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Why You SHOULD NOT Use “Forearm” Or “Barrel” Cues In This Way…

Lower Back Explosion Extravaganza

Tweet from a #HittingTwit-ter

We have a lot to cover in this post, so this is what we’ll be discussing:

  • Here’s the problem…
  • Short anatomy lesson of the low back, and
  • What’s the answer?

Most “bad” coaching cues I see out there can work in the right circumstances, for example:

  • “Swing down” – can work for hitters who have an extreme uppercut…
  • “Sit back” – can work for hitters who are too far out front…
  • “Swing up” – can work for hitters who have an extreme down swing…

 

But Here’s the Problem…

I’ve been tracking the above swings cues for some time now, and I’ve found in a majority of cases, they seem to churn out one low back ticking time 💣 swing after another.  When I see one of these swings on Twitter, it’s like listening to grinding teeth, someone’s fat lips smacking while eating, or nails on a chalkboard.

Let me show you what I’m seeing…

Lower Back Exploding Extravaganza

Compilation of low backs exploding…

How do I know the above hitters were instructed with the coaching cues in question?

These were the hitters on proud display via the Twitter page of the above instructor’s name I blurred out!  Now, he’s not alone in this.  Many others like him are following the same blind mouse.

Btw, it wasn’t hard to find ANY of these swings…I found them in a matter of minutes.  And to be fair, not ALL this instructor’s hitters were doing this, but close to a majority.

Here’s one more clear swing example, one of my readers Shawn Bell shared after seeing the video above…

Focus on nothing else but her lower back…OUCH!

Fact: hitting cues have consequences. When we teach a hitter to take focus away from basic locomotion and gait principles, and put it squarely on manipulating the “forearms” or the “barrel”, young hitters will have a higher probability of wearing a hole in their low back than not.

“Unload your barrel not your body”…

AND,

“The forearms swing the bat. The body helps”…

…are misleading at best, and not having a clue as to what drives ALL human movement.  And these instructors routinely call this a High Level Pattern (HLP).  Sad.  All I see are low backs grinding.  To me, this is a Low Level Pattern (LLP), disastrous to young moving bodies, built on a stale straw man argument, losing sight of the forest for the trees, and chasing a sunset running east.

And most importantly, this low back ticking time 💣 IS NOT found in the REAL High Level Pattern.  I challenge you to find me at least one who does this…and if you find one, I’d love to dig into his or her history of injury.

 

Short Anatomy Lesson of the Low Back

Lordosis of the Spine

Photo courtesy: MountSinai.org

Normal lordosis of spine (natural low back curve – “neutral” spine), left hand side image.  And hyperextended lordosis (or arching) of spine, right hand side image.

Arching causes the vertebrae in the spine to push together.  This isn’t damaging by itself especially when done in global extension (think gymnast swinging forward under the bar), but adding in a little rotation over and over and over, and we have a low back ticking time 💣.

The REAL High Level Pattern (RHLP) is driven by the spinal engine.  Basic principles of locomotion and walking gait.  I would feel MUCH better reversing the two quoted coaching cues above to read…

“Unload your body not your barrel”…

AND,

“The body swings the bat. The forearm helps”…

This is a RHLP.  As Dr. Serge Gracovetsky (Physicist and Electrical Engineer), author of The Spinal Engine book says:

“The arms and legs aren’t necessary for locomotion.  They’re an enhancement.

Do you want proof to validate this statement?  Watch this… (Thanks again Shawn Bell for the giphy)

  

…The gentleman in the above video is from one of  Dr. Serge Gracovetsky’s movement experiments.  He was born WITHOUT arms and legs.  The crazy part is, if you block out his black shorts with your hand, and look at the way he moves and locomotes, you’d swear this man has legs.

The low back ticking time 💣 risk hiding in your swing can be found in using “forearm” and “barrel” focused cues.  The proof is in the almost dozen swings I found in the matter of minutes on Hitting Twitter.

And if you still don’t agree, then here’s one of my other favorite quotes from the author of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand…

“You can avoid reality, but you can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding reality”.

 

So, What’s the Answer?

A safe AND effective swing.  If we’re ruining lower backs, then how effective is effective?  Here’s a clue, instead of arching the low back, what happens if we do the opposite (flexing v. extending)?

I’m glad you asked!  Think about flexing the lower back as putting space between the 5 vertebrae located there.  This keeps the body from putting a death squeeze on the squishy and lubricating material between the vertebrae (cartilage and synovial fluid).  It makes the spine SAFE for rotation.  You got it, NO MORE LOW BACK TICKING TIME 💣’s!!!

So how do we protect our hitters and build a SAFE and Effective Swing? 

Think of your pelvis like a bowl of water.  Now, imagine a “Donald Duck” butt, where you’re sticking your butt back (arching low back – Dr. Kelly Starrett in his book Becoming A Supple Leopard refers to this as “Nasty Stripper Pose”).  For the kinesiology nerds out there, this is an anterior pelvic tilt – spilling water on your toes.  This IS NOT a good pelvic position when swinging a bat or throwing a ball.

Now, doing the opposite, imagine that same bowl of pelvis water in a posterior pelvic tilt, or Pink Panther butt, think about spilling water on your heels.

I have some cues you can use with your hitters, and a couple Hitting Performance Lab resource posts to reference…

The Hollow Hold…

If you’re one of those LLP instructors, and still aren’t convinced…PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE for the love of God…at least strengthen your hitter’s in the Hollow Hold.  I’m tired of seeing all the low back ticking time 💣’s waiting to go off. You’ve been WARNED.

 

In Memoriam

This post is dedicated to a great friend of mine and fellow baseball coach that we lost to a brain aneurysm on Monday… (my Facebook post):

“Words cannot express my deep sadness today upon hearing of my good friend and fantastic coach Sam Flores’s passing yesterday. He had no idea he was in a fight for his life – and would lose it – driving to the hospital with his family. So young. So tragic. My family and I ran into him at Costco 4 short weeks ago where we had a brief catch up on life and a big hug…you just don’t know when someone’s time is up. Hug your loved ones today, keep them close, and realize God is in control, not us. We love you Sam, and send my BIGGEST thoughts and prayers to your family as they go through the tragic mourning of your passing. The valley lost a wonderful Father, Husband, Friend, and ultimately a brilliant Coach. RIP my good buddy you will be missed (breaks my heart to see that little kiddo of yours) 😢😢😢

Ice Bath Benefits? Biggest LIE To A Speedy Recovery…

 

In short, when it comes to a speedy recovery, ice IS NOT nice.  And we’re not talking “immigration” here.  Those cold little cube things you grind up and put in your Margaritas, yeah, that “ice”!

Contrary to what most think, ice causes a back-flow of waste in the lymphatic system (waste management), and actually STOPS recovery.  That’s right!  Ice stops recovery.  How so?  I know, I know, ice numbs the area and makes it feel better…temporarily.  Just like Ibuprofen, but guess what?  That’s even worse!!  They’re examples of ineffective band-aids, not a definitive solution to the problem area.

Speedy Recovery? Ice Bath Benefits NOT What They Seem

MobilityWOD.com’s Dr. Kelly Starrett (on the right), interview MarcPro.com’s Gary Reinl about how “ice” is not nice.

If you’re looking for a speedy recovery, then listen up…

…we MUST look beyond supposed ice bath benefits because the key to a speedy recovery is muscle stimulation.

Gary Reinl (guy in the above video on the left) is being interviewed by San Francisco Crossfit Sports PT Dr. Kelly Starrett.  For those Growth Mindset coaches out there, check out their fantastic books:

Gary and his simple solution (not cheap by the way) to a speedy recovery jumped on my radar after I watched the above video quite a few years ago.  We’ve all been drilled to use ice to help reduce inflammation.  Even conditioning us to follow the R.I.C.E. method to recovery, whereas 75% of the equation is irrelevant, slows healing, and even STOPS it (hint: the “R”, “I”, & “E” letters in the acronym).  The video above gets more into this.

Gary Reinl is to a faster recovery like David Weck is to improving systemic strength and power concentrating on Tensional Balance and Rotational Power.

But get this, “inflammation” IS part of a speedy recovery.  According to Gary Reinl, there are three phases to healing:

  1. Inflammation,
  2. Repair, and
  3. Remodel…

And here’s the quote of the century…

“There can be inflammation without healing, but there CANNOT be healing without inflammation.”

Let that sink in for a moment…researching ice bath benefits isn’t the answer.  So stop it!  I ear marked some notes for you from the video above.  Enjoy!

  • At about 2:00-min mark, Gary Reinl introduces himself, consultant/teacher to all Professional and other Elite Athletes of Marc Pro, “garbage out, groceries in”
  • At about 3:40-min mark, is icing not good? Depends on what you’re using it for, you want less inflammation – why do you want less?  You’re better at regulating the body’s own natural inflammation response?  Swelling goes away by circulation and lymphatic system (set of one-way bags), it’s the muscle contraction/movement that squeezes waste out.
  • At about 5:30-min mark, isn’t immobilization good for an injured area?  What if injured site is too painful to move? Use muscle simulator to get muscles moving outside the pain site, batter hit by pitch example, the “highway back out”
  • At about 7:30-min mark, does compression work?  Yes, but it’s not the best method.  Manual stimulation? Yes, but it’s not the best most effective method.
  • At about 8:15-min mark, what about the R.I.C.E. method? RICE is not nice! Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  Resting is NOT pushing waste out because muscles aren’t contracting. Ice makes you numb.  What’s your goal.  Ice causes back-flow of waste.  It stops recovery. Ibuprofen is worse because it prevents the signal to push out the waste.  There can be inflammation without healing, but there cannot be healing without inflammation.
  • At about 14:00-min mark, 3 phases to healing: Inflammatory Response, Repair, and Remodel. Prevent inflammatory response, then prevent the other two phases.  Compression (low level), okay but not better than activating muscles surrounding injured area.  Pain to take IB’s is a “blockage” of their waste management system.
  • At about 25:55-min mark, Dr. Kelly Starrett says the only place ice belongs is in your Margarita sitting in the hot tub 😛

DISCLAIMER: I am an affiliate to both the Marc Pro and Marc Pro Plus.  However, before becoming an affiliate, I promoted both to a countless number of clients – for years – when I was doing corrective fitness full time.  They do carry a hefty price, but the benefits to a speedy recovery are well worth the investment.  Also worth noting, each model has an affordable monthly payment plan…AND if you use my coupon code at the MarcPro.com website checkout: mpjoey5 (code stands for Marc Pro Joey 5% off)…you’ll get 5% OFF

Speedy Recovery? Get Access To The Marc Pro Now

Okay, so here’s a video of how the Marc Pro muscle simulator works

 

The Marc Pro uses the body’s natural healing process.  Lymphatic pump system.  Clearing congestion.  Remember to use my speedy recovery coupon code: mpjoey5 at the MarcPro.com website checkout to get 5% OFF your Marc Pro model…

Here are some testimonial videos of some well known Marc Pro users…

Kevin Rand of the Detroit Tigers

 

David Leadbetter – How to Perfect your Golf Swing for Increased Power & Rotation

 

Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians

 

Dan Straily of the Miami Marlins

 

The Marc Pro uses the body’s natural healing process.  Lymphatic pump system.  Clearing congestion.  Remember to use my speedy recovery coupon code: mpjoey5 at the MarcPro.com website checkout to get 5% OFF your Marc Pro model…

One question I know I’ll get from coaches is, “Who is the Marc Pro for?”

And it’s a great question.  Here’s who this speedy recovery product is best suited:

  • Hitting/Pitching academy owners,
  • Hitting/pitching instructors,
  • High School coaches and players,
  • College coaches and players,
  • Pro level coaches and players, and of course…
  • Sports Physical Therapists, Chiro’s, Massage Therapists, Rolfers, Fitness Trainers, etc.

If you have any other questions, comments, or criticisms about the Marc Pro, then please leave them below.  I’ll do my best to answer, but if it’s above my pay grade, then I’ll have Gary Reinl chime in

How To Use Knowledge To Help Hitters Reach Their Full Potential

(Before getting into this post, I have to pre-frame it with the fact that cuing a hitter to ‘swing down’, ‘keep barrel above hands’, and ‘get on top’ can be helpful for hitters whose barrel paths are extreme upper cuts or for non-productive fly ball outcomes.  Other than that, these cues ARE NOT conducive to scoring A LOT of runs for teams) 

Jake C.: Swinging Down

One of my HS Frosh hitters swinging down at the beginning of one of our first lessons together. We’re using the RopeBat to fix this. Photo courtesy: ME

The objective of this post is to persuade those who disagree with the title, to see hitting through cleaner sharper glasses.

Kudos to Sean T. Plouffe on Twitter for posting the above Tweet…

Seeing this post on my Twitter news feed dang near stopped me in my tracks.

That was actually ME in the above video!

This was a two tee drill video I did a long time ago for my old site SwingSmarter.com, between 2008 and 2010.

Unfortunately for my hitters this was the Dark Ages of my teaching, when I regurgitated swinging down on the ball because it was what I was taught during my playing days.

It felt like looking back at old High School pictures when you were fat and had more craters on your face than the moon 😛 lol

Apparently, I’m not alone in ‘teaching what I was taught’ after my playing days were over…

We’ll discuss:

  • ‘That’s what he was taught’,
  • The journey that led me away from conventional wisdom, and
  • The bottom line… (how to fix)

 

‘That’s What he was Taught’…

Take this email I recently received from one of my readers, Bryan Nugent:

“Good morning,

My predicament is that over the last year or so I have been working with my son using your style  (catapult loading) from your book. My son is like a night and day difference when he doesn’t load like you point out. Some of my cue words I tell him are tuck, hide, see and drive.

  • Tuck – for his shoulder
  • Hide – his hands
  • See – keep his eye on the ball
  • Drive – hit through the baseball

Ok, now to the issue his baseball coach is trying to get him to have a different approach, stance and pretty much a different swing all together. From what we have been working on. How would I or what is the best way to approach the Coach and tell him to leave his swing alone in your opinion?”

And here was Bryan’s response after I emailed him a couple questions…

“Thank you for responding to my email. My son is 10. This past Saturday morning before our first pool play game we went back to the cage and got back to doing what we have learned from you. His results were outstanding including a solo shot that the opposing coach told him he hasn’t ever seen a 10 yr old hit the ball that far before.

The coach is young(23) just graduated from a local college where he played baseball. Not knocking him in any way but when talking to him he states ‘that’s what he was taught’ quite a bit. So maybe since this is his first time to coach young boys he is trying too hard, if that makes sense.

I did talk to him a little bit and told him I would bring him your book so he can see where we are coming from. Hopefully he will see there are 2 ways to skin a cat to get the same result. Which is to be able to get the kids to reach there full potential. Thanks again”

Thank you Bryan for sharing and for your continued support.  And yes, I asked his permission before sharing with you coaches.

 

The Journey that Lead Me Away from Conventional Wisdom

I can honestly say that I was where this young coach is when I first started teaching hitters.  And I know many of you coaches out there, if you’re being honest with yourself, can relate.

I had stopped seeking knowledge about the swing…stopped reading…stopped asking questions.  My mindset was VERY fixed.

Needless to say, I came to the realization that my hitters weren’t getting better.  At the time, my local lessons weren’t growing.  I was teaching what everyone in my area was teaching.  There was zero differentiation.  And you know what Mark Twain once said,

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect”.

It wasn’t till about 2011 that I started asking questions, and bought Jaime Cevallos’s book Positional Hitting (who’s a good friend of mine).

Then met Chas Pippitt of BaseballRebellion.com, and helped him develop an online presence in 2012.

This was a good start, but there were still A LOT of unanswered questions that I had.

You see, I found a passionate curiosity for corrective human movement science back in 2005.  I got educated by gathering a large wicker basket full of alphabet soup certifications.  In a short time, I was training athletes and non-athletes by helping them troubleshoot their mobility and stability issues to improve performance or quality of life.

This led me down a rabbit hole that went pretty deep.

When my son was born at the end of 2012, I had an epiphany after reading a couple highly influential resources.  I digested the following books over and over, using them to reverse engineer the swing from a human movement principles validated by science perspective:

 

The Bottom Line…

If you’re a young coach – or more seasoned – who still teaches swinging down on the ball, squishing the bug, and that the hips are where the power is at…I know how you can feel married to these because you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and emotion into them while coaching and/or playing.

Believe me, I felt the same way.  Looking back now, it was a form of collective wisdom brainwashing that runs rampant in baseball and softball circles.

Here’s what I found teaching young hitters to apply human movement principles that are validated by science to hitting a ball:

  • My hitters see and feel productive outcomes within a reasonably short amount of time (huge for getting them to ‘buy into’ the system),
  • The online and local lesson part of my business has increased 5-fold (the word is getting out!),
  • The coaches that learn this from me are getting the same productive results with their hitters – if not better (and their hitters are raising the eyebrows of other coaches), and
  • The best news is, the knuckleheads on social media have a VERY difficult time arguing the true science of the swing!

My recommendation is this:

  • Educate yourself like I did with previously mentioned books,
  • Question very things you teach by asking, “What don’t I know?”
  • Do swing experiments like I do to see if a hitting mechanic is inferior or superior to its counterpart (CLICK HERE for a post on how to do this), And…
  • Above-all, be big enough to swallow your pride, regardless of how many years coaching or playing, or if you had the privilege to coach or play at the highest level, and admit you may be wrong.  Because let me tell you, many are, so you’re not alone.

Rest assured, if I can change, then so can you.

Believe me, your hitters will THANK YOU.  Learning can start when ignorance admits its ignorant. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Well, now you do 😉

Cody Bellinger Swing Dissection: How To Get “What’s Real” Out Of “What’s Feel” 

Thome on Bellinger – MLB Tonight

“His hands are absolutely electric.” – Jim Thome on Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Cody Bellinger

Posted by MLB Network on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I have a treat for you (and it involves the swing of hot hitting rookie sensation Cody Bellinger)…

…an analysis of an analysis if you will! lol

I’ve been licking my chops over the past week, to share the above video that multiple reader-friends asked my opinion on.

This was a perfect opportunity to discuss the “real” versus “feel” debate that confuses many new coaches.

Cody Bellinger Swing Analysis: Jim Thome

Look how well Cody Bellinger uses Knee Action to consistently “get under” the ball. Photo courtesy: MLB.com

And here are interesting Jim Thome talking points from the above video (watch this first, don’t jump ahead to the video below):

  • “Hit through the middle…not hook the ball”.  Not letting top hand get out in front at impact…wanting to keep “bat flat” or flush at and through impact (about 1-min & 3:00 mark)
  • Want wrists to come through impact towards the pitcher, Harold Reynolds using terminology “stay inside the baseball”, Thome saying “stay through the baseball”…Thome makes comment that this game will tell you what to work on next (about 2:00 min mark)
  • About Cody Bellinger’s swing: “Hands are absolutely electric”, back leg is straight (during stance), knob points down to back foot, back foot has a little bit of turn in it…allows hips to get through? Everything stays straight (he mentions “level” later in the video) to the baseball with shoulders and pelvis, hands are above the baseball (about 3:30 mark)
  • “King of the Mountain” Drill…down to the baseball means level to the baseball, barrel flat and level with the baseball, hit middle to a little bit below. Hit middle of the ball, not bottom or top. Hands above the baseball.  (about 4:50 mark)
  • Load slower and control my breathing…”diving steep”, not falling forward committing too much weight forward.  Good drill for controlling forward momentum (about 6:50 mark)
  • Straight back leg, turning the back toe slightly forward toward the pitcher.  Creates torque in the back hip. (about 8:15 mark)

I was just going to do a post and ask for your thoughts on this Cody Bellinger swing analysis, but some of the talking points fired me up, so I couldn’t help myself with the following analysis of the Jim Thome analysis… 😉

Yes, I know, the video is a bit long, but there are MANY gold nuggets in there I think Jim Thome touched on, EVERY coach can learn and share with their hitters.

Here’s a list of my talking points (in this order)…

 

Addressing Jim Thome Comments of Cody Bellinger’s Swing

  • “Hands electric”,
  • Back Leg Straight,
  • Knob points down at stride landing,
  • Back foot turned slightly in towards pitcher (Supple Leopard book by Dr. Kelly Starrett), and
  • Shoulders/Pelvis should be straight or level.

And,

Jim Thome General Swing Comments

  • Hit through middle – “flat” or flush with impact,
  • Game tells you what to work on next (Golf Flow book by Dr. Gio Valiante)
  • Load slower, control breathing (CLICK HERE for this Jose Bautista video that discusses “load slow and early”,
  • “Diving deep” cue,
  • Swing down, and
  • Barrel above the hands.

Please share any comments, questions, or criticisms below… 😀