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How Does the Hitter’s Front Side Effect His Swing?

Written By: JK Whited

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.

Kevin Youkilis Stance, Baseball Rebellion, Kevin Youkilis hitting mechanics, youkillis baseball swingKevin Youkilis Baseball Swing, Kevin youkilis Batting Stance, Kevin Youkilis baseball mechanics

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.

Front Side Baseball Swing, Robinson Cano Batting Stance, Front Leg HittingYou 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.

  1. The backward body angle is created to keep the deep parts of the swing.
  2. We now have stored energy to help slightly turn the front hip back ensuring a power back hip thrust inward towards home plate and around the pelvis.

An important thought here is the front hip does go back a little but is more used to turn against or around.

Ken Griffey Jr Baseball Mechanics, Ken Griffey Jr Curveball, how to hit a curveball, baseball rebellion, front side adjustments baseball swingHere 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

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34 thoughts on "How Does the Hitter’s Front Side Effect His Swing?"

  1. Megan says:

    Hey Jobin… great job 🙂

  2. Dan Somoza says:

    Sometimes you see hitters with their front knee slightly bent and then it firms up at contact but I see a lot of hitters rise up when they try to firm up which causes some problems. Would it be better to keep the front knee slightly bent yet still a firm front side so the hitter doesn’t pop up out of his legs? Also then be able to adjust to offspeed better?

    Thanks
    Great work!

    1. Warren Mills says:

      Dan, Not speaking for the guys here, but this is my opinion. I believe this goes back to whether the big muscles are moving the small ones or vice versa. The point is to land the front leg with a bent knee that is facing @ 1st base as a right hander. If your mass is centered between the feet, this will allow your front thigh (big muscle) to assist in hip rotation. This is how the knee gets strait. It is, however, important for the student to understand what the front leg is supposed to do with all the weight that has been pushed into it. If they are standing up, they need to be shown how to push the front hip out of the way with the front thigh, so the back side is uninhibited in its natural rotation to the ball. Anything else leaves the front hip in the way too long, usually causing a hip slide instead of rotation and/or rolling the hands at contact because they are trying to create the power up top. Not every great hitter accomplishes this every time, but ideally the front leg should completely straiten for a moment to get the full effect of the transferred weight combined with the strength of the front leg to create rotation. Chas may have a slightly different take, but when this is done with proper timing and a properly loaded top half, it can create scary power.

    2. Dan,

      Thanks for the question!

      If your player is rising up out of their swing, try to see if that player is favoring one side or the other. Sometimes if the hitter is on their back side or on their front side, they will use their legs to generate power but in an upward direction. This causes obvious problems with explosive power and more importantly vision.

      If the hitter maintains his/her backward spine angle like we want and is still rising upward, the hitter may be using the wrong muscles groups first when starting their turn. This may be happening unknowingly to the hitter because they feel the body turning. Remember, when the stride foot hits and both knees are bent, the core muscles will start the turn first. This will begin the turning motion and lead to the thrusting motion of the hips. Then the same muscles that hitter uses to push up will then be used at the very end of the thrust to finish the move completely. We want the straightness of the front leg to ensure maximum hip thrust and power. Be sure to watch the belt line of the hitter after the stride foot has landed and the knee is bent. We always want the belly/core to start us. When the hip is finishing, the player should have already recognized the type of pitch. To answer your question, no. We want the front leg straight. If not, more issues may arise due to the “weak” front side.

      We will often tell our students to tuck their shirts in and watch the ripple effect on video. This will show us if the player is using his or her core the correct way. Hope this helps!

      J.K. Whited

  3. Andy R says:

    Hi JK love this type is awesome information!, Can you explain what you mean by “hip set”? Also, do you think rolling the back ankle in and keeping the front knee bending while staying square to plate before the turning of the hips & straigtning of front knee for an off speed pitch explains the “pause button”?. Or am I missing the boat?

    1. Andy,

      “Hip Set” is a term we use to describe the action taking place during the stride or whatever the hitter may be doing with their front side. Our pitching coach Justin Orenduff, is a big hip set guy which is where I learned the term. Can not take the credit with that one. Much like when you watch a big league pitcher set the hip inward and allow gravity to pull them down the slope of the mound before exploding over it, a hitter does a similar move. Obviously a hitter is reacting to the pitcher and can not have a long exaggerated hip set like a pitcher can. Again I go back to Robinson Cano because his is really easy to see. In the article, I mention “riding out” the back leg. While this is happening, the front hip is set for Cano. His front hip is set inward(coiled), showing his right back pocket while he lets gravity build up with his stride. While pitchers explode around and then over their “hip set”, hitters will explode around and behind theirs. A guy like Cano is easily seen because it is so drastic, while others may be very minimal.

      The “pause button” I believe is just the strength and stability of the front side to keep the body back for the split second change in speed. You see a lot of players lunge over their front leg on off speed pitches because they extend their quad muscle and push with their calf over their front side. Also players will throw their arm and hands at the ball because they are on their front heel with too much weight back. Remember, if the hitter commits to a pitch they are fooled on, odds are they will not be in a perfect and powerful hitting position. It is the hitters ability to maintain barrel speed and vision during these moments that will allow success. Neither of these will be able to happen without the firm front side.

  4. Andy R says:

    Thank You Very Much! Now I got it!
    Hope you don’t mind me asking another question. When answering Dan’s question you said that the core starts the turn, now does the hips turn next in squence, then the shoulders correct? This is obvious to me but want to make sure. Thanks!

    1. Andy,

      Yes the hips will follow the initial move by the core. There will also be some quad muscles in play here right at the end of the hip turn like I stated in the article. It is that last little bit of thrust and to ensure a firm front side. Shoulders will follow soon after. Thank you for your questions!

  5. Bill says:

    I want to understand the proper way the push back from the front foot should be executed. Just as you explain the double-load of the inside ball of back foot…. does the front foot push mostly come from the inside ball of foot? Jaime Cevellos gets into 60/40 heel/toe thing but it seems that snapping straight of front leg should initially and primarily come from ball of front foot…. is that correct?

    1. Bill,

      I try not to get to much into the percentages. For me at least, too much thought into that can do more harm than good. Yes, I believe the push will be on the inside ball of the foot. If the ball or toe comes up off the ground, you will most likely get a sit and spinner. I don’t think this happens perfectly the same every time, but ideally the inner ball of the foot is the most stable in the power turn position.

      Remember that the core and hips should start the turn and this should be the last bit of thrust to complete the move. Thanks for your question!

      J.K. Whited

  6. Rob says:

    Can you please go over the proper mechanics of the double inside load? Thanks

    1. Rob,

      Thank you for the question.

      Just to let you know, Chas wrote a fantastic article on lower half mechanics on this blog where he goes over the double inside load and its function. I will still fill you in here. I highly suggest looking over his article as well.

      Here is part of the article Chas wrote,

      During a double inside load, ” the hitter must keep the rear knee inside the instep of the rear foot and the top of the kneecap inside the shoe line. The double inside load drives the rear foot big toe and ball into the ground, creating your anchor.”

      What this will allow us to do is build up power with timing into our super thrust. You see a lot of young players with straight legs and their knee caps directly over their feet. This is a very weak un-athletic position. The first thing we do with player like this is put them in a position to be explosive and balanced. Will they be right away? Of course not, but in order to be there one day, they need a place to start. Just be sure that when they do load their weight back into their hip that they don’t over load by drifting to far over their back foot.

      Hope this helps!

      J.K. Whited

  7. John says:

    You guys should do an Albert pujols,Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose bautista swing analysis. That would get so many people to know about this website.

    1. John says:

      I meant to say on youtube

  8. Robert,

    If you look at the line from the hitters front foot, through their spine, and up to the back of their head you will see a backward line. This creates a back angle from the ground keeping the head still and the hips in position to move. Some are much more prominent than others but we believe this is a key to a hitter’s success. This angle also allows us to get the ball off the ground more often.

    Most young hitters will push their spine angle forward to straight up and down or sometime further over their front foot. We try and show kids the opposite angle and the benefits of keeping it through the entire swing.

    Thank for the questions!

    -J.K. Whited

  9. Robert,

    During the “stride” or “hip set” as we like to call it, it is important to shift weight back to the front leg with a slightly bent front knee. This will allow some power for the front quad to push the front hip backward at the last moment. This will generate the last bit but a very powerful amount of hip thrust.

    If the hitter simply reaches their front foot out at the pitcher, with no weight shift, there will not be a powerful hip turn.

    You should not be falling back ward as the hips rotate. Some players who have advanced core and hip movements will come off of their back foot as the back hip rotates around. This may cause a player to fall back after the ball has been hit. The hitter should never be falling back during a swing.

    Thanks Robert

    – JK Whited

  10. Rob says:

    Can you write an article on how to perform the leg raise like a pitcher?

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      I’m not sure the ‘leg kick’ is article worthy, we think it’s pretty self explanatory. Just lift and go.

      Chas–

  11. John Rugen says:

    Hi.
    I was wondering about the front foot or stride foot. My son is 15, and his front foot lands on the ball of his foot, and spins open before heel plant. He is leaking power, I believe, because the result of that opens his front hip too soon. Any ideas appreciated….. Thanks

    1. John,

      This is a common problem. One, I would say, make sure he is lading flexed and thinking about pushing back with that front side. Some hitters stride and fall out of the swing before they even land with the front foot. Lading with a stiff straight leg may also lead to early roll of the front foot.

      Secondly, there may be some core and/or leg strength need to support the explosive hip turn. Practicing the steps and gaining ground onto the front leg is an important move. Do not be afraid of putting the bat and ball down for a little while and just focus on the move, and being strong through the all of it. Concentrate on correct weight and balance placement. This may perhaps give him the ability to find out and feel where he is loosing grip on that foot.

      I do not know or not if you have video on him. If you do, slow it down and really check to see if what your seeing is correct. Older players are hard to see sometimes. Especially if you are tossing to them or throwing BP. Almost swing of Robinson Cano’s swing that I see, it appears he rolls a lot. Watching it in slow motion shows us the roll is late and after contact.

      Thanks for the question!

    2. Chas Pippitt says:

      John,

      Landing on the ball of your foot is fine, but you have to drive the heel down into the ground in order to properly turn your hips and body in the swing.

      Land with softness on the front side…but strength in the heel plant. He is trying to use his arms too soon (that’s why he’s swinging before heel plant) which is a huge problem.

      Good luck,

      Chas–

  12. Brett says:

    For some reason my foot comes off the ground without my front knee driving back how can I fix that?

    1. Chas Pippitt says:

      The problem isn’t the back foot coming forward, it’s that you’re not stopping your face from coming forward and straightening your knee.

      You must straighten your leg to stop your chest and face. Focus on that side of your swing, not the back foot. It sounds like you’re working on the wrong thing.

      Chas–

  13. ron ericson says:

    Can you explain the move on your Puig swing analysis(during the first 2 minutes of the video) when you say notice how he doesn’t shift much weight back but see how he straightens his back leg so his body can come forward. My son tends to reach with his front foot on his stride so he has too much weight on the backside when he plants. Therefore, he gets to the inside of his back foot and his front shoulder is higher than back shoulder at landing. Any help here would be great before he goes to college practice in September.
    Thanks,
    Ron

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Ron,

      If your son is reaching forward with his front leg then he needs to get himself comfortable with all of his body weight moving forward. Being a college guys already means that he probably has been taught to “stay back” on his back leg his entire life. It will take some getting use to because he has been rejecting going forward for so long. If he is a smaller player, then he must be better at this than his heavier counterparts. There are numerous drills that I would love to show you. Most of those are reserved for our online clients. Perhaps our online program might be what you are looking for.

      JK-

  14. Sean says:

    When are you supposed to straighten the front leg because I’m having a hard time straightening my front leg any drills or advice you could give on helping this problem?

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Sean,

      Typically the front leg should begin to straighten right after the rear hip begins to turn. We will do a lot of drills off a tee or with resistant bands where the hitter starts from their forward position and really focus on the front leg pushing back. Remember to use the heel of the foot to drive the front leg/front hip backwards.

      JK-

  15. ron ericson says:

    jk, I would love to have my son work with you or Chas online. I am going to email Chas since his article triggered me. I have plenty of video I can get you guys. The thing that is strange is he has no problem with this in bp, as the weight comes forward fine and he doesn’t reach with his stride foot. But in games, it seems he reaches to buy time because he realizes he is going to land early so he tries to keep weight back while his stride foot reaches. So, basically he would be early if he landed where he should but then becomes late by the time he reaches and plants and gets to the inside of his back foot.

    His Bp looks great but his game swing looks nothing like it. He has a fair amount of game success but not consistently and this is a problem.

    Thanks,
    Ron

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Ron,

      Typically it will be easier to transfer weight at the right time in BP because the pitcher is not trying to get the batter out. There will almost always be some mechanical breakdown going from BP to games. There are so many added variables come game time. Sounds to me that he needs to perhaps start his move later in order to improve his timing with his weight shift or he is in too much of a hurry to get going forward.

      Thanks for reading!

      JK-

    2. Steve Black says:

      JK and Ron –
      JK as always – looks like you are right on the money and succinct. I’ve been talking with more than a few hitters and coaches about how to be DOMINANT – not just show up and avoid nerves. First Ron – Call today and start!

      I think it takes three things to be dominant without any one of these three you lose. I’d love Chas and JK to add details as they see fit:

      1) Timing – in order to time the pitch you have to SEE IT EARLY. The human eye focuses on a moving object (the ball) much better and sooner if the eye is moving into the pitchers release point. – I’ve seen chas or JK comment on this. I use the pitcher’s body and move my focus to the release point at the right time and get laser focus on the seams right out of the hand all the way to contact (I know, can’t but in PB you can and sub 85 I seem to be able to – contact = Headlight Head right drill). (On deck hitter’s practice from behind PB screen). Too many hitters pick up the ball mid flight and lose it before contact.

      2) Mental attitude: In life to be successful at a task you need emotional competence and a plan. In batting keep your plan simple: 0 strike 1 strike counts – your pitch your timing – a strong powerful swing at a great pitch or let it be called… 2 strike count – look for something you can handle and take a strong powerful swing at it – we all can handle an inch or two off the plate up or down – don’t wait for Ump to call this one anticipate the pitcher will throw something you can handle, RELAX and FOCUS – lay off anything you can’t handle.

      3) Great technical advantages: Double Inside Load; Momentum; Superthrust; Back Shoulder-Row- with thoracic Ext.; Braced Front Side (see this article); Hand Pivot; A Pause Technique; 4 Things Deep – voilla – now I can wait to the last second to pull the trigger – you’ve just slowed down the pitch from hand to contact. And you have dominant technical advantages. Baseball Rebellion Rules!

      Practice these three skills (habits); incorporate into every swing and practice and your hitter has great confidence. That is more than half the battle.

      Oh and hitting is fun – keep it that way.
      steve

  16. DVD says:

    Hey JK, during today’s White Sox/Mariners game, we noticed that Robinson Cano was holding the bat while bat head pointed toward the Pitcher before the Pitcher got set for his delivery. Is this a type of timing mechanism? Adam Dunn also seems to do the same. Thanks

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      DVD,

      If we are thinking of the same thing, then yes that is a timing mechanism/preparation. Every batter his his/her own way of preparing, just like a golfer with their waggles and what not. At some point, all batter’s have some version of what we call a “tip” where they generate more barrel speed by pre-rotation barrel movement. Chas wrote about this in his See-Saw article.

      JK-

      JK-

  17. DEAN says:

    DO YOU HAVE AFEW DRILLS TO GET TO A FIRM FRONT SIDE. MY 17 YEAR OLD SON COLLAPSING KNEE A BIT SEEMS TO LOOSE POWER OR DRIVING THE BALL.

    1. jkhittingrebel says:

      Dean,

      The hitter’s back knee should bend as they move forward and begin to rotate their hips. Using the front leg better means he must become aware of it and how to use it. Have him hit BP or front toss with no stride and have him really focus on driving his front hip back with his front foot/leg.

      JK

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