Today I’d like to show some of the swing variation training that we have been doing, and explain how we are seeing some of the benefits of this type of swing work. Recently, variation training has come to the forefront through weighted baseball and weighted bat work, which you can read more about here. In addition to the scientific research showing how swinging overload and underload implements can increase bat speed, I am a big believer in the importance of what Jason describes as “Kinesthetic Awareness.” This winter, we worked through an overload and underload program with our guys, and while that is a huge part of our training, we also have come up with different ways for hitters to feel their swings, as well as created drills that force them into efficient movements. So lets look at some of the specifics!
The main thing to understand is that while doing these drills, the purpose is for the hitter to eliminate most internal focus, and concentrate on the goal. Our goal every single swing we take (aside from a few specific drills) is to hit the baseball on a line to the top back of the cage. About 15-20 degrees for you launch angle lovers. With this as our reference point and armed with drills that force correct movements, we are easily able to see how the variation is affecting the hitter. The one piece of internal focus we sometimes use here is making sure that tempo is good from the beginning of the swing through the load, but that’s it!! Setup with the variation, and try to crush the ball over the center fielder’s head. We’ll also use this on the heavy bag, with an external focus on high or low pitches and full intent!
Today I’ll break down our upper half variations, and will continue with lower half variations and timing variations in future posts.
Upper Half Variations
1 Arm PVC
This is most often at the beginning of our progressions and is done on the heavy bag with a PVC pipe. This allows the player to feel the body’s movements without having to handle a lot of weight. While we usually use PVC with the bottom hand, we also can use it to feel the top hand and how it makes the unload move independently. With the bottom hand, we break it down into pieces, with the player going from their stance, to the load move, to the unload move and then to contact. As we progress, we take stops out and allow them to take full swings with one hand. Again, this is beneficial as a start to a hitter’s progression, as they have to really understand what their two hands/arms are doing independently.
This drill essentially overloads our top hand, with the grip split as if the hitter is getting ready to swing a sledgehammer. This forces the top hand to make a strong move deep, as a steep swing will really cause the hitter to push out front, usually topping balls. This drill is good for guys who get a little too aggressive with their hands out front, and helps them feel aggressive deep in their swing.
Overlap does just the opposite of split grip, overloading the bottom hand and forcing it to do the bulk of the work. Both drills are effective when hitting actual baseballs because the hitter gets the feel of his normal two armed swing, while one arm does most of the work. This compared to one arm drills, which many hitters report as not realistic and hard to feel. Here, the hitter wraps his top hand over top of his bottom hand, forcing the front arm to work up and get the bat on plane. If the front arm works out of sequence and steep, it’s very tough for the hitter to drive balls consistently, as the top hand cannot pick up the slack and help the hitter stay through the baseball.
Top Hand Over
This is a drill I did in college and never fully appreciated or understood until recently. The player inverts his top hand, and keeps it open throughout the swing. This setup forces the front arm to get the bat on plane, and then the back arm can push the bat through the zone. This drill is great for direction as well, as any push away with the top hand causes the player to lose the barrel. This drill really forces the front arm to lead the way, and the back arm to stay connected to the back shoulder while the unload move is made.
These variations not only are very effective in our training environment at Rogue, but equally as important they are very easy for players to take with them when they go to their practices at their schools or with their club teams. Players spend much more time in these other environments, often times with swings being taken without much purpose or direction to them. Having these tools allows them to work on very specific movements and feels in those environments. While they may get a funny look or question from a coach, knowing the purposes behind these variations will allow players to get very specific work in without having to have a specialized space or equipment. This is crucial in order for players to continue to get the most out of their reps and progress.