Six Great Ways to Help Improve Power and Bat Speed

By Nunzio Signore (B.A., CPT, CSCS, NASM, PES, FMS)

bat-speed-blog-image-1Creating power and great bat speed involves many things.  Electromyography testing (a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles) regarding “the baseball swing” and upper body involvement shows that the role it plays is minor compared to that of the lower body. Studies by Shaffer et al. (click here for report summary) stated “an emphasis should be placed on the trunk and hip muscles for a batter’s strengthening program.”

Thus, improving hip mobility, strengthening the lower body (here on out referred to as “posterior chain), improving t-spine rotation and developing a strong core and of course working with a great hitting coach, can go a long way in helping you round the bases. Today we’re going to touch on three of these bullet points to try and help you get to where you need to be.

1. Lower Body Strength – The fast twitch muscle fibers (used for quick, explosive movements) of the posterior chain are where a majority of our power in the swing is generated from.

Exercises such as dead-lifts and hip bridges focus on the same muscles (glutes, hamstrings and core) that are the major players in the forward phase of the swing as well as creating rotation. Learning to use “the big muscles to do these big jobs” is crucial in order to avoid using the smaller accessory muscles and increasing the risk of injury.

(Trap Bar Deadlift)

2. T-Spine Rotation – Very similar to pitching or any other movement involving rapid rotation, improving t-spine mobility (creating rotation where you want it), and rotary stability (the ability to resist rotation where you don’t want it) will prevent an athlete from getting that rotation from their lower lumbar region and avoiding lower back and oblique strains.

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Ball/cable rotations teach both t-spine rotation and rotary stability:

 (Ball/Cable Rotations)

3. Strengthening the Core– The core is at the center of all this by creating a pathway for the transfer of power from the lower body, up through the core to the upper body. Hitting coaches call this “creating good separation”. This exercise basically puts it all together.

 (Dynamic Cable Lift)

4. Hip Internal Rotation – When coming through the swing, much like a pitcher coming down the mound, the lead leg hip needs to have good IR to help with deceleration as well as taking much of the strain off of the lower back by creating good extension in the back leg. Working on #3 core stability (listed in part 1) will help get the ball rolling by correcting posture and creating more space in the hip socket (acetabulum) for the femur to rotate. Here are two more drills:

(90/90 Breathing w/ Hip Shift)

(Bowler Squats)

5. Lumbar Stability- Normal range of motion for the lumbar spine is anywhere between 3-15 degrees, as compared to the 35-55 + degrees available in the t-spine. Therefor creating good stability in the lumbar spine will help the athlete resist any unwanted rotation that may occur there and create a stable base for the t-spine to rotate on. This can go a long way in helping to alleviate lower back pain and oblique strains associated with the swing. Bird Dogs are a great exercise to train lower lumbar stability.

(Bird Dog)

6. Grip and Forearm Strength – Regardless of height and weight, the one thing that most hitters will have in common will be strong forearms and grip strength. Quick wrists go a long way in helping to increase bat speed. This will enable them to really get more out of every swing. Quite often we’ll use Fat Grips during upper body exercises to not only increase forearm strength, but  grip strength as well.  EMG studies show that grip strength is directly related to increased cuff activation (Please click here if you would like to read more on this topic).

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A great hitting coach can “drive the car”, but not if the car isn’t fully tuned up and ready to go. Getting strong and mobile is the key.

See ya’ in the gym.

 

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