-secs)
  • DW explains how to train ipsilaterally (right shoulder-right hip) to get the “Serape Effect” or I like to call the “Springy X Pattern” (right shoulder-left hip) optimized for performance. Tighten the coil, time the sequence, and keep center of gravity to be neutral. Take clunky and make them fluid. (22-mins, 20-secs)
  • DW discusses the curse of moving the center of gravity during rotation.  Learning the axis of rotation, front/back, and side. Central control. Create a late rotate, like a whip. (25-mins, 0-secs)
  • The evolution of the spine, side bending is crucial to an S-shaped spine curve. (27-mins, 30-secs)
  • DW responds to the question, “Does sprinting, throwing, hitting start from the ground up?  Why or why not”. CLICK HERE for the HPL link I referred to in the video (33-mins, 30-secs)
  • DW talks about harmonizing the muscles with the connective tissue.  Least muscular contraction compared to the connective tissue. Muscles that are bound up, cannot relax.  Transmission of force, power equals speed.  Muscle acts like a circuit breaker. (34-mins, 0-secs)
  • DW discusses having tensional integrity between the muscles on the inside, and fascia on the outside. How integrity and connected the fascia is to muscles.  Bonds never lost body-weight transmission when he bulked up.  Strong is great, but not at a sacrifice of speed.  (37-mins, 0-secs)
  • We discuss Thomas Myers, Anatomy Trains, “finger flick” test to demonstrate the power of connective tissue over muscle contraction (38-mins, 44-secs)
  • DW responds to the question, “If you were going to prescribe 2 of your top RMT Club exercises to a baseball or softball player, what would they be?” Coiling Head Over Foot movement. Pulse of power. (39-mins, 30-secs)
  • DW top gifted books: Thomas Myers book Anatomy Trains, Jim Piersall book Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story (44-mins, 0-secs)

Recommended Top RMT Club Exercise for Baseball or Softball Players

CLICK HERE for a link to his blog to supplement this video.

Where can you find more about David Weck and the WeckMethod?

Please let me know if you want me to do a Part-2 interview with David Weck, and what questions you have for him about this presentation by REPLYING in the comments below…
Swing Experiment using the RMT Club coming soon 😉

A Simple Way To Make Adjustments, Build Swing Tempo, AND Elevate The Ball That Works For Mike Trout & Josh Donaldson

I have a treat for you…

A “grab-bag” of golden nuggets…

The following 11 hitting tips come from my most popular social media non-HPL links of 2016.

To give you an idea,

I typically promote 1 non-HPL link per day on the socials, so that’s 365 links getting put in front of my 20K+ followers.

I get a front row seat to see what coaches think interesting and worth their time.

The following creme-of-the-crop link montage, is arranged in descending order, least clicks to the most.

You’ll find these somewhat of a random sort, but they all relate to hitting, albeit indirectly in some cases.

Happy learning!

 

#11: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: How Mike Trout Approaches Hitting

This is the featured video above.

Sean Casey interviewed Mike Trout during Spring Training of 2016, where Trout discusses his hitting routine…I jotted down 9 key notes for you:

  1. First few rounds he works on hitting to RCF,
  2. Stay up the middle,
  3. A few times hit the ball to LCF, to stay square with the pitcher,
  4. He mentions not getting too ‘chicken wing’,
  5. Tee work: set it high and ‘get on top of the ball’ (to counteract dropping the shoulder and barrel too much),
  6. 10-20 swings trying to hit a ground-ball every time,
  7. In games, sit fastball, react to off-speed and breaking balls,
  8. On top of the plate, back of the batter’s box, and
  9. Work up the middle in games.

All these tips are pretty solid…

…for Mike Trout.

When I posted this, and made a note that Mike Trout is definitely not looking to optimize hitting the high pitch in games,

AND

He’s most definitely NOT trying to ‘get on top of the ball’ in games (both in reference to tip #5 above)…

There were a few men on Facebook that got their panties in a bunch, saying I was calling Mike Trout a liar…yada, yada, yada.

If we look at Mike Trout’s Sabermetrics at FanGraphs.com, the reality is, he’s THE BEST at hitting the low ball…and THE WORST at hitting the high ball.

So WHY does he practice hitting off a high tee?

Another look at Mike Trout’s metrics, and we see he’s:

  • Well below average in Ground-ball percentage (39.6% v. league average is 44%),
  • Above average in Line Drive percentage (22.1% v. league average is 20%),
  • Above average in Fly-ball percentage (38.2% v. league average is 36%), AND
  • Well above average in his Fly-ball to Home-run ratio (19.6% v. league average is 9.5%).

What does this mean?

It’s a ‘what’s real’ AND ‘what’s feel’ sort of thing…

Because he’s definitely NOT trying to hit ground-balls in games (contradicting hitting tips #5 & #6 from above).

So am I calling Mike Trout a liar…

And, WHY would he practice like this?

Earlier, notice how I said,

“All these tips are pretty solid…for Mike Trout.”

No, I didn’t say that because Mike Trout is a mutant, and only Mike Trout can do that and get away with it.

When coaches say this, it’s a cop out.  It means they have no REAL clue what’s REALLY going on.

Here’s where I’m going with this,

And it’s VERY important…

And also WHY I made popular link hitting tip #11 the featured video…

What John Doe Coach missed in the interview was when Trout mentioned he has a tendency to ‘chicken-wing’ and ‘drop his back shoulder and barrel’ too much.

In other words, uppercut too much.

Mike Trout is using these seemingly counter-intuitive hitting tips to make adjustments to his swing’s extreme tendencies.

I’m not calling Mike Trout a liar.

He’s a friggin’ smart competitive athlete.

He knows himself and his swing, and makes the necessary adjustments to stay in the black, and not get too far in the red.

There’s no secret,

Mike Trout is trying to get the ball in the air.

It’s like the advice Lightning McQueen heard in the animated movie Cars, “Turn left to go right”…when attempting to correct a spin-out.

 

#10: Hitting A Baseball – “The Hardest Thing To Do In Sports”

CLICK HERE for this article by Axon Sports.

Some of the things you’ll gain by reading this:

  • “Hitting is timing.  Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn,
  • Why “Keep your eye on the ball”, or “Watch the ball hit the bat” is humanly IMPOSSIBLE according to research, and
  • Awesome info-graphic breaking down the reaction time of a hitter.

 

#9: Hamstring Flexibility: 6 Tips to Loosen Up

CLICK HERE for the full article by GMB Fitness.

98% of my hitters are immobile in the hip.

And oftentimes, this comes in the form of tight hamstrings.

This is a great post looking into factors and strategies you can employ to improve the flexibility of your hitter’s hamstrings…and maybe yours 😉

 

#8: Bryce Harper is pounding the ball into the ground to no avail

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

This article was written July 28th, 2016 with a sub-head that reads:

“He’s gotta figure out how to elevate more despite pitchers giving him few pitches to elevate.”

This was when B.H. was struggling to lift the ball early in the season.

The article talks about how Harper’s dramatic launch angle change (down), led to a dramatic increase in his ground-ball rate.

The post discusses how pitchers are throwing him more outside and down in the zone.

The bottom line?

…Is that a ground-ball focused hitting strategy SUCKS!!!

It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball, if you can’t elevate, you’ll hit A LOT of worm burners that end up as outs at the higher levels.

#7: Are overbearing parents ruining the Westlake baseball program?

CLICK HERE for this LA Times post.

The parent and player behavior is probably not going to surprise you…

However, I want you to ask yourself the question as you read this,

“How did the coaches respond to the parents that clearly didn’t work?”

How could coach be more effective in dealing with parents in this environment, if a million dollar bet was on the line?

Look, maybe the athletes are spoiled brats, or maybe the coaches just don’t have an effective strategy for dealing with this situation.

In other words, don’t label the players or parents “mean” right away…

Be creative, brainstorm, and future pace how you’d handle this situation.

Because chances are, you will run across this scenario, in some form, in your lifetime.

#6: Clayton Kershaw UMPIRE VIEW of pregame warm up

You will get better at Pitch Recognition watching this video.

In the spirit of the playoffs, this video features arguably one of the best pitchers in history, Clayton Kershaw.

Do this for me…

Watch this video for a couple minutes, trying to pick up the “shape” of each pitch he throws, like what Perry Husband talks about in this article.

Then pick a series of pitches, see which pitch Clayton Kershaw signals to the catcher, look at his release, and close your eyes.

This would be like Dr. Peter Fadde’s video occlusion training featured in this post.

Then try to pick another series of pitches, don’t look at him signal to the catcher what he’s throwing, and test yourself.

This is such a cool game to do with hitters.

 

#5: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blasts 33 HR in 60 Swings in Home Run Derby in the DR (Round 2 November 2014) 

I know this isn’t Vlad G. the first, but there are a lot of similarities to their swings.  A few notes to look out for while watching him hit…

  • Toe-tap for timing
  • Aggressive move towards the pitcher with stride
  • Back foot stays sideways until follow through
  • Great knee action at landing (front), and during the turn (back)
  • Showing numbers to pitcher as close to landing as possible
  • Downward shoulder angle as close to landing as possible.

What do you see?

 

#4: Donaldson gives a hitting demo

Cool MLB.com interview with Josh Donaldson on developing timing and rhythm at the plate, with Sean Casey.

A couple notes from the video below:

  • Find out what’s comfortable for you
  • Leg kick: engaged into back hip not back knee
  • Leg kick: control when get front foot down
  • Being on time, not about getting front foot down on time
  • Soft focus on the pitcher, recognize pitch better at the plate ( stay relaxed)
  • Hit with music on, adds a smooth tempo to the swing
  • Watch Manny Ramirez setup to swing, “boring” rhythm at the plate (again relaxed mindset)
  • Put the work in (Sean Casey)

 

#3: Which is Better? A Ground Ball Pitcher or a Fly Ball Pitcher

CLICK HERE for this FanGraphs.com post.

I included the following chart from this post on my Ground-ball RANT post

Fangraphs Ground-ball metrics

Most understand Line Drives MUST be the main hitting objective (for a majority of swings), however I want you to compare the Ground-ball metrics to the Fly-ball metrics from the chart above:

  • A 32-point increase in Batting Average with Ground-ball over a Fly-ball,
  • A 358-point INCREASE in ISO (or raw power) with Fly-balls over Ground-balls…AND
  • A 115-point INCREASE in weighted On-Base Average with Fly-Balls over Ground-balls, which according to FanGraphs.com…

“Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively.”

So, WHY are we still teaching hitters to hit ground-balls, and NOT to elevate?  Beside situational hitting of course.

What’s more…

 

#2: Scooter Gennett and ground balls

CLICK HERE for this Beyond the Box Score post.

I love the sub-header, which reads:

“Scooter Gennett’s offense has declined every year since he broke into Major League Baseball, are ground balls the reason?”

After careful metric analysis, Shawn Brody the post’s author, says:

“In my mind, Gennett should be closer to his 2014 level of production, which is something he could return to if he put the ball in the air more often.”

Hitting consistent ground-balls will land you on the bench at the higher levels, unless of course you have plus running speed.

In which case, analysis shows that any launch angle above 10-degrees, makes faster running speed irrelevant.

So, what if a hitter hits the ball just plain hard?

Maybe the following #1 link post from my 20K+ followers will shed light on that…

 

#1: Jon Lester shows importance of launch angleBackspin Tee: Launch Angles

CLICK HERE to read this Cubs.com post.

The great case study article discusses how Jon Lester ranks second among Major League hitting pitchers with an average Ball Exit Speed of 92.5-mph.

So, what’s the problem?

Quoted from the article:

“…(He ended up with four hits on the season in 71 plate appearances, a .065/.108/.065 line.) Part of it is that, like many pitchers, contact was an issue — Lester’s 42.3 percent strikeout rate was above the 37.7 percent average for pitchers.”

How could Lester hit the ball so hard without finding much hitting success?

Again, quoted from the article:

“…it’s because 19 of Lester’s 24 tracked batted balls failed to get above 7 degrees of launch angle. Sixteen of those 19 failed to even achieve positive launch angle, which is to say that he pounded the ball into the ground constantly.”

In other words, to get the ball in the air, the hitter MUST have a positive launch angle.  About 10-degrees positive will get the ball to the outfield grass…on the “big” field.

If the hitter has a negative or less than 10-degree positive launch angle, THEY WILL:

  1. Hit A LOT of worm burners,
  2. Strikeout more,
  3. NOT get many hits, and
  4. Professionally speaking, NOT make it past A-ball (if they’re lucky enough to make it that far).

Even if they’re lighting up the BES radar guns.

Here’s a BONUS link for ya…

CLICK HERE to read a Cut4 article highlighting Giancarlo Stanton hitting the hardest ball ever recorded by Statcast at 123.9-mph, but it was hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Here’s the lesson folks…

Line drives tend to be between 10-20 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Dingers tend to be between 20-40 degree positive launch angles (see image above).

Of course, whether it’s over the fence or not will depend on the Ball Exit Speed.

It’s not enough to hit the ball hard.

Teach hitters to elevate.

Get barrel on path of incoming pitch.

Focus on striking bottom half of ball.

That, my coaching friend, is how to decrease strikeouts, mishits, and weak fly-balls…AND increase BA, ISO, and wOBA.

How To Get Wrist Flexibility & Strength For Hitters By Doing Gymnastics Training?

 

Wrist Flexibility & Exercises For Hitters

Handstand GymnasticBodies.com. Photo courtesy: GymnasticBodies.com

This post is for Coach David Michael Enciso (DME).

He mentioned having a couple girls that had stiff wrists, and was wondering about stretches.

To those that don’t know,

I’ve been doing Gymnastics body-weight strength training through GymnasticBodies.com over the past four months.

That link will give you $25 OFF their Fundamentals course.

I don’t get commission on that, I just think what Coach Sommers has put together is excellent training for baseball and softball players!

By the way, Coach Sommers was the former US Olympic men’s Gymnastics coach.

I’ve also recommended his program to quite a few of my hitting students and parents online and off.

I personally finished the Fundamentals 4-week course, and moved onto the Handstand course, which I’ve been working on for the past 2-3 months months.

However, I’d recommend my players completing the Fundamentals course first, then moving onto the Foundation courses, before moving onto Handstand.

In the video above, I show you all the wrist stretches and strengtheners that I do on a daily and bi-weekly basis for my Handstand training.

The wrist stretches alone got rid of a painful pinch on the backside of my right wrist (my throwing hand), that I’ve had for the last 5 years, at the bottom of the push-up position…the pinch was gone in 2-weeks!

Do the THREE stretches EVERYDAY as prescribed in the video,

AND

Do the FOUR exercises 3-sets X 5-repetitions each wrist, 2-3 times per week.

PLEASE keep me updated on any changes you find in your hitters, from these wrist stretches and exercises.

Make sure we’re swinging smarter by moving better 😉

Reader Question: “What flexibility work do you do with your trainees to enhance counter-rotation of the torso as the foot lands open?”

 

Andrew McCutchen 'Showing his Numbers' to the Pitcher

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ to the pitcher, while landing open with lower half. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This questions stems from how I teach hitters to ‘show their numbers’ to the pitcher during the load, as close to stride landing as possible…

(see image of Andrew McCutchen)

But for this to work, here’s the kicker…

The hitter MUST land open with the bottom half…front foot open between 45 and 60-degrees.

This creates what some coaches call torque, or counter-rotation of the shoulders-to-pelvis…

These are basic walking mechanics of the spine…and is why, as your right leg swings forward, so does your left arm.

So how do we optimize this action with our hitters using flexibility and strengthening?

I’m about 8-weeks into an online gymnastics strength training course through GymnasticBodies.com myself.  I’ve finished their Fundamentals course, and currently working through their Handstand course.

GymnasticBodies.com Fundamentals Course Deal

Photo courtesy: GymnasticBodies.com

CLICK HERE to get $25 OFF full price of $100 for their Fundamentals course.  I don’t get paid if you purchase the course.  I just LOVE what they’re doing, and believe ALL hitters MUST be engaging in this type of mobility and strength training.

(PLEASE NOTE: I’m not sure how long this deal will be up, so jump on it!)

Why am I putting myself through this training?

#1: as my wife will tell you, this is a gross obsession of mine…sometimes bordering on OCD.

And #2: I wanted to pick up a few things about bodyweight training mobility and stability for my hitters.

One of my guiding principles is if you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

And if you’re a coach that takes mentoring young athletes seriously, then you MUST be subscribing to the same proactive learning principles.

So, in the above video, we go over:

  • Rotation v. Anti-Rotation (acceleration v. braking systems)
  • Rotation stretch – hold each side for at least 30-secs
  • Rotation strengthen:
    • Windshield Wipers – do 10 repetitions each side
  • Anti-Rotation strengthen:
    • Side Plank (anti-side bend) – start off with holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery
    • 3-Point Plank (anti-rotation of pelvis) – start off holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery.

ENJOY!

The Imbalance Risks Hiding In Your Swing

8 Exercises To Help Fix Hitting Imbalances In 16-Weeks

Chicks dig the Fiddler Crab’s GIANT lopsided (and colorful) hook. Photo courtesy: AnimalsTown.com

In this post, I want to answer the following reader suggestion for future content on the HPL  blog:

“Exercises for imbalances created by hitting.”

I include the following corrective exercise strategy in The Truth About Explosive Rotational Power online video DIY hitting course.

And part of The Feedback Lab online video lesson program is prescribing a formulation of these exercises depending on what I see that’s possibly limiting range of motion for my local and online hitters.

A little background on my 10+ years in the corrective fitness industry:

  • Certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM),
  • Certified with Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) through NASM,
  • Certified through the Functional Movement Screen (FMS),
  • Yoga certified through YogaFit, and
  • Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) certified through the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA).

 

In Baseball & Softball, Imbalance is Not Only Tolerated, but Promoted

I was a right handed hitter and thrower for all 17-years of my playing career ending at Fresno State.

You don’t go to the gym and pick up a 30-pound dumbbell, do 100 bicep curls with your right arm, and then go home…do you?

People would think you’re nuts!

But think about what we have our players doing on the diamond…

How many swings and throws does a baseball or softball athlete take everyday, or at least every practice, without doing the same amount of repetitions on the opposite side to balance out?

It just doesn’t happen this way, right?! At least if we’re like most hitters that don’t switch hit.

My best friend and teammate, who was a switch hitter in college, would argue hearing me say this, but…

The ONLY advantage a switch hitter has over a dominant side hitter and thrower, like me, is a more balanced body.

The advantage IS NOT seeing a breaking ball “come into” the hitter.

Ted Williams and Babe Ruth did just fine batting left handed their whole career.  And I think Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, and Jose Bautista will do just the same batting right handed for the rest of their careers.

However, when it comes to body balance, all these hitters NEED to be doing something else to counter-balance the imbalance inherent in baseball and softball.

 

The Hitting ‘Governor’

What happens is what I call the Hitter’s ‘Governor Affect’.  Bus engines have what’s called a Centrifugal Governor in the engine to keep the bus from going too fast.

Here’s an example of how this works…

One of my other good friends who played baseball at Pepperdine, demonstrated this with his 2001 Chevy Silverado…

In the summer, we were in his truck driving to Calabasas for a party at his apartment with his roommates, when he said, “Watch this…”, and proceeded to put his pedal to the metal

I saw his odometer climb until it approached 90-mph on HWY-101, when the engine automatically down shifted, and I saw the odometer drop 20-mph in the matter of a few short seconds.  CRAZY!  At the time, I never knew anything like that existed.

Our brain does the same thing to our bodies when there’s a hip mobility, shoulder, or ankle mobility issue.  Sometimes there are more than one issue that needs to be addressed, in order to raise the limit of the brain/body’s own Centrifugal Governor.

 

How-to Fix an Imbalanced Athlete?

I’ve mentioned in a past post, the SIX most balancing disciplines to participate in are:

  1. Martial Arts,
  2. Gymnastics,
  3. Olympic Lifting,
  4. Yoga,
  5. Dance, and
  6. Swimming…

What if your hitters haven’t participated in any of these athletic endeavors for at least 3-5 years?

I’m presenting a 16-week corrective exercise program helping to make dysfunctional movement functional, in baseball and softball athletes, enabling them to move better, and as a result, will perform better.

This is NO joke!

Ask any bone Doc why they’re getting an increase in injured baseball and softball players over the past decade, and I bet you they’ll say overuse and imbalances.  Studies and research are showing that present day athletes spend 85% of their day sitting!!

AND, the sport of baseball and softball isn’t known to be the most active of sports.  Awhile back, I read another study that accumulated all the ‘active’ movement time in a 6-inning game, and I remember it concluding a total of about 4-minutes…

That was shocking to me!  I didn’t realize how ‘lazy’ my favorite sport was.

But that’s our reality, so we have to take care of our athletes…

Here’s the 16-week program to getting young athletes to move better, so they perform better (in order of highest to lowest priority)…

 

Weeks 1-4: Hip & Shoulder Mobility

Passive Leg Lower
  • Do once daily,
  • Weeks 1-2: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, AND
  • Weeks 3-4: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…

 

8-Way Shoulder Circles
  • Do 2-3 times daily
  • Three circles clockwise and counterclockwise at each shoulder position
  • Keep reps slow and controlled…

 

Weeks 5-8: Rotary Stability (Braking Systems) & Core Stability

Bird Dogs
  • Do once daily,
  • Add band resistance if necessary,
  • Weeks 1-2: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, AND
  • Weeks 3-4: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…

 

Super Plank
  • Do once daily,
  • Weeks 1: 1 set X 30-45 second hold,
  • Weeks 2: 1 set X 45-60 second hold
  • Weeks 3: 2 sets X 30-45 second hold
  • Weeks 4: 2 sets X 45-60 second hold, and
  • CLICK HERE for the Plank-Up progression if needed…

 

Weeks 9-12: Ankle Mobility & Glute Activation

Ankle Circles
  • Do 2-3 times daily
  • Three circles clockwise and counterclockwise at each ankle position
  • Keep reps slow and controlled and reach into those ‘corners’…

 

Single Leg Floor Bridge
  • Do once daily,
  • Add band resistance if necessary,
  • Weeks 1-2: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, AND
  • Weeks 3-4: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…

 

Weeks 13-16: Hurdle Step & Squatting Patterns

Super Mountain Climbers
  • Do once daily,
  • Incline to regress OR decline to progress intensity,
  • Weeks 1: 1 set X 30-45 seconds,
  • Weeks 2: 1 set X 45-60 seconds,
  • Weeks 3: 2 sets X 30-45 seconds, and
  • Weeks 4: 2 sets X 45-60 seconds…

 

Squat Pattern Progression
  • Do once daily,
  • Weeks 1-2: 2 sets X 12 reps, AND
  • Weeks 3-4: 2 sets X 15 reps…

How to Become a Hitting Expert When You Come Across “That Guy” (Baseball Hitting Drills For Youth Included)

So, this is what I have to deal with on a weekly basis…

I also want to apologize in advance, this is a little bit of a rant.

Before going into the baseball hitting drills for youth, here’s some context,

It all started when I posted this image of Buster Posey in his ‘Float’ position on Twitter (CLICK HERE for Twitter thread):

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The caption I put over the Twitter image stated: “Hitting Misconception: ‘Keep the back knee inside the foot’. Buster Posey is ‘floating’ with his knee over ankle…”

This is when my conversation with @13tys started…

@13tys: his knee is inside his foot! No?

@hitperformlab (Me): nope, knee floating slightly off center of ankle.

@13tys: just showed the same pic to my 11yr old and asked him, reply “are you stupid? His knee is inside his ankle”.

(This is when I get the feeling that I was dealing with “that guy”)

@hitperformlab: he’s kind of bias don’t you think? Lol

@13tys: just showed the pic and asked. I usually use my 9 and 11 yr olds to call a spade a spade. They don’t know baseball politics.

@hitperformlab: it’s not the ideal angle, I’ll find another. You believe in keeping the knee inside at all costs?

@13tys: you don’t have to, but the further back it goes, the tougher u make hitting. Already tough enough w/o that much movement!

@hitperformlab: C’mon man! Had to prove to your 10yo I’m not “stupid” lol. Just did simple Google image search.

(Here are the two images of Buster Posey I posted to the baseball hitting drills for youth Twitter thread)...

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: www.BayAreaSportsGuy.com

AND

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

@13tys: still, we are looking at the same thing and seeing different things. To me, that knee is still not on top of the ankle.

(by the way, in the beginning of our Twitter conversation, I said “knee floating slightly off center of ankle”)…

@hitperformlab: let me get my 2 year old to comment on your comment lol

@hitperformlab: Posey is creating torque in his back hip. Also depends on the severity of the leg kick, Posey’s is about medium…hope this helps

@13tys: creating torque?? Seriously? This is y kids are so confused by their “hitting coaches” #keepitsimple

(Then like the “good American citizen” he is, posts a screenshot of the definition of “Torque”)…

@hitperformlab: I’m talking to you, not to kids. Read Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book The Supple Leopard.

@13tys: sorry, My experience and knowledge come from yrs in cages & video w/ the best hitters ever, some come from books on crossfit

@hitperformlab: book that’ll rock you’re isolated hitting world? Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.

(Then there was radio silence…)

FIRST of all, if spending years in the cages AND analyzing video of the best hitters ever, magically made you know EVERYTHING you need to know about effective hitting, then we wouldn’t have the problem we do today with guys like this, coming up with effective baseball hitting drills for youth hitters.

“That guy” is a soaked sponge, and has reached his ceiling of knowledge when it comes to hitting.

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Alex Rodriguez Barrel Down

Baseball hitting drills for youth: Alex Rodriguez NOT keeping barrel above hands like he said. Photo courtesy: NewsDay.com

If experience, cage work, and analysis were the only standard of learning the swing, then we’d all have to accept what Alex Rodriguez shared about the secret to his swing during the 2015 World Series FOX Sports broadcast…

How he talked about keeping the barrel above his hands when hitting.  And we ALL know how well that little tip would help our hitters 😛

And SECOND, this “talking down to you” TWEETitude, is a sure sign of an inferior coach, nevertheless, a knucklehead for a human being.

Slightly off topic…

Read this Business Insider article titled, “4 behaviors are the most reliable predictors of divorce”.

Guess which one of the ‘4 horsemen of the apocalypse’ is the worst offender in marriages…

CONTEMPT (aka, the “talking down to you” attitude).

Okay, back on topic…

Look, if we as coaches don’t have a solid foundation in human movement principles, validated by science, then we’re pissing in the wind!  Without this foundation, conversations about hitting would model a Merry-Go-Round.  Many of you have experienced this ridiculous insanity in popular online hitting forums.

Look at this slow motion video of Buster Posey.  Look at the difference of the back knee position (over the ankle, slightly off center) at the 0:03 video mark, versus at the 0:09 video mark during the fall forward…

Here’s the holdup with hitting coaches, even ones I agree with on a majority of things,

They think that the back knee MUST stay inside the foot at ALL times.  So, they teach ALL their hitters to do this, often putting the hitter’s back knee in an unnatural and awkward position before Forward Momentum.

If you think this knee position is healthy, then CLICK HERE to learn how bad putting the knee into a ‘knee valgus’ position is to our youth athletes from FunctionalMovement.com.

In addition,

These same instructors may also suggest and teach there hitters that when the back knee gets over the ankle, that it’s a BAD thing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The shifting of the knee back over the ankle should have a purpose.  A couple baseball hitting drills for youth concepts:

  1. A timing mechanism that I like to call the ‘Float’, AND
  2. Creating torque, or stability, in the back hip.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #1: Using the ‘Float’

A ‘Float’ is a timing mechanism the hitter uses just before falling forward.  It generally can be observed as a slight weight shift back towards the catcher before falling forward.

With the ‘Float’, the severity of the knee shift will depend on the leg kick.  The higher the leg kick, the more the shifting of the knee over the ankle may have to happen.

For example, Willie Mays didn’t have much of a weight shift (or Float) back, he just fell forward with a slide step:

However, watch slow motion video of Josh Donaldson, who has a high leg kick, and you’ll see him virtually ‘pause’ on one leg, before his fall forward:

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #2: Creating Hip Torque & Stability

Okay, so what is creating torque to stabilize the back hip mean?  Let Dr. Kelly Starrett, Physical Therapist and owner of San Francisco CrossFit, at MobilityWOD.com explain its importance:

Here’s a baseball hitting drills for youth coaching cue that I use…

Borrowed from Dr. Kelly Starrett, I say to my hitters “screw the back ankle into the foot”.  I also advise them to point the back toe slightly inward towards the pitcher at setup, and to keep it there while screwing the ankle in.  The keyword is slight, not a lot.

Take a look at this video of Jose Bautista fouling a ball off, and watch how he ‘bows’ his back knee in, but at about the 0:06 second mark (when he begins his fall forward), the back knee starts to shift back towards the catcher…his back hip and thigh bone are searching for stability after being put in an unstable internally rotated (knee valgus) position at setup:

Now, CLICK HERE to watch this video clip of Ted Williams, and keep an eye on the back knee action between the 0:06-0:15 video mark.  Sorry, this YouTuber disabled the embed code so I couldn’t embed the video here.

What did arguably one of the best hitters of all time do with his back knee prior to Forward Momentum.  Boy, didn’t it shift back over the ankle?!

How about this homerun hit by Asdrubal Cabrera (watch the slow motion chest view at the 0:41 second mark)…

One more video…

Check out Matt Kemp.  As you can see, he starts with his back knee inside his foot, then watch for his back knee action prior to Forward Momentum:

Now, is this making baseball hitting drills for youth more complicated, like Mr. @13tys said?

Heck no!  It takes about 5 to 10-mins to explain to my 7-year-old hitters, and they begin applying it in their swings.  Easy peasy.

So after looking at all this, here’s the point of my baseball hitting drills for youth rant…

Don’t get caught up drinking the cool-aid of other hitting experts, blowhards, or “That Guy” without questioning what they’re saying.  Remember, we aren’t just observers.  We’re amateur scientists in a way.

I don’t claim to know it all.  And am still learning.  But I know for a fact, I’m on a better road than “That Guy”.

Look, I don’t mind being challenged, but if you don’t back up what you’re saying with human movement principles, that are validated by science, then you’ll lose.  We aren’t debating baseball hitting drills for youth philosophies or theories…we analyze through the lens of validated science.  Physics, Engineering, Bodywork, Biology, Chemistry, and Biomechanics.

I DO NOT care what level you played or coached at.

I DO NOT care if you’ve digested a million hours of slow motion video footage of only the BEST hitters.

I also DO NOT care if you’ve logged more hitting lesson hours than it takes to fly to Mars!!

If you don’t understand the human movement “rules”, then you DO NOT understand high level hitting, or better yet, high level human performance.

I know this may upset some of you out there.  But I don’t care.  The days of being “That Guy” are numbered.  If you aren’t moving with us, then you’ll be left behind.  And that’s the truth.

Early Sport Specialization

Photo courtesy: ExpertTableTennis.com

I may be shooting myself in the foot on this one…

But I feel it is my duty to educate parents and coaches,

That today, early sport specialization is an epidemic among younger athletes.

And it’s caused by a paper tiger need to stay competitive.

Nothing fires me up more than coaches NOT allowing their players to play other sports throughout the year.

In this post, I’ll address these three things:

  • Smart Coaches Focus on Long Term Athlete Development,
  • Stop Early Sport Specialization, and
  • Why Early Specialization in Baseball or Softball May Be Dangerous to an Athlete’s Health.

 

Smart Coaches Focus on Long Term Athlete Development

I feel bad for oblivious parents in youth baseball and softball nowadays.  Their motivation to “catch-up” to the competition is HUGE because they don’t want to see their child sitting on the bench.  And rightfully so.

So, what is a parent to do?  Spend $100-200 per month on a travel team that promises tournament play every weekend, plus three practices during the week…all year long!  The goal is reps, reps, reps.  That’s how they see getting to the 10,000 hour mark of sport mastery.

I’m here to tell you this approach is VERY misled.

When I hear this, I see these parents spinning their tires.  Sure, they may get to those 10,000 hours, but at what cost?

And does it really take 10,000 hours?

You’ll find out shortly…

Be honest with yourself,

Do you subscribe to the 10,000 hour rule of “the more reps the better”, I talked about earlier?  You’ve read The Talent Code right?

Well, like 3-times NY Times best selling author, Tim Ferriss, says in the video above, most of the time people are spending their 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice”, practicing the wrong things.  In this since, it’s not how you study, but what you study that counts.

What do we study then?

Human movement rules that are validated by science.

It’s doing the right things, and then doing those things correctly.

So, what does Long-Term Athletic Development look like?

It’s diversifying an athlete’s movement background early on.  Let’s look at a Scandinavian Study that will shock you…

 

Stop Early Sport Specialization

Early Sport Specialization

Photo courtesy: IYCA.org

Wil Fleming from the International Youth & Conditioning Association (IYCA), which I’m a member of, put out a post that highlighted a recent Scandinavian Study that several researchers (Moesch, Elbe, Haube and Wikman) published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Sport Science.

The researchers asked elite athletes and near elite athletes to answer questions about their experiences in athletics regarding their training and practice throughout their career:

  • The near-elite athletes actually accumulated more hours of training than the elite athletes prior to age 15.
  • By age 18 the elite athletes had accumulated an equal number of hours training to the near elite athletes.
  • From age 18-21 elite athletes accumulate more training hours than near elite athletes.
  • Elite athletes said that they passed significant points in their career (first competition, starting a sport) at later dates than the near elite athletes.

What the Scandinavian Study suggests is early sport specialization was found to be a likely predictor of classification as a near-elite athlete.  According to the aforementioned IYCA article link,

“Despite much evidence that early specialization can lead to higher levels of burnout and dropout, many coaches still believe that the only way athletes can reach 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is to begin specialization at an extremely early age.”

What’s more…

According to David Epstein, in his book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletes, it’s a hardware AND software issue.  Not just nature OR nurture, but both!  You can’t have the latest greatest software on a 5 year old computer, just like you can’t have the latest greatest computer running Windows ’98.

Young athletes MUST develop the hardware early, between ages 10 and 15 years of age, which means playing other sports that aren’t one-side dominant like baseball/softball, golf, or tennis.  Ideally, Martial Arts, Dance, Gymnastics, Swimming, Football, Basketball, etc.

This updates the hardware.

Then, from 16 to 18 years of age or so, it’s smart to start specializing, so the athlete can update their software for that sport.  From David Epstein’s research, athletes that generalized early on, did better at the sport they specialized in later, than athletes that specialized in the same sport early on.  The latter may have more sophisticated software, but their running it on a 5 year old computer.

Here’s evidence, validated by science, that the 10,000 hour deliberate practice rule can be misleading.  The key is a well-rounded movement experience for young athletes, at least if you want to give them a better shot at achieving the elite athlete status.

This is Long-Term Athlete Development in a nutshell.

 

Why Early Specialization in Baseball or Softball May Be Dangerous to an Athlete’s Health

Tommy John Surgery

Photo courtesy: Health.HowStuffWorks.com

This was my story with baseball…

I played 17 years of baseball as a right handed hitter and right handed thrower.

At the time, taking reps on my left side, to me, was a complete waste of time.

Imagine going to the gym everyday and doing one hundred-fifty bicep curls with a 30-pound dumbbell using your right arm only.

This next statement will get me in A LOT of hot water with my switch-hitting teammates…

But switch-hitting DOES NOT give as big a competitive advantage that everyone thinks.  Of course, switch hitting from the standpoint of a coach writing a competitive lineup, or that switch-hitters are more balanced athletes from a human movement perspective, sure.  But not to the performance of the individual hitter.

Before you get upset, think about it…

Did Babe Ruth feel the need to switch hit?  How about Ted Williams?  Do you think Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, or Andrew McCutchen feel the need to see a breaking ball “come into” them?

No.

A hitter will collect data and make adjustments accordingly, whether they’re facing a righty or lefty pitcher.

Not only is baseball or softball one of the most imbalanced sports you can play, but it’s also one of the least active, next to golf.  I read or heard a study somewhere that analyzed the action in a 7-inning baseball game, and on average, a player will have 4-minutes of real activity.

Now, that’s saying something about the state of this sport!

Heck, want to know my thoughts on the increase in pitcher Tommy John surgeries?

Check out this post from Grantland.com titled, “The Tommy John Epidemic: What’s Behind the Rapid Increase of Pitchers Undergoing Elbow Surgery?”

Is the cause:

  • Low/high pitch counts?
  • The move to the 5-man rotation?
  • Faster arm speeds?
  • The angle of the elbow during the throw?  OR,
  • “Unnatural” torque produced by the body in an overhand throwing position (versus underhand)?

In the grand scheme of things, I believe it’s none of these.  The damage is being done much sooner than this.

The damage is being done when young athletes are choosing (or being forced, in the case of less informed High School coaches) to specialize in one sport.  The above bullet points are just the straws that break the camel’s back…or ahem, elbow.

I ask all my new hitters what other sports they play or participate during their hitting evaluation.  Here is a list of sports developing a diversified (GOOD) or specialized (BAD) movement athlete…

GOOD (well rounded sports):

  • Gymnastics (recommended),
  • Dance (recommended),
  • Martial Arts (recommended),
  • Soccer,
  • Football (everyone but kickers and quarterbacks), and
  • Basketball.

BAD (one-sided sports):

  • Baseball/Softball,
  • Football: kickers and quarterbacks,
  • Tennis,
  • Golf,
  • Volleyball (serves and spikes), and
  • Olympic Throwers & Shot Putters.

Okay, so what can you do if you’re a parent or coach stuck in this rat-trap?  Three things:

  1. On the 10,000 hour deliberate practice rule – it’s not about reps, reps, reps.  It’s not how you study, but what you study that counts.  Make sure the hitting information you’re learning is validated by science.  For coaching resources, look into the IYCA I mentioned earlier, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.
  2. Early Sport Specialization – DON’T do it!  The Scandinavian Study proved that young athletes who specialize early will most likely experience burnout and dropout, along with limit the level they can achieve in their sport.
  3. Higher Injury Rates – you’re making a BIG mistake when you decide to play only baseball or softball.  Make sure to play other balanced sports that I mentioned in the “GOOD (well rounded sports)” section above.
Coach Lee Taft

Coach Lee Taft: “The Speed Guy”. Photo courtesy: LeeTaft.com

“Rules are for the Obedience of Fools and the Guidance of Wise Men.” – Douglas Bader

This is the second in a 3-part interview series…

The more I coach youth hitters and athletes, the more I realize that coaching isn’t about coaching (or telling), but listening.  This year, I’ve really grown in asking my hitters and athletes better questions.

My next guest will get into this more in a moment, but for now, it’s my honor to introduce…

Lee Taft, known to most simple as “The Speed Guy”, is highly respected as one of the top athletic movement specialist in the world. The last 25 years he has devoted the majority of his time training multi-directional speed to all ages and ability. He has spent much of this time teaching his multi-directional speed methods to top performance coaches and fitness professionals all over the world. Lee has also dedicated countless hours mentoring up and coming sports performance trainers, many who have gone into the profession and made a big impact themselves.

Here’s Speed Coach Lee…

 

If you were to train me for four weeks for a HUGE tournament and had a million dollars on the line, what would the training look like? What if I trained for eight weeks?

Functional Movement Screen

Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Photo courtesy: FunctionalMovement.com

With only 4 weeks to get you ready we are going to take a three pronged approach. First we will address the needs based off your assessment. I will assess you using the Functional Movement Screen, basic mobility and flexibility to test range of motion in key joints like; ankles, hips, T and cervical spine, shoulder, and wrists, etc…, and Athletic Movement Screen where we would look at acceleration in all direction, ability to get through hips, speed, and overall agility.

The second area we will train is speed and agility. The approach here is to improve explosive acceleration to be better at getting a jump offensively and defensively, overall agility so you can effectively move in any direction and open your hips to make a play.

The final area we would attack is strength and stability. I can make more improvement in your overall stability of the major joints, spine, pelvis in a short 4 weeks than I can in overall maximal strength- but I can make some some neuromuscular changes due to the strength training.

So here we go with a program…

Week #1-#4:

  • Monday’s will consist of corrective/stability exercises, linear acceleration, and total body strength training (based on experience the strength training will be technique based for four weeks but slowly increasing resistance).
  • Wednesday will consist of corrective/stability exercises, lateral and angular acceleration, and total body strength (vary the movement patterns. example; bend, vertical push, vertical pull, etc…so they are different from Monday).
  • Finally on Friday we will follow up with the corrective exercises and test to see improvement/ and stability work, reactionary agility where drills are based on the coaches signal. Athlete will learn to explode in all directions based on a command. Lastly strength training (again, movement patterns will change back to Monday’s patterns).
Lee Taft Speed Training

Photo courtesy: LeeTaft.com

If we move to an eight week program the biggest change will come in the strength training and corrective and stability work. The speed and agility will obviously focus on need and overall athletic movement. The strength training will shift from a basic 4 week introductory program to a 3 blocks…

  1. The first strength block would be 2 weeks and emphasize more of an eccentric approach to build force reduction.
  2. The second block would be 3 weeks and emphasis more maximal strength with a tempo that is much faster than the first block.
  3. In the third block I would emphasize more power development with a fast concentric tempo.

A philosophy of mine is to constantly be willing to change according to how the athletes are doing day to day. Baseball and softball athletes require constant supervision due to the explosiveness of the sport and the high repetition through the shoulder and core regions.

What makes you different? Who trained you or influenced you?

The biggest influences for me were my father and two brothers. They were coaches and teachers. What, I feel, makes me different is my strong background as a teacher. Today it is common to see performance coaches skip steps and coach to the DRILL versus focusing on the SKILL. My approach has always been to identify the skills that need to be improved and attach drills that fit the solution- not the other way around.

I think one of the major difference I have than many coaches is my willingness to watch and learn from my athletes. What I mean is I don’t just start teaching my athletes. I watch them move and allow them to show me what they do well and what dysfunction they have. This approach makes my teaching stronger because I don’t waste time on things that aren’t pertinent to their success.

Many of the training techniques I endorsed years ago were based on innate human movement. There are reasons athletes move the way they do. Much of it can be related to our nervous systems “Fight or Flight” reactions. This means athlete have innate reactions based on if they are being chased or chasing. In either case, the athlete will move into an acceleration posture as quickly as possible to make a play.

An example of this would be an infielder quickly accelerating after a bunt. You will notice how they reposition their feet into an acceleration posture. One foot will drop back (which I coined a plyo step). When this occurs the use of elastic energy increases the acceleration. There are many examples of this fight or flight reaction to help athletes move quicker and more effectively.

My approach of allowing these reactions to occur naturally then supporting the movement with proper posture build a more efficient athlete.

 

What are your favorite instructional books or resources on the subject? If people had to teach themselves, what would you suggest they use?

There are two primary resources I feel novice coaches should use. Complete Speed Training and Ground Complete Speed Training: Lee TaftBreaking 2.

Complete Speed Training is a resource coaches can learn about many areas of speed, agility, strength, power, conditioning, and warming up.

Ground Breaking 2 is an indepth look at multi-directional speed techniques and how to teach them. Both are great products for coaches to gain valuable knowledge into the world of speed and agility and more.

I think it is important for coaches to use resources that solve their needs from a foundational standpoint first. This means, don’t overshoot your knowledge level. Too many coaches try to be jack of all trades when simply understanding the foundational information will take them far.

 

What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in hitting? What are the biggest wastes of time?

One of the biggest waste of times is when I see dads bring the heavy bat for their 9 year old- I cringe. Far too often strategies that are used at the highest levels trickle down. When a young kid uses a heavy bat the timing of the swing is distorted. The swing, at a young age, needs to be built with timing and feel. When the bat is too heavy, even for training purposes, the swing changes from the feet all the way to the hands. The youngsters try to muscle the swing rather than using proper mechanics.

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