Back Shoulder Row and the Top Level Swing
Many people teach a hands first downward plane swing. As readers of the Baseball Hitting Rebellion know, we are not part of that group. The truly amazing thing about the Top Level Swing (in baseball and softball) is that there are almost NO examples of players utilizing the knob pull or a downward swing and having any type of success, yet linear hands first hitting is the predominant thought taught at all formative levels of baseball and softball.
As I was going through the process of figuring out what I wanted to write about next, I kept coming back to the separation of the lead hip and the back shoulder. The true engine of the Top Level Swing is the stretching action of the muscles of the torso, and how that action is created and maximized for a suddenly explosive and accelerated swing. Paul Reddick, a former scout, starts his hitting product ‘sales pitch’ by saying, ‘everybody knows that hitting power is the result of the separation of the hips and shoulders’, and if you’ve read my stuff, you know I’m on board with that as well.
However, I think it’s really important that people understand that this torque creating move doesn’t just stop at a hip turn.
As the back hip begins the move inward towards home plate, a counter rotation of the upper gear must occur to help balance this move. I call this ‘Back Shoulder Row’. Basically it’s a move to help balance and increase the stretching action of the torso that creates even deeper and earlier bat speed and downward and sideways whip of the barrel into the zone. The Back Shoulder Row forces a proper hand pivot by literally making it impossible to pull your knob forward as your back elbow is now blocked by your lat muscle and obliques from moving forward.
Once this blocking action occurs, you MUST pivot the barrel around your hands, whipping the barrel downward and backward towards the catcher and then sideways into the zone. This move is very hard to pick up as you really need to know what to look for. I have searched my library of videos extensively to give the best few examples and multiple views of back shoulder row during in game footage. Look at where the back elbow goes…the back shoulder and scapular musculature are moving the back elbow behind the batter, towards the dugout. It’s pretty subtle, but it’s there, and it’s needed.
Notice that this is NOT a stiff turn of the hips that move the shoulders inward, this is a back shoulder pull, much like you’re using a rowing machine with only one arm. Even if a hitter does turn his lead shoulder inward, like Edmunds and Adrian Gonzalez, he still rows that back elbow/shoulder backwards as his hips are beginning their inward turn. Bonds did it too…and that guy could hit a little bit I’d say!
I know I said this earlier, but I can’t stress it enough: the scap load prevents the knob pulling/arm pushing swing that most of the kids today use. Your rear elbow will get behind your lat muscle, so you CAN’T pull the bat’s knob forward or push the handle of the bat at the pitcher – the hitter MUST pivot the hands and swing the barrel down and back to the catcher and then sideways into the path of the ball.
Your HIPS turn the swing into the ball, but your scap load (back shoulder row) and hand pivot turn the barrel back and to the side as your hips are turning inward. Really watch these clips slowly, notice the bat head going towards the catcher and then ‘sweeping’ in behind the baseball from the side to make contact. This depth in the barrel gives the longest possible contact point and the scap load makes it EVEN DEEPER than I’ve described in the past.
Click on the picture to see the movement.
This is a SUPER high level move, and most kids won’t understand this until they get a little more coordinated and comfortable being able to feel their own muscles work. One of my huge concerns about talking about back shoulder row is that kids will try to do it and stiffen up. Remain smooth and allow this transition to the highest level swing possible. Remember it is going to take a period of time. There is no get a scapula load quick scheme out there. It takes hours and hours of positive practice. My team at I.T.S. and the BHR are working tirelessly on how to use the Drive Developer and other tools to increase your scapula load and understanding of how it loads properly, the benefits of it, and how to make sure it’s not hurting you and stiffening up your easy smooth swing mechanics.
Leader of the Baseball Hitting Rebellion
Certified I.T.S. Baseball Hitting System Instructor
Back Elbow Drill Face-On with resistance coming from backside:
Back Elbow Drill Backside with resistance coming from front: