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Answered: “Helping Get Youth Players To Stay On Plane And Not Dip Their Bodies When They Swing?”

 

 

In the above video, we’ll be discussing:

  • Relationship between spinal engine and shoulder behavior in healthy effective swing,
  • Causes of unhealthy “dipping” of body in swing,Do You Recognize The 6 Early Warning Signs Of Hitters Dipping Their Bodies?
  • Head stability,
  • Arching low back,
  • Straightening out back leg,
  • Over-rotating upper half,
  • Over-rotating lower half, and
  • Core instability.

Hey, what’s going on. It’s Joey Myers again from the “Hitting Performance Lab. In this video, we’re gonna answer a reader question, this one is asking for advice to:

“Helping get youth players to stay on plane, and not dip their bodies when they swing”.

Now a couple things we have to define here, what ‘dipping’ is…

 

Relationship between Spinal Engine and Shoulder Behavior in Healthy Effective Swing

This is important to cover. Because there is some dipping that goes on, but I want to define what’s good versus what’s bad. What we should see with hitters, and good healthy spinal engine mechanics is, say with the righty, the shoulders will start in somewhat of a slightly down position, we call this the ‘Downhill shoulder’, and it’s just a side bend.

David Weck, founder of the BOSU ball, the RMT Club, and a lot of other cool stuff. He talks about this idea of the head over foot technique. The head shifts slightly over towards the front stride landing foot.  The side bend is crucial to the actual opposite action that’s gonna happen during the swing.

We’re gonna see the teeter totter effect of the shoulders starting down, and then they’re gonna flip up as I start my turn. Then what we should see is this shoulder, if we track the left one for a righty starts down, pops up. As we finish, should be back down again.  Think about those beautiful images of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, in their finish, and the righties are kind of in this position. The lefties are in the opposite position.

We want to see a healthy accelerating-decelerating spinal engine, that is the healthy dipping that we should see if the shoulders or side bending.

 

6 Causes of Unhealthy “Dipping” of Body in Swing

1. Head Stability

I call it a ‘Collapsing backside’, so one of the causes of this is head stability. We’ll see a hitter will go chin to chest, when they’re at impact, going right into their sternum with their chin. Sometimes we’ll see the head go up (like looking up into the sky), we’ll see the bill of the cap go this way, and we’ll see the rear ear going to the rear shoulder, so for righties, right ear to the right shoulder. For lefties, left ear to the left shoulder.

There are some hitters in the big leagues that do this a little bit, they used to do this actually more in the past, they’ve been cleaning it up. But Andrew McCutchen used to go chin to chest, Bryce Harper would go rear ear to shoulder, Prince Fielder did what Harper did.  You even see Nolan Arenado more chin to chest. Because he tries to leave his head at impact, which I don’t recommend for younger hitters. When the head is in an unstable position, this creates a threat to the central nervous system. Wherever the head goes, the body follows.

If the head “rolls” (like Harper/Fielder)…when we’re rolling the head this way, you’ll see a collapsing of the backside, you see the whole body will dip, and it’s not a very strong position. Head stability is one of them, one of the causes of an unhealthy dipping of the body in the swing.

2. Arching low back

Arching the lower back, kind of similar to the neck, the C-spine. When we start arching the lower lumbar during rotation, which isn’t very good because you’re pushing the vertebrae together, and then rotating them, so you’re basically grinding. So, we don’t want to do that, and if we’re doing that, sometimes we’ll see this collapsing to the backside as well. You want to do it what’s called a ‘Hollow position’, or a ‘Hollow hold’, you can go on YouTube, and search “hollow hold gymnastics”, and you can find a video on how to practice this.  It’s basically taking the curve out of our lower lumbar, or lower back.

Imagine you’re lying on your back, on the ground, like you’re gonna do a crunch, you got your feet on the ground, your knees are up, and you go to do a crunch. What you have to do first is push your lower back into the ground, just want to push hard in the ground, create some pressure into the ground through your lower back.  That’s taking the curve out of your lower back, and doing what we call a hollow position. It’s a posterior tilting of the pelvis for those kinetic nerd jockeys like me.

3. Straightening out Back Leg

The other thing that could be causing dipping of the body in the swing is straightening out the back leg.  This tends to follow both head instability, and/or arching of the low back.

The glute fires, the back glute, for righties the right glute, and the right quad fires to straighten the knee. It’s the hamstring that we see in professional studies of hitters, back hamstring that’s turning on a lot more than you see in amateur hitters, where they tend to try and lock that back knee out. The glute locks out, and what’s happening is that back glute is trying to support and create stability in the lower back. Because it’s going into a bad position, a compromised position. As long as we can fix the hollow, get them into more of a hollow position, we fix the head movement with the neck brace drill. Not a stiff neck brace, but a soft one.  We don’t want to immobilize the head, just create feedback for movement.

If you can correct this, you can crack the lower back – metaphorically speaking of course – then you can start to work the hitter into bending that back knee a little bit more, using the hamstring, lesser the quad, and lesser the glute. Those are again trying to protect that lower back, that can be a major cause of unhealthy dipping in the swing.

4. Over-rotating Upper Half

I am starting to actually see this in some of my hitters, not in a lot but a few of them.  Where they’re actually over rotated at impact. They’re making contact almost behind themselves, and their sternum in the middle of their chest is out over in left field (for righties, reverse for lefties). We must get them to under rotate, so we do a lot of “deep” tee drills, and get them to try and pull the ball off a deep positioned tee. You set it up almost in line with the hitter’s belly button, and get them to kind of hook it, and hook it around to slow down that sternum.  The hitter should look and feel like they’re swinging their arms across their body. 

The upper half over rotating, we can also over rotate the lower half…

5. Over-rotating Lower Half

So, we use a VeloPro to strap it to the back hip and back ankle.  We get them to try and keep the back heel on the ground (like George Springer), and keep the back foot sideways. If they’re over rotating, it could cause a collapse of the backside as well. Again, we want to be effective between our 90 degrees of fair territory, and when we over rotate either the upper or the lower half, then what we’re doing is we’re sliding our 90 over into foul territory, which doesn’t do us any good, any of our hitters any good.

The last thing I want to add in this video is fixing core instability…

6. Core Instability

There are things that you can do at the gym with your trainer, hopefully your trainer is versed on mobility and stability exercises (certified in the Functional Muscle Screen – FMS, or in TPI). When we’re talking core stability, you want to do a lot of things like planks:

So, you’re creating some rotation in there as well. You also want to do like ‘Hollow holds”, you want do things like that, you want to do maybe suitcase carries, where you’re carrying a dumbbell on one side of the body and trying to keep your shoulders square, things like that you can do. You can ask your trainer on how to create more core stability, but those are some things to think about if you’re asking yourself the same question as our reader: “Helping get youth hitters to stay on playing, and not dip their bodies when they swing”.

Work on the things we discussed, clean them up, and check them off your list. Your hitter will be in a more healthy body “dipping” position. Make sure that we’re swinging smarter by moving better, and before I let you go…

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…

Reader Question: “What flexibility work do you do with your trainees to enhance counter-rotation of the torso as the foot lands open?”

 

Andrew McCutchen 'Showing his Numbers' to the Pitcher

Andrew McCutchen ‘showing his numbers’ to the pitcher, while landing open with lower half. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

This questions stems from how I teach hitters to ‘show their numbers’ to the pitcher during the load, as close to stride landing as possible…

(see image of Andrew McCutchen)

But for this to work, here’s the kicker…

The hitter MUST land open with the bottom half…front foot open between 45 and 60-degrees.

This creates what some coaches call torque, or counter-rotation of the shoulders-to-pelvis…

These are basic walking mechanics of the spine…and is why, as your right leg swings forward, so does your left arm.

So how do we optimize this action with our hitters using flexibility and strengthening?

I’m about 8-weeks into an online gymnastics strength training course through GymnasticBodies.com myself.  I’ve finished their Fundamentals course, and currently working through their Handstand course.

GymnasticBodies.com Fundamentals Course Deal

Photo courtesy: GymnasticBodies.com

CLICK HERE to get $25 OFF full price of $100 for their Fundamentals course.  I don’t get paid if you purchase the course.  I just LOVE what they’re doing, and believe ALL hitters MUST be engaging in this type of mobility and strength training.

(PLEASE NOTE: I’m not sure how long this deal will be up, so jump on it!)

Why am I putting myself through this training?

#1: as my wife will tell you, this is a gross obsession of mine…sometimes bordering on OCD.

And #2: I wanted to pick up a few things about bodyweight training mobility and stability for my hitters.

One of my guiding principles is if you aren’t growing, then you’re dying.

And if you’re a coach that takes mentoring young athletes seriously, then you MUST be subscribing to the same proactive learning principles.

So, in the above video, we go over:

  • Rotation v. Anti-Rotation (acceleration v. braking systems)
  • Rotation stretch – hold each side for at least 30-secs
  • Rotation strengthen:
    • Windshield Wipers – do 10 repetitions each side
  • Anti-Rotation strengthen:
    • Side Plank (anti-side bend) – start off with holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery
    • 3-Point Plank (anti-rotation of pelvis) – start off holding for 30-secs, then increase by 15-secs after mastery.

ENJOY!

How to Become a Hitting Expert When You Come Across “That Guy” (Baseball Hitting Drills For Youth Included)

So, this is what I have to deal with on a weekly basis…

I also want to apologize in advance, this is a little bit of a rant.

Before going into the baseball hitting drills for youth, here’s some context,

It all started when I posted this image of Buster Posey in his ‘Float’ position on Twitter (CLICK HERE for Twitter thread):

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The caption I put over the Twitter image stated: “Hitting Misconception: ‘Keep the back knee inside the foot’. Buster Posey is ‘floating’ with his knee over ankle…”

This is when my conversation with @13tys started…

@13tys: his knee is inside his foot! No?

@hitperformlab (Me): nope, knee floating slightly off center of ankle.

@13tys: just showed the same pic to my 11yr old and asked him, reply “are you stupid? His knee is inside his ankle”.

(This is when I get the feeling that I was dealing with “that guy”)

@hitperformlab: he’s kind of bias don’t you think? Lol

@13tys: just showed the pic and asked. I usually use my 9 and 11 yr olds to call a spade a spade. They don’t know baseball politics.

@hitperformlab: it’s not the ideal angle, I’ll find another. You believe in keeping the knee inside at all costs?

@13tys: you don’t have to, but the further back it goes, the tougher u make hitting. Already tough enough w/o that much movement!

@hitperformlab: C’mon man! Had to prove to your 10yo I’m not “stupid” lol. Just did simple Google image search.

(Here are the two images of Buster Posey I posted to the baseball hitting drills for youth Twitter thread)...

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: www.BayAreaSportsGuy.com

AND

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Buster Posey 'Floating'

Buster Posey photo courtesy: InWriteField.com

@13tys: still, we are looking at the same thing and seeing different things. To me, that knee is still not on top of the ankle.

(by the way, in the beginning of our Twitter conversation, I said “knee floating slightly off center of ankle”)…

@hitperformlab: let me get my 2 year old to comment on your comment lol

@hitperformlab: Posey is creating torque in his back hip. Also depends on the severity of the leg kick, Posey’s is about medium…hope this helps

@13tys: creating torque?? Seriously? This is y kids are so confused by their “hitting coaches” #keepitsimple

(Then like the “good American citizen” he is, posts a screenshot of the definition of “Torque”)…

@hitperformlab: I’m talking to you, not to kids. Read Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book The Supple Leopard.

@13tys: sorry, My experience and knowledge come from yrs in cages & video w/ the best hitters ever, some come from books on crossfit

@hitperformlab: book that’ll rock you’re isolated hitting world? Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.

(Then there was radio silence…)

FIRST of all, if spending years in the cages AND analyzing video of the best hitters ever, magically made you know EVERYTHING you need to know about effective hitting, then we wouldn’t have the problem we do today with guys like this, coming up with effective baseball hitting drills for youth hitters.

“That guy” is a soaked sponge, and has reached his ceiling of knowledge when it comes to hitting.

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth: Alex Rodriguez Barrel Down

Baseball hitting drills for youth: Alex Rodriguez NOT keeping barrel above hands like he said. Photo courtesy: NewsDay.com

If experience, cage work, and analysis were the only standard of learning the swing, then we’d all have to accept what Alex Rodriguez shared about the secret to his swing during the 2015 World Series FOX Sports broadcast…

How he talked about keeping the barrel above his hands when hitting.  And we ALL know how well that little tip would help our hitters 😛

And SECOND, this “talking down to you” TWEETitude, is a sure sign of an inferior coach, nevertheless, a knucklehead for a human being.

Slightly off topic…

Read this Business Insider article titled, “4 behaviors are the most reliable predictors of divorce”.

Guess which one of the ‘4 horsemen of the apocalypse’ is the worst offender in marriages…

CONTEMPT (aka, the “talking down to you” attitude).

Okay, back on topic…

Look, if we as coaches don’t have a solid foundation in human movement principles, validated by science, then we’re pissing in the wind!  Without this foundation, conversations about hitting would model a Merry-Go-Round.  Many of you have experienced this ridiculous insanity in popular online hitting forums.

Look at this slow motion video of Buster Posey.  Look at the difference of the back knee position (over the ankle, slightly off center) at the 0:03 video mark, versus at the 0:09 video mark during the fall forward…

Here’s the holdup with hitting coaches, even ones I agree with on a majority of things,

They think that the back knee MUST stay inside the foot at ALL times.  So, they teach ALL their hitters to do this, often putting the hitter’s back knee in an unnatural and awkward position before Forward Momentum.

If you think this knee position is healthy, then CLICK HERE to learn how bad putting the knee into a ‘knee valgus’ position is to our youth athletes from FunctionalMovement.com.

In addition,

These same instructors may also suggest and teach there hitters that when the back knee gets over the ankle, that it’s a BAD thing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The shifting of the knee back over the ankle should have a purpose.  A couple baseball hitting drills for youth concepts:

  1. A timing mechanism that I like to call the ‘Float’, AND
  2. Creating torque, or stability, in the back hip.

 

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #1: Using the ‘Float’

A ‘Float’ is a timing mechanism the hitter uses just before falling forward.  It generally can be observed as a slight weight shift back towards the catcher before falling forward.

With the ‘Float’, the severity of the knee shift will depend on the leg kick.  The higher the leg kick, the more the shifting of the knee over the ankle may have to happen.

For example, Willie Mays didn’t have much of a weight shift (or Float) back, he just fell forward with a slide step:

However, watch slow motion video of Josh Donaldson, who has a high leg kick, and you’ll see him virtually ‘pause’ on one leg, before his fall forward:

Baseball Hitting Drills for Youth #2: Creating Hip Torque & Stability

Okay, so what is creating torque to stabilize the back hip mean?  Let Dr. Kelly Starrett, Physical Therapist and owner of San Francisco CrossFit, at MobilityWOD.com explain its importance:

Here’s a baseball hitting drills for youth coaching cue that I use…

Borrowed from Dr. Kelly Starrett, I say to my hitters “screw the back ankle into the foot”.  I also advise them to point the back toe slightly inward towards the pitcher at setup, and to keep it there while screwing the ankle in.  The keyword is slight, not a lot.

Take a look at this video of Jose Bautista fouling a ball off, and watch how he ‘bows’ his back knee in, but at about the 0:06 second mark (when he begins his fall forward), the back knee starts to shift back towards the catcher…his back hip and thigh bone are searching for stability after being put in an unstable internally rotated (knee valgus) position at setup:

Now, CLICK HERE to watch this video clip of Ted Williams, and keep an eye on the back knee action between the 0:06-0:15 video mark.  Sorry, this YouTuber disabled the embed code so I couldn’t embed the video here.

What did arguably one of the best hitters of all time do with his back knee prior to Forward Momentum.  Boy, didn’t it shift back over the ankle?!

How about this homerun hit by Asdrubal Cabrera (watch the slow motion chest view at the 0:41 second mark)…

One more video…

Check out Matt Kemp.  As you can see, he starts with his back knee inside his foot, then watch for his back knee action prior to Forward Momentum:

Now, is this making baseball hitting drills for youth more complicated, like Mr. @13tys said?

Heck no!  It takes about 5 to 10-mins to explain to my 7-year-old hitters, and they begin applying it in their swings.  Easy peasy.

So after looking at all this, here’s the point of my baseball hitting drills for youth rant…

Don’t get caught up drinking the cool-aid of other hitting experts, blowhards, or “That Guy” without questioning what they’re saying.  Remember, we aren’t just observers.  We’re amateur scientists in a way.

I don’t claim to know it all.  And am still learning.  But I know for a fact, I’m on a better road than “That Guy”.

Look, I don’t mind being challenged, but if you don’t back up what you’re saying with human movement principles, that are validated by science, then you’ll lose.  We aren’t debating baseball hitting drills for youth philosophies or theories…we analyze through the lens of validated science.  Physics, Engineering, Bodywork, Biology, Chemistry, and Biomechanics.

I DO NOT care what level you played or coached at.

I DO NOT care if you’ve digested a million hours of slow motion video footage of only the BEST hitters.

I also DO NOT care if you’ve logged more hitting lesson hours than it takes to fly to Mars!!

If you don’t understand the human movement “rules”, then you DO NOT understand high level hitting, or better yet, high level human performance.

I know this may upset some of you out there.  But I don’t care.  The days of being “That Guy” are numbered.  If you aren’t moving with us, then you’ll be left behind.  And that’s the truth.