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Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a la Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes caveman swinging. This tightens the head, neck, and shoulder muscles, which pulls the head off the ball. Photo courtesy of Metro.us

Batting practice and training seems to be met with a caveman's mentality…Me see ball.  Me swing bat hard.  Me crush ball far.  I can always tell when a young hitter is swinging too hard by the following:

  1. Pulling the head,
  2. A clenched jaw, and/or
  3. NO balance upon the follow through.

One great Big League example of caveman swinging is Yoenis Cespedes of the Boston Red Sox.  In this video, we're going to talk about how to correct swinging harder:

  • Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition relating to improper batting practice,
  • Cadence is key, and
  • Proprioception and swinging blind…

 

Problem with Reciprocal Inhibition Relating to Improper Batting Practice

Watch this simple demonstration on Reciprocal Inhibition (RI) from a Physical Therapist (start at the 0:38 mark):

Consider this:

  1. Imagine bicep curling a 25-pound dumbbell…bicep contracts while brain tells muscle on opposite side (tricep) to contract less,
  2. Now think about holding the same 25-pound dumbbell in mid-curl, arm is at a 90-degree angle, and forearm is parallel to the ground…
Reciprocal Inhibition

The quad (green) contracting more, while the hamstring (red) contracts less in this stretch. Photo courtesy: BandhayYoga.com

What's happening there on #2 above?

It's called an isometric muscle contraction, and is when both the bicep and tricep are contracting equally on both sides.

Your brain is smart.  One of it's many jobs is to manage tension around a joint (i.e. the elbow).  To protect it.  When you have bicep tendinitis, the length-tension relationship is upset.  What happens is, the brain tells a muscle to tighten protecting a particular joint, until length-tension balance is restored…

How do you fix this?

According to the Physical Therapist in the above video link, you strengthen the muscles opposite the tight area.  The brain can then contract the tight area less and restoring the length-tension relationship around the joint.  And this ADDS more efficiency to dynamic movement…

Otherwise, this would be like driving your car with the parking brake on!

During batting practice (or in games), when we swing too hard, we're driving the car with the parking brake on.  It seems counter-intuitive to what we normally would think.  But bio-mechanically speaking, this would be like the #2 scenario of the bicep -mid-curl above.  We see the head pull out and jaw tighten because the brain is protecting the joints in the neck (C-Spine) and jaw from overload.  And this can cause the hitter NOT be balanced in the follow through.

Cadence is Key

Did you know there's a specific cadence, or tempo, to repetitive human movement?  According to the book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer, consider these two popular long distance movements:

  • Running – count how many times the right arm swings forward per minute.  It should be between 85-90 times.  Whether uphill or downhill.
  • Cycling – count each time the right knee floats up per minute while pedaling.  Should be 85-90 times.  Top cyclists change gears uphill or downhill to keep within these guidelines.

Faster than that, and tempo gets disrupted…parking brake gets applied.  Batting practice is no different when it comes to a specific tempo.  I once read someone say in a hitting forum that you have to swing as hard as you possibly can…wait for it…under COMPLETE control…

 

 Proprioception & Swinging Blind

Batting Practice Secrets To Fix Swinging Too Hard (a al Yoenis Cespedes)

Yoenis Cespedes swinging blind photo courtesy: MLB.com 😛

I know that's a big scary word, but experiencing it is easy…stand on one foot, now shut your eyes.  You've just experienced Proprioception.

The best fix for swinging too hard is…drum roll please….

Swinging with your eyes closed.  Remember what I wrote about a hitter swings as hard as possible…under COMPLETE control?

This is how to practice taking the parking brake off during batting practice and games.

Also, remember the symptoms of swinging too hard I mentioned at the beginning of this video post…?  Here are the fixes:

  • Pulling the head – the chin should be somewhere slightly out front of impact,
  • A clenched jaw – get the hitter to keep a small gap between their molars as they're swinging, AND
  • NO balance upon the follow through – have the hitter practice swinging as hard as they can with their eyes closed, while keeping balance.  If they fall over, then they're swinging too hard.

The latter one, please DO NOT have them do this around any sharp or breakable objects that might hurt them :-/  You see, Yoenis Cespedes can win two All-Star home-run derbies in a row because he knows what pitch is coming, at what speed, and what location (for the most part).  He can get away from pulling his head.  In a game?  It's a different

 

BONUS Material

Want to help put the batting practice parking brake on vacation?  Here are my two favorite corrective exercises that a majority of my new hitters have a problem with:

  1. Passive Leg Lower (hip mobility) – week one: 1 set X 12 reps each leg, week two: 1 set X 15 reps each leg, week three: 2 sets X 12 reps each leg, and week four: 2 sets X 15 reps each leg…do once daily.  Will increase running stride length, which indirectly can help them run faster.
  2. Ankle Circles (ankle mobility) – do three circles clockwise AND counterclockwise at each ankle position…do at least 2-3 times per day everyday.  Can get rid of shin splints and plantar fasciitis.

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

 

 

Awhile back I posted the following youth baseball post to my Hitting Performance Lab Facebook fan-page (CLICK HERE if you haven't “Liked” my fan-page yet…new content daily):

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/HittingPerformanceLab/posts/565739680222497/” width=”400″/]

This video blog post will target one of the worst youth baseball swing offenders to deflating bat speed…bat drag.  In this article, we're going over:

  • What is Bat Drag?
  • The science of Bat Drag (to hitting an unknown moving pitch), and
  • One way to fix Bat Drag.

 

What is Baseball Youth Bat Drag?

#1 Youth Baseball Swing Fix To Deflating Bat Speed

Notice the difference in Charles's barrel angle.

This is when the front arm “bars out” before the Final Turn.  Also known as “Casting.”  And it's an oftentimes frustrating youth baseball hitting fix.

I received an email awhile back from James Brown (NOT the singer), that said:

…”I watched a video that perry husband had at the hitting hot stove at the abca in Dallas that showed analysis of the Homerun derby, and the furthest home runs by each individual competitor happened when their lead arm was extended early.  I think swing mass and leverage has a lot to power to the ball…  Think about having your hand slammed in a door.  Would you want a door with a short distance from hinge to knob, or a long distance?  Short would close faster, but do less damage.  Long will impart more force at a slower speed.”

James Brown's email response was after I produced this youth baseball Shin-Soo Choo: Can Front Arm KILL Bat Speed? video post.

Here's how I responded…

 

The Science of Bat Drag (to hitting an unknown moving pitch)

…”I see what you're saying and agree…to hit the ball the farthest, a straight front arm would be ideal. Look at golfers for instance. But here's the problem…a hitter in a game doesn't know with 100% certainty: pitch location, speed, and pitch type.

So a hitter needs to turn quicker for the first half of the Final Turn, to get the barrel on the plane of the pitch as soon as possible.  Then extend on the pitch plane, depending on pitch location and speed.”

In the home run derby, hitters know the pitch speed, type – and for the most part – location.

I agree with Perry Husband in that hitters should make it a goal to get to impact with a long front arm.

However, I don't agree in getting a hitter to bar that front arm out early on, pre-turn.

It's a simple Conservation of Angular Momentum issue.  CLICK HERE for a short 2-minute Circus Physics video from PBS on this movement Principle.

An ice skater speeds up by tucking her arms in towards her rotating middle.  She slows down by extending her arms away from her rotating middle.

What's going on here?

Rotating speed goes up when the rotation is tighter (bending the arms), but inertial mass decreases.  Inversely related, when the arms go out, her inertial mass increases, but her rotating speed decreases.  This is how Angular Momentum is conserved.

So, unless like Perry teaches, Pitch Recognition and Strategic hitting game plans against specific pitchers is supplemented, I don't see the logic in teaching hitters to early arm bar, pre-turn.

Why?

Because barring the front arm out early will slow rotation down (think arm extended ice skater), and on higher perceived velocities to the hitter, high or inside the strike-zone, why would we want our hitters to turn slower at the beginning of the turn?

The bottom line? Youth baseball (or softball) swing game mechanics are slightly different than in batting practice.  “Five-o-clock” hitters typically aren't very effective in games.  And let me tell you, all my pitching friends LOVE pitching to early arm bar hitters because they have a weakness to exploit.  Just like hitters that swing down on the ball and extreme upper cutters do.

One Way to Fix Bat Drag

Youth Baseball ALERT: Stop Arm Barring

See Cutch pulling his top hand, while bottom hand restrains that pull forward (look at muscles in left forearm and triceps). Photo courtesy: MLB.com

Typically, I have my youth baseball hitters practice the Catapult Loading System when we have an arm barring issue.  The finer points before a hitter lands in the Fight Position are:

  • Showing pitcher your numbers,
  • Hiding hands from pitcher, and
  • Slight downhill shoulder angle.

Another piece I've just added to the puzzle comes from Homer Kelly in his book The Golfing Machine.  The following quote may shed additional light on “educating the hands” to combat arm barring…

“Power Accumulator #1 (for right handed golfer) – is the bent right arm. Even though the right biceps is active, the backstroke is always made with the right arm striving to remain straight. But the straight left arm restrains this continuous extensor action of the right triceps with an effortless checkerin action. Consequently , during release, the right arm can straighten only as the left arm moves away from the right shoulder.”

You see, the problem with bat drag at the youth baseball level isn't the move itself, but how the compensation is triggered.  What's happening before the front arm bars out?  Is the hitter properly activating the springy fascia within the torso?

If you “Click here to ‘Get Instant Access'” button below, you can get a free video that explains:

  • Why the following advice: “Power is all in the hips”, “Load and explode the hips”, and “The hips lead the way” won’t produce the repeatable power you’re looking for…

  • Where power really comes from – the answers to how the body actually loads are validated by science…

  • The 3 Do’s & Don’ts that will help you execute this simple strategy without any hitches in swing quality…