- BR Insider
- Online Lessons
- Train at BR
- My Account
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
40 thoughts on "Avoid These 5 Swing Clogging Moves"
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?
it’s ok if you are midfoot of your back foot and front heel but it’s BEST if you’re heel to heel.
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.
So does stepping in a bucket slow down the swing? Or is it ok as long as the shoulder stays pointed at the pitcher?
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.
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?
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.
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,
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!
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.
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.
Where should your barrel be ideally when your heel plants.
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!
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
See my reply to JON
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.
see my reply to JON.
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.
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!
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/
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?
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!
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!!
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!
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!
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!
Got 2 questions. You talk about the “rowing action during the forward move which is the hitters back elbox move back and out, you also talked about a moving barrel before the swing. Are these two movements yhe same thing? Is the rowing move that keeps the barrel moving?
Also, on low pitches, the hitter never drops his hands, he has to adjust his shoulder angle, in order to do that to match the low pitch, dont the hiiter have to have almost like the sideway tilt/bend over the plate?
The “tip” that most players use in some form or fashion is keep the bat moving and then as the player begins to the separation phase the back shoulder row will begin to happen. In essence the “tip” starts the momentum of the barrel, and the row starts the acceleration from an upper body standpoint.
Yes the hitter will have that bend over the plate if the pitch is lower.
Are you guys saying the back elbow should not raise in the load? That’s if you start with the elbow down..Jose Bautista starts with the elbow up..javy Baez lifts the elbow ear high. I’m just confused on this one..I’m pretty sure almost all big league hitters back elbow lifts during the load
Good pick up. The back elbow movement is a topic of much debate. During the separation/loading phase of the swing, the back elbow will make what we call a “rowing motion”. Now some players have a very aggressive upward and rearward back elbow row like Baez and Bautista. Others will have a calmer and perhaps flatter move. You are correct though in that almost all have somewhat of a lift in whatever they do. I wanted to highlight the fact that younger players especially are taught to preset that high back elbow in a locked and fixed position that does not move with the body in an athletic sequence. They are taught that being high in the back will be how they generate a powerful down swing to the contact point.
It takes a great athlete and years of perfecting to have such a high back shoulder/elbow row like those two have. For younger players that might be too extreme to mimic exactly what they do until their bodies are strong enough to handle that. At the end of the day, you are correct the back shoulder should raise up as part of an athletic sequence of movements.
My 12-year old son and I have been butting heads because I keep telling him that he his loading his arms too much instead of loading his hands. This (in my opinion) is causing some inconsistency in his swing and causing him to cast or spin-out too often. Does this make sense, and if so, anything I can work on with him to help eliminate these habits? I keep telling him that some of those ‘dinkers’ that fell for base hits on the 70 foot diamond are going to be routine outs on the 90 foot diamond.
You are correct. Those ‘dinkers’ will become easy outs really soon for him. Understanding how to load is essential to being able to unload more power.
Saying that a player loads his hands is incorrect. The hands are a part of a much bigger system or engine. That engine is the body. Explosive hitters load their bodies and more specifically their core/hips and shoulders. When you see a players hands or arms move behind them more make sure you are also watching their shoulders and whole upper torso. You will notice way more than just their hands moving. Players like Bautista and Donaldson are great ones to watch because of their size. They get the most out of their body.
In order to get your son driving the ball he needs to learn the proper sequence of movements that include the move forward and proper load of the body. He can’t use the energy that he doesn’t have.
If you want to be a homerun guy with a ton of strike outs and crappy average I would recommend hitting like this. Only certain people can hit like this and be successful, it is not for everybody
I am sorry you feel that way but your views are just simply untrue and people like you are the reason why kids don’t reach their full potential. Players of all ages can swing better and move like these guys if they are showed how and are committed to being better. Also, your thoughts on strikeouts vs. success as a hitter are completely off. Good players strikeout all the time. Batting .350 with all singles is NOT recruit-able at any level. Thanks for reading!
HEY Jk… good info here…. my main issue is my spine angle is too vertical and I am too upright during my rotation. I am actually trying to get that bend forward over home plate now, do you think I should approach this in a different way? Thanks
I would be careful of the bend over home plate. Too much of this can lead to a lot of compensation that will always be weaker and less explosive. Not to say that there can’t be any, but the more you lean that way, the more you have to have certain things that can overcome it. Things like size, hip and shoulder mobility, etc. I would recommend trying to get your head over your back hip upon foot strike. I don’t know what kind of stride you are working with but ultimately that is where the head should be when timing is good. Thanks for the comment!
Roundly disagree with you on the idea that stepping with a closed front foot is bad. opening the foot *can* create scenarios where hitter leaches power as it can (though not always) cause hitting to open hits too early (unless hitter is able to keep hips closed while opening foot). The real reason this is flawed though is because it flies in face of what hitter should be doing, which is ‘twisting’, e.g. hitting (or throwing) is all about loading and unloading. If the front foot is closed it creates a counterpoint energy to the explosion of the hips. So in summary – while I don’t believe that keeping front foot closed is absolutely necessary (some hitters are able to hit w/power w/an open front foot) I certainly don’t see a closed front foot as an absolute no no w/hitting. Read this article on twisting and you’ll see what I mean:
Thanks for the reply and I’ll check that article out for sure!
Obviously, you’re a reader of ours, so you know when it comes to generating POWER in the swing there’s literally no one better than we are, so don’t worry about losing power w the open foot or pelvis.
What’s the best way to correct a bad habit of striding in? My son has tried the bat in front, even wearing tension bands. For some reason, his body keeps drifting forward. His hand path is solid, but he’s losing power.
Try attaching the tension band on his stride foot and to an immovable object direct behind him so that the band is pulling his foot “in the bucket”. The purpose of this is to feed the mistake and force the hitter to correct it on their own instead of it being corrected for them.