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A few months back, I sat down and watched our hitting instructor, Coach Mike Rozema, give a hitting lesson.
While listening to his cues, I tried to pinpoint some physical limitations that could prevent a player from getting into the best position to succeed while stepping up to the plate. I thought of some things we could do to help correct them in the weight room, and the results were eye-opening. While strength plays an important role in bat speed, as I discussed in a previous article, limited mobility can also drag down your bat speed in a hurry. With that in mind, let's hit on some areas where I believe good mobility is paramount for generating a high bat speed.
1. T-Spine Mobility
During the session, I heard Mike talking about keeping "your hands back while your hips are moving forward." In other words, achieving great separation between the hip and shoulders. Along with great hip mobility, t-spine rotation and extension are the other key contributors that allow this separation to occur. One just doesn't work without the other. As a bonus, adequate mobility in the upper back allows the hands to not only get back, but stay there as the hips are moving forward.
Also, the longer the upper body can stay back, the longer the batter can keep his eyes on the ball allowing for critical split-second adjustments to different pitches. Here are two mobility-driven drills we've used with great success. The first works on pure rotation, while the second adds a bigger core stability component to the mix.
Getting great rotation is pretty much impossible with a rounded, kyphotic t-spine. So working on thoracic extension is also paramount. That's why t-spine extension on a foam roller has become a staple around our facility.
2. Hip Mobility
It's paramount for hitters to have great hip mobility. Making sure the hips are back during the pre-loading phase will help get players into a strong explosive position and is one of the major players in creating a great swing. Just look at this photo of Bryce Harper:
Unfortunately, due to rapid growth spurts during the middle, high school and even college years, mobility in the hips and pelvis is often compromised in many young ball players. This severely limits their ability to hip hinge (get the hips back) during the "pre-loading" phase, as well as their ability to internally rotate and extend in the "un-loading phase."
For young adults who present themselves with anterior pelvic tilts (which is mostly due to weak core strength from rapid growth during puberty) this act is easier said than done.
What to do about it? We need to reverse that pelvic tilt and work on some hip internal rotation to open up the hips. This is very similar to what a pitcher would do to open the acromial (outer end of the scapula) space. Here are two methods we employ at Rockland Peak Performance. This breathing drill helps reverse the anterior tilt by emphasizing a "posterior tilt":
Once we open the hips, we can do some mobility work to help get back some hip internal rotation:
And then work on their hip hinge with some patterning:
When you combine increased strength in the right areas with increased mobility in the right areas, young baseball players put themselves in much better position to be capable of tremendous bat speeds, and thus harder and better contact.
See ya' in the gym!
Photo Credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
READ MORE FROM NUNZIO SIGNORE:
- 4 Things That Every Young Pitcher Should Address
- Why Great Baseball Players Are Built in the Fall
- Baseball Players: Use These Exercises to Improve Your Bat Speed