Lets take a look at how to increase your bat speed.
1. The Barrel Turn
(Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth)
If you've read any of the content on this site, you know that there is a clear correlation in all of the great hitters, they turn the barrel.
The barrel tips forward, then gets turned backwards and around into the baseball. This barrel turn has many advantages, most importantly, it's the most efficient way to get the barrel to move fast.
It's not your body that needs to go fast, it's THE BARREL. Notice how far the barrel moves before any rotation takes place. This early bat speed allows a hitter a running start. The barrel gets up to speed behind them, allowing them to simply carry that bat speed into the baseball.
To really understand this concept, you have to be able to do it.
If every hitter was trying to duplicate this bat path, we would have a generation of players who are legitimately maximizing their capabilities.
Tipping the bat allows a player to use momentum to his advantage, this does not require some super human level of forearm strength. Using momentum to your advantage actually requires less strength and effort.
2. Leave the Hands Back
So many hitters are trying to push their hands away from their back shoulder and through the baseball. There are several problems with that. By pushing the hands forward, the bat does not get behind the baseball early, this creates a small margin for error.
Secondly, by pushing the hands forward, the smaller muscles of the upper body work ahead of the lower body. This makes the flow of energy work from the top first.
When the hands stay at the shoulder, the kinetic chain is allowed to work.
Creating energy that spirals from the ground, up, The hands and bat should be the very last thing to come forward.
This puts the bigger muscles of the legs ahead. The lower body pulls the upper body thru the swing.
Back leg, then hands.
By keeping the hands at the shoulder through the swing, you have more control of the bat. Try holding any object away from your body, it instantly becomes heavier and harder to control. By keeping the hands at the shoulder and tilting the shoulders to the baseball, everything can stay tight and powerful. Once the ball is hit, the hands can continue on a path towards the pitcher.
3. Weight Shift
Ryan Braun is a great example of using a weight shift to his advantage. Braun is able to use the momentum of his body, falling towards the baseball and putting all of his energy into the swing.
This should not be confused with hitting from your front foot. I will dig deeper in the next 2 sections. For now, I want you to notice how his weight is still centered over the back leg as he strides and falls forward. This is very important and most hitters will miss this point. Notice how Braun isn't standing straight up in this clip. He is actually leaning back with his shoulders about 2-4 inches back in comparison his hips. This, along with the pull back of the elbow, allows Braun to maintain a "stay back" feel while creating momentum forward.
Braun is pound for pound the most powerful hitter in the MLB today. We can learn a lot from watching someone who maximizes their power output.
4. Stretch and Fire
This image demonstrates the basic concept of stretch and fire. The lower body doesn't need to go fast, the ability to use this energy is 100% dependent on the upper body STAYING BACK as the lower body goes. Without a barrel turn, this effect if very hard to produce. A player who pushes the bat forward will never feel what this is like.
Watch how the back leg pushes WAY before the hands come forward. That push is happening when the ball is released, Gary is already coming forward. Most players do this correctly when they throw, but when it comes to hitting, players have adjusted their swing to catch up to fast pitching. The reality is, great players don't shorten up their swing, they just swing faster.
(Ken Griffey Jr)
Ken Griffey Jr is probably the best ever when it comes to using the kinetic chain to produce power from the ground up.
You can see the wrinkles in his jersey as he leaves his upper body back and allows the lower body to work forward.
This allows the barrel to get behind the ball early and stay on a path that will line up square contact consistently.
Another thing this sequencing does is allows him to adjust to offspeed pitches. Because the hands are back, he maintains a strong position to hit even when his timing may be slightly early.
By leaving the hands back, his power to the opposite field is greatly increased. Imagine if he held his hands out front and over the plate, there would be no room to create bat speed before the deep contact point of the outside pitch.
5. Pull The Elbow Back
A proper load requires tension between the upper and lower body.
When you watch the greats, all of them pull their elbow back as they move forward. As we talked about earlier, this creates a "stretch and fire" effect. Many hitters "load" their hands by pushing them back towards the umpire, this is not correct.
To create a true load, the elbow needs to draw back towards the dugout behind you. For most great hitters, you will notice their shirt get tight.
This is a rotational load around the back leg, pull the elbow back as the back knee goes forward and you will realize that you are completely at the edge of your range of motion. THAT is how you load. THAT is how you connect the energy created by the back leg and use it to swing the bat.
Bat Speed is what professional scouts want to see.
Pick up your bat and see how far you can move the barrel before your shoulders turn.
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