How to Increase Exit Velocity? Learn First, THEN Load!

 In Education, Stories

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 a 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. If you wanna see it, it is 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 at Baseball Rebellion, we lean on different (and in our experience more effective) 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 instruct an athlete into positions to hit that generally result in optimal movement quality for normal and healthy people. 

Our Theory

If a hitter comes into our program, and they clearly DO NOT have: 

  1. A workable movement solution that will immediately result in hitting the ball harder; OR 
  2. Effectively and efficiently movements while attempting to hit the ball hard 

Then we have to build that movement pattern solution for them. 

Initially, this looks like the movement progression article we put out in the past: The 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, handset, 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 to Look at It

Another way we look at the 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.  Loading that horrible squat technique is very likely to end up with a poor outcome.

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 delivery with either underspend or overspend instruments is not only dangerous it is often times negligent.  Loading bad patterns in any sport or athletic activity may slow not only the short-term development of the player over time but can put an artificial technical ceiling on the player that limits the altitude of their careers.

To Load or Not to Load in Baseball?

Why is baseball hitting training different?  Why would a parent or pro baseball/softball client 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. Bat speed is good, 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! 

Going back to the Movements that Made the Rebellion article, you can see that we train the movement OUTSIDE of the actual discipline of hitting. That allows the athlete to re-pattern their turn speed and distance 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. This internal curing can happen by demonstration accompanied by verbals as well as manual instruction or help from the instructor as well.

What We Do at Baseball Rebellion

At Baseball Rebellion, the rotational turn of the baseball swing is learned through our Rebel’s Rack Progression. Once the turn is learned (and somewhat mastered) through the progression, we load it and then we speed it up. Here is exactly HOW we load and speed up the turn to increase exit velocity when hitting.

Resisted Turns

Assisted Turns

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.

Accelerated Turns

From here, we have now strengthened and trained the faster turn process of the body and we are ready to hit. Sometimes we use the rack for timing drills as well inside the cage with a moving ball but no bat (see video below).  These are more stable environments where verbal internal cues like “Open your pelvis without opening your shoulders” are vital for skill acquisition.  

Once these skills are acquired and the faster turn has been patterned, then the athlete is put in a less stable environment where cuing is less frequent, less verbal, less internal and more results or outcome focused.  For example: “Turn your hips sooner” is the cue we would use during rack movement. While hitting, Baseball Rebellion instructors may say “Pull the ball into the gap”.  Both are used. Both work. But we have found much more success when using internal cues FIRST to build and acquire skill and THEN external cues in support of those cues after to develop in-game performance and retention.

Recently, I had a conversation with Robert Butler, DPT 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 the HOW skills are first learned in a vacuum, and then transferred to the chaos of the ever-changing game environment.  

In our experience, too many hitting coaches are skipping the initial verbal cues needed in the acquisition phase of learning and jumping right into the adaptive phase of in-game use. At Baseball Rebellion, we think that teaching the adaptive LOAD phase before the acquisition LEARNING phase is a mistake.  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 acquire more movement acquits?

P.S. We created the Rebel’s Rack to help teach rotational power, which directly correlates with increased exit velocity! Buy your Rebel’s Rack today and get the drills that will help you BOOST your POWER at the plate!

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