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In baseball, we talk a lot about the backside. We insure our students keep their weight back, turn their back hip, and thrust their hips from the back side. Whether it is hitting or pitching, I would say 90% of power conversations are all back side induced movements.
What happened to the front side?
Sometimes as instructors we have to catch ourselves and remind our students we need to use our front leg, or “side,” and not be afraid of it. That being said, trouble occurs when our body mass is pushed up onto our front side. If you have read anything on this blog, you know this is a BIG no no.
We know that where a hitter starts his swing can mean everything. Most People get caught up in what Mike Epstien calls ‘Style’ or the stance of a hitter. Kevin Youkilis stands in the box flinching and twitching with a huge gap in his hands. Then, just before his forward swing starts, his hands come together, his stride foot hits, and he’s in perfect Double Inside Load Position.
Once the hitter has loaded his or her weight to the “double inside load,” it's vital the hitter then begins to transfer some weight back to the front side or hip, much like a pitcher with a good hip set to the front. Now in these moments of shifting, we'll have slight head movement forward towards the pitcher, but remember this is NOT a push. I like to refer to this as “riding out” the back leg. Think of it as leaning into a steal of third base.
You start your body momentum in a forward direction, but the majority of your power will remain back and coiled. The hitter’s head, shoulders, and hands will remain back. Any forward hand press at this moment will cause a serious loss in power because the hip thrust has not started yet. This is illustrated very well here in Robinson Cano, who I believe is one of the best at this on a consistent basis. He combines timing, momentum, and coiled power all at once.
The important thing to remember here is once the front foot is down and the shift to the front hip is done, there is a back angle created and there is ZERO head movement into the swing. This allows a few very crucial points in a great swing.
An important thought here is the front hip does go back a little but is more used to turn against or around.
Here is when we have the powerful back hip thrust, pulling the back knee and foot forward. Lastly, the strong front “hip set” allows the hitter to make the last split second adjustments to off speed pitches. Think of it as a tap of the pause button while the hands and shoulders stay back in the stretched position and then violently explode into the turn. We see this clearly here with Ken Griffey Jr. on a curveball.
You can see Griffey’s front knee bend as the weight shifts to the font hip and he uses that energy to help pause and then thrust the back hip inwards towards home plate. This reinstates we do not want to sit and spin on the back side. Hitters that use the “sit and spin” method will be hard pressed to advance once the word is out they can’t hit off speed pitches.
When your player is working on his power hip turn, be sure to include the front side. Now, when we see players with extreme push OVER the front foot through the swing, we have to fix that immediately. Remember, once the correct spine angle is created from the front foot to the head, the player is back and should proceed into the turn of the hips, then the shoulders. Sometimes we see players continue to go back as they go into the turn. Teaching the player to get back to the front side will help adjust this move. Just like we do not want players pushing forward as they try to swing, we also don’t want a player falling back. Losing ground to the pitcher is also head movement and will result in a swing using all arms and wrists.
Learning how to get weight shift back to the front hip will ensure that the player continues to have a power hip thrust and stability. Along with more power, the hitter will have the “pause button” ready in case of unexpected off speed pitches.
---JK Whited is a full time hitting instructor at Baseball Rebellion