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Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Breathing Technique For Hitting A Baseball: Why Hitters Shouldn’t Breath Like “Normal”

 

Before we get to the breathing technique for hitting a baseball (same for softball), consider this…

Breathing is one of the most commonly dysfunctional movement patterns today.  In other words, nowadays “normal” breathing IS dysfunctional!

Breathing Technique For Hitting A Baseball

Photo courtesy: MobilityWOD.com YouTube video

Why?  Here are a few reasons off the top of my head – you could probably think of others:

  • High levels of stress hormone cortisol throughout the day because of constant bombardment of mind numbing hamster-constantly-on-the-wheel technology (phones, video games, etc.),
  • Overuse training – doubling training efforts without doubling recovery efforts (dangerously over scheduled youth athletes), and
  • Injuries to certain areas of the body, playing a one-sided dominant sport (i.e. baseball and softball), and imbalanced training (without proper flushing of waste by the lymphatic system), can build a shorter breathing pattern, which can cause a constant drip-drip-drip of the fight or flight response throughout the day.

One of my hitter’s dad asked me what physical training I recommend outside of a busy baseball and football schedule, and I said either Yoga or Pilates.  I HIGHLY disagree with most hitting coaches putting ORGASMIC emphasis on explosive, Olympic, Cross-fit, or whatever else type of performance training out there.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for physical training geared for performance, but corrective maintenance training SHOULD precede performance – if we want healthy moving athletes.  If you put fresh 80,000 mile tires on a Lamborghini with a misaligned front end, then you’ll be lucky to get half the miles out of the tires!  Also, the tires won’t be your only problem.

Let’s connect what an effective breathing technique for hitting a baseball means to hitters…

World renowned strength and conditioning coach Brett Jones says this about “anatomical” versus “biomechanical” breathing in a post titled, “How Your Breathing Relates to Your Movement”:

“Anatomical breathing match refers to the natural matching of the inhalation and exhalation with extension and flexion of the spine/body. Extension facilitates inhalation and flexion facilitates exhalation. As the body gets compressed (flexion) exhalation dissipates the pressure and extension assists in opening the thoracic area to assist in inhalation. In addition, anatomical breathing can be used in stretching where the exhale is used to enhance the relaxation into a stretch.

Whereas, in the biomechanical breathing match we flip those actions. Inhaling to increase the intra-abdominal pressure during flexion and exhaling to improve muscular action and stability during extension. Biomechanical breathing match is key to being able to handle loads through the body during performance. During a dead-lift, kettle-bell swing or a kettle-bell military press the biomechanical breathing match allows us to amp up our strength and stability.”

The video above demonstrates this biomechanical breathing technique for hitting a baseball.  I’ve had quite a few of you ask about this, so here you go!  The description says the above YouTube video is about…

“Identifying and correcting low back extension loading issues through the correct sequence of breathing. If we can get our athletes to breath better across all movements and under load, performance will improve.”

Dr. Mark Cheng, one of my many favorite strength and conditioning coaches, says:

“When you truly own a movement pattern, strain isn’t part of the picture.”

There are a couple other resources I’d be estupido not to mention that plays right into improving breathing technique for hitting a baseball:

The above video is only 3-min and 41-secs, so there won’t be any breathing technique for hitting a baseball notes.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the REPLY section below this post…

Move better, perform better.  Enjoy!

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

11 Little League Baseball TBall Drills & Tips, So You Can Be Confident You’re Preparing Players For The Next LevelTBall Drills Little League Baseball: How To Coach Tee Ball Without Going Insane

In researching this coaching tball drills little league baseball 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 little league baseball 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 little league baseball 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: TBall Drills 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 little league baseball 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 little league baseball tball drills to be growth mindset oriented.

 

#4: TBall Drills 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 little league baseball 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 little league baseball 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 little league baseball 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 little league baseball 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: TBall Drills How To Get 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…

Hitting Training For Baseball & Softball Swing Trainers | Hitting Performance Lab

Want To Move Better? Simple Adjustments To Move Like Today’s Best Hitters

Tai Chi Combat's Master Wong: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

Watch Tai Chi Combat’s Master Wong in point #4 below: Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility. Photo courtesy: Master Wong, from his YouTube video Tai Chi for Beginners.

What Smokin’ Joe Frazier, China’s Tai Chi, the Headspace meditation app, and Ted Williams have in common will become clear moving through this post, I promise.

But first, here’s the glue that connects all these seemingly random things

I recently stumbled onto a post titled, “Want to Move Better? Use These 5 Simple Adjustments to Start Moving Freely” by Ryan Hurst, who’s co-founder of GMB Fitness (Gold Medal Bodies). They focus on Gymnastic type movements.

The first time I read through it, I thought, well this could help hitters…

The second time I read through it, I thought, dang, this could REALLY help hitters

And then the 3rd, 4th, and 5th times, in my head I screamed, “DUDE!!”

Which is WHY I’m bringing it’s information to the attention of my coaches.

Here’s what I have for you…

  • Some quick notes from each of the five main points of the Ryan Hurst GMB Fitness post above,
  • Supporting videos that help put the ideas into “hitting” terms, and
  • A few resources I think are becoming more popular in helping hitters control their breathing (VERY IMPORTANT as you’ll soon see).

ENJOY!

 

1. Slow It Down for Instant Awareness

  • Being mindful is really the key to better movement.
  • Pay attention to how your hips are moving, your weight distribution, your eye gaze, and your breath.
  • Slow down your movement and you’ll be able to pay better attention to the details.

I’m not sure on the name, but I once heard boxer Joe Frazier used to practice a super slow motion punch that would last 20-minutes!  Talk about slowing it down for instant awareness.

Here are swings from different angles to practice specific movements in slow motion…

2. Use Your Hips for Instant Power

  • Hips are your body’s center of mass.
  • The better you can initiate motion from this point, the more efficient your movements will be, as you’ll move with less wasted action.
  • With any stepping motion, rather than your feet propelling you forward, you want your hips to lead.

Yes, I agree with Ted Williams when he said the “Hips Lead the Way”.  But even before the pelvis begins to turn for a hitter, the front hip MUST lead the way during the stride.

Watch this short 1-min Justin Turner slow motion swing video I put together for you, and key in on how his front hip initiates his pre-turn movement in the stride…

3. Use Visual Aim for Instant Control

  • Head is hardwired to follow your eyes, and the body is hardwired to follow your head. Basically, the body will follow the eyes.
  • If your eyes are not gazing in the right place, you won’t be able to control your body properly.
  • If you want to move better, think of it this way: your eyes should always be pointed where you want your spine to be.

This is WHY hitters who “pull their heads”, go chin to chest, back ear to back shoulder, or nose to sky at impact is not good.

My good friend Matt Nokes at Hitting Solutions calls this “swinging across your face”…this cue will help correct pulling the head.  The best hitters “keep their head in the fire”, as Nokes says.  Control the head, and hitter controls the direction and “squaring-up” of impact.

Watch this head movement modeling video of a few top MLB hitters…

4. Notice Weight Transfer for Instant Agility

  • The correct transfer of your weight is the beginning of a smooth and controlled motion.
  • While side stepping (or lunging) to your right, notice that you shifted your weight to the left a split second before you went to the right? It’s a natural loading response that you do without even thinking about it.
  • With any movement, if your body’s natural weight transfer mechanisms are not working properly, it will hurt your balance.

This is natural weight transfer behavior coaches!! If any hitting coach tells a right handed hitter to NOT shift their weight towards their right leg before striding to the left, then RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!

Watch the following three-in-a-half minute video from Master Wong, founder of Tai Chi Combat (over 1.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel!!), performing a beginner’s Tai Chi movement.  Notice the split second weight shift one way, in order to go the other way…

5. Breathe for Instant Poise and Calm

  • Difference between holding the breath and bracing during movement…for skill-based movements holding your breath isn’t going to help.
  • Breath holding and hyperventilation are signs of anxiety, but in that wonderful body-mind connection loop, it can also create anxiety.
  • Poor breathing creates feelings of anxiety, anxiety, creates tension, and unmediated tension causes poor movement. Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.

This is “bigly”!  The leading resources for this are the following guided meditation apps:

  • Headspace (I’ve been using this one for the best 3 years), and
  • Calm

I can’t speak for the Calm app, but Headspace is not Eastern “woo-woo”.  It focuses on controlling the breath, being aware of the breath, and the use of visualization practice.

These are second-to-none resources for reducing rapid breathing during competition or any other signs of anxiety.

I think this quote bares repeating because it’s VERY important for hitters:

“Smooth and purposeful breathing leads to smooth and purposeful movement.”