Posts

11 TBall Drills & Tips, So You Can Be Confident You’re Preparing Players For The Next LevelTBall Drills

In researching this coaching tball drills post, I did a Google search for “coach tee ball”, and one of the Google pre-populated search terms that came up was coach tee ball without going insane.  Apparently, there’s a book being sold on Amazon with the same title by a Robert Doss…who knew. 

I had to laugh because the dad of one of my online hitters, Lawrence Sutton Jr. (link is to his Perfect Game profile), shared over the phone he was pulling his hair out trying to coach his two twin 7yo daughters how to hit.  Let me give you a little context about [son] Lawrence…

You may remember [son] Lawrence in this post titled, How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.  Well now Lawrence is hitting those ugly yellow dimple balls out during batting practice.  He’s hitting baseballs over 360-feet…off a tee!  He’s registering over 94 to 96-mph off a regular tee using a PocketRadar.  He’s also hit balls in games over 425-feet. By the way, he’s about 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pounds…and gets mistaken for a college Freshmen during unofficial visits, but he’s a Sophomore in High School!!

Let me repeat…so now [dad] Lawrence is trying to coach his TWO TWIN 7YO DAUGHTERS…yes, A LOT of patience needed.

Look, I can’t say my situation is exactly like [dad] Lawrence, but I do work with a lot of hitters from 6yo to pro guys and D1 college gals.  Half the hitters I work with are 12yo and younger, and the other half are 13yo and older.  In addition, my son Noah turned 5yo this past December…and this is his first year of tee ball…AND wait for it…I’m now helping coach his tee ball team.  BAM!  A lot of my parents said this day was coming.  Those who can’t see me right now, I’m tipping my cap 😛

In this post, I wanted to share with you advice I offered [dad] Lawrence over the phone about “how to coach tee ball without going insane”.  I know some of you coaches out there can offer some advice as well, so please share below in the comments.

Here are my 11 tball drills and tips (in no particular order):

  1. Patience through guided meditation apps
  2. Don’t have high expectations
  3. Have a long wick to frustration
  4. Failure is going to happen…A LOT
  5. Build fun into practices and games (joke with the players)
  6. Positive reinforcement training
  7. Minimal to NO mechanical teaching
  8. More emphasis on external cues
  9. Extreme adjustments
  10. Focus on throwing and catching
  11. Getting them ready for the next level

 

#1: Patience through guided meditation apps

First of all, if you’re not going to have the patience for coaching tball drills, then you’re not going to enjoy coaching.  Period.  There are two great guided meditation apps out there:

  • Headspace, and
  • Calm.

I prefer Headspace, which I’ve been using over the past couple years.  Minimal investment of money, and between 2 to 20-mins investment of your time each day.  Helps me focus better, think clearer, expose my creativity, and especially for coaching tee ball – become more aware when you’re losing it, so you can relax in a shorter period of time.  It’s totally transformed my interaction with my wife, kids, and hitters.

 

#2: Don’t have high expectations

David Epstein, in his book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, talks about “learn-ability”.  It’s the ability of an athlete to adapt and learn something new over time.  To help put coaching tball drills into perspective, the bell curve of young athletes looks like this:

  • Left hand side long tail = below average “learn-ability” athletes, take longer to learn something new (these are few),
  • Majority middle bell curve = average “learn-ability” athletes, take a reasonable amount of time to learn something new, and
  • Right hand side long tail = above average “learn-ability” athletes, take a very short time to learn something new (these are few).

Most of your tball drills and expectations should be setup for the majority middle bell curve.  You’ll then want to have a regression-progression plan for your below and above average learners, which we’ll discuss later in this post.  The point is, set reasonable expectations, and understand what you’re up against.

 

#3: Have a long wick to frustration

If you haven’t noticed, kids pick up on frustration pretty quickly.  And oftentimes you can’t fool them.  Believe it or not, kids just want their adult counter-parts to be happy.  Studies show that when hot tempered anger or animated frustration enters the mix, learning stops.  The focus falls onto survival.

They’re modeling you when learning how to react to “speed bumps”.  And if coach (or mom/dad), is extremely animated when frustrated or angry, then they’ll learn that’s how you deal with it.  Guided meditation helps hide the mental meltdown button.  Here’s another powerful word I use often with my kids…and hitters…

The following YouTube video is Dr. Carol Dweck doing a speech on the power of “yet”…

I highly recommend her book Growth Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success.  The power of “yet” will help mold your tball drills to be growth mindset oriented.

 

#4: Failure is going to happen…A LOT

Think back to when your kids were learning to walk.  Did you teach them a thing or two on how to do it?  What cues did you use?  Internal ones? External?  “Walk as hard as you can, as far as you can” cues?  NO!  Figure It Out (or FIO) and Gravity were their best teachers.  The best tball drills are designed with failure in mind.  A LOT of it.  Swing and miss.  Swing and miss.  Swing and miss.  And multiple that by 100 at this age!

I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.  They’re 4, 5, or 6 years old.  Even one of the best hitters to ever play the game said hitting a ball is one of the hardest things to do in any sport – Ted William.  You can’t get 7 wrong on a school test and climb the education ladder.  Hall of Famers get it right 3 out of 10 times in baseball.  Keep on a poker face (hold the judgement), give positive reinforcement during tball drills when they get a productive outcome, and encourage the heck out of them.

 

#5: Build fun into practices and games (joke with the players)

Play games at the end of practice like Total Bases, Last Man (or Woman) Standing, Russian Baseball (kind of like cricket), or any other fun game.  Use it as a reward if they get their work done.  Speaking of which, tball drills MUST not go any longer than 60-mins (preferably 45-mins).  Adults forget 4-6 year olds have the equivalent attention span of a gnat.  Keep practices short and sweet.

I like to “flirt” with my players and hitters…not in a romantic way, you weirdo!  In a playful way.  I tease my Middle School and High School hitters about the video game Fortnight, and how all the pretty girls are looking to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ban the video game because it’s robbing them of their “guy time”.

When we’re talking about running to different bases with the tee ballers, they learn about 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, and FOURTH base…wait minute, is that right?!  I ask them if they have the key to the batter’s box.  Or if they could fetch me the box of curve-balls.  I tease the heck out of them on down times.  Keep them loose and on their toes.

 

#6: Positive reinforcement training

The best resource for this is the book by Karen Pryor titled, Don’t Shoot The Dog:  The New Art Of Teaching And TrainingKaren has trained dolphins, horses, dogs, and humans.  This form of training has taught chickens to turn the page of a book.  True story!  And trained two pigeons to play ping-pong.  Another true story!  Studies show we’re driven more by positive than negative reinforcement.  That’s not to say negative reinforcement training isn’t effective, because it is…give one chimpanzee an apple, then take it away, and they’re peeved!  Give another chimpanzee two apples, then take only one away, and they’re just as peeved!  However, if you want to build lasting habits, positive reinforcement training is the way to go.

Let me give you some examples of this:

  • My 5yo boy Noah gets any $1-2 candy at 7-Eleven immediately after school.  He also gets an ice cream scoop immediately after going to his gymnastics training.  He earns stickers for doing productive things, and after earning 10 stickers, he gets a toy of his choice within financial reason.
  • For the boring redundant parts of my business I play my favorite music in the background (right now it’s Eric Church, songs: “Talladega”, “Springsteen” & “Record Year”), and most times have a sweet green tea within reach.
  • Karen Pryor told a story in her book Don’t Shoot The Dog, of when her daughter took a night class for working professionals.  The Professor would always start the class off with the “Who finished last night’s homework?” question.  Only 25% of the class would raise their hands.  She’d then lectured the class on the importance of doing their homework.  After one of the classes in private, Karen’s daughter talked the Professor into praising those who did do their homework instead of belittling those who didn’t.  After about of week of using positive reinforcement training, 75% of the class were raising their hands after the “who turned in their homework” question.

You MUST read Karen Pryor’s book.  Your coaching will never be the same.

 

#7: Minimal to NO mechanical teaching

(Get more information on the Backspin Tee, or the RopeBat at TheStartingLineupStore.com)

Above is my 5yo boy Noah hitting a Smushball laser in a Backspin Tee with a Ropebat.  Look at him ‘show those numbers’!

Remember, they’re 4, 5, and 6 years old.  I have local and online lesson requests from parents with kids in this age range I turn down.  And by the way, it’s possible to teach a 2yo how to hit a moving ball.  I did with my son Noah.  Not forced.  He loved the movie Sandlot at the time and got a little tee ball set for his birthday.  CLICK HERE for a post on how I progressed him to hitting an under-hand thrown baseball sized whiffle ball using a long slim yellow whiffle ball bat.

I give the following advice to parents seeking swing help for their 4-6 year old hitters

  • Being athletic in their stance.  Bend at waist, chest over toes.  Bend in the knees.  Start that way and maintain that position to stride landing.  It’s easier to teach if they’re playing other sports like soccer, basketball, gymnastics, dance, and/or martial arts.
  • Grip on the bat.  Handle of the bat lines up in the middle of the hand – base of the finger tips, top meat of the hand.  I’m not even concerned if their hands are together at this stage.
  • Balance when swinging.  They should not be falling toward or away from the plate.  However, we may use these cues to correct one side of the extreme.  In other words, if they’re falling away from the plate, then I would tell them to fall towards the plate, to get them to balance.
  • Fungo toss is great as a progression.  Hitter tosses ball up to him or herself and tries to hit it before it hits the ground.

That’s just about how technical I get with tball drills for hitting.

 

#8: More emphasis on external cues and variance

We do a lot of external cuing.  Hit the ball over there.  Hit the ball up or down there.  Hit the top half of the ball.  Hit the bottom half of the ball.  Hit the ball in on your hands.  Hit the ball off the end of the bat.  Hit the ball in the middle (sweet spot).  Try hitting this ball with this heavy bat.  Try hitting the ball with this Easton Pro Stix whiffle ball bat.  We hit from different distances providing we’re progressing to LIVE toss.  Reverse strike zone drill where they’re swinging at “balls” and taking “strikes”…they like it when I bounce it and they have to hit it!

What’s important is for them to try different ways.

 

#9: Extreme Adjustments

This works like magic.  Check out for following video that’s great for tball drills…

 

#10: Focus on throwing and catching

CLICK HERE for an audio interview I did with NCAA Division-1 Hall of Fame college baseball Coach Bob Bennett.  One of the questions I asked him was if my team was getting ready to win the Little League World Series, but only had 4-weeks to train, what would you work on.  And do you know how he responded?  Playing catch and pitchers throwing strikes (obviously, the latter is irrelevant to coaching tball drills)Fielding ground-balls and playing catch are VERY important because 95% of coaches at the lower levels are teaching their hitters to hit ground-balls.  Why?  Because they know kids can’t play catch at that age!  If you want to win a lot of games, then obsessively teach your players to play catch.  Take advantage, this is low hanging fruit coaches 😉

 

And FINALLY #11: Getting them ready for the next level

Coaches MUST maintain a Growth Mindset at all time, and should never just coach for the current level.  Like Wayne Gretzky said:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Coaches MUST be looking forward when developing players…always.  My son’s Pre-K teachers are doing everything they can to prepare him and his classmates for Kindergarten this next year.  So why can’t Little League coaches prepare their troops for the big field?  So in the context of coaching tball drills, start using the progression I used with Noah in the aforementioned linked article on how to teach a 2yo how to hit a moving ball…

  • Hitting off tee is essential at first, but slowly shrink the diameter of the bat, moving the tee up or down after every swing, and use different size and colored balls.  Variance if your coaching tball drills friend.
  • Once they’re consistent hitting the ball off the tee, grab the fat plastic bat and beach balls!  Start underhand tossing, and as they start hitting the ball more often, then slowly shrink the ball down to baseball sized whiffles.  Once they’re hitting those whiffles with the fat barrel plastic bat, then start slowly shrinking the barrel diameter down.

This is a progressive winning strategy that worked for my son.  It may or may not take longer, but that’s the art of learning.  Embrace it.  Have A LOT of patience.  And coaches, go forth and make awesomeness…

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…

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head movement during stride

Victor Martinez & Mike Trout head position at stride forward. Camera angle is different, but watch videos below and note how V-Mart’s head doesn’t move with the front foot. Pictures courtesy: PastimeAthletics.com

Hint, hint…it has to do with balance!  This is a bonus to our Why Your Balance Fails series on balance.  I will be discussing:

  • The balance of pyramids,
  • The lateral movement of dancers, and
  • Mike Trout Slow-motion perfect balance during the stride…

 

The Balance of Pyramids

Pyramids have a capstone that is centered over the base.

Pyramid

In baseball, good balance occurs when the head is centered between the feet.

 

The Lateral [to the side] Movement of Dancers

I asked a woman who was a modern dancer for several decades who is making a film on movement,

What is the proper way to move to the side?”

Her response was,

The body has to move with the foot.

 

Mike Trout Perfect Balance During the Stride

Hitting requires balance…

But the stride requires dynamic balance, or balance while in motion.

A couple things I want to point out in the following slow motion swing of Mike Trout…notice how:

  • Mike Trout’s leg moves forward, so that the head is centered between the feet during the stride,
  • His body moves with his front foot, and 
  • Efficient his swing looks….

To Contrast and Compare, here is Victor Martinez. An extremely successful hitter, with a gift of incredible hand-eye coordination and strength…

Let’s compare them both at the moment the front foot touches the ground:

  • Trout- Head between the feet.
  • Martinez- Head closer to the back foot.
  • Trout-Shoulders angled down.
  • Martinez-Shoulders angled up (or level).

However, they both reach perfect position at the moment the bat hits the ball. And they both have the same backward lean with the head in line with the front leg…

Who has better dynamic balance?

Mike Trout.  To move more like him, the cue is move the body with the foot”.

(Note from Joey Myers: the camera angles are a little goofy, but I urge you to look at other “chest view” video of Victor Martinez, and you’ll see the same result.  Like Dr. Stanley said, he’s got SUPER hand-eye coordination!  BUT here’s the thing, he doesn’t angle his shoulders down, show his numbers to the pitcher or hide his hands as well as Mike Trout does before landing.  And as a result, his front shoulder has a tendency to “peel out”.  Adding these ingredients into V-Mart’s swing could have won him the 2014 AL MVP ;-))

In case you missed Parts 1-3 of the Why Your Balance Fails series, then here they are:

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 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”.

 

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…

Does Ryan Braun Hit Backwards?  Common Mistake #1 (of 4)…

 

In the first installment of the Hitting Backwards: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make video series, featuring Ryan Braun, we’re analyzing why “Sitting Back” isRyan Braun: 4 Common Mistakes Hitters Make Part-1 so destructive to friction-free mechanics.  The WHY boils down to a strange word…

According to IdeaFit.com,

Proprioception is the body’s ability to transmit a sense of position, analyze that information and react (consciously or unconsciously) to the stimulation with the proper movement (Houglum 2001).”

The brain does whatever it needs to balance physical movement.  Let’s discuss the following compensations caused by “Sitting Back”:

  • Eyes and head shift forward during Final Turn,
  • Lunging, and
  • Front shoulder flies open.

 

Eyes and Head to Shift Forward During Final Turn

Ryan Braun’s friction-free swing is like snapping a towel.  Throw the towel end towards the intended target, then quickly snap it back.  We’re getting eye-head movement out of the way early, then shifting our spine up and back towards the catcher –  snapping the barrel into the impact zone.  Ryan Braun does this!

Sitting back makes the hitter do the opposite…

  • Keep the hitter back till the last possible second, then
  • The hitter has to shift their weight forward to counter-balance because of proprioception, and
  • As a result, shifts the head and eyes forward.

 

Lunging

What’s your definition of lunging?  When Ryan Braun lands his front foot, his knee virtually floats above his ankle. My definition of lunging is when the front knee continues to float over or passed the ankle during the Final Turn.  It’s a very ineffective position to hit in because the head will continue moving forward.

Here’s how sitting back causes lunging:

  1. Hitter shifts weight to back leg,
  2. Reaches out softly with the stride foot, like a cat (and oftentimes too early)
  3. Waits till ball is on the way, then
  4. Because the body isn’t balanced, the brain shifts the hitter’s weight forward with no hope of getting back,
  5. So the hitter continues forward until he or she hits (or misses) something.

 

Front Shoulder Flies Open

Unlike Ryan Braun, most ‘Sit Back’ hitters:

  1. Have hand dominant swings.  Since the shoulders are closest to the hands, they have to start earlier to get the hands working.
  2. Don’t set up the natural rotation counter-rotation relationship of the pelvis and shoulders* before the front foot hits the ground.  This causes the shoulders to compensate and open prematurely.
  3. Open their hips and shoulders at the same time.  If this happens, a hitter will max out at 60-70% of their ability to transfer energy efficiently from body –> to barrel –> to ball.  This put smaller hitters at a disadvantage by dramatically decreasing power output.
  4. Have a difficult time keeping the front shoulder in with off speed and breaking balls.  It’s easy for pitchers to disrupt a Sit Back hitter’s timing.  Their brain is focused on too many things at once: timing, proprioception, and pitch speed/location (because of late head-eye movement).

*CLICK HERE for an in-depth look at spine engine mechanics according to Dr. Erik Dalton.  Read below the subtitle, “The Spring-Loaded Spiraling Spine”.

CLICK HERE for Part-2 to the Hitting Backwards video saga, where we’ll analyze Adrian Gonzalez and Common Mistake #2: loading the swing incorrectly…