The last hitting key in the swing sequence I teach is a “strong finish”. The secret to a strong finish is to let the bat finish where it wants to finish, not where hitters want it to finish. Too often, baseball and softball hitters try to control the swing, especially the finish. I contend that any time hitters manually guide the bat, especially after impact with the ball, bat speed, power, and consistency will suffer. Hitters should always strive to allow the bat to finish naturally as a byproduct of a powerful rotational swing sequence. When this happens, the “strong finish” can actually serve as the singular swing thought. Let me explain.
The idea of hitting backwards came to me as I was watching the beautiful finishes of professional golfers. My golf swing can be powerful at times, but I’m very inconsistent. Unlike my ability to diagnose problems with baseball or softball swings, I don’t have a clue why I hit a good golf shot or a poor one. I figured if I could successfully isolate and consistently execute just one component of my golf swing, I may be able to enjoy more success on the course.
With the picturesque finishes of professional golfers etched in my mind, I went to the driving range. My objective was to ignore everything about the sequence of my golf swing. I didn’t worry about my grip, back swing, swing plane, or point of contact with the ball. All I wanted to do was get to a beautiful high finish, just like a pro golfer.
As I prepared for my first swing at the driving range, I envisioned finishing in a position similar to the picture above. Of course, I would look at the ball, but I was adamant that I would ignore any and all of the swing mechanics and tips that typically clutter my brain before each swing. With the sole objective to finish like a pro, I made my first swing and achieved that pretty finish. After holding my finishing pose for a few seconds, I was surprised and satisfied to see the ball fly far and relatively straight.
I didn’t hit every ball in the jumbo bucket as solid as the first one, but my shots were definitely more consistent. By hitting backwards, I was forced to trust my swing. I allowed my body the freedom to swing the club with the sole purpose of finishing and posing like a professional golfer to achieve consistent success. After my golf epiphany, I was determined to help my baseball and softball hitters achieve the same trust, freedom, and success.
Hitting Backwards In Baseball and Softball
After testing the theory of hitting backwards with my golf swing, it was time to test it on one of my college softball hitters. I began by asking to see her typical pose at the end of her swing. All of my hitters finish in a similar position with their hands high and away from their bodies, like the picture below. As I write in my book, Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters, if we truly allow the bat to finish where it wants to finish, the bat should end in this ideal position.
Think about it. If hitters achieve full extension at impact and then hold that extension as long as possible as the bat rotates around the body in a good leveraged position, the bat can only naturally finish high and away from the body…if they let it. Too many hitters try to force the bat to finish in an unnatural position. This leads to slower bat speeds and less consistency.
While this hitter was in her finishing pose, my next instruction was simple. I asked her to watch the ball and focus only on ending in that exact position. I urged her to trust me, and more importantly, to trust her swing. I made it clear that I didn’t want her to focus on any of the individual components of her swing sequence. I reminded her the goal of working so hard on her hitting mechanics in practice was to trust that her body would naturally execute the correct powerful swing sequence without any thought or intervention on her part.
Asking my players to hit backwards is the ultimate validation of their swings. After just a few front toss swings, this hitter was convinced. She was hitting rockets in the gaps with more consistency. She said a weight was lifted off her shoulders by only having to focus on her finish. She admitted that her mind would often race and she would have too many swing thoughts when she stepped into the batter’s box.
Here is a hitter who has a great pose at the end of his swing. All he tries to do every swing is get to this position and everything else takes care of itself.
The Benefits of Hitting Backwards
Hitting backwards is helpful in three areas. When hitters focus on the finish and trust the rest of their swing, the body will instinctively go through the correct sequence of hitting mechanics. The result is more power and consistency. The second, and equally important benefit, is hitting backwards clears the mind. Hitters who think too much in the batter’s box are doomed to fail. Finally, it’s really easy. Hitters won’t have to worry about any aspect of their swing, like body angle or swing plane. All they need to do is swing the bat to their finishing pose.
This is one of my new hitting tips you will just have to try to believe. In addition to testing hitting backwards with my college hitters, I now use it as an effective tool for young hitters. Some youth baseball and softball coaches have a tendency to over complicate hitting, which can be very frustrating for players and their parents. I have fun with my young hitters by asking them to show me their favorite finishing pose. Then, all they need to do is get to that exact position after every swing. It’s simple and fun. Who doesn’t like to pose!