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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!

Coaching Kids

Coaching Kids Reader Question: “How do you get your own kid to listen/trust your advice as a coach and not as a parent?”

Coaching Kids

My son Noah and daughter Gracen, who were 4yo and 1yo respectively, at the time of this photo.

Be comforted to know that most parents coaching kids I’ve dealt with have a “coaching kids” challenge – especially when it’s their own!  And I’m preparing to have the same challenge with mine…already have coaches lined up who will be working with them when the time comes 😉

Let me start off by saying, this post IS NOT telling you how to raise your kids.  That’s not my place.  I’m offering advice on what works for me.   In addition, I’m not a child psychologist, or any other type of professional dealing in kid behavior.  Just like with everything on this blog, try it out for yourself, if it doesn’t work, then toss it.  Always be testing.

FYI, I may use the words “coach” or “coaching”, where you could also use the word “discipline” or “parent” or “parenting”.

That being said…

Over the years, I’ve received great advice from the parents of my hitters, before I had kids, and now.  When it comes to coaching kids, below is me throwing my brain up on your tech device screen!

In this post I’ll share:

  • The 30,000-foot view tips to keep “seasons of life” into perspective,
  • 18 ways to get your own kid to listen/trust your advice as a coach and not as a parent, and
  • Some high priority books and resources to read on the subject…

 

30,000-foot View Tips to Keep “Seasons of Life” into Perspective

When it comes to coaching kids, one thing to keep in mind from a 30,000-foot view…

I did a 6-week Men’s Fraternity class at my church a few years back.  The purpose of the class was to train and equip “Godly fathers”.  One thing that stuck out for me at the time, was that your perspective as a dad (or mom) MUST change with the season of life.  What does that look like?

  • Up to 12-years-old, parents are seen as coaches.  Most kids in this age range are less resistant to a parent barking orders.
  • During the psychological warfare teenage years, 13-years-old to college, parents are to be seen as a “listening” counselor.  God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen twice as much as we talk 😛  And,
  • The years following college, young adults getting into their professional lives, parents move into the “colleague” season of life.  New families, babies, etc.

Another great piece of coaching kids advice for those parents who wear both the “coach” and “parent” hat, was to have the ability to be coach on the field, but mom/dad in the car and away from the field.

One more fantastic piece of advice I received from a coach at Fresno State my Freshman year, at a time when I was so frustrated the coaches were tweaking every mechanical movement I did on the field (at least that’s how it felt to me anyway):

“You don’t need to worry when we’re coaching you.  You need to worry when we aren’t.  It means we’ve given up on you.

Powerful.  That message changed my perspective on coaching the rest of my career at Fresno State!  Look, coaching kids is love.  Make your kids aware of that.

 

18 Ways to get your own kid to Listen/Trust your Advice as a Coach and not as a Parent

I want to preface this section with the fact, I haven’t mastered any of the following points.  That’s right, still working on them.  And I welcome the fear that this process will be a journey, and not a destination.  I’m far from being perfect.  I heard this expert’s advice on one of my wife’s favorite dating shows Love at First Sight:

“If you want to find a perfect person, then you have to be perfect yourself.” One of the frustrated men who got married on the show responded with, “But I’m not perfect”, and the expert added, “Then it looks like you get the message.” (liiight bulb)

We don’t have to be perfect as parents, we just have to be willing to learn, make mistakes, adapt, and try again.  The following list of 18 tips for coaching kids will help (especially when the kids are your own!)

  1. Don’t overdo discipline.  Making mountains out of mole hills – pick your battles. Being consistent with rules and consequences is HUGE.  Remember Goldilocks Golden Rule…too many rules, and they’ll rebel later.  Little to no rules, and they’ll walk all over you and everyone else.  Find the sweet spot.  Without consistent rules and consequences, they won’t build the necessary mental muscles to develop self-discipline when they’re adults.
  2. Avoid overuse and burnout – playing multiple sports or being involved in multiple movement activities is key.  Variety is fun to kids, and the spice of their life.  The same thing over and over can become boring, which leads to burnout.  Bodies engaged in a variety of movements is a healthy body.  Say no to Sport Specialization early on.
  3. Make sure they’re “listening” (the VAK Model) – did you know that in less than 5-minutes, you can get a ballpark of a player’s learning style by asking them a few questions, and watching for where their eyes go? Up to left or right – visual learner.  Side to side – auditory learner.  Down to left or right, and straight ahead – kinesthetic learner (feel).  Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) calls this the VAK Model.  This comes in handy when coaching a child, they don’t look at you, and you tell them, “Look at me when I’m talking to you”…they may primarily be an auditory learner, NOT visual.
  4. Be careful tone of voice – my 5yo son is very sensitive to tone of voice (auditory learner), so I have to be careful when coaching him. I must have good reason to raise my voice during times of correction with him.  Also, tempo of words are important when raising the voice or not.  You want to strive for keeping the voice under control even when raising it.
  5. Don’t question by entrapment – asking leading questions in order to trap them isn’t very effective.  It’s condescending actually.  I’m a work in progress on this one.  Putting kids through an interrogation is a terrible idea, especially if you don’t want resentment later. The key is coming off with genuine curiosity as to why they made the mistake they did.  Remember, they’re not perfect, neither are you.  Easy on paper, hard to apply.
  6. Caution them once, then let them make the mistake (providing mistake doesn’t do extreme physical or mental harm) – ever tell your kid to not do something over and over and over and over?  Lessons are more effective when we get ‘hands on’ experience learning them ourselves.
  7. Praise them whenever they do something you want them to do“You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.  Behavioral conditioning is much more effective when rewarding for positive things, rather than punishing for the negative (i.e. taking things away).  See Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot The Dog in the resources below.  I take my 5yo to 7-Eleven to get his favorite candy RIGHT after school. We also award stickers for doing certain things like listening the first time, cleaning up messes at home, and being patient with his little sister when she’s hitting him!  10 stickers earn him a toy in the $10-20 range.
  8. Ask their advice, put yourself in a learning mode – genuine curiosity.  Be honest, you LOVE when others ask for your advice, and seem genuinely interested in what you have to say.  Our kids love giving THEIR advice.  Be interested in their thought process.  I find it fascinating how clever they are at their age.  Sometimes I underestimate them, and they surprise me.
  9. Patience – using guided meditation apps like Headspace or Calm can be a real help with this.  The book resources below will help too.  Extreme patience in infectious.  Kids will model their parents.  If you’re an angry person, then chances are high your kids will be too.
  10. Understand what their big WHY is – what inspires them?  What motivates them?  Are they looking for attention (need significance), love (craving connection), routine (are they overwhelmed), or variety (are they bored)?  Knowing what’s driving their bad or good behavior can be a big help in prevention or promotion in the future.
  11. Show them the book, video, etc. you’re getting your info from – show them the hitting information you’re teaching them isn’t just “your” opinion.  Show them the science, experimentation, case studies, etc.  Give them proof.  Kids are pretty intuitive.  They seem to know when something has legs or when it doesn’t.  Give them proof.  Check out this post on How to Get Hitters to Buy Into the System.
  12. Give them options to “experiment” with – instead of saying, “Do it this way, not that way”.  Give them options.  You like options, don’t you?  Remember, these human movement principles are like bumpers in the gutter lanes of a bowling alley.  I don’t care what path the ball rolls down the lane, just as long as it stays between the bumpers.  A hitter’s stride type (aka “Float”) doesn’t matter, just as long as there is one.  Let them test, and choose which they feel more comfortable with.  Check out this post on Baseball Stride Drills: A How To Guide
  13. Show them high level movement examples – humans learn best by modeling.  Before there were “hitting coaches” – yes, there was such a time – hitters figured it out by watching other high level hitters.  And yes, it’s okay when coaching kids, to teach them high level movements.  Movement is movement.  Just like you wouldn’t teach an 8yo that 2 + 2 = 5 because they’re too young to learn the truth…you wouldn’t do the same with movement.
  14. Fun – coaching kids MUST be fun. I love positively teasing the kids.  I like making things up to see if they’re listening, “Where’s the keys to the batter’s box?”, “Do you know where the box of curve balls is?” “After running past third base, you run to FOURTH base…” etc.  Keep it light, and the drills fun. Check out this post on: TBall Drills: How To Coach Tee Ball Without Going Insane that may be of interest to those frustrated with coaching younger athletes.
  15. Keep expectations reasonable – “reasonable” doesn’t mean below their current ability level.  The expectations will depend on the age group.  Operating at or slightly above skill level will help players grow.  Learn to manage player frustration, know when to regress or progress a drill.
  16. Break things into small bites – make small circles at first.  The accumulation of many small circles build into a BIG circle snowball.  Focus on one movement principle at a time for a week or month, depending on the age and ability level.  Patience is your friend regardless of what decision the coach whose focus is on winning may be.
  17. Reward effort not talent – reward effort.  Reward process not performance.  “Good job!”, “You’re so smart”, and “You’re so talented” are not helpful pieces of feedback.  Coaching kids in character is best.  Remember, kids MUST learn life lessons through sports, not the other way around.
  18. Pat & Pop Method or the compliment sandwich – give the hitter 1-2 things you really like about their swing (the “Pat” on the back), before giving them the constructive criticism (the “Pop” in the mouth).  Or compliment-criticize-compliment sandwich.  You don’t like to be constantly criticized, and neither do they.  Teenagers often call this nagging.  Find the good before finding what needs to be corrected.

 

Coaching Kids Books & Resources

CLICK HERE for a post by the Positive Coaching Alliance titled, “7 Must-Read Books Of All Genres For Parents”.  Here are the books mentioned in that post, and a few others helping solve the question we started off with in this post:

Some I’ve read, and others are currently on my reading list.  This is a perfect segue to shamelessly plug my “sticky coaching” book on Amazon… 😛

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.”