It was a cold, blustery day at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Wheaton College Softball Team was playing Carthage College in an important conference double-header. The wind was blowing in, so home runs on this day were unlikely. The first game was scoreless through seven innings until Ellen Radandt (pictured above) came to bat for Wheaton College. Radandt hit a BOMB—a long home run through the wind and into the trees well past the left field wall. After the game, one of the umpires was still marveling at her prodigious shot. He was also baffled how she hit the ball so far with what appeared to be an abbreviated swing. He knew I was the hitting coach for Wheaton College, so he asked me, “Did you see how she stopped her swing half way? Do you teach that?” I just laughed and said, “Yes and no”.
During the many months of off-season training, Ellen Radandt and the other Wheaton College hitters worked hard to perfect their power hitting mechanics. The two hitting drills that enabled Radandt to hit that long home run, and the Wheaton College team to break single season school records for home runs and doubles, are what I call the “1/2 Swing” and “2/3 Swing” drills. I developed these two drills several years ago after it became clear to me that full arm extension at impact is one of the keys to great power and consistency in both the baseball and softball swings.
1/2 SWING DRILL
The purpose of this unique drill is to train the body to consistently achieve full extension at impact. As I have written many times, after a powerful leg lift and weight transfer, the lower body should rotate independently, followed by the violent rotation of the upper body. At some point, these independent rotations will generate enough energy (or torque) to propel the bat naturally and powerfully into the ball. This is a very critical point in the swing sequence. The best softball and baseball hitters will use this kinetic energy to create what I call “lightning”. Hitting lightning can only be achieved when hitters have fully extended arms at impact. Without full arm extension, much of the precious kinetic energy is wasted.
The 1/2 Swing Drill is exactly what the name describes. I ask hitters to simply stop and hold the swing, with the arms fully extended in a “Power V” position, and with the bat pointing directly over the pitcher’s head. Both elbows should be locked and both wrists should be aligned with the bat, without any break. It is critical for hitters to freeze at the end of the 1/2 Swing, so they can observe whether the arms, wrists, and hands are in the proper positions.
Here is a video illustrating the 1/2 Swing Drill:
This drill will lead to more power and precision. If it is done correctly, the ball should hit the back of the net in a batting tunnel or a line drive into straight center field. As hitters get comfortable with this drill, they will hit the ball harder and harder, while still maintaining the desired finish position of fully extended arms and stiff wrists. It is also important for the hands to be in the correct position. As I have written in a previous post, the top hand should be in a strong and stable position at the end of the 1/2 swing. This hand position is the critical link between the kinetic energy generated by the body and the bat before it makes contact with the ball.
2/3 SWING DRILL
The 2/3 Swing Drill is merely an extension of the 1/2 Swing Drill. Instead of ending the swing with the bat pointing at the pitcher, the bat should now stop after the full rotation of the shoulders. The purpose of this drill is to make sure the “lightning” at impact does not dissipate until the swing is completed. Like the 1/2 Swing Drill, at the end of the 2/3 Swing, the “Power V” should still be intact, with both elbows remaining locked. The wrists should still be unbroken, with the hands in the same strong position. Hitters should freeze and hold the finish to ensure the 2/3 Swing was completed successfully.
Hitters who believe the swing is over after the bat hits the ball are more likely to bend their arms and break their wrists after making contact with the ball, which affects both the speed and path of the bat. With my Swing Speed Radar or my Zepp sensor, I can prove that hitters who fail to maintain full extension after impact with the ball have lower hand speeds and bat speeds than hitters who hold the “Power V” as long as possible. These hitters are also unable to keep the bat on a powerful swing path, which is necessary to drive the ball into the outfield gaps for extra base hits or over the fence.
Here is a slow motion video of the 2/3 Swing Drill. Notice how powerfully her body rotates after a controlled leg lift and weight transfer. The bat then takes a direct path to the ball, with full arm extension at impact, and the angle of her body in an ideal leverage position. In slow motion, you can almost feel the lightning!
- Don’t get frustrated if these drills feel a little awkward at first. It will only take a short period of time to master these drills.
- Hitters can use these two drills while working off a batting tee, during front toss sessions, and even with live pitching. Although, I would recommend perfecting the drill hitting off a batting tee first.
- Hitters should work on their 1/2 Swings and 2/3 Swings during every batting tee session and periodically during front toss and batting practice sessions.
- In batting cages, the 1/2 Swing balls should ideally hit the net at the end of the tunnel. For 2/3 Swing balls, the target should be the upper portion of the right net, more than halfway down the length of the tunnel for left-handed hitters. For right-handed hitters, the target should be the upper portion of the left net, more than halfway down the tunnel.
When hitters see how hard and far they hit the ball with their 1/2 and 2/3 Swings, they will want to use them in games! After only a short time using these drills, the ball will begin jumping off the bat. Hitters will notice this increased power and will want to duplicate it in games. I convince my hitters that the more they practice these drills, the better their extension will be during their full swings. Hitters who train their bodies to incorporate full extension as a natural part of their swing will enjoy increased power and improved consistently, because their bat is no longer a piece of metal. It is a bolt of lightning!
So, why did I answer the umpire’s question at Carthage College by saying, “Yes and no”? Yes, I teach the 1/2 Swing that Ellen Radandt used to hit that long home run. No, I never tell hitters to use either the 1/2 Swing or 2/3 Swing in a game——but they could!
** The hitter in the videos is Katie Yergler, a co-captain for the Wheaton College Softball Team.