Build That Home Run Swing

13 Jun

Chicks dig it, scouts looks for it, and pitchers fear it. What are we talking about? The long ball of course. Who doesn’t want to hit for power? After all, the home run is one of the most exciting moments in all of sports. You don’t need to be massive to deliver considerable pop at the plate. In fact rotational power is not only the product of strength, but efficiency and coordination as well. Here are three ways to start putting some numbers up in the HR column:

Move More Efficiently

In order to create a lot of “whip” in a swing there are two areas that require a proper amount of mobility. These are hip internal rotation, and thoracic (upper back) rotation. In order to swing the bat as fast as possible you want your body to create as much torque as possible. For this to work the hips and shoulders / upper back must be able to move around a solid torso in order to load up force that can be quickly released. Power will be generated from the hips, through the torso, down the arms and into the hands. The most force will be created when a hitter’s front hip can internally rotate freely, the torso can resist early rotation and the shoulders / upper back can rotate adequately. Here are two  drills to achieve this outcome:

Quadruped Extension / Rotation

  • Assume a position on the ground with your knees directly under your hips, and your hands under your shoulders.
  • Place the back in slight extension, think “butt back, chest up.”
  • Put one hand behind your head, so that the arm of the elevated hand is parallel to the floor.
  • Making sure to not rotate from the hips or low back, bring the elevated elbow to the elbow of the arm in contact with the ground.
  • From here, rotate the elevated arm’s shoulder up and away from the arm on the ground. Again, without rotating the hips or low back.
  • Cue yourself to “look your arm pit up” as you rotate.
  • Perform 10 rotations per side. These can be done during your warm-up or between sets of another exercise.

Lying Knee to Knee Drop

  • Assume a position with your back on the floor, arms flat to your side, knees up, and feet flat on the ground just outside hip width (or wider).
  • Drop your knees in towards each other and let the hips freely hang out in internal rotation.
  • This can be performed statically for a few sets of 20-30s after your training, or you can bring the knees in and out for 10 repetitions as a mobility drill during warm ups / between sets of another exercise.

Improve Your Coordination and Explosive Strength

Dr. Michael Yessis, offers this definition for an exercise that is “Sport Specific”:

A: Duplicate the exact movement witnessed in certain actions of the sports skill

B: The exercise must involve the same type of muscular contraction used in the skill execution.

C: Develop strength and flexibility in the same range of motion (ROM) as the actual skill.

It is important that when performing a special exercise for sport that you are not over loading a movement that exactly replicates a skill performed in competition. If we were to have athletes perform baseball swings with a heavy bat for example, it would greatly change the mechanics of their actual swing. This will not enhance performance, it will hinder it.

Instead, we want to use an exercise that meets the 3 criterion above, but that does not interfere with their sport skill. The most viable option is a medicine ball throw variation. The exercise listed below is a great choice to build explosive strength, and improve the athlete’s coordination in a similar fashion to swing a baseball bat.

Shot Put Toss

  • Take a stance just outside hip width. Your body will be perpendicular to the wall, or the intended path of the ball.
  • The ball will be loaded to the back shoulder, with the back elbow up, and back hand opened directly behind the ball.
  • The front hand will be placed lightly on the front of the ball to keep it up.
  • Forcefully throw the back side hip forward, rotate the torso to bring the rib cage relatively square to the wall or intended ball path.
  • Simultaneously push the back hand through the ball.
  • A general recommendation for sets / reps is 2 – 10 sets of 1-5 throws

Build a Powerful Foundation

While prolific home run hitters are often defined by their broad shoulders, and mason like forearms, people seem to ignore the fact they are built like a brick *%!$ house from the waist down. If you want to generate power you need to have strong legs and a power back side. There are many great exercises that develop these qualities. Amongst my favorites is the reverse lunge from a deficit. The reverse lunge from a deficit allows for more recruitment of the musculature of the hips. Additionally, reverse lunges are kinder on the knees as they limit deceleration of the knee joint. Lastly, this movement offers a nice active stretch of the hip flexors.

Reverse Lunge From a Deficit

  • Take a hip width stance on top of a 4 – 6 inch box.
  • With one leg step back off the box, placing the back foot on the ground.
  • Proper distance of the step should put the athlete in a position where they are forming about 90 degree angles from the ankle, knee and hip of each leg.
  • Descend to a point where the back knee is just above the ground.
  • Powerfully drive through the heel / mid foot of the front leg and return to the starting position.
  • This movement can be loaded in many ways. You can use dumbbells, barbells, and or a weighted vest. Also, barbells may be loaded from the front or on the back. Dumbbells can be put in each hand of offset loaded by only holding one dumbbell on the side of the back leg.
  • Set / rep prescriptions are varied depending on the goal. For most athletes sets will be in the 3 – 6 range with repetitions between 4 and 8.

 

*Thank you to those in the videos for making these resources available

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