On this day of independence, I thought it would be appropriate to briefly describe the fourth hitting key I teach to my hitters. The three hitting keys I described in previous posts were hands back toward the catcher at set-up, a power lift and turn of the front leg and foot, and full extension (lightning) of the arms at impact with the ball. Independence, as I apply it to the baseball or softball swing, is the competing rotational forces of the upper and lower body acting independently to create a high amount of torque and bat speed. (I found the picture (above) of the skeleton hitting with nice rotational mechanics. I will likely refer to this picture in future posts, because it clearly illustrates the kinetic connection between the various parts of the body.)
As soon as the front foot is planted powerfully into the ground after the “power lift and turn”, hitters are ready to unleash the power of the entire body, including the upper body that should have been perfectly still up to this point in the swing. Almost immediately after the front foot hits the ground, the lower body must rotate powerfully and “independently”. The trigger for the rotation of the lower body is a pivoting motion of the back foot. When I refer to this pivoting motion with my hitters, I call it the “power pivot”, because the back foot should briefly drive into the ground and pivot to propel the violent rotation of the lower body against a stiff front leg. This creates the tension or torque we are looking for to enhance batspeed and power.
Don’t Kill The Bug!
Hitting coaches love to talk about “squashing the bug”. They are referring to pivoting the back foot, as I have just described. However, they focus too much on the pivot and not enough on hip rotation. It is possible to “squash the bug” without generating any rotational force of the lower body. The power pivot I am referring to is the springboard for the rotation of the hips, not a replacement for this rotation. I see too many young hitters pivot their back foot before swinging without generating any measurable power. If the hips are truly rotating, then the back foot will naturally pivot.
How Did That Happen?
I always have hitters tell me they barely feel the home runs they hit. When hitters achieve the independent rotation of the lower body and then the upper body, they won’t have to TRY to swing the bat. The power generated by the “power lift and turn”, the “power pivot”, and the independent violent rotation of the lower body, will generate so much tension or torque that at some point, the upper body will have no other choice but to also rotate violently. As the lower body reaches the end of its rotation,the upper body will begin to rotate, which will automatically propel the bat on its path.
It is important for hitters to concentrate on keeping their bat still while the lower body rotates. I tell them to think of the independent rotation between the upper and lower body as a battle. The lower body will rotate quickly and powerfully, while and the upper body is trying as hard as possible to remain still. Ultimately, the upper body will always lose the battle and will be forced to rotate, without any intervention on the part of hitter. The result is a powerful and effortless swing. Effortless, because the hitter isn’t trying to create power; the body is doing it on its own.
Happy Independence Day!
This battle for independence between the lower body and upper body immediately precedes the swing and the full extension of the arms (or lightning), at the time of impact with the ball. The more torque hitters can generate through this independent rotation, the greater the batspeed that can be generated. This is a battle worth fighting!