If you want to start getting noticed by the coach, crowd, and big-time college/pro scouts – you’re going to need to bring some serious bat speed to the game. Bat speed is on the checklist just velocity would be for a pitcher. And in both cases, just having one of these qualities on an elite-level can make up for some other qualities that you may currently be lacking in.
Naturally, there is a lot of technique to the bat swing, but I won’t be covering any of that today. I am not a batting coach, nor do I pretend to be one online. I am a baseball strength and conditioning coach, that’s where my expertise lies.
Lucky for us, strength and conditioning plays its own role in bat speed, independent of swing technique. What you do in the gym, and how you do it, can ultimately create a significant difference in what type of bat speed you’re going to be able to bring to the plate.
If I were you, I’d take advantage of every last ounce of preparation that I can – because hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports. The entire sequence from the pitcher’s release to the crack of the bat happens in the blink of an eye.
What’s most relevant here?
Power and co-ordination.
Co-ordination will help you find the ball in space, and power development will help you get there in time (and of course, add some good distance to the hit). If you follow some coaches, they neglect power work and overemphasize rehabilitation work for their baseball athletes due to the grueling demands of the long season.
In my experience, you do need to incorporate injury prevention work in order to keep baseball athletes healthy, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of not allowing them to train for greater performance. If you’re in the gym doing baby work all the time, don’t expect to improve your strength and conditioning levels, let alone something as demanding as your bat speed.
If you neglect power work, you neglect bat speed. Period.
Exercises to Improve Bat Speed
One thing we know for sure within sports science is that power development is created from the ground up. You create power potential within your legs/hips, transfer this power potential through your core, and then ultimately express your power output via the extremities.
Just think about the bat swing.
The legs are the first thing to move as your load your body, then there is massive rotation within the hips and core in order to transfer this power through the arms to swing the bat at full force.
This is the kinetic chain of events that needs to occur from the ground up, and if you have a weak link in the chain, it won’t matter what your power potential is because it won’t reach full expression by the time you swing the bat.
Because of these reasons, we need to make sure that you have well-rounded core development, rotational power throughout the entire body, strong and stable shoulders, a powerful grip strength, and enough lower body horsepower to drive the entire process.
This is a whole lot of stuff to concern yourself with that drives the necessity to create an entire baseball program, but these exercises specifically are going to be your biggest “bang for the buck” options for bat speed performance.
Although the topic of core development could truly be the subject of its own entire book as it relates to baseball performance, to keep things short for today’s blog, you’re going to want to create core stability, core rotational power, and core hypertrophy – use these to get the job done:
- Side planks
- Bicycle abs
- Crunches on stability ball
- Hanging leg raises
- High to low cable choppers
- Low to high cable choppers
- Horizontal cable choppers
Batting speed is most often held back due to a baseball athletes poor rotational power. In many cases, their potential for power is alive and well, but their lack of power expression is due to their lack of rotational power. In my experience, there is no better way to address this than with medicine ball work, although the lats also play a major role here.
Here are a few of my favorites that I use with my athletes:
- Rotational medicine ball scoop toss
- Rotational medicine ball shotput
- Crossover step into rotational medicine ball scoop toss
- Crossover step into rotational medicine ball shotput
- Wide pronated grip pull ups
- Chin ups
- Wide pronated grip lat pull downs
- Supinated grip lat pull downs
Strong and Stable Shoulders
If you do not have strong and stable shoulders, your bat speed won’t be in question by anybody because you will be too injured all the time to improve your baseball performance anyways.
Shoulders need to be truly trained from the inside-out which requires a lot of programming, but I personally love landmine work in order to get the job done. With landmine work you can focus on shoulder strength, shoulder stability, and rotational power all at the same time – which are all major contributors towards bat speed. Here are some of my go-to’s:
- Landmine presses
- Landmine rotations
- Landmine rows
Powerful Grip Strength
Grip is a major player here and has already been the subject of its own blog post altogether for that very reason. Grip strength has a very clear correlation to bat speed and it’s something that is routinely overlooked in program design.
I love incorporating grip work into my athletes programming because it improves their bat speed, improves the strength of all their other lifts because they are able to comfortably handle a greater load, and also the hand muscles recover extremely quickly – so it’s not like it’s a major addition to the program that you have to really watch out for in terms of taxing your recovery reserves.
One thing that’s important to point out is that grip strength needs to be trained through several different angles and modalities in order to achieve complete development, so don’t just stick to one exercise and think you’re good to go. Here is a list of grip strength exercises in my baseball programming selection:
- Grip crushers
- Barbell holds
- Weighted carries of any type
- Fat grip pull ups
- Fat grip DB farmers walks
- Behind the back barbell forearm curls
- Hex dumbbell holds
- Plate holds
- Fat grip pronated EZ bar biceps curl
Never, ever underestimate the power of leg strength in hitting performance. Despite the small range of motion your legs go through in the bat swing, they are creating an immense force that is responsible for almost all of your batting power.
Don’t believe me?
Stand up and try the swinging motion using absolutely no leg movement at all and you will see what I mean. You’re hit is going to be more like a bunt.
As the swing begins, the stride is in place and the body begins to rotate from the ground up. Without a firm base of lower body strength, the body will not be able to generate any power from the legs into the core. Leg strength is going to come from your major movements in the strength and conditioning world:
- Barbell front squats
- Barbell back squats
- Barbell box squats
- Split squats of all variations
- Lunges of all variations
- Weighted carries
Example Bat Speed Workout
A: Dumbbell goblet squat for speed: 6 x 3 with 2 minutes rest in between
B: Landmine shoulder press for speed: 6 x 3 per arm with 2 minutes rest in between
C1: Barbell decline close grip bench press to neck: 3 x 8 with 75 seconds rest in between
C2: Wide grip pronated lat pulldowns: 3 x 15 with 75 seconds rest in between
D1: Bent over dumbbell rear delt flies: 3 x 12 with 75 seconds rest in between
D2: Reverse walking lunges: 3 x 12 per leg with 75 seconds rest in between
E: Dumbbell renegade rows: 2 x 10 per side with 60 seconds rest in between
Increasing Bat Speed Recap
At the end of the day, these are a list of exercises that will create the most impact on your bat speed at the plate. I want to make an important note here that weighted bats also have been demonstrated in the research to help with bat speed, but since it’s not something that’s ideal for people to bring to the gym I did not include a protocol for that within this article. If you want more baseball workouts that will help with increasing your bat speed check out our Baseball Training Programs here at the website.