The typical major league fastball gets through the strike zone in 400 milliseconds. It takes the human body 200 milliseconds just to start moving the muscles it takes to swing, leaving you only 200 milliseconds to size up the pitch, guess the location, decide whether to swing and then fire the barrel at the ball. Increase bat speed or your chances at a pro contract might pass you by in the blink of an eye.
Strong muscles move faster than weak muscles. To swing a bat with fierce speed, you need full body strength, especially through the legs and core. The legs generate force and the core's primary role is to transfer that force to the arms to help generate bat speed. Start a full body lifting routine at least eight weeks before the season begins, lifting four to six days per week. Perform exercises such as front and back squats, walking lunges, high step-ups, Romanian dead lifts, dumbbell bench presses, hammer and Zottman curls, shoulder presses and three-way shoulder raises. Perform anti-rotational core exercises, including planks, Pallof presses and land mine rotations. Alternate days working the upper and lower body, mixing in core exercises daily.
Lifting builds strength, which is the foundation for power: the ability to move those strong muscles with velocity. You can develop power using plyometrics, medicine ball throws and sprints. Plyometrics is jump training and includes exercises such as box jumps, skater jumps and drop jumps. Medicine ball throws include shot put rotations, overhead slams, side slams, rotational scoop toss and chest pass. Sprint work should be game-specific, running a number of 90-foot sprints. Walk back to the starting position, then sprint again. Begin integrating power development workouts with your lifts after you build a good base of strength, usually four weeks into the lifting program.
Now that you're sending power through your body off a foundation of strength, it is time to develop quickness in the hands using the one-hand drill. Place a ball on a tee and set it up on the middle of home plate. Take your stance, sway your body and hand with some rhythm, stay tall and hit the ball using one hand on the bat. Start by using just your top hand. Feel your top-hand elbow tuck into your body while striking the ball. Then move to your bottom hand. Keep your bottom-hand elbow inside your hip while moving it down to keep the swing short. Reduce the movement of your hips, legs and shoulders as much as possible, swinging and finishing all with your arms.
Reduce all wasted movement. Use a loose grip on the bat and incorporate rhythm into your stance, slightly swaying your body and hands to relax. Relaxed muscles fire more quickly than rigid ones. Avoid rotating backward in an attempt to load more power by keeping your shoulders and hips lined up with the pitcher throughout the swing. Step into a firm front leg, allowing your hips to rotate with the counter-pressure. Get your front foot down early so that the rotation of your hips can accelerate your bat speed as you swing. Pull the knob of the bat with your bottom hand to the ball and punch at it using your top hand for a shorter, and therefore quicker, swing.
- Stack.com: Improve Your Hitting and Throwing Power With Baseball-Specific Core Exercises
- Stack.com: Improve Bat Speed With the One-Handed Hitting Drill
- Rangers Strength: Strength Training
- YouTube.com: Evan Longoria Helps You Find a Good Batting Stance
- Pro Baseball Insider: 7 Absolutes of How to Hit a Baseball
- Sports Illustrated: Why MLB Hitters Can't Hit Jennie Finch and the Science Behind Reaction Time
- Photo Credit IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images
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