I recently visited a hitting discussion board (yes, I need to get a life) and read the comments on the topic of increasing bat speed and power. I was struck by the overwhelming numbers of people who focused on physical conditioning as the key to improving bat speed. Some of the advice included, throwing a medicine ball, swinging heavier bats, banging a heavy tire against a brick wall, and swinging into a heavy bag. I was the lone poster who advocated improving hitting mechanics to increase bat speed and power.
It is impossible to deny the fact that good conditioning will increase bat speed and make hitters generally more powerful. I am an advocate of any conditioning programs that build strength in both the lower and upper body. Great hitters use their entire body to generate power, so it makes sense to follow a program that is holistic. Focusing on conditioning to improve bat speed and power will help, but only marginally.
I have observed many really strong and fit baseball and softball hitters who have mediocre bat speed. These hitters believe they can “muscle” the bat into and through the ball. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that REAL bat speed and power is realized through the sequence of kinetic linkage throughout the body, not brut force. I am always pleased when I see undersized players hitting balls harder and farther than hitters twice their size.
The key is to find the right mix between improving conditioning and improving hitting mechanics, especially in the offseason. If I had to put a percentage on what this balance should look like, I would say 70% hitting mechanics and 30% physical conditioning. This assertion is always validated for me when I begin working with hitters who are already strong and well-conditioned, but have average or below average bat speed. As soon as these hitters develop sound hitting mechanics, their bat speed jumps and their new power is obvious. When hitters learn to combine a smart conditioning program with power hitting mechanics, that’s when the fun begins.
Now that we are in the offseason for baseball and softball (at least here in the Midwest), I would recommend hitters keep hitting. Many high schools and colleges place too much emphasis on offseason physical conditioning, at the expense of improving the swing. There is no substitute for working hard on each aspect of the swing (hitting keys–http://torque-hitting.com/category/hitting-keys-2/) in the offseason. Hitters who acknowledge the need to improve their overall strength, but make working on their hitting mechanics the priority during the winter, will be the winners during the spring and summer.