Weigh More In 11th grade physics we are taught Newton’s formula F=ma which is force equals mass times acceleration. That means bodyweight is a variable that we can use to improve exit velocity. A quick google search finds that the average weight of a major leaguer is 207 lbs. However, if you look at the positions classically known for being offensive positions, you’ll find players are even heavier. For pitching there is a saying that mass equals gas; for hitting, mass equals exit velocity. If you fall into the category of being underweight then eat! It simply comes down to getting more calories in than out and the laws of thermodynamics will ensure weight gain. Eat every 2-3 hours. Eat breakfast and make sure you are not skipping meals. Ensure that you are getting enough protein for your body weight, at least 1.6g/kg or .73g/lb. Enough protein intake will ensure that you are putting on lean muscle mass and not excess body fat. If you’re still having trouble gaining weight after following these rules, try using an app to track your food intake. You may not be eating as many calories as you think you are. Lastly, get on a strength training program because resistance training stimulates muscle growth. More on this later.
Get a Better Swing There is so much to unpack here! We can use a k-vest and video analysis to evaluate a player’s technical efficiency. The k-vest allows us to see energy leaks which are breakdowns in efficiency. Did you know that although every great major league hitter has their own unique batting stance and swing style, they all generate power in a similar way? We see this via the kinematic sequence which I have described here https://www.ianhorne.com/post/three-power-sources-in-the-baseball-swing. Big league hitters all tend to get into the same positions and create similar bat angles. This allows them to hit the ball hard more consistently. A couple of examples of this are that the bat makes a right angle (90°) with the torso at toe touch and a 90° angle with the torso at contact. We use video analysis to see what technical changes need to be made. We always change the first mechanical error that we see first because every error afterwards may be a result of compensation. Many times when we fix the first error the other errors correct themselves without having to address them with the player. The most common first error is a sway which is a lateral move away from the pitcher. An effective load is a 20-40deg of rotation of the hips and shoulders together away from the pitcher. This is described below:
Increase Bat Speed Going back to the law of motion equation F=ma we are now looking at the acceleration aspect. If we can increase the velocity, a precursor to acceleration, then we increase the force that impacts the ball and thus exit velocity. Using blast motion, we can evaluate a player’s bat speed. By analyzing this on numerous hitters, we have seen that the number one factor that impacts bat speed is intent. Many players simply don’t realize how much bat speed they can generate. This is usually because they have figuratively put the governor on in order to make contact or because they are focused on proper swing mechanics. We have seen that usually when a player tries to swing harder their mechanics improve. When players are encouraged not to focus on their mechanics or the ball contact, we see a five, ten, or even fifteen mile per hour increase in their bat speed. By doing this exercise we can show the player what they are capable of. The next goal comes in when we try to translate this high bat speed to the game. Of course when the player is hitting a live pitch in game, bat speed is not going to be at a maximum level but we would like it to be consistently as high as possible. By showing a player what maximum bat speed looks like, they can start to increase bat speed in batting practice. As the hitter increases batspeed towards the max output there will come a point where contact starts to diminish. Therein lies the gap between that we want to close. We would like a player to be able to make consistent contact as close as possible to max bat speed as possible. Trying to close this gap will not only help players have higher bat speed but it will also give them self awareness of how hard they can swing and still make contact. We can also look at Rapsodo (pitch tracking and analysis device) to see if there are particular pitches with which they struggle to have a high exit velocity and then train bat speed on those pitches. These are often outside pitches where it is harder to generate bat speed.
Overspeed and overweight bat training is the quickest and easiest way for most players to gain exit velocity. This involves using underweight and overweight bats. Ideally this should be done without hitting a ball so that there is a singular focus on swing speed and zero focus on making contact or the result of the swing. The golf world has been focused on clubhead speed for a long time and has done a lot to study how to increase clubhead speed. Many golfers use a superspeed slugger and have dialed in the work volume as well as the different drills used. Check out their super speed's baseball training here: https://superspeedslugger.com/pages/premium-training-content
Lift Going back to F=ma, training in the weight room will help players increase both the amount of acceleration hitters can create but also should help players put on or maintain muscle mass. A well-designed training program will improve strength and power but will also help players get into the positions needed for mechanical proficiency. Proteus®Motion, a technology which measures strength and power, can help players determine where on the strength speed curve they are sitting and which movements are the weak link. Check out Jared Bickle's post on how it works: https://www.instagram.com/p/ClnACfErvJn/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y= We use OnbaseU assessment to screen for physical limitations that may be impacting the swing and then we work on improving them in the gym. This helps players get into the positions they need in order to be successful. The most important movement being hip-shoulder separation and the most common movement restrictions being the hips and thoracic spine. Here are some drills to work on those abilities:
Get Bat fitted Bat fitting has shown to improve exit velocity in major leaguers and can also help with more consistent solid contact. It is mainly just professionals that have access to it right now but it is coming. Check out what Baseball Performance Lab is doing down in Louisiana. https://www.instagram.com/thebpl_com/?hl=en