I haven’t posted anything for over a week because I was in Canada for my annual fishing vacation. As I was in the boat with my son Rick, I was thinking about what I would write about next. As he was casting for the elusive big Northern Pike or Muskie, I observed he was doing something that the best baseball/softball players, golfers, hockey players, tennis players, and cricket players all have in common. As you can see in the picture below, his arms are almost totally extended as the lure is about to be launched. The dramatic bend in the fishing rod shows the torque that is generated simply by extending the arms at just the right time.
During a baseball or softball swing, both arms should be stiff, forming a “V” shape at impact with the ball. I call this the “Power V”. Yes, everything I teach is geared toward power. Other hitting instructors teach this type of extension, but I believe few know why it is so important. The extended arms are the culmination of the kinetic energy that began in the ground. Good extension, at the moment of impact with the ball, is like a “lightning bolt”. Bent arms at the moment of impact mean hitters are trying to guide the bat with the arms, resulting in lost power and inconsistency.
During workouts, I have two drills that are intended to produce lightning and keep it as long as possible. The first is the “1/2 swing” drill. Whether it is off the tee or during a front toss session, I ask hitters to stop the swing after the bat makes contact with the ball and hold this position. The bat should be pointing directly at the pitcher and the arms should be in the “Power V” position. When done correctly, it should be line drive in the middle of the field. The second drill is the “2/3 swing” drill. This is the same drill, but the hitter now stops and holds the swing past the halfway point. The key is to keep the “Power V”, without bending either arm. When done correctly, the ball should be driven to left center or right center, depending on the hitter. This second drill is harder because the natural tendency is to start bending the arms or breaking the wrists immediately after impact, which inhibits total extension that produces real power. I challenge hitters to maintain that “lightning” as long as they can. When my hitters get comfortable with these two drills, they begin hitting the ball so hard, they often ask me if they can try ½ swings or 2/3 swings in games. It is like a light goes off in their heads, finally convincing them that the kinetic linkage (between the lower and upper body) they worked so hard to perfect, really can produce power that is always surprising and exciting.
Don’t just take my word for it. Watch your favorite professional baseball player and you will likely see the full extension “lightning” I am describing. Unfortunately, very few fastpitch softball players find the lightning in their swings. Those who do enjoy an instant increase and bat speed and power. Below are a few examples of great extension: