Being a hitting force for your team can take you a long way in baseball. All too often you see players who are really only good at hitting.
They’re not too fast, they’re not too agile, and they don’t have the overall skill development to connect the dots between the various skills you need in order to be an excellent baseball player.
They can hit.
This can keep you on the team or bring you into the next level of competition even despite a lack in many other baseball-specific performance markers.
Because despite your lack in speed, you can still get on base when you hammer the ball. Plus, if you’re hammering the ball every time you are getting your team more bases and more runs each time you step up to the plate.
That’s powerful, and in many ways irreplaceable. Of course it’s best when you can tie all the skills together, but that still doesn’t take away from what earth shaking hitting power can bring to your team.
As with everything in the strength and conditioning world, there are many different factors at play when it comes to increasing your hitting power. If it was as simple as one exercise you could incorporate into your training then that would be great because then I could just list the exercise, assign your sets and reps, and send you on your way.
But I take a lot of pride in only offering the readers of my BaseballTraining.com blog the top information and the top information normally involves back tracking a bit to make a few points before I am able to make my big point, which in this case is going to be providing you insight on how to quickly increase your hitting power.
Why it’s not so cut and dry is because there are many components contributing to your ability to smack the ball that are completely out of my hands, such as:
- What angle you’re at with the ball at the time of the swing
- What stance are you in at the time of the swing
- What stance are you in during the follow through
- How heavy your bat is
- How heavy your bat was during the warm-up
- Is your swing technique on point
- How good is the pitcher?
- Is the crowd or the catcher distracting you?
These are just a few examples of the many critical factors that come into play regarding your hitting power that go outside the scope of what I can control on the gym floor. Essentially, you can do everything I tell you to do in this article to improve hitting power, but if you don’t have the proper technique to execute and express that power then your first priority is to learn proper batting technique.
The strongest man doesn’t always have the hardest hit, technique determines many factors and in most cases is more important than your strength or power levels. But if you’re somebody who has your batting technique in check, adding strength and power to the muscles responsible for improving your performance in this area can dramatically alter your presence on the plate.
You’re going to scare people.
Not only that, every baseball player in any situation would benefit from improving their hitting power. This has to be a focus of yours. Technique and power development can be trained simultaneously in the same training program and not overlap one another. So go to hitting practice, hit the gym, and be the guy the other team doesn’t want to see in the warm-up area.
How NOT To Train For Hitting Power
In order to learn how to train for hitting power, it’s important to first learn how not to train for hitting power.
Let me explain.
Power development for batting performance can be improved drastically through proper strength and power training. It is not to be trained through these ridiculous imitations of sport specific movement such as adding resistance bands or tubing to your bat and taking swings against the resistance of these tubes. I’ve also seen implements being attached to cable systems while mimicking swing patterns as well.
This is a waste of your time and can even be a negative thing.
These types of movements encourage poor technique and motor patterns. I have talked about the central nervous systems relationship with movement patterns in the past with speed development and in baseball youth athletes, the same rules apply here. This type of training negatively affects your body’s motor/muscle recruitment patterns during a game setting.
Think about it, when you swing with resistance attached to the stick you are not moving in the same motor pattern or force profile as you do when resistance is not on the bat, this leads to poor movement patterning and poor technique, especially when accuracy is an objective of yours. Which, you know, might be useful.
Specific to resistance bands and/or tubing, it creates the opposite force profile of the swinging motion you would perform with a bat.
A force profile is simply a curve that is measured as you take yourself through a movement and measure the amount of resistance at each point during that movement. For example, everybody knows what a biceps curl looks like. At the bottom of the movement you have no resistance, half way through the movement (at about 90 degrees) it becomes maximally difficult, and then once you get to the top of the movement it becomes slightly easier again.
Resistance went from low to high to low. Like this:
Force profile of a biceps curl
Now think about the force profile of a swing with bands vs. without bands. A swing without bands creates a loaded position in the beginning as you slightly lean back and then explode forward and the only resistance you come across is the ball halfway through the movement.
Whereas with resistance bands, the force profile applies more force to your bat the further and further you swing it in front of your body– meaning, you are at maximum resistance during the follow-through of the swing. So not only does the weight affect central nervous system motor patterns, but the force profile of the bands does not positively benefit the swing either.
I don’t think anybody is limiting their hitting power potential due to not being able to produce force after the ball has already been hit? Especially since at that point you are decelerating the bat, not accelerating it.
“Ok, that makes sense. So what can I do to improve my hitting power then?”
Improve Hitting Power
Improving batting power using methods that actually work involves assessing the functionality of the movement and reverse engineering it.
True sport specific training to me means observing the biomechanical, physiological and bioenergetic demands of the sport and segmentally working backward in determining the kinetic segments, muscle actions, intensities, and energy systems required for each athletes position and/or movement pattern.
In the case of improving hitting power; the swing is a low load, high-velocity rotational power movement, and should be trained as such. Additionally, it is heavily supported by relative strength, specifically in the lats, hips, and core.
Research conducted by Shaffer et al found through using electromyographic (EMG) tools during the baseball swing that, and I quote:
“These results show that batting is a sequence of coordinated muscle activity, beginning with the hip, followed by the trunk, and terminating with the arms. Power in the swing is initiated in the hip, and therefore exercises that emphasize such strength development are indicated. The maintained, high muscle activity in the trunk muscles indicates a need for back and abdominal stabilization and rotation exercises.”
In large part, the entire body’s relative strength is important in the swing as it is truly a total body movement depending on many different links in the movement chain. But, if we are creating a hierarchy of what is going to create the biggest impact, the lats/hips/core are likely to rise right to the top…. with rotational core power being on the top of that totem pole.
Knowledge is power. You now know what muscles and actions you need to do in order to improve your hitting power and take your game to the next level.
MY FAVORITE EXERCISES TO TRAIN ROTATIONAL POWER IN THE CORE:
- Medicine ball scoop toss
- Reverse medicine ball scoop toss
- Rotational medicine ball toss from waist
- Explosive barbell Russian twists
- Weighted sled pulls (wrapped around only one shoulder, alternate each time)
- Banded wood chops
MY FAVORITE EXERCISES TO TRAIN THE LATS/POSTERIOR CHAIN:
- Deadlift variations
- One arm DB row
- Chin up / pull up variations
- Rope face pulls
- Lat pulldown variations
- 45 degree back extension with ISO hold at the top
- BB row
- Landmine rows
- BB good mornings
MY FAVORITE EXERCISES TO TRAIN THE HIPS:
- Bulgarian split squats
- Banded Zercher Bulgarian split squats
- Front foot elevated split squats
- Split squats
- Sliding lateral lunge
- Skater lunges
- Hip thrusts
- Single leg hip thrusts
- Wide stance good mornings
- Wide stance box squats
- Sumo squat + dead lift variations
- Cossacks squats
Example Hitting Power Workout
An example hitting power development workout could look something like this:
A: Deadlift 7 x 3 (75-85% 1RM), 120-150secs rest between sets
B: DB Bulgarian split squats 3 x 8-10, 90secs between sets
C1: Wide pronated grip weighted lat pull ups 4 x 6-8, 60secs
C2: Seated rope face pulls 4 x 15, 60secs
D1: BB row 4 x 10, 60secs
D2: Banded wood chops 4 x 6-8, 90secs
*C1 and C2 and D1 and D2 are supersets – you will perform the first exercise, then the second, and then repeat (with the given rest times in-between).
On top of this example hitting power workout, be sure to add your medicine ball work into your regular conditioning and/or baseball speed development programming.
This will not only pay dividends to your hitting power development but also accurately represents proper energy system conditioning for baseball. The medicine ball rotational work is arguably my favorite exercise in the book for all-round baseball development.