Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Never Suffer from Paralysis by Analysis Again

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters

This is a shortlist of the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on educating myself about how the human body moves…

I often get asked about equipment, books, and other resources to use, from coaches about hitting.

From hitting aids…to hitting programs…to hitting books.

There’s a potential for exponential growth in this information age, for coaches.  There’s no excuse not to succeed nowadays.  As Tony Robbins says,

“Where focus goes, energy flows.”

I wanted to share a list of equipment, books, and other resources that have helped in my own baseball training equipment for hitters journey.

I do a ton of research and study to find only the best.  The key is, does the information or hitting aid hold up to the modern human sciences?

At the end of this post, I’d like to hear from you.  What baseball training equipment for hitters (or for coaches) did I leave out?

By the way, this “guide” has as much to do with softball, as it does for baseball.

Think of this post as the definitive guide to baseball training equipment for hitters

 

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Books

Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers

Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers

  1. Anatomy Trains, by Thomas Myers – this book changed my hitting world.  Probably the best book for understanding the way humans move and how to optimize it.
  2. Dynamic Body Exploring Form, Expanding Function, by Dr. Erik Dalton et al. – a collaborative of distinguished movement author experts.  Even if you read a couple of the articles in there, you’ll be farther along than the conventional coach.
  3. The Spinal Engine, by Dr. Serge Gracovetsky – he cuts to the heart of the main engine in the swing.  I want to warn you though, the information is jargon thick.
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance…, by Dr. Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza – this book is a beast.  The Golden Rule for hitters?  You have to train like an athlete first, THEN a baseball or softball player.
  5. The Golfing Machine, by Homer Kelly – Kelly was an aeronautical engineer for Boeing during the Great Depression.  He fell in love with golf and began applying engineering principles to the Golf swing.
  6. Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown – the science of successful learning.  This book changed how I train hitting forever.
  7. The Science Of Hitting, by Ted Williams – need I say more?
  8. Disciple of a Master: How to Hit a Baseball to Your Potential, by Stephen J. Ferroli – written in 1986 as an answer to the Ted Williams book The Making Of A Hitter.  Ferroli was a bio-mechanical expert who gave more detail to Williams’s study.  It’s an easy book to digest.  When I was reading it, it was interesting how eerily similar our approaches were because of science.
  9. The Making Of A Hitter, by Jim Lefebvre – particularly the part when he talks about the swing being a combination of Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces.
  10. Positional Hitting: The Modern Approach to Analyzing and Training Your Baseball Swing, by Jaime Cevallos – his observations are great, but applying the information via his drills prove to be a challenge.
  11. Heads-Up Baseball : Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time, by Tom HansonKen Ravizza – one of the best books on the mental side of hitting.
  12. Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way Of Baseball, by Sadaharu Oh & David Falkner – from the Japanese baseball career home-run leader (he hit 868 homers!!).
  13. The Captain: The Journey Of Derek Jeter, by Ian O’Conner – great example of hard work and dedication paying off.  Not to mention one of the better human examples of ethics and morals.
  14. One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season, by Tony La Russa – great insight into the game within the game, and great how-to example for coaches from a man who didn’t amount to much as a player in the game.
  15. Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Courtby John Wooden – I actually haven’t read this one yet, but have read through quite a bit of Coach Wooden’s stuff.  My college baseball Coach Bob Bennett used a lot of his coaching principles.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include one of Coach Wooden’s books as a resource for coaches.  By the way, this is the best rated on Amazon.com.

 

 Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters: Hitting AidsThe Starting Lineup Store

In March of 2011, I put together an online store selecting the best 9 hitting aids on the planet.  It’s called TheStartingLineupStore.com.  I won’t go into all of them here, but I wanted to highlight my top-3 sellers:

  • The MaxBP Golf Wiffle Ball Machine – this is my top seller.  My young hitters have so much fun with this.  Heck, I have fun with this 😀  The founder/inventor tests every machine before it goes out.  The quality is top notch.
  • Backspin Batting Tee – it’s like a Tanner Tee turned upside down.  It hides the top half of the ball (where ground balls are born), and shows only the bottom half to the hitter.  On-path bottom half is their motto.

Top-4 essential baseball training equipment for hitters…

  1. Zepp Baseball App – the Zepp device attaches unobstructedly to the knob of the bat, and registers bat speed, ball exit speed, hand speed, swing path, attack angle, etc. to the coordinating app on your phone.  It carries a hefty price tag at $150, but for coaches serious about running swing experiments, it’s a MUST!!  CLICK HERE for an experiment I did using it.
  2. Coaches Eye App OR Ubersense App – slow motion analysis for your phone.  Both apps are compatible with both the iphone and android.  I have the CoachesEye.  Both are free I believe.
  3. Powerchalk – web based motion analysis.  You don’t have to download any software to your computer.  The free membership comes with:  1) The ability to upload ten separate videos to your own Video Locker, 2) Two-minutes of recording time per analysis, 3) 10-slot video locker, and 4) Upload and share video content.

If you digest the baseball training equipment for hitters book suggestions alone, you’ll put yourself in the top 1% of hitting coaches, instructors, and trainers.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

And don’t just stop there.  Read player biographies and auto-biographies of past players like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, etc.  That being said…

 

I Want to Hear Your Baseball Training Equipment for Hitters Thoughts…

What baseball training equipment for hitters (or for coaches) did I leave out that should be included in the definitive guide?  Please comment in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

5 Powerful Baseball Quotes From Top Hitters…

I often post inspirational baseball quotes from top MLB hitters on my Facebook fan-page. So I wanted to share my top five player quotes and photos that get the most engagement on Facebook…ENJOY!

 

Derek Jeter

Baseball Quotes: Derek Jeter

Photo courtesy: HighHeatStats.com

I read D.J.’s unauthorized biography The Captain: The Journey Of Derek Jeter, and baseball quotes like this of his sum up his whole career.

Even though Derek Jeter was the 6th overall pick by the Yankees in the 1992 draft, he made over 50 errors at Shortstop his first year in professional baseball!  The Yankees doubted him and talked about moving him to the outfield.  He improved on his fielding, and the rest is history.

Whether it was brutal contract negotiations with the Yankees, media scrutiny from one of the biggest cities in the world, “Stat-heads” saying he had no range to his glove side, or injuries, Derek Jeter found a way to beat the critics, his competition, and inevitably etch himself into the Hall of Fame.

 

Giancarlo Stanton

Baseball Quotes: Giancarlo Stanton

Photo courtesy: SBNation.com

Fangraphs lists Giancarlo Stanton as a beast, 6-foot, 6-inches, 240-pounds!  And according to Wikepedia.com he was a three-sport athlete.  Before being drafted in 2007 by the Marlins, he was offered a baseball scholarship at USC, and offers to play football at UCLA and UNLV.

I love hearing this quote come from such a “big” guy.  I subscribe to the fact that Giancarlo Stanton was such a well-rounded athlete, and didn’t have access to year-round baseball that contributed to his success so far.

Unfortunately, a lot of Little League coaches and parents focus on just hitting the ball, instead of hitting the ball hard. These types of baseball quotes are great to put hitting into perspective.

 

Jose Bautista

Baseball Quotes: Jose Bautista

Photo courtesy: BirdDogRealty.net

One of the “smallest big hitters” in baseball.  FanGraphs.com lists him at 6-foot, 205-pounds.  But his Metrics make him look like Giancarlo Stanton!!!

These types of baseball quotes are based on mindset at the plate.  And after watching Jose Bautista swing, we can see he doesn’t get cheated…shocker, I know.  Consider this…

One of my hitting friends Bob Hall from Canada shared with me something he heard from a scout about having a plan at the plate…

You’re either a fisherman OR a hunter.  The fisherman waits for the fish to bite, while the hunter stalks his prey.  I tell my hitters to use both, depending on the pitcher’s accuracy and hitting situation, to their advantage.

 

Sadarharu Oh

Baseball Quotes: Sadaharu Oh

Photo courtesy: rnishi.Files.Wordpress.com

Sadaharu Oh, another small slugger, is listed at 5-foot, 10-inches, 173-pounds according to Baseball-Reference.com.  Why is this significant?

During Hank Aaron’s time, Sadaharu Oh played in Japan and was considered the Barry Bonds (career home-run leader) of Japanese baseball.  He blasted 868 dingers over the span of 22 seasons…and that’s almost 40 per year!

CLICK HERE for a post I did asking for my reader’s reaction on his mechanics.  Judging by these types of Sadaharu Oh baseball quotes, technique was his saving Grace.  It had to be, because he had to “do it right” to compete the way he did.

And sure, against today’s Major League pitchers, Sadaharu Oh probably wouldn’t hit as many homers, but man, how consistent his power was over 22 seasons.  I agree with one of my reader’s comments from the article link above, that if Oh played in America today, they’d have made him a slap hitter, much like they did Ichiro, because of his small physique.  Ichiro can hit the long ball, but not allowed.  Darn shame 🙁

And last but certainly not least…

 

Ted Williams

Baseball Photos: Ted Williams

Photo courtesy: ESPN.Go.com

I don’t think Ted Williams needs an introduction.  Looking at this picture, it seems to be around his magical .406-year, three years into the Big Leagues and weighing about 180-pounds, soaking wet, while standing at 6’3″!  He had the height, but definitely WAS NOT gifted with body mass.

In his biographies he often cited “inhaling” multiple malt shakes per day to put weight on his frame.  Too bad he didn’t have access to the information we have on that today!

In baseball quotes like this, Ted Williams talks like a man who struggled to do it right. “…you can’t make a hitter, but I think you can improve a hitter,” is not something Daryl Strawberry would say.  Failure is a huge part of hitting, way more than pitching.  We learn from our failures more than our successes.  Our hitters need to know from an early age that failure is okay.  As long as we use it as a tool to get better.  Progress is a process.

I Need Your HELP!

Ryan Braun early on pitch-plane

Ryan Braun early on pitch-plane. Photo courtesy: JTA.org

I often get caught up in my own ways of doing things that I sometimes lose sight of better hitting tips others are using for the same outcomes.  I’m not perfect.  And I’ll readily admit that I don’t know all the answers.  This my wife will surely echo 😉

But I do take pride in submitting and standing on the shoulders of giants.  This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson changed my life:

“As to 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.”

Think of methods as “the drills.”  This post is for you hitting instructors or coaches who’re applying human movement principles, and successfully selecting your own methods.  I want to pick your brain, and hear your thoughts below.

But first, here’s the gist of the hitting tips assignment…

 

Hitting Tips from the Collective Few…

Ryan Braun Hitting Tips: staying long on the plane of the pitch

Ryan Braun staying long on the plane of the pitch. Photo courtesy: SportsWorldNews.com

I want to focus on efficiently increasing barrel time on the plane of the pitch using the Conservation of Angular Momentum.  By the way, it doesn’t matter if you come from baseball or softball.  So drawing from your teaching experience, what are your thoughts on the following (PLEASE leave your pearls of wisdom in the hitting tips comment section below):

  • Your go-to hitting drill for boosting barrel time on the pitch plane (pics or vids are welcome),
  • The best sticky coaching cue (or cues) that you use with young hitters, and/or
  • Any kind of underground (i.e. DIY) hitting aids that help with boosting barrel time on the pitch plane.

Keep in mind, inefficiencies such as arm barring, bat drag (racing back elbow), rolling over, and staying “attached” through the finish are issues you can address.   After a week, I’m going to have my readers vote on the best approach, and we’ll announce a winner.  Please share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below…

Jose Bautista Balanced Body in Motion

Did you know…Jose Bautista does Yoga in the off-season? He’s a great example of a balanced body in motion. Photo courtesy: www3.Pictures.Zimbio.com

This is the third part in three part Why Your Balance Fails (Not What You Think) series about balance.

I’ll be discussing a not so well known way to improve balance, posture, and technique.  I’ll be talking about:

  • Tim’s story,
  • Tim’s problem,
  • How-to fix Tim’s problem, and
  • How does this relate to hitting…

 

Tim’s Story

Tim was the strongest kid on his small college football team. He was 22 years old, 6′ 2 and 200 pounds of solid muscle.  He wanted to improve his power clean, so he came to the gym to see what he could learn.

At the time I was 48 years old and weighed 165 pounds. I watched as he power cleaned and advised him that he could keep his back tighter.  As we lifted and as the weights got heavier, I noticed his confidence grew.

When we were at 90kg (198 pounds) and he was ready to lift, he gave me a look that said, I am going to beat you!  When we got to 105 kg, he missed the lift, as the weight was too far in front to rack. I went up to 107.5 kg and told him that was all for me today.

The harder he tried, the worse the more in front the bar ended up. He started growling before the lift, and that didn’t work. He finally gave up.

 

Tim’s Problem

Tim’s problem was that he didn’t maintain his fine balance and  let his weight drift back on the heels during the lift. Even though this is a stronger position, (as in a dead lift), it is not an athletic position.

Keep in mind that as long as Tim’s weight is somewhere over the foot (gross balance) he will not fall over. Fine balance is the ability to position the weight at an an exact point over the foot.

 

How to Fix Tim’s Problem

A lot of coaching cues used for Jim’s problem are:

  • “Finish the pull”,
  • “Pull the bar closer to the ankle”, and
  • “Make sure the elbows move straight up”.

The best coaching cues have a greater positive impact and don’t result in other issues.  In this case, the best way to fix Tim’s problem was to have him feel for the weight on his feet.

In the power clean it is best to feel that the weight is just behind the ball of the foot.  When this is felt, the weight can only go straight up.

 

How does this relate to hitting?

In hitting, the best way to stride forward is to be balanced and to push off the entire foot. If you are on the ball of the foot, the Achilles tendon will absorb some of the force of the stride.

However if the weight is too far back onto the heel,  you will stride angled away from the plate and the heel will not come off the ground to allow rotation.

The most athletic way to start the stride is with the heel lightly touching the ground. Body weight will be just behind the ball of the foot. In this starting position, it allows for the best push, but also enables you to get on the ball of the foot.

My beautiful picture

 

(Joey Myers comment: when we look at efficient v. inefficient movement mechanics, I don’t like striding and landing on the toe, pausing, then swinging because we don’t take advantage of Gravitational Forces to turn the pelvis for us naturally.  And like Dr. Stanley says, landing toe first (without the pause), the Achilles Tendon will absorb – instead of exploit – some of those forces as well.  Practice the following experiment Dr. Stanley prescribes below and ingrain it to second nature.)  

 

Experiment

Practice your stride feeling for the weight on your foot. Try it at various places and see where you feel the most efficient and straightest stride:

  • Weight on your toes, so the heel is off the ground
  • Ball of the foot
  • Just behind the ball of the foot
  • Middle of the arch
  • At the Heel

After you find the best way for you to push off repeat this frequently to ingrain this pattern. Keep in mind that with any technique change, with enough proper repetitions, the change will become habit and you will not have to think about it.

CLICK HERE for a BONUS Part-4 post to this series titled: What Do Pyramids, Dancers, and Mike Trout Teach Us About Hitting For Power.

In case you missed Parts 1 & 2, here they are:

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers:

This will be the start of a multi-part series about conditioning for baseball, for little leaguers.

In this post we’ll go over:

  • The six properties of muscles,
  • The properties of muscles that can be developed for baseball,
  • The wrong conditioning, and
  • Is there an order to develop the muscles?

Conditioning for baseball (and softball) is relatively new. At the end of the baseball season in 1982, in the Cleveland Indians training room, I had a discussion with Phil Seghi, the general manager. The training room consisted of a table for massage, a full body whirlpool and an ice maker.

Dr. Stanley:  “The baseball players should be put on a strength and flexibility program“.

Phil Seghi: “Lou Boudreau never lifted a weight in his life“.

 

The 6 Properties of Muscles

1. Strength – tension developed by muscles. It requires the brain to send a signal to contract a higher percentage of muscle fibers.

Franco Columbo Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Columbu

Franco Columbo Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Columbu

2. Speed – the ability to develop tension quickly.

Usain Bolt photo courtesy of toplowridersites.com/

Usain Bolt photo courtesy of toplowridersites.com/

3. Endurance – the ability to contract muscles for a long period of time. This involves slow twitch fibers. In baseball, we should be thinking of increasing the ability to “do work” instead of endurance.

4. Flexibility – the ability to relax a muscle

Photo Courtesy of mashaballerina.tumblr.co

Photo Courtesy of mashaballerina.tumblr.co

5. Spring – the ability to  store and release energy. This occurs in the connective tissue around the muscle, the fascia, and/or the tendons.

6. Coordination – the ability to contract muscles and relax muscles in a pattern that allows for the efficient movement.

Leonidas Sabanis photo sequence courtesy of sweatpit.com

Leonidas Sabanis Olympic Snatch photo sequence courtesy of sweatpit.com

Muscles can be trained for these properties individually and  in some combination (ie. Speed-strength, Endurance-strength, Speed-endurance).

The Properties of Muscles that can be Developed for Baseball

All of the properties can be developed by specific exercises with the exception of reception of Nerve impulses.

However, as part of strength development, we need to enhance the transmission of nerve impulses by the brain.

The Wrong Conditioning

When my son was eight, I took him to a “natural” body building competition, thinking if nothing else, it might inspire him. He noticed that when the competitors walked on the stage there was something strange. He said:

Dad, they walk like robots, is there something wrong with them?”

Do either  of these look like they can play baseball?

Photo courtesy of 7arb.net

Abel Kirui photo courtesy of takethemagicstep.com

Both of the above are well conditioned, but they are not conditioned for baseball.

The body builder is conditioned for endurance-strength, and the marathoner is conditioned for endurance.

Is There an Order for these Characteristics to be Developed?

Flexibility is the first property that needs to be developed. If a muscle is tight, it is difficult to get into proper positions to develop strength.

Next time we will discuss the latest science on Flexibility.

[Note from Joey: this is a timely post by Dr. Stanley.  He mentioned that conditioning for baseball players is fairly new.  Yes, we’ve come a long way since the Doc had his run in with Cleveland Indians GM Phil Seghi in 1982.  BUT, the sport has NOT done a good job in the area of corrective exercise.  Consider how bad Tommy John surgeries have gotten.  Think of the stretching that is done in Yoga, as a critical form of corrective exercise.  And how many guys are engaging in this practice on their own.  One guy in particular? Jose Bautista.]

CLICK HERE for Part-2 to what coaches need to know about flexibility training for Little Leaguers…

This is the second part to the “Why Your Balance Fails (Not What You Think)”  three part series about balance. I’ll be discussing a fairly common reason for balance issues around the ankle. In the

Photo courtesy: PeterJohnson.co.uk

Photo courtesy: PeterJohnson.co.uk

following post, we’ll go over:

  • Billy’s story,
  • What can be the long term results of an ankle sprain,
  • How do we check for and train for lack of balance, and
  • How does this affect hitting…

 

Billy’s Story

Billy was a high school runner and during a training run he twisted his ankle. He didn’t seek treatment, but he did stay off his ankle and iced it. A few weeks later he tried running again and noticed that his ankle felt weak and unstable.

I examined him and found out that he had an unstable ankle.

 

What is the Long-Term Results of an Ankle Sprain?

Most people have sprained their ankle. It is the most common injury in the human body. Most cases seem to heal uneventfully. However, some nerve fibers will become injured resulting in a less effective sensor, resulting in instability.

The medical term for this is Articular Deafferentiation which means:  The joint does not send a signal to the brain as to its position.

It has been thought that the instability is due to stretched ligaments, but recent studies have shown that the muscle reaction time is slower in functionally unstable ankles.

 

6-Steps on How to Check for This…

Watch the video below for a demonstration:

  1. Stand in a doorway
  2. Place the hands in the door jamb so that if you fall you can catch yourself
  3. Stand on one foot
  4. Move your hands a few inches from the door jamb
  5. Close your eyes
  6. Have someone time how long you can maintain your balance without having to touch the door jamb.

What is Normal?

Normal for non athletes is 10 seconds. You should be better than normal.  You should be able to maintain your balance for 30 seconds or more.

How do we improve it?

Practice standing in the doorway with your eyes closed for 3 minutes every day. There should be steady and consistent improvement.  To further improve on the doorway balance exercise, you can do one of two things (watch the next two videos for a demonstration):

  1. Try getting up on the ball of the foot and then lowering yourself maintaining balance.

 

OR:

2. Raising the knee and lowering it.

How Does this Affect Hitting?

When the hitter steps forward with the front foot, there is no weight on the front foot when it is off the ground, it is all on the back foot.  Since the  body weight is in front of the back foot, and supported on the back foot, the body moves forwards.  If there is wobble of the ankle, the body wobbles and the ball  appears to have movement.  At the end of linear movement, body weight is shifted to the front foot.

When the weight is evenly distributed on both feet, it should mark the end of linear motion and the start of rotational motion.  During hip rotation, the majority of weight is shifted onto the front foot and the front leg straightens.  If the front ankle is unstable at this important time of the swing,  there may be a slight wobble.

Remember that only ¼” of a difference is required to change a home run to a long fly ball.

(Joey Myers Comment: I love this simple exercise.  These are good for EVERY athlete.  I sprain my own ankle during Fall Ball my Freshman year in college.  And shockingly, none of this was prescribed to me then…at the Division One college level!!!  I’m currently doing this exercise myself after reading the article…thanks Doc!  This is what I call a small detail that nets BIG results.)

CLICK HERE for Part-3 to the Why Balance Fails Series titled “Crucial Way To Land On The Foot”.

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.

Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts – 17-years-old

 

Baseball Hitting Case Study: Cole Watts

Baseball hitting case study: Cole Watts Fight Position comparision

Cole’s dad Matt contacted me about setting up two in-person 45-minute lessons with a break between.  They were coming from the Bay Area, which is about a 2.5 hours drive from me.  Cole  had been getting instruction from a Mike Epstein certified instructor, and they both have been following my video blog.

According to dad, Cole’s results were hitting the ball hard into the ground, and at-best, a low level line drive.  In Cole’s baseball hitting case study, we’ll analyze:

  • Challenges faced,
  • Differences achieved after two sessions, and
  • How we trained

 

 Challenges Faced…

First, Cole is tall, 6 foot, 3 inches, and growing.  Being so tall, a hitter like him will be facing a “pitch plane” dilemma.  CLICK HERE to watch video analysis comparing 6’3″ Adam Jones to 6’2″ Victor Martinez, and how to fix Jones’s above average strikeout and ground-ball percentages.

When I hear a player is taller and having trouble driving the ball consistently, I look at how efficient they’re getting the barrel level on a downward pitch plane.  Are they:

  1. Making an aggressive move towards the pitcher (Un-weighting Principal)?
  2. Getting shorter (or lower) in the Fight Position (using Gravitational Forces)?
  3. Staying short through impact and finish (Adam Jones’s problem)?  And, are they
  4. Loading the spring correctly?

 

Differences Achieved AFTER Two Sessions

After our baseball hitting sessions, here’s where Cole made some changes:

  1. Gaining stride distance – committing body weight to front leg,
  2. Getting lower into Fight Position – flexing front knee more at landing,
  3. Body lag – opening lower half at Fight Position & blocking his shoulders.

Benefits…#1 will give Cole more bat speed and allow his head to stay still during the Final Turn.  #2 will empower Gravitational Forces to amplify Cole’s pelvic turn.  #3 will naturally spring load his body (body lag) to transfer more energy into the baseball.  The one thing we weren’t able to fix – in our short time together – was staying shorter through his impact and finish.

 

How We Trained…

How we train is just as important as what we’re training…if not more!  At the end of our baseball hitting sessions, our 5-swing rounds consisted of training one mechanical variable with three mechanical constants.  Defined…

  • Mechanical Variable – if we’re working “showing the numbers”, then on odd swings 1, 3, and 5 we show the numbers.  On swings 2 & 4 we don’t.
  • Mechanical Constant – if we’re working on “showing the numbers”, then this is done on ALL 5 swings.

I call each mechanical piece, a layer.  We start simple with one layer, which by itself becomes a variable.  As we add another layer, then the old one becomes a constant, while the one added is the next variable.  This is called interleaving.  Only one variable layer at a time.  The rest will be constants.  Here were his layers, using the fine Art of Variance:

  • Stretching his stride out beyond his “gamer” front marker,
  • Landing shorter with committed body-weight,
  • “Flashlight” on middle front thigh, open towards the pitcher,
  • Showing (or “blocking”) his numbers longer.

We sandwich the wrong mechanic with the right one, so the brain can note the difference.  If Cole wanted repeatable power, then hitting “tall” on the pitch plane wouldn’t work.  He made so much progress in a short amount of time.  Keep working hard kid!

How-To Make Changes & Get Results Faster Coaching Baseball

 

Coaching Baseball: Nick M. Grandslam

One of my hitters Nick M. hitting a Grand-Slam, photo courtesy: Mom

This article will highlight one of the scientific principles of successful learning, according to Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick.  FYI, this will work for coaching softball as well.

In my research, I’ve uncovered THREE ingredients to coaching baseball:

  1. Study and apply scientifically proven human movement rules,
  2. Use sticky coaching strategies proven through empirical research, and
  3. Provide necessary feedback mechanisms to stay on track.

We’ll be attacking one of today’s major dilemmas in youth hitting – how do I take my players’ refined “batting practice” swings into the game?  The problem is in how we train young hitters.  We’ll talk about:

  • The myth of “massed practice” to long-term learning,
  • The fine art of variance as a teaching tool, and
  • How-to INFUSE variance into hitting practices.

 

The Myth of “Massed Practice” to Long-Term Learning

What is “massed practice”?  It’s when we work on one thing, say hitting to the opposite field – for an entire practice.  For example, in Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick, he talks about an experiment the Cal Poly University baseball team ran.  They split the hitters up into two practice groups.  Group One did massed practice by hitting 15 fastballs, then 15 curve-balls, then 15 change-ups.  Group Two practiced hitting each pitch at random.  At the end of the experiment, Group One did better in the short run, while Group Two did better in the long run.

Why?

Because Group Two practiced how they’d play, and played how they’d practiced.  We may gain immediate gratification from coaching baseball using massed practice, but we fall short in the long run, because hitting pitches in a game is so varied.  We need to practice, what Peter C. Brown calls, variance when coaching baseball.  It’s more frustrating this way, but the results are worth it.

 

The Fine Art of Variance

Coaching Baseball Liam hitting

One of my hitters Liam W., photo courtesy: Mom

I know this might sound like a no-brainer.  But it’s NOT.  I’ve fallen victim to massed practice too!  We’re taught to strengthen weaknesses.  If a hitter has a hard time hitting to the opposite field, then dedicate a whole practice to opposite field hitting.  The outcomes in batting practice are immediate, but as the empirical research says, the results are fleeting.

Another study mentioned in the book, split up a class of grade-schoolers into two groups.  Group A practiced throwing beanbags into a bucket three feet away.  Group B practiced throwing beanbags into two buckets, one 2-feet and another 4-feet away, and with NO 3-foot bucket.  At the end, they were all tested throwing beanbags into a 3-foot bucket.  Any guess who did better?  Group B.

Why?

Their brain had more points of reference to pull from.  “Throw a little farther than two, but less than four.”  Whereas Group A had only one option.

 

How-To INFUSE Variance Into Hitting Practice

There are so many ways to do this, so I’ll only mention the few that have worked for my hitters.  Here’s what coaching baseball using the variance hitting strategy looks like:

  1. Un-Weighting Part-1 – fix stride foot at Fight Position (watch video above for demonstration)
  2. Un-Weighting Part-2 – un-anchor back foot during Final Turn (watch video above for demonstration)
  3. Varied Pitches Off Batting Tee – after every swing move the tee either up or down, and/or pull side or opposite side setup (watch video above for demonstration).  Rarely place ball over middle of the plate.  As beanbag study suggests, if hitter can hit inside and outside pitch correctly, then they’ll be prepared to hit the pitch down the middle.
  4. Timing The Pitch – Every five swings or so move the L-Screen forward or backward to simulate a change in fast-to-slow pitching and vice-versa.  I find that after footwork, timing is the next most difficult concept to master.

We’re failing as coaches because we aren’t mixing it up enough.  Practice how you play, and you’ll play like you practice.  Myself and the Hitting Performance Lab community would love to hear your thoughts on coaching baseball or softball using variance.  Any other ideas?  Please post below…