EXIT VELOCITY is quite the buzz-worthy topic these days. Just as pitchers have gone through the unrelenting quest to increase their throwing velocity, hitters are doing the same thing with bat speed and batted ball exit velocity. These revolutions are happening for good reason...more velocity on the mound or in the batter's box gives a player more chances to be successful.
There are plenty of ways to build exit velocity in hitters. Hitting coaches from all over favor techniques like lifting tons of weights, hitting weighted balls, swinging bats of different loads and lengths, CNS training...you name it, it's on #hittingtwitter and freely on display.
First, let me be clear, I'm not here to tell you that I've researched EVERY SINGLE TYPE of Exit Velocity Development Program out there. I haven't. What I am telling you is that we at Baseball Rebellion lean on different principles in our development.
Everything at Baseball Rebellion is based on principles of human movement. Those principles, like how a normal healthy knee flexes and extends, are not up for debate. Therefore, we use these movement facts to cue and coach our athletes into positions that generally result in optimal movement quality for normal and healthy people.
Similar to how martial arts has used the practice of Katas, (detailed choreographed patterns of movements, used for centuries to develop disciplined quality fighters, practiced either solo or in pairs to build muscle memory in martial artists) we use similar rhythmic movement patterning in our coaching of hitters on a daily basis. The Katas were performed over and over to ensure the effortless use of the movements in the field of battle or in a fight. Here is longtime UFC champion fighter Georges St. Pierre using a Kata in his open workout before his UFC 129 bout.
We at Baseball Rebellion believe most, if not all hitters, come into our doors with many misconceptions about how to turn their body to generate power. Most have simply been over-coached to incorrectly use their arms to hit the ball and have many movement issues inside their swings (turns) that prevent them from exhibiting maximum force or adjustability.
This is why all our new clients start with our version of the 'katas' in order to pattern these movements into their swings. whether they are just learning to hit or they are one of our MLB clients, everyone benefits from working on their turn separately from hitting. Once they master the movements, their bodies naturally use the newly trained speed and movement within their natural patterns while hitting a ball.
This all starts with our Movements That Made the Rebellion. From a mastered Rebel's Rack Turn, the athlete will naturally modify their learned pattern of hitting into something that is faster and more powerful within their own stance, hand set, and swing. For example, hitters may have toe taps, high hands, leg kicks, small short strides or early leg lifts with a hang in our program. As long as they can time their turn and execute a fast rotational move, they're in their own 'optimal pattern' within the confines of actually hitting a moving ball.
Another way we look at movement is through the eyes of a strength or speed coach. For instance, let's pretend this lifter walked into our 'gym' and this is how they squatted in their movement screen.
If a novice lifter attempts bodyweight squat with this type of technique...would ANY strength coach let them LOAD that lifting technique with weight? I am sure SOMEONE out there would, but the vast majority would answer that "NO!" Any strength coach, with any sort of experience, would not allow that type of lifting technique to be under a bar with any weight on it whatsoever.
Obviously, it is not any coach's intent to hurt an athlete. That being said, loading the inefficient and weak swing or throwing motion of a delivery with instruments is not only dangerous, it is often times negligent. Loading bad patterns in any sport or athletic activity may not only slow the development of the player, but it can put a technical ceiling on the player that limits the altitude of their career.
Why is baseball/softball hitting training different? Why would anyone want to load a faulty pattern? Can you get some Exit Velocity gains? Of course, you can! But now, after your premature weighted bat or ball training, the hitter is just swinging POORLY, FASTER.
Obviously increasing bat speed and exit velocity is better than not increasing those metrics, but we want to do these drills in ways that make sense. Learn a correct pattern that works, then load it! Again, going back to the Movements that Made the Rebellion, you can see that we train the movement OUTSIDE of the actual discipline of hitting.
Separating movement from hitting training allows the athlete to re-pattern their turn internally so when their goals change (hitting a double, moving a runner, driving the ball with a 2 - 0 count) they're able to utilize their subconscious mind to achieve the turn, and hopefully the desired result. Internal cues are given frequently, in short bursts, during the movement to direct specific focus to areas that need improvement.
Once the turn is learned through our Movements that Made the Rebellion, we load it, and then we speed it up. Here is how we load and speed up the turn to increase exit velocity when hitting.
We usually add a hesitation move in the assisted turns first to really emphasize the need to drive down into the ground with your front heel to help drive the front hip back into the rotation. This also helps in stopping the face from moving forward during rotation.
Now that we have strengthened and trained the faster turn process of the body, we are ready to hit. Almost. First, we use the rack for timing inside the cage with a moving ball but no bat (see video below). This allows a more stable environment where verbal cues like, "Open your pelvis without opening your shoulders" can still be used while now timing a pitch.
Only once these turn and timing skills are acquired and the faster turn has been patterned do we allow players to use a bat again.
This is when we slowly start to transition our cues from things like, "Turn your hips sooner" to, "Pull the ball into the gap". our goal is to teach hitters how these movements are used practically, and how they translate to better hits. We have found much more success when using internal cues FIRST to build and acquire skill and THEN slowly transitioning to external cues to develop in-game performance and retention.
Recently, I had a conversation with Robert Butler, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, who now works with the St Louis Cardinals. He referenced Motor Control and Learning, A Behavioral Emphasis a textbook from his Movement Sciences 600 level class he taught at Duke University. Robert, and the research inside the book, talked a lot about internal cues as needed for skill acquisition and learning in the first phases of skill development and then external cues as the keys to continue the execution phase of the skills within varied environments or games. It was good to hear someone with a doctoral level of motor learning and motor control talk to me about how skills are first learned in a vacuum, and then transferred to the chaos of the ever-changing game environment.
Too many coaches in hitting are skipping the verbal cues needed in the acquisition phase of learning and jumping right into the adaptive phase of in-game use. At Baseball Rebellion and Softball Rebellion, we think that teaching the adaptive LOAD phase BEFORE the acquisition LEARNING phase is a MISTAKE BY COACHES. Consider that before your next weighted bat or weighted ball session. Do you really have the technical proficiency to load your movement; or do you need to go back and teach efficient, safe movements?
Chas Pippitt, Leader of the Baseball Rebellion