Avoid These 5 Swing Clogging Moves

Written by on December 11, 2013 in Hitting Theory - 26 Comments

I often get my hitters to envision the flow of energy in their swings as water flowing through pipes.  If the pattern of a hitter’s swing is precise, the energy, or “water”, will flow smoothly without friction.  When this happens the player will squeeze every drop of potential power out of his or her body.

However, there are certain movements that prohibit the flow of our energy.  I call these “swing clogging” movements.  This article is going to break down five common swing clogging moves.  All of these moves are easily identifiable and should avoided in your son or daughter’s movement practice.

Closed Off Stance

closedoffstance

A closed off stance can be seen in many hitters today.  More than likely this will be a preset position that they feel comfortable in and get acquainted to rather quickly.  The closed off stance will be done usually for two reasons.  One, the hitter is scared of the ball, plain and simple. The hitter will close his or her body off for protection purposes.  There is no quick fix for fear except for time and probably getting hit a few times to realize it is not that bad.    Two, the hitter feels a since of FALSE power by pre-closing off the shoulders and the hips.  By turning inwards, the brain feels what you might call a “load”.  The batter believes he or she is in a “cocked” like position ready to fire.  Again this is a FALSE feeling of power because there will be no resistance created between the pelvis and shoulders.  The load or “cocking” phase of the movement will need to be done during his or her forward move.   This is common in our hitters as they’ve been constantly told to ‘stay closed’ with their feet and hips to stay ‘on the ball’ longer.  

BE CAREFUL! Young batters will most likely get away with these mistakes for a while but ultimately, pitchers will begin to pick apart these types of hitters.  Once that hitter reaches a level where the pitchers can spot a fastball and the field grows (MIDDLE SCHOOL) it will be much more of a struggle to have the type of hitting success that makes the game fun.  To learn more about stances, click here!  

Chas Note:  JK’s exactly right.  The closed stance and foot angle JK is demonstrating leads to bad direction in the stride.  As you’ll see later, closing off in the step is a huge problem that hurts and erodes the turn quality of the hitter.  If you close off the shoulders/stance, the first thing that moves will be the front shoulder up and out to start the swing.  The hitter will FEEL separation between the hips and shoulders, but once the front shoulder starts to fly out early, the hitter has committed to the swing.  Not a good plan.  Another thing people don’t realize is kids need to be TAUGHT how to get hit by pitches and protect themselves from getting hurt.  Hitters who close off the stance due to fear ALWAYS step out and open their bodies to injury.  Think about it:  Would you rather get hit in the back or butt or the face or cup?  Due to the closed stance, the hitter must pull off earlier and open their bodies up to the baseball.  OUCH.

Stepping Across the Body

thestepacross

This “swing clogging” maneuver has been called many things and there have been many ways coaches have tried to fix it.  In the pictures above, you can clearly see my front HEEL has gone from being in line with my back HEEL, to  across the orange line.  The inward stride can will have an immediate effect on the rest of the swing.  Why?  Because this is the first move the hitter makes!  There is no coming back after this mistake has been made.  By doing this, the hitter’s maximum degrees he or she can turn is cut off, therefore cutting off pelvis/shoulder separation. In turn, cutting off POWER.  Can you still get hits?  Of course, but your potential for maximum power will drop and decrease your chances for getting on base.

To maximize our ability to turn or rotate our pelvis, keeping the HEELS in line when the stride foot lands is a huge part of the puzzle.  Heel to Heel Stride Direction will also keep our posture and body weight moving in a straight line for optimal vision.

Closed Front Foot After The Stride

closedoffstride2

We already know that stepping in across the batter’s box will have negative impact on our power generation.  The next movement to avoid is stepping or not stepping with a closed front foot.  This move, like the stepping in, can doom your power swing from the get go.

There is some discrepancy among coaches about how far, if at all, the front foot should open.  The answer is actually pretty simple.  How efficient do you want to be?  If the hitter’s goal is to maximize hip/shoulder separation, bio-mechanically the front foot has to open.  Once the front leg is grounded, it will act as the “brake” stopping the forward momentum.  At this point, the front knee will drive the front hip back very suddenly.  The front side knee MUST be in the correct position for this to happen.  The front leg will also provide the hitter with the ability to adjust his or her swing to off-speed pitches. You can learn more about this here.

On another note, leaving your front foot closed will increase the possibilities of front knee injuries.  Over time, the aggressive rotation against a front closed knee and hip can put some serious wear and tear on knee cartilage.  Simply put, an open front foot, knee, and hip allows for higher quality turns that are not only faster but safer.

Chas Note:  Not only knee injuries are an issue if you keep your front foot closed (RYAN HOWARD…) but also Front Leg Hip function is deteriorated.  Will Fox, our Director of Performance, has proven that turning on a closed front foot dramatically decreases muscle function in the hips of a hitter.  This decreased function leads to extra stress on Ligaments and Cartalidge (passive structure) and can lead to CHRONIC hip and knee pain (Chase Utley…)  Man those Phillies seem to be unlucky…maybe it’s their hitting instruction…maybe that’s why they have new coaches…

The Lean In

theleanin

The next two movements that we will discuss are less obstructive to a power swing than the previous three.  Why you ask?  These moves happen from the waist up.

The “lean in” move is where the batter will tilt his or her spine angle over the plate during the stride.  This is another move that may feel powerful to the hitter but will do a number of things to minimize power potential.  To the hitter, the extra counter rotation/close off of the shoulders will create more separation between the pelvis angle and shoulder angle and therefore, more bat speed.  I see many of our guys with strength in their upper bodies perform this move than any other body type as they are stronger in their chest and back than our skinnier, weaker hitters.  Unfortunately for upper body dominant players, this creates too much rotational ground to make up, especially in a game.  Remember, all you really need is the hips to go first and the front shoulder to stay on the pitcher.  There is validity to a back shoulder row motion to help resist the urge to open the front shoulder too quickly.  You can learn more about “rowing” here.

You can also see how changing my spine angle drastically changes my eye level.  Any movement that changes the plane of a hitters vision needs to be carefully looked at.  There are positive types of head movement but this is not one of them as I am ‘zooming in’ towards the contact point.  The head can move forward and down in the stride (it always does if you move athletically forward in the load) but once the turn starts, you need that perspective and distance between the head and the contact point to stay the same for barrel accuracy and to help maximize hard barrel to ball contact.

The High Elbow/Hand Raise

elbow:hands:shoulder raise

Hitters will often times feel and recruit power from their hands/arms.   Here you see my back elbow and hands raised way up above my shoulder.  Where this does feel strong in a chopping wood kind of way, this is not a power hitting move.  As you can imagine, the higher the hands get away from the strike zone, so does the barrel.  Also, hitters will “wrap” the barrel around there head creating a much longer distance back to the ball.  Once the hitter has put themselves in this type of position, it will take serious coordination, timing, and strength to get the barrel back down and around to the correct plane.  Inevitably, most hitters who stride to the position in the pictures will use what they feel (their arms) to get the bat up to speed and into the zone.  Arm use from this high position will usually equate to lots of ground balls and glancing types of contact where the ball fades towards the back side foul line.

It is not impossible to hit from this position.  Professionals like Jose Bautista will perform a move like this.  Here is a picture of Jose.

bautista

Chas Note: Remember, Bautista has near perfect upper body mechanics and, along with Bryce Harper, the most explosive lower half in baseball history.  Bautista almost always turns the barrel with perfect SeeSaw/Hand Pivot mechanics so his hand raise works for him not against him. Can your son or daughter do this?  Absolutely. They just better be ready to practice this high level move of fusing the shoulders, arms, hands and barrel, again, again, and again.  To learn more about barrel movement and See Saw Mechanics, click here!  Again, this Hand/Elbow Raise is only a mistake if you have ‘knob driven’ upper body mechanics that promote a downward swing to the baseball.  If you swing properly, the hand/elbow raise can be a benefit.  It’s all in HOW and WHY you do it.

Final Thought

The majority of us will not be the size of the men we see on T.V.  You can watch Miguel Cabrera step across his body and still hit the ball 4oo feet.  Nope, it’s not fair.  That is the benefit of being the big kid on the kick ball field.  For those of us that will not be 220 lbs or larger, we must to be great at the little things to maximize our power.  Avoiding the 5 mistakes outlined above can dramatically help in our quest to produce maximum and consistent power in the most adjustable way possible.

JK Whited and Chas Pippitt – Leaders of The Baseball Rebellion

About the Author

JK is the only certified Baseball Rebellion and I.T.S. Baseball hitting instructor. He has done over 7,000 lessons since 2008. JK works everyday alongside Chas Pippitt to create the most up to date techniques and drills to improve hitters of any age. JK played Division 1 baseball at UNC Asheville where as captain, he led the Bulldogs to a Big South Conference championship and their first ever regional birth in 2006.

26 Comments on "Avoid These 5 Swing Clogging Moves"

  1. Sean December 12, 2013 at 10:15 am · Reply

    When you stride with your front foot open when you land does the heel have to be in line with the other heel or just in line with the the back foot?

    • Chas Pippitt December 12, 2013 at 11:17 am · Reply

      Sean,

      it’s ok if you are midfoot of your back foot and front heel but it’s BEST if you’re heel to heel.

      Chas–

    • jkhittingrebel December 12, 2013 at 11:23 am · Reply

      Sean,

      Great question. The most optimal position is to be in line with the back heel. That will allow for the greatest possible stretch of the core. We like to hammer this move early and often in a player’s development.

      JK-

  2. Elton December 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm · Reply

    So does stepping in a bucket slow down the swing? Or is it ok as long as the shoulder stays pointed at the pitcher?

    • Chas Pippitt December 12, 2013 at 4:22 pm · Reply

      Elton,

      Good to hear from you! I would say it’s not ideal, but it does not slow the swing. Shoulder in and you’re pretty much good.

      Chas–

  3. Blane December 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm · Reply

    What are things to do to cute a lean in because it is pretty hard to do a row without curling your shoulder or leaning in?

    • jkhittingrebel December 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm · Reply

      Blane,

      If the “row” is done properly, the front shoulder will roll in just slightly. What I am talking about is a obvious inward tilt of the spine over the plate. The “rowing” move is not done by showing the back to the pitcher. If your front shoulder is moving past the line of the pitcher, you will put yourself in a much to closed off position, not to mention your vision will then begin to be altered.

      • Steve Black December 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm · Reply

        JK – I’d like to hear more about the pitcher’s view spine angle – I use this to “reach” for low pitches/ outside pitches – without sacrificing my contact position (without extending the arms). The cue I use is nose to the ball. the problem seems to be hunching the upper back.

        When I was a hands down and through, drive style hitter (70s/80s) we were taught to flex our knees to go down with the pitch. Now that I’m a rebel – I use Cevallos’ pitcher’s spine angle and thoracic extension – it works great – as long as I don’t give up my thoracic extension/contraction.

        Hope I was clear – can you explain your ‘down and away’ attack?

        Best wishes and a blessed holiday to all,
        steve

        • jkhittingrebel December 14, 2013 at 10:54 am · Reply

          Steve,

          What I am trying to illustrate is a move that I see guys make during their stride. They will use an obvious spine tilt in to “load” and show a large majority of their backs to me or the pitcher. This move will put hitters in a disadvantage upon reaching a certain level of pitching and velocity.

          I think that your thoughts on the down and away pitch are right on! I have read all of Cevallos stuff and though I don’t agree with all of it, this is good. Once we recognize pitch location, the batter must tilt the spine inward to maintain connection of his/her hands and back shoulder. If the spine stays vertical, the batter is forced to reach with their arms. It is also important to note that for the away pitch the batter must allow the ball to reach a certain depth as well for optimal contact.

          I was taught to bend my knees to the low ball too! Let me tell you how that worked out vs high level pitching…it didn’t!

          • Jon December 28, 2013 at 1:12 am ·

            I was thinking the same thing when I read about the lean in. Miguel Cabrera gets his shoulders on plane, tilts his spine very early and he has been pretty successful. I am also glad Chas commented on the positive attributes of the high elbow position, which is used by so many great hitters.

          • Chas Pippitt January 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm ·

            Jon,

            Correct, Cabrera, Pujols, and other large men (over 240) can tilt early and hit the ball very well.

            What JK is saying, and I wholeheartedly agree with, is a pre-set-tilt at the hip is NOT the BEST way to do it, and for sure not the best way to generate power.

            You must remember, the pre-setting is usually done by huge guys with huge power. You only need to hit the ball ‘far enough’ to get it over the outfielder or over the fence.

            JK, Gabe, and I believe that the best way to generate power is from a more upward spine. The biomechanics of turning fast support that explicitly.

            That being said, I do agree that if you’re really strong with tons of power, you can tilt early and have an easier time hitting. That idea just does not apply to 99 percent of the people reading this blog.

            Chas–

  4. Derek December 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm · Reply

    Where should your barrel be ideally when your heel plants.

    • jkhittingrebel December 18, 2013 at 10:16 am · Reply

      Derek,

      At the moment the heel plants the barrel could be a number of places. I think what is important though, is that it is moving! Moving in such a way that it’s accelerating instantly and into the hitting zone early(in front of the catchers mitt). We like to see the “shape” of the barrel. That means how is the barrel moving behind and around the batter’s back shoulder with their turn.

      A lot of hitters are taught to keep the bat still until the swing starts to the ball. We get our guys to get the barrel moving pre-turn, therefor giving the barrel a head start. Executing this will get the barrel up to maximum speed sooner. Chas’s “See-Saw” article is great read on this move.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Travis December 20, 2013 at 10:23 am · Reply

    Jk, very nice. 110% on board with this. BUT I am wondering if I’m just not understanding the spine tilt part.. If we are thinking of two different things. I know pretty much all hitters have a spine angle slightly forward..bonds, griff, Sosa all the great hitters get to a position I call spine angle. I happened to find a video explaining this.. Check this out and let me know if we are talking about two different things! http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plpp&list=PL4F47DC5D0D944921&v=DrifXlKuNr4

    Great article!!

    • Chas Pippitt January 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm · Reply

      Travis,

      See my reply to JON

      Thanks!

      Chas–

  6. travis December 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm · Reply

    jk, i dont know if ive got the wrong idea of the Sping angle part, IF were on the same page..all the best in the world have a spine angle slightly over the plate. (bonds, griffey, sosa) they create this move during the swing..espically bonds..ive actually found a video on the sping angle position i am talking of and its actually a great video..just check it out and let me know if your talking about a diffrent kind of spine angle as ive got in mind…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrifXlKuNr4&list=PL4F47DC5D0D944921&index=18

    btw you guys do a Great job with the articles..in no way am i criticizing, just curious.

    • Chas Pippitt January 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm · Reply

      Travis,

      see my reply to JON.

      Thanks!

      Chas–

      • Jon January 8, 2014 at 7:43 pm · Reply

        I feel like the earlier you can get your tilt completed, the earlier you can set the height of your head. If I want my head to stay still from heal plant on, I better get tilted as early as possible.

        I appreciate the opportunity to share thoughts and learn new ideas from everyone.

  7. Beau Butler January 29, 2014 at 10:35 pm · Reply

    1st of all, I would just like to say thank you. I am a senior in high school, and I have watched many of the baseball rebellion videos on youtube , and have read various articles on this website, and applied the mechanics/philosophy to my swing. I have seen dramatic improvements, and can not wait to complete a full season with my new and improved swing. I am sure this topic has been addressed many times, however I just can’t seem to locate it. I have always heard from coaches to stride soft, or land soft on the front foot, almost like a “reaching” of the front foot. Looking at the swings of Harper and Ruth, it does not appear they are landing soft.. Can you please elaborate on the “stride soft” phrase, Once again, thank you for everything!

    • jkhittingrebel January 30, 2014 at 11:56 am · Reply

      Beau,

      First of all, thank you. Always love to hear when our readers see dramatic changes in their swing for the good. Hope you have a great season!

      Always avoid any “reaching” type of move. We have to move our mass. In order to “reach”, the hitter must lean back on the back leg and extend the front leg out. That being said, we also do not want to move our mass and then stomp on the ground. We like a simple word like ‘stop’. As your body mass is moving forward just let your front leg RELAX into the ground but stay firm enough to completely stop your body/head. There needs to be room for your front knee to flex a little more in the case of an off speed pitch your were not expecting. We call this adjust-ability.

      Check out this article I wrote a while back and see if it helps. http://baseballrebellion.com/jkhittingrebel/how-does-the-hitters-front-side-effect-his-swing/

      Thanks again!

      JK Whited-

  8. David February 3, 2014 at 10:46 am · Reply

    Wouldn’t the high elbow/ hand raise allow hitters to reach and square up higher pitches? I see Harper and Bautista do it all the time. Do they do it to prevent pop ups? Its seems to me that starting with the hands under or next the back shoulder would cause popup trying to reach the higher pitches. If not, what is the true cause of pop ups?

    • jkhittingrebel February 3, 2014 at 12:43 pm · Reply

      David,

      All great points.

      The real cause of most pop ups is the pushing out of the arms/hands at the ball. Most coaches, even at professional levels promote an AT the ball direction of the barrel. We promote the TURNING of the barrel UP and IN THE WAY of the ball’s path. This will create a head on collision with the ball rather than the cutting/glancing action of the other approach.

      Bautista and Harper do not hit pop ups. They hit fly balls. We all know that slightly below center is the optimal location to strike the ball. When they swing up and directly impact just below the optimal spot, they will hit high fly balls. Generally, infield pop ups do not happen at the Major League level. If you break down Bautista’s swing and really watch his hands, they go back to shoulder height as you can see in the picture in the article. If the ball stays high then he will keep his shoulder at the angle they are already. If the ball is lower, he will then adjust his shoulder angle but NOT drop his hands. This is how he and all big leaguers avoid pop ups. They have incredible hand/arms/shoulder discipline AND they all swing upward to the ball.

      Hope this helps!

      JK Whited-

  9. jay February 15, 2014 at 11:43 pm · Reply

    hey guys love the site; you guys are awesome. Only question I have is the back elbow; it seems that the back elbow is up at toe touch in miguel’s swing and a lot of mlb guys? Just wanted to hear your guys thoughts. Here is a link to a slow motion swing on youtube. thanks again guys!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VyT4DWqJuk

    • jkhittingrebel February 16, 2014 at 6:15 pm · Reply

      Jay,

      Agreed. The back elbow is up in his “rowing” move. This is a move that starts when his front hip opens. This is the separation that anybody with power wants to have. Here is a great article talking about it. ROWING ARTICLE

      Youth players are told to keep their elbows up in order to hold the bat up and then commence in a downward bat path. Elbow up does not mean slam the bat down. Instead they will raise the elbow in what most people call the “load”, where most kids learn to load with their hands. MLB guys have varying heights of elbow height depending on their own comfort levels but the bio-mechanical reasoning is that same for everyone of them.

      Thanks for reading!

      JK Whited-

  10. travis March 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm · Reply

    Chas and or JK,
    could you guys do an article or just a response would be satisfying on the benefits of kids swinging wood ALL the time. Could a 12u/13u player benefit from swinging wood during games long term. Of course the stat sheet wouldn’t look as good. But for long term purposes could it help? And how? Why is wood that much better for kids to start using at a young age. I’m coaching two kids right now that are 12. Very high level kids. Both hit with power and consistency.. I’ve recently suggested they start using wood in games. I see this being very beneficial..just my opinion. That’s why I’m asking for yours.
    thanks guys for the BHR. Yall are making the difference!

    • jkhittingrebel March 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm · Reply

      Travis,

      Great questions. Hitting with wood at any age will help the hitter understand 1. Where the good part(sweet spot)of the barrel is at all times. The length of the good part of a metal bat is significantly bigger than on wood which allow for more mistakes as a hitter. Also, the wood that our guys swing in building are always drop 5 in weight. Most young player’s bats that are drop 10 to 12! Why? To make it easy to swing. They serve as a “crutch” for a player that is perhaps smaller and not strong enough to support a heavier bat. The REAL problem is the swing mechanics that support the bat. You would be surprised how heavy a bat a smaller kid can swing if he has the support of his big muscles and not just his little forearms and wrists.

      I do not think swinging with wood in games until the ages of 16 or 17(in select circumstances) is the best idea. Simply because they can swing a metal AND have an advantage with their swing(if it is good). Most youth players think their advantage is the BAT rather than how they actually swing. Practicing with wood though all the time is super beneficial and should be started much younger than it currently does. All of our young guys (6 is the youngest) swing wood for the majority of their lessons. Once a kid reaches a certain level of competition such as legit “showcase” baseball, hitting with wood will be more often in games and workouts.

      Bottom line, if the elite swing pattern in there, wood or metal does not matter. If I can swing with metal in games, I going to.

      Thanks for reading!

      JK Whited-

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