A Need for Speed

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Everybody knows that bat speed can lead to huge power numbers, a high batting average and the ability to hit top-notch pitching. While bat speed doesn’t guarantee you’ll become a great hitter, it’s virtually impossible to become great without it.

You hear a great deal about “overload/underload” training when it comes to bat speed. This is where you swing a bat heavier than your normal weight, then swing a lighter bat and then follow up with a regular game bat swing to finish off the routine.

What most people won’t tell you is that a bat greater than or less than 15 percent of your normal bat weight will alter your normal swing pattern mechanics. In other words, if you swing a heavy bat--or an extremely light bat--you will mess up your swing!

Below are two drills that can increase bat speed and help you stay sharp as a hitter in preparation for next season.

Lightning Swing

Preparation: Start by getting rid of the heavy bat--it will not increase usable bat speed and will break down your swing. Instead go with the lighter bat. Your body will never swing faster unless it knows what it feels like.

Technique: Get a bat 10-15 percent lighter than your normal bat. After warming up, swing the bat as quick as you can for five repetitions. Do not rush between swings. Take your time and make sure you’re thinking “quick” or “fast”, not “hard.” You want each swing to be a little quicker than the last. Be absolutely sure to maintain the proper swing mechanics your coach taught you.

Routine: Perform 3-5 sets of five repetitions. Now grab your normal bat and swing as quick as you can for five reps. Employ this drill three times per week in the off-season and your bat speed will improve dramatically when next season rolls around. You’ll be able to hit faster pitching and put the ball in play with more authority.

The Windshield Wiper

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the body’s “core.” While it’s an overused marketing gimmick in fitness circles, the muscles from the upper legs to the upper abdominals do play a major role in your athletic and hitting ability.

One overlooked aspect of core training is rotational development or the range of motion of your midsection. This drill will develop that.

Preparation: Lay on your back with your arms on the floor extended out to the side. With your legs straight and together, raise them so the bottom of your shoes are facing the ceiling.

Technique: Keeping your legs together and straight, and your arms and shoulders anchored to the floor (have someone hold down your shoulders if necessary), begin to lower your feet towards the ground to your right. Take a long arching motion, just like a windshield wiper.

Routine: Go as far as you can with your shoulders raised off the ground and return to the starting position and repeat to the left. If this is too difficult, you can begin with your knees bent. If this is too easy, place a 1-2 pound medicine ball between your feet for added resistance. Perform three sets of 10 total repetitions (five each side) after you have done the Lightning Swing drills.

Remember the time you put in during the off-season is an investment that pays enormous dividends come game time. I suggest you chart your progress with these drills to ensure you stay on track to become the best hitter you possibly can.