Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Hit Faster Pitchers

By Ryan A Knox The Science of Hitting the Fastball Some helpful tips how to face and conquer faster pitchers from Little League all the way up to the pros. When swinging a bat, every hundredth of a second counts. It can make the difference between a fair or foul ball, and also the difference between making contact or 'big whiffing'. That is why hitters spend so much time concentrating on improving bat speed. There are several tips below to help you increase your bat speed, as well as a couple drills. Hopefully, with this information, combined with your determination and hard work, you can see some improvements in your speed and overall improvements in your hitting game. Good luck! Increase Your Bat Speed Every split second counts. Imagine what it would feel like to swing a bat that felt as light as a broom stick. Not only would there be tremendous bat speed, but you'd be able to wait on a pitch and track it longer. That's a nice advantage to have over a pitcher because the longer you can track a pitch, the better you're able to adjust to it's movement. Combine bat speed with correct tracking utilizing visual acuity where the eye-brain connection has you seeing the ball almost in slow motion, and you can immediately understand the difference it could make in your hitting. By adding 1 oz weights gradually to a light makeshift bat, like a broom stick, we can accomplish this. Age and strength will determine your bat weight goal. Once there you can maintain and add more strength by overloading. Do this, but overload without stressing the joints. This will get more power to your bottom(lead) hand which is usually weaker than the top hand. Another great training method is to get a rubber ball about the size of a tennis ball. Squeeze the ball with your fingers (against the palm of your hand) hundreds of times a day. This will work your wrists and forearms. The end result is a stronger pair of wrists that will improve your bat speed through the strike zone. It will also have a good effect on your throwing. This exercise was done by Roberto Clemente when he was a kid. This exercise is very inexpensive. It is also quiet and can be done anywhere, such as class or work, if you do not make a big deal of your activity. One other real good quality exercise I've seen performed by major league hitters is to stand a bats length from a fence and swing the bat and try to keep it from hitting the fence. It helps to keep control of your swing and it will also works your muscles. This is more for control, but also works your muscles that determine reflex speed. Use a Pitching Machine to Increase Bat Speed I've seen increases up to 10 mph after extensive training with a baseball pitching machine. The adjustable speed and consistency of the machines make it easy to set up and work your technique as well as coordination. Training your eyes to "see" the pitches and really know what certain speeds look like as they come out the pitchers hands is a big bonus to having a pitching machine. This takes away a lot of the variables encountered when hitting off a real pitcher in practice or the back yard. You have speed variances, rotation variances, even mechanic variances. Normally these are all good to experience, as they will lend to keeping you on your toes and learning to pick up on different rotations and types of pitches. But for the sole purpose of increasing bat speed, I like to set up a pitching machine at a certain speed, say 60 mph and work 20 to 30 pitches off that. Then increase it by 5 mph and do the same number of pitches. Repeat until you are at the level you want to be at. Then decrease and start to work back down to your starting pitch speed. Then work back up. Once back up to your max speed, hit about 20 more and call it a day. Hey, Rome wasn't built in a day. This will take time and lots of dedication and practice, but the results are well worth it. There are some great pitching machines to be had at really affordable prices. First Pitch makes a model that is relatively inexpensive but the quality is right up there with the big boys of the industry such as Atec and Jugs. Another thing you might be interested in is good batting cages. Not a must, but could keep you out of a few window repair bills. If you don't have access to a pitching machine, go check out a local batting cage. I don't recommend this though, because if you really want to see results you need to do this consistently. And quite frankly, that could get expensive. A lot more than buying a cheap machine for the backyard. Weight Training Lastly, if done correct, weight training can offer increases in your swing. Abdominal Training The trunk (abdominals and low back) creates a powerful twisting motion during the swing. Rotational torque provides speed and momentum to the arms and eventually the bat head. Like other muscles, it is necessary to develop strength by using resistance. A common mistake with abdominal training is to perform body weight resisted exercises and expect the abdominals to continually gain strength. In the beginning you will develop a certain amount of strength. However, after a while the exercises become nothing other than calisthenics or maintenance type movements. To develop strength you must add some sort of resistance to the movement-as is the case in all exercises. The good news is that you can use most of the same traditional stomach exercises plus added weight, to get the desired results. The three areas for you to concentrate on are the lower, upper and oblique abdominals. Upper Abdominals Weighted crunches (non-weighted crunches shown) - Lying on your back with legs up in the air, knees bent at 90 degrees, hold a weight of your choice at straightened arms length. Using only your upper abdominals, raise only the upper body, keeping your back flat on the ground. Three sets of 20-40 repetitions. Lower Abdominals Hanging leg raises - Hang from an overhead bar, with your feet not touching the ground. Your grip should be about shoulder width. Contracting the lower abdominals, lift the legs together, knees bent at 90 degrees, so the knees are just above waist height. Lower and repeat. Three sets of 10-25 repetitions. * This a difficult exercise which does not require much weight to increase the difficulty. Use ankle weights for the resistance. * Do not rock back and forth to make it easier to raise the legs. * To increase difficulty without adding weights, keep your legs straight while lifting them. Rotational Abdominals Standing weighted twists - put yourself into an athletic stance with your feet spread at a comfortable distance and your knees slightly bent. Hold a weight about 6-to-12 inches in front of your body. After a slow warm up, begin to twist at the waist (do not twist or bend at the knees) as rapidly as possible. The key to rapid movement is maintain a low, balanced stance and make sure your shoulder reaches the chin on the twist. Three sets of 20-40 repetitions. Leg Strength Never underestimate the value of leg strength for good, powerful hitting. The legs do not appear active. And in terms of movement, they really are not. But it is the strength of the legs that enable the abdominals and trunk in general, to promote bat speed. As the swing begins, the stride is in place and the body begins to rotate. Without a firm base, the body will not be able to generate any strength from the legs into the trunk. The force is generated from the ground, into the legs, to the trunk and finally the bat. Without leg strength, the force necessary to start a powerful bat is not produced. To take it a step further, the swing might be flawed due to only upper body generation and nothing to stabilize the legs. Basic leg strength has been outlined in previous articles. Do not expect to have the best swing or the most powerful bat if you are only going to work on the upper body and ignore your legs. Forearms Beginning with the grip and finishing with the forearms (the two are connected), the bat head will take the proper path if there is strength in the hands. Notice how I say hands instead of forearms. This is because the grip strength (fingers, hand) is the most important part of forearm strength for baseball. Take a look at a swing and follow through. The movement is not about forearm flexors or extensors. There is really no point in the swing where these movements are dominant. However, the hand and hand strength are involved the entire time. You can have strong forearms, but not necessarily a strong grip. This is why you must work grip-specific exercises into your routine, such as squeezing tennis balls, racquet balls and softballs. This will strengthen the fingers, hand and overall grip. When you add these exercises to the already common wrist curls and reverse wrist curls, you'll have excellent results. Total Body When you are looking for running speed, a powerful swing or mph on your fastball, you don't just work the specific muscles involved. Take the approach that the entire body is a system and when all the parts work together efficiently, the outcome will be much more positive than singling out certain muscles. Train your whole body if you want optimal results, not to mention reducing the risk of injuring yourself. The baseball pitching machine is by far the greatest tool in a hitter's tool kit. As a long time coach, the secret I've found to great hitting has been to work constantly with a pitching machine. It allows the hitter to work alone and not have to rely on someone else's accuracy to replicate pitches. The best is to have a curveball pitching machine, but a standard machine will work also. Again, I cannot recommend or speak more highly of my dealings with Pitching Machines Supply. But I am not here to freely promote them. My focus is to educate young hitters so that they may grow into becoming one of the great hitters of our beloved sport. Article Source: Article Source:

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