How We Improved Exit Velo in Our EV Program (Fall 2017 Results)

By Nunzio Signore, Mike Rozema and Bahram Shirazi

Earlier this fall we started a new program to help players improve their exit velos.  We are very excited to report that the program has been a huge success with an average increase of 6.2 mph (or 8.9%) in exit velo among the participants.  This may not seem like a big increase, but when your exit velo goes from 79 to 85 mph or 86 to 92 mph, whether it’s your high school or travel ball coach or a college scout, it gets noticed.

Participants in the 12-week program included 15 players, ranging in age from 13 to 17.  They were generally grouped by age/grade, 13-14, 15-16 and 16-17 years old.  All players took part in a highly structured hitting program 2x per week, with Axe Bat Speed Trainers (weighted bats) to help improve swing mechanics and drive the ball.  Players also took part in an extensive strength training program specifically designed for creating power, explosiveness and improving exit velo.

Now let’s get into how we got it done…

Hitting Protocol – The hitting protocol primarily focused on two specific components of hitting (a) improving swing mechanics and (b) barreling up the ball.

The following outline provides a summary of the major components of the program:

Drill Work and Progression – Drill work centered on isolating certain aspects of each player’s swing (and treating each swing as distinct and not conventional) and improving swing efficiency. The progression of reps per session was designed to help a player focus and perform at a high level on each swing.  On the other hand, the progression in reps over the entire program was designed to allow players to slowly get a better feel for different aspects of their swing. Generally, reps were increased as players had a better feel and improved consistency.

Focus, Intent and Commitment – Players were expected to have a high level of focus, intent and commitment on each drill and every swing. It’s very important to get feedback quickly from a swing because we are not taking hundreds and hundreds of swings per session.  A player’s intent on each swing is especially important to maximize the benefit in the rep. They need to know the purpose of each drill, what it should feel like and be able to adjust accordingly.

Friendly Competition – Throughout the program, we provided an atmosphere that promoted friendly competition and pushed the players’ commitments. We tracked their results throughout the 12-week period and measured their exit velo regularly, so they could see the results for themselves.  That didn’t mean that every time we charted results, the numbers had improved.  It simply meant we constantly pushed players to improve in a friendly and competitive environment.

Consistency – Hitting the ball square and barreling it up as hard as possible is a significant component of improving exit speed.   But being able to do so consistently is even more important in today’s 5-swing set world of showcases.  In the beginning, exit numbers were high and low in given test samples.  As the program progressed, players were able to bring up their overall average velocity in given sets of swings.  It was not just about hitting a new high number.  It was about doing so consistently while delivering higher exit velos.

Weighted Bats – The programming incorporated Axe Speed Trainer Weighted bats, both overload and underload to help with proprioception and kinesthetic awareness and to train fast twitch / explosive movements specific to the swing.

Overload Training – Swinging with an overload bat has many benefits which can be difficult to replicate in a pure strength training environment, including swinging with increased resistance and feeding the hitter’s intention to hit the baseball with additional power, forcing the body to move in the most efficient manner possible.

Underload Training – Training with underload implements in any athletic movement helps increase speed by recruiting more fast twitch fibers.  Lowering the weight of the bat speeds up the swing, which creates an awareness of a higher velocity ceiling, and also improves the capacity in the underlying musculature.

As you can see from the chart below, on average, players improved their exit speed by 6.2 mph (or 8.9%) during the program.

Assessment – Prior to beginning of the program, all players were taken through a 20-30 minute comprehensive movement/strength/power screen to identify muscular imbalances, movement strategies and force output into the ground using linear transducers to measure movement velocity (m/s).  For any readings that weren’t within normal range, the athletes were given corrective exercises and coached on how to perform them properly. We also made notes of specific strength training modifications that would need to be made in their strength training programs.

Strength Training Program – Creating power and great exit speed involves much more than reps at the plate. When you’ve got a great foundation of strength, the act of putting force into the ground (power) during the swing happens more naturally, and with that so does athleticism. This is why strength training is an integral part of our Exit Velo Program.

On the strength side, the focus of the12-week strength program is on improving:

  • Hip mobility
  • Strengthening the lower body
  • Improving t-spine rotation
  • Developing both rotary core strength and stiffness

Our younger athletes lifted in monitored groups (3:1 coach to athlete ratio) 2x per week for approximately one hour, while our older guys (16-17) trained on an average 3-5x per week on their own with their own individualized programs. The strength training sessions immediately followed their hitting sessions and as always, each session started with their soft tissue and mobility work prior to going into the tunnel to bat. After their hitting session was completed, we moved over to the med ball wall to work on rotary core strength. And then into the weight room where they were coached through the specific technique and tempo of each strength movement. Accessory movements such as grip strength and upper body Iso work were also included and varied over the course of the 12 weeks, while keeping core strength and mobility as a staple.

We started with conservative loading, and used reps as the main stimulus over the first four weeks of the program. As a result, the chart below on deadlifts represents strength increases through the last 8 weeks of the 12-week program after technique issues were cleaned up and more maximal loads could safely be used.  Although the programming is extensive and varied, we use deadlifts as a gauge of full-body strength because it involves nearly every muscle in the body, especially the primary muscles responsible for creating power in the swing, including the hamstrings, glutes (posterior chain), the back, core and arms.  On average, players improved their deadlifts by 32% during the final 8-week period.

Conclusions – Delivering higher exit velos isn’t rocket science, it requires a comprehensive program, addressing strength/power and proper swing mechanics, within a great environment for 2 hour sessions, 3 days a week.  With the right programming, buy-in from the athlete and qualified strength and hitting coaches who understand how to effectively implement the programs, significant adaptations can happen quickly.  But it’s equally important to keep in mind that velocity development is never a straight line up.  It’s a process of ups and downs, with great days and not so good days.  But, a long-term plan to improving your metrics will pay off, if you buy-in to the training, commit to it and get after it.  Our Exit Velo Program results speak for themselves.

 

 

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