The Hitting Development Program (Sept-Oct) is an 8-week protocol and it’s reliant on data analytics to assess and develop all aspects of player’s performance at the plate, from improving the swing plane and mechanics to exit velocity. The following is a brief summary of the program:
- Movement Assessment
- Swing Plane Assessment
- Hitting Program
- Swing Plane (mechanics and consistency)
- Weighted Bats (power)
- Kinematic Sequence Evaluation and Development (16 and older, subject to eligibility)
From hitting mechanics to physical strength and mobility, we put the player into the most optimal position to succeed at the plate. In general, many of these are intertwined, so let’s review each in some detail.
Movement and Physical Assessment – Ball players move in all three planes of motion so their program and assessment should reflect that. The Assessment is an extensive anatomical evaluation of the player’s overall physicality and mobility. Physical limitations and imbalances, from a strength and mobility standpoint, can have profound effects on a player’s ability to perform at his max potential. The assessment covers a variety of topics, including:
- Mobility and Stability
- Strength and Power Testing
- Power and Force Production Testing
In addition, athletes 16 and older eligible for monthly programs, we utilize VBT (velocity-based training ) sensors to construct an initial Force-Velocity profile. This tells us if an athlete is using the optimum weight in order to produce the greatest peak force, so programming can be adjusted accordingly. This information helps put together important pieces of the puzzle on the strength-side that allow us to better individualize the strength training portion of the program.
(Deadlift @ 60 % 1RM)
Swing Path Assessment – From the moment it’s released by the pitcher to the moment it makes contact with the bat, a 90-95 mph pitch takes approximately 400 ms to reach the batter. That’s less than half a second. If you zero in on the actual point of contact, it’s a fraction of that. We are talking about 7 ms, that’s 7 thousandths of a second!
So, if anyone is telling you they know everything about your swing by just looking at it, they are missing the point. The whole event happens way too fast for the human eye. There is a great deal that we can learn from a player’s swing path metrics. The following are examples of several that we review in evaluating the swing:
Attack Angle Range is the angle of the bat’s path, at impact, relative to horizontal. Although every player has an average AA, the standard deviation is often so wide that we also look at a player’s AA range to get a better idea of their overall swing path (click here).
Rotational Acceleration measures how quickly your bat accelerates into the swing plane. Rotation is a good indicator of how you build bat speed by sequencing properly. The quicker your rotational acceleration, the more power you will have and the more time you have to make a decision at the plate.
Bat Speed is the speed of the sweet spot of the bat at impact, measured six inches from the tip.
Time to Contact is the elapsed time between start of downswing and impact.
Power generated during the swing is found from the effective mass of the bat, the Bat Speed at impact, and the average acceleration during the downswing. Higher Power is achieved when a hitter is able to swing a heavier bat and accelerate it to higher speeds.
Hitting Program – Hitting the ball square and barreling it up as hard as possible is a significant component of the program. It is designed to develop the complete hitter, from improving swing plane and mechanics to exit velocity. It includes the constant use of motion capture sensors to ensure a proper swing plane and gradually exposes players to the increasing levels of intensity with weighted bats, both overload and underload.
By using guided swings and extensive drill / tee work, the program promotes the generation of force/precision to make optimal contact and drive the ball. The following is a summary of the two major components of the hitting program:
Swing Plane Program – Ensuring players have an optimal swing plane is a significant part of the program. Through visually guided tee work and instant feedback from motion capture sensors, we begin to guide each player’s swing towards an optimal plane for contact.
Every pitch has a downward descent angle. It so happens that this angle is generally between 6-14 degrees depending on level of play and type of pitch. Assisting players to be on plane with the incoming pitch is the only way to help improve consistency at contact.
Weighted Bats (Overload and Underload) – Swinging with overload and underload bats has many benefits. Using overload bats can aid in developing a more efficient movement pattern by requiring the body to hold the bat closer to the body during the swing. Training with underload implements in any athletic movement helps increase speed by recruiting more fast twitch fibers. This creates not only preparation and awareness of how the arm moves in a higher velocity, but also improves the capacity in both the underlying musculature as well as the central nervous system.
Kinematic Sequence Evaluation and Development (16 and older, subject to eligibility) – Not all hitting motions are created equal. Some guys rely more on strength, some guys elasticity and some are simply genetic “outliers”. But analysis in numerous studies has revealed that there is one common denominator on how athletes create maximum power behind the plate and that’s creating a proper sequence of events from the ground up all the way through at the point of contact. This is commonly referred to as an efficient “kinematic sequence” (click here for additional details).
Generating and transferring speed throughout the body requires a specific transfer of segmental peak angular velocities that allows players to transfer force more efficiently. It can be only viewed through motion capture sensors placed on the athlete’s body.
The chart above is an example of a typical baseball swing with a proper sequence from the pelvis, to the torso, to the shoulder to the hand. As each sequence builds on the prior, peak rotational speeds continue to build along the chain. An out-of-sequence hitting motion, and it happens much more often than expected, can lead to a variety of issues from opening too early to losing bat speed.
Incorporating assessments and data analytics into how we train players is a bit of an art. Since each and every player is different in every way, the key is to parse through the information and determine which pieces are relevant for each player.
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