Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a la Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes caveman swinging. This tightens the head, neck, and shoulder muscles, which pulls the head off the ball. Photo courtesy of Metro.us

Batting practice and training seems to be met with a caveman’s mentality…Me see ball.  Me swing bat hard.  Me crush ball far.  I can always tell when a young hitter is swinging too hard by the following:

  1. Pulling the head,
  2. A clenched jaw, and/or
  3. NO balance upon the follow through.

One great Big League example of caveman swinging is Yoenis Cespedes of the Boston Red Sox.  In this video, we’re going to talk about how to correct swinging harder:

  • Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition relating to improper batting practice,
  • Cadence is key, and
  • Proprioception and swinging blind…

 

Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition Relating to Improper Batting Practice

Watch this simple demonstration on Reciprocal Inhibition (RI) from a Physical Therapist (start at the 0:38 mark):

Consider this:

  1. Imagine bicep curling a 25-pound dumbbell…bicep contracts while brain tells muscle on opposite side (tricep) to contract less,
  2. Now think about holding the same 25-pound dumbbell in mid-curl, arm is at a 90-degree angle, and forearm is parallel to the ground…
Reciprocal Inhibition

The quad (green) contracting more, while the hamstring (red) contracts less in this stretch. Photo courtesy: BandhayYoga.com

What’s happening there on #2 above?

It’s called an isometric muscle contraction, and is when both the bicep and tricep are contracting equally on both sides.

Your brain is smart.  One of it’s many jobs is to manage tension around a joint (i.e. the elbow).  To protect it.  When you have bicep tendinitis, the length-tension relationship is upset.  What happens is, the brain tells a muscle to tighten protecting a particular joint, until length-tension balance is restored…

How do you fix this?

According to the Physical Therapist in the above video link, you strengthen the muscles opposite the tight area.  The brain can then contract the tight area less and restoring the length-tension relationship around the joint.  And this ADDS more efficiency to dynamic movement…

Otherwise, this would be like driving your car with the parking brake on!

During batting practice (or in games), when we swing too hard, we’re driving the car with the parking brake on.  It seems counter-intuitive to what we normally would think.  But bio-mechanically speaking, this would be like the #2 scenario of the bicep -mid-curl above.  We see the head pull out and jaw tighten because the brain is protecting the joints in the neck (C-Spine) and jaw from overload.  And this can cause the hitter NOT be balanced in the follow through.

Cadence is Key

Did you know there’s a specific cadence, or tempo, to repetitive human movement?  According to the book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer, consider these two popular long distance movements:

  • Running – count how many times the right arm swings forward per minute.  It should be between 85-90 times.  Whether uphill or downhill.
  • Cycling – count each time the right knee floats up per minute while pedaling.  Should be 85-90 times.  Top cyclists change gears uphill or downhill to keep within these guidelines.

Faster than that, and tempo gets disrupted…parking brake gets applied.  Batting practice is no different when it comes to a specific tempo.  I once read someone say in a hitting forum that you have to swing as hard as you possibly can…wait for it…under COMPLETE control…

 

 Proprioception & Swinging Blind

Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a al Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes swinging blind photo courtesy: MLB.com 😛

I know that’s a big scary word, but experiencing it is easy…stand on one foot, now shut your eyes.  You’ve just experienced Proprioception.

The best fix for swinging too hard is…drum roll please….

Swinging with your eyes closed.  Remember what I wrote about a hitter swings as hard as possible…under COMPLETE control?

This is how to practice taking the parking brake off during batting practice and games.

Also, remember the symptoms of swinging too hard I mentioned at the beginning of this video post…?  Here are the fixes:

  • Pulling the head – the chin should be somewhere slightly out front of impact,
  • A clenched jaw – get the hitter to keep a small gap between their molars as they’re swinging, AND
  • NO balance upon the follow through – have the hitter practice swinging as hard as they can with their eyes closed, while keeping balance.  If they fall over, then they’re swinging too hard.

The latter one, please DO NOT have them do this around any sharp or breakable objects that might hurt them :-/  You see, Yoenis Cespedes can win two All-Star home-run derbies in a row because he knows what pitch is coming, at what speed, and what location (for the most part).  He can get away from pulling his head.  In a game?  It’s a different

 

BONUS Material

Want to help put the batting practice parking brake on vacation?  Here are my two favorite corrective exercises that a majority of my new hitters have a problem with:

  1. Passive Leg Lower (hip mobility) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…do once daily.  Will increase running stride length, which indirectly can help them run faster.
  2. Ankle Circles (ankle mobility) – do three circles clockwise AND counterclockwise at each ankle position…do at least 2-3 times per day everyday.  Can get rid of shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

This is the first in a four-part series about balance, I’ll be discussing a not so common reason for lack of core balance.  In the following post, we’ll go over:

  • Jimmy’s case study,
  • Why your balance fails,
  • The Balanced Solution, and
  • So what does this have to do with baseball…

 

Jimmy’s Case Study

Jimmy (not his real name) came in with his dad to be evaluated for toeing in when he walks. Jimmy is 12 years old and 6 foot tall and weighs close to 200 pounds! Here’s how my conversation went with his dad…

  • Dr. Stanley: “Does he play football?”
  • Dad: “Yes he does”.
  • Dr. Stanley: “What position?”
  • Dad: “Offensive tackle”.
  • Dr. Stanley: “How does he do?”
  • Dad: “He’s great in run blocking, but the Defensive end gets around him easily in pass protection”.

I examined Jimmy and found that both of his thigh bones rotated inwards close to 90 degrees, but they only rotated outwards about 20 degrees instead of the same in both directions. I also noted that his feet flattened. This uneven rotation is called internal femoral position.

There are several reasons why people toe in (pigeon toes). It can be due to a “C” shaped foot (Metatarsus Adductus), a twisted shin bone (internal tibial torsion), or a twist in the thigh bone or hip joint (internal femoral position). Children that toe in tend to be clumsy and “trip over their feet”.

MAV

 

Why Your Balance Fails

Internal femoral position  was noted by Margaret Fitzhugh in the early 1900’s to be associated with a “W” sitting position (a kneeling position where the legs spread out and the butt touches the ground), and she felt internal femoral position was caused by it.

Sitting

About 30 years ago, I noticed that the children with internal femoral position had a history of falling forwards or backwards when they started to walk, whereas normal children would stick out their butt and land on their soft diaper.

This inability to land on their butt led me to ask a simple question-“How long did your child sit before he/she crawled?”. I found out that the vast majority did not sit at all. (The sitting occurs at about six months and should last for 2 weeks before the child starts to crawl).

Children that crawl and miss the sitting position, kneel instead of sitting. In kneeling, the balance is developed around the knee. In sitting, balance is developed around the core.

As a result, when a child that kneels, starts to walk and gets imbalanced, the reflex is to bend the knees. This results in the falling forward or backwards. Children that sit, develop balance around the hips and can either flex or extend their hips and when they start to walk and become imbalanced, this hip balance point allows them to land on their diaper.

 

The Balanced Solution

It turns out that the treatment for this balance issue is easily resolved in a short time. Jimmy was instructed to “Chair dance” for 10 minutes a day  and his football playing improved remarkably.

His toe in was treated with a combination of gait plates, exercises, and roller skating. This took longer, but he was eventually able to walk with his feet straight ahead.

 

So what does this have to do with baseball?

It turns out that the “W” sitting position in children is associated with less postural control and stability. Internal femoral position is associated with running like Daffy Duck, with the feet going out to the side. In baseball a hitter needs to be able to stand in a good stable hitting position. If a hitter wobbles, then the ball appears to move, making it more difficult to hit.

Joey Myers Comments: CLICK HERE to check out this article by Physical Therapist and co-founder of the Functional Muscle Screen (FMS) Gray Cook, on this article titled “Early Perspectives on Functional Movement”.

CLICK HERE for Part-2, where I’ll be discussing Ankle balance (frontal plane) and how to improve it…

Derek Jeter: Exercises Proven To Increase Batted Ball Distance

 

Derek Jeter: These Exercises Accelerate Swing Efficiency

Danilo Collins, 16yo, from FL

I was recently introduced to Danilo Collins (pronounced Duh-nee-lo).  A 16-year-old baseball player in Florida.  Over email, he sent impact and follow through pictures (and video) of his swing, saying:

“Hey Joey, I have had this exact problem ever since I started filming my swing. During my final turn, at or near contact I find that my upper body tenses up. My shoulders shrug up, my face tenses up and tilts awkwardly, and my back arches in a weird, unnatural way.”

In this video blog, I want to address Danilo’s swing concerns using Derek Jeter as a model.  We’ll answer these three questions:

  • What does an efficient impact & follow through position look like?
  • What can impact & follow through tell us about movement dysfunction?
  • What exercises can a hitter do to correct this?

If we can get a hitter moving better, they’ll perform better.  Movement dysfunction puts performance on the back burner.  Let’s see how Derek Jeter’s swing compares…

 

What Does an Efficient Impact & Follow Through Position Look Like?

Last week, I posted this to my Facebook fan-page using Danilo and Derek Jeter’s impact pictures, and received great feedback:

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/HittingPerformanceLab/posts/571869122942886/” width=”400″/]

Here’s the jist of the Facebook feedback, in comparing Danilo to Derek Jeter:

  1. Batting tee is set too far back for true point of contact,
  2. Detachment of front arm from rib cage – no extension, and
  3. Too much focus on turning faster.  By extending front arm at contact, then back arm after contact Danilo will increase his inertial force (CLICK HERE to see another blog post on this).

Those great Facebook comments aside, I want to focus on something else that most don’t

 

What Can Impact & Follow Through Tell Us About Movement Dysfunction?

I feel fixing movement dysfunction is just as important as efficient swing mechanics.  Without correction, the body loses the ability to move efficiently.  This dramatically decreases batted ball distance.  Here’s what to key in on at impact and follow through using Derek Jeter as a reference point:

  1. Maintaining strict alignment of head and spine (core stability), AND
  2. Staying low on the pitch plane using back leg (core stability & glute activation).

If we compare Danilo to Derek Jeter, we can see a huge difference in the back leg angle, and how well the head, rib cage, and pelvis stack on top of each other.

 

What Exercises Can a Hitter Do to Correct This?

Derek Jeter: These Exercises Accelerate Swing Efficiency

Derek Jeter photo courtesy: ChrisOLeary.com

I mentioned Core Stability & Glute Activation.  I want you to do something for me:

  • Stand up with your feet under your shoulders,
  • Squeeze your butt cheeks together as hard as you can (notice your pelvis change position?), and
  • Now, tighten your abs as hard as you can like you’re doing a standing crunch (did this bring your rib-cage down?)

Danilo is arching his back and extending his back leg, resulting in his lower back taking on sheer forces.  In the middle, taking a vacation, are his glutes.  To look like Derek Jeter in the Impact and Follow Through photo to the right, Danilo will have to do these TWO corrective exercises 1-2 times daily:

  1. Super Plank (core stability) – week one: 1 set X 45 secs hold, week two: 1 set X 60 secs hold, week three: 2 sets X 45 secs hold, and week four: 2 sets X 60 secs hold.
  2. Single Leg Floor Bridge (glue activation) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg.

The reps and time can change for younger hitters.  Be sure to let the hips down slowly (4-secs) for each repetition for #2.  After 4-weeks on #1, turn up the heat by doing a Super Plank-Pushup.  Make sure to practice the same rules from the Super Plank.  The key is NO rotation of the pelvis.  You should be able to set a drink of water on the back of the pelvis when doing the movement, without spilling.

FINAL NOTE on Derek Jeter’s swing: we want head-spine alignment, but with a slight angle up and back over the catcher for more repeatable power.  Derek Jeter is more vertical like Tony Gwynn.

In the Final PART 3 How To Run Faster: Agility Training Video Series,

How To Run Faster: Agility Training…I bring you on a nickel tour of what I use to hammer speed and agility training into my baseball athletes. In a Step-By-Step breakdown of speed mechanics, here’s some of what Jim Kielbaso and the IYCA covers in the Course:

  • Arm Action
  • Lower Body Mechanics
  • Backpedaling — breaking out of a backpedal, changing directions into a backpedal
  • Shuffling and Lateral Quickness
  • Crossover Running
  • And much more…

The Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course contains the exact same techniques Jim Kielbaso was brought in to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team before their National Championship season in 2012.

Just as efficient hitting mechanics can overcome bigger more athletic body types, sprint mechanics can do the same.  Sure speed can be genetic, but it can also be taught and refined.  Jim does a great job in this field.  CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

In PART-2 Speed Training: How-To Run Faster Video,

 

Speed Training Video: How To Run Faster…We’ll go over The Wall Drill, which is actual content INSIDE the course, particularly the:

  1. Setup, AND
  2. How-to do the drill.

I get emails from my HPL readers asking about what I use for speed training, and…

With how much time I spend researching hitting and video analysis I don’t have time to scour the net for proper speed training or agility training principals…Jim Kielbaso’s Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course is what I turn to when training my baseball athletes on acceleration and agility on the base paths and 60-yard-dash.  The information he provides is turn-key for any coach or player.

Here’s how to do the wall drill:

STEP 1: Setup
1. Put hands on the wall
2. Feet back behind you
3. Forty-five degree body lean
4. Straight line from shoulders (ears) to ankles
5. Hips forward
6. Chest up

STEP 2: How-To Do The Wall Drill:
1. Lift one knee at a time
2. Bottom of lifted foot faces backwards
3. Lifted toe up (dorsiflexed)
4. Switch your feet, driving the next foot down and back
5. Feel like you’re trying to push the wall in

The Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course contains the exact same techniques Jim Kielbaso was brought in to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team before their National Championship season in 2012.

CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

CLICK HERE for PART 3 of how-to run faster: speed training & agility training as we take a tour of what’s actually inside the course…

In The PART-1 How To Run Faster Video, You’ll Learn:

 

  • How Jim Kielbaso* teaches acceleration mechanics,
  • Coaching cues, and
  • How you can do this yourself.

How To Run Faster Video Secrets*Jim Kielbaso was brought on to teach the University of Kentucky Basketball team speed training and agility training before their National Championship season in 2012.

I’ve received quite a few emails about how to run faster…I’m not a “speed expert”, but I look to those who are and Jim Kielbaso’s Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course is it.  Mechanics is everything, and Jim backs all his stuff with REAL science.

 

Have you ever wondered what it is that separates the fastest, most agile athletes from all the rest?

While there are literally thousands of how-to run faster programs out there designed to get athletes bigger, stronger, and more powerful, very few of them are able to teach you how to lay a solid speed training and agility training foundation from which they can build upon.

With the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course, you finally have a tool that will help develop the fundamental movement skills your athletes need in order to develop them into the quickest and most agile athletes they can be!

CLICK HERE to get more information on the Ultimate Speed Mechanics Course.

Check out PART 2 on how-to run faster: speed training & agility training as we look at one of the best drills for practicing what Jim talked about in this video…