5 Swing Clogging Moves To Avoid
By JK Whited
I often get my hitters to envision the flow of energy in their swings as water flowing through pipes. If the pattern of a hitter’s swing is precise, the energy, or “water”, will flow smoothly without friction. When this happens the player will squeeze every drop of potential power out of his or her body.
However, there are certain movements that prohibit the flow of our energy. I call these “swing clogging” movements. This article is going to break down five common swing clogging moves. All of these moves are easily identifiable and should be avoided in your son or daughter’s movement practice.
A closed-off stance can be seen in many hitters today. More than likely this will be a preset position that they feel comfortable in and get acquainted with rather quickly. The closed-off stance will be done usually for two reasons:
- The hitter is scared of the ball, plain and simple. The hitter will close his or her body off for protection purposes. There is no quick fix for fear except for time and probably getting hit a few times to realize it is not that bad.
- The hitter feels a sense of FALSE power by pre-closing off the shoulders and the hips. By turning inwards, the brain feels what you might call a “load.” The batter believes he or she is in a “cocked” like position ready to fire. Again this is a FALSE feeling of power because there will be no resistance created between the pelvis and shoulders. The load or “cocking” phase of the movement will need to be done during his or her forward movement. This is common in our hitters as they’ve been constantly told to ‘stay closed’ with their feet and hips to stay ‘on the ball’ longer.
BE CAREFUL! Young hitters will most likely get away with these mistakes for a while but ultimately, pitchers will begin to pick apart these types of hitters. Once that hitter reaches a level where the pitchers can spot their fastball and the field grows (MIDDLE SCHOOL) it will be much more of a struggle to have the type of hitting success that makes the game fun. To learn more about stances, click here!
2) Stepping Across the Body
This swing clogging maneuver has been called many things and there have been many ways coaches have tried to fix it. In the pictures above, you can clearly see my front HEEL has gone from being in line with my back heel before my stride, to across the orange line after my stride. The inward stride can have an immediate effect on the rest of the swing. Why? Because this is the first move the hitter makes! There is no coming back after this mistake has been made. By doing this, the hitter’s maximum degrees he or she can rotate their body to generate power is cut off, therefore cutting off pelvis/shoulder separation. In turn, cutting off consistent, hard hit balls.
Can you still get hits? Of course, but your potential for maximum power will drop and you’ll decrease your chances of getting on base consistently. To maximize our ability to turn or rotate our pelvis, keeping the HEELS in line when the stride (front) foot lands is a huge part of the puzzle. Heel to Heel Stride Direction will also keep the hitter’s posture and body weight moving in a straight line for optimal vision.
3) Closed Front Foot After The Stride
We already know that stepping in across the batter’s box will have a negative impact on a hitter’s ability to make consistent, hard contact with the ball. The next movement to avoid is striding with a closed front foot. This move, like the ‘stepping in’ move, can doom the power in a hitter’s swing from the get-go.
There is some discrepancy among coaches about how far, if at all, the front foot should open. In our opinion, the answer is actually pretty simple. How efficient do you want to be? If the hitter’s goal is to hit the ball hard, then their goal should be to maximize hip/shoulder separation. As a result, biomechanically, the front foot has to open. Once the front leg is grounded, it will act as the “brake” stopping the forward momentum. At this point, the front knee will drive the front hip back very suddenly. The front side knee MUST be in the correct position for this to happen. The front leg will also provide the hitter with the ability to adjust his or her swing to off-speed pitches. You can learn more about this here.
On another note, leaving your front foot closed will increase the possibilities of front knee injuries. Over time, the aggressive rotation against a front closed knee and hip can put some serious wear and tear on knee cartilage. So strictly from a long-term health outlook, youth hitters should look to avoid this movement. Simply put, an open front foot, knee, and hip allows for higher quality rotation in the swing that is not only faster but safer.
4) The Lean In
The next two movements that we will discuss are less obstructive to a power swing than the previous three. Why do you ask? These moves happen from the waist up.
The lean in move is where the batter will tilt his or her spine angle over the plate during the stride. This is another move that may feel powerful to the hitter but will do a number of things to minimize power potential.
To the hitter, the extra counter rotation/close off of the shoulders will create more separation between the pelvis angle and shoulder angle and therefore, more bat speed. I see many of our hitters with strength in their upper bodies perform this move than any other body type as they are stronger in their chest and back than skinnier, weaker hitters. Unfortunately for upper body dominant players, this creates too much rotational ground to make up. Remember, all you really need for an effective rotation in the swing is the hips to go first and the front shoulder to stay on the pitcher.
You can also see how changing my spine angle drastically changes my eye level. Any movement that changes the plane of a hitters vision needs to be carefully looked at. There are positive types of head movement but this is not one of them as the hitter is ‘zooming in’ towards the contact point. The head can move forward and down in the stride (it always does if you move athletically forward) but once the turn of the swing starts, you need that perspective and distance between the head and the contact point to stay the same for barrel accuracy and to help maximize hard barrel to ball contact.
Understand that hitters do want to hinge inward and back towards the catcher. What we don’t want is there to be an aggressive lean in and over the front leg. The backwards angle will allow the hitter to rotate the barrel around themselves much faster and sooner while allowing the shoulders to rotate the barrel upward into the pitch path. It is best to create the hinge and angle back early so that we are already there with only the forward move left to do.
5) The High Elbow/Hand Raise
Hitters will often times feel and (try to) generate power from their hands/arms. Here you see my back elbow and hands raised way up above my shoulder. Where this does feel strong in a ‘chopping wood’ kind of way, this is not a position/move for hitters that want to consistently hit the ball hard. Why? First of all, the higher the hands get away from the strike zone, so does the barrel.
Another issue with this movement is hitters will “wrap” the barrel around their head creating a much longer distance back to the ball. Once the hitter has put themselves in this type of position, it will take serious coordination (often something youth hitters don’t have), timing, and strength to get the barrel back down and around to the correct plane. Inevitably, most hitters who stride to the position in the pictures will use what they feel (their arms) to get the bat up to speed and into the zone. Using mostly the arms from this high position will usually equate to lots of ground balls and glancing types of contact where the ball fades towards the back side foul line.
We should note, it is not impossible to hit from this position. Professionals like Jose Bautista will perform a move like this. (See picture below) But remember, Bautista has near perfect upper body mechanics and, along with Bryce Harper, the most explosive lower half in baseball history. Bautista almost always turns the barrel with perfect SeeSaw/Hand Pivot mechanics so his hand raise works for him not against him.
Can your son or daughter do this hand/elbow raise? Yes and No. If they do, they just better be ready to practice this high-level move of fusing the shoulders, arms, hands, and barrel, again, again, and again…which as you can imagine (To learn more about barrel movement and See Saw Mechanics, click here!) Again, this Hand/Elbow Raise is only a mistake if you have ‘knob driven’ upper body mechanics that promote a downward swing to the baseball. If you swing properly, the hand/elbow raise can be a benefit. It’s all in HOW and WHY you do it.
The majority of us will not be the size of the men we see on T.V. You can watch Miguel Cabrera step across his body and still hit the ball 400 feet. Nope, it’s not fair. That is the benefit of being the big kid on the kickball field. For those of us that will not be 220 lbs or larger, we must be great at the little things to maximize our power. Avoiding the 5 mistakes outlined above can dramatically help in our quest to produce maximum and consistent power in the most adjustable way possible.
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Reach out to JK: email@example.com
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