Bat Speed Drills for Power and Average
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Bat Speed Drills for Power and Average article is excerpted from our new book, The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click for book details).
For recommendations on how and when to use various training methods (dry, heavy bag, pylos, tee, toss, live, machine, etc.) and to shop for effective and durable training equipment, click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
Note that the products discussed on our site have been used in our training of hitters with great success. At no extra cost to you, things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
Here is our table of contents for how to increase bat speed:
Introduction to Bat Speed Training
Increasing bat speed (click this link for our free article defining inner zone hitting and its benefits) is the ability to generate a large amount of force early in the swing. Near-maximum bat speed is achieved by the optimal inner zone contact points. Therefore, the speed that matters most is not the out-front speed but inner zone speed. Excellent early bat speed (click this link for measuring and tracking early and overall bat speed) is a signature of the High-Level hitter.
Placing a batting tee out in front of the hitter’s stride foot (unless inside pitch) and then asking the hitter to hit the ball hard emphasizes an upper-body dominant swing. Placing the tee or static heavy bag more into the hitter’s body encourages the hitter to use their legs, keep their front side in, lead with hips, and lag their bat. Just the positioning of the tee or bag creates constraints forcing conceptual adjustments over time. Through good concepts and purposeful bat speed training, early bat speed is achievable by developing hitters.
This blog post details mechanical hitting drills for increasing bat speed. But speed and strength training is also significant. See the Building Rome Series articles devoted to muscle training in our Strength and Conditioning Blog.
Find the directions for measuring ball exit velocity (EV) off a tee and a thrown ball in our article Measure Exit Velocity by Age.
Radar games sharpen the hitter’s intention to swing hard. Intention rules for improving bat speed!
Game 1 (Top Three Ball Exit Speed Improvement Challenge)
First, measure the average ball exit speed off a tee placed in the inner zone. For the middle location, set the tee just inward of the front foot heel after stride. Ask hitters to work hard on improving speed. Test them again in two weeks. Recognize the top three hitters having a higher EV than their average from two weeks before.
Game 2 (Beat Your Number Challenge)
Use front toss aimed at the middle location and a net about 15 feet away in the middle of the field. Position the radar six feet high behind the net. Each hitter is assigned a number equaling that specific hitter’s average ball exit speed taken from prior assessments. Two hitters compete – take turns with one swing on a good pitch. The winner is the first hitter to hit the net AND record an exit speed higher than their number. If they succeed, they go to the next round and face other winners until there is a champion. Losers cheer on the winners. The Beat Your Number game promotes swinging hard using rotational mechanics, front side in, inner zone contact, patience, and pitch selection under performance pressure.
Making consistent contact deeper in the hitting zone directly correlates to higher productivity. Routinely evaluate the hitter’s power at various points in the contact zone.
Here are three methods for doing hitting zone power evaluation:
Option 1 – Ball Exit Speed with Tee
Click Measure Exit Velocity by Age for how to measure ball exit velocity off a tee and machine.
Place a tee in the middle pitch location at each of the following locations. Measure EV at each:
- Just inward of the hitter’s front heel after the hitter’s strides (inner zone).
- Even with the front foot toe after the hitter’s strides (middle zone)
- Six inches in front of the front foot after the hitter’s strides (outer zone).
Option 2 – Ball Exit Speed with Machine
Place three balls on the ground in the middle pitch location as visuals. The first ball is even with the hitter’s front heel after the hitter’s strides (inner zone). The second ball is even with the front foot toe (middle zone) and the third about six inches in front of the front foot (outer zone).
Use a pitching machine for consistency aimed at the middle of the plate. Ask the hitter to contact balls in each zone (inner, middle, outer) by adjusting the point in the operator’s movements or ball travel that they start their stride. The hitter feels inner zone hitting when their rear elbow is slotted (against the hitter’s side) at contact. For outer zone hitting, contact occurs when arms reach full extension. The middle zone is halfway in between.
Measure the average ball exit velocity for each of the three contact zones.
Option 3 – Bat Speed Drill with Heavy Bag
An efficient way to evaluate power at various contact points is to use a bat speed radar. A static heavy bag is positioned alternately in the inner, middle, and outer zone. Since the bag stops the bat, bat speed is measured reliably up to the point of contact.
Click the link to shop for an easy and affordable way to measure bat speed using a swing speed radar for coaches.
Ball exit and bat speed for inner zone contact is ideally only a few mph slower than the outer zone. If inner zone speed is substantially lower, increase training for early bat speed producing fundamentals by practicing Drills III, IV, and V.
Drill III – Hit Pylos to Increase Early Bat Speed Drill
These bat speed drills are a staple for hitting practices and pre-game warmup stations. Click the link below to shop for pylos with your choice of weight.
Purpose – Develop inner zone hitting for each pitch location.
Attention Focus – Use an External Result focus for contacting the ball in the inner zone.
Step 1 (Feel Inner Zone Contact for each Pitch Location)
Inner sone contact just in front of stride foot – rear elbow slotted.
Inner zone contact just past stride foot – rear elbow slotted.
Inner zone contact just past foot knee – rear elbow slotted.
The rear elbow is slotted when inner zone contact occurs regardless of pitch location.
Use a pylo front toss. Using pylos allows the hitter to better feel where contact is occurring. Ask the hitter for ten inner zone contact hits for inside, then middle, and lastly, outside toss locations. Now mix up pylo tosses to different locations. To complete this step, the hitter makes 25 inner zone hits.
Step 2 (Inner Zone Bat Speed Drill)
Again use pylo front toss mixing locations. Only count hits with inner zone contact. Put a marker on the longest pylo hit. Now try to beat it!
Step 3 (Pylo Game)
Pylos are challenging to square up and hit for distance. The hitter must swing hard, their swing plane must align with the pitch’s trajectory, and they must strike the middle of the pylo. Have a competition among team members for the longest pylo hit in practice. Award first, second, third place. Or, establish a marker for a pylo home run. Have a team pylo homerun contest.
Time to contact is the elapsed time between the start of the downswing and impact (quickness of swing). Measuring time to contact is one of the vital analytics provided by a bat sensor. Three elements influence time to contact:
- Early bat speed.
- Where the barrel starts at swing initiation and its path to the contact point (distance) – click the link for our free article Load Hands to Reduce Time to Contact.
- Where contact occurs (inner vs. outer zone).
Purpose – By measuring and tracking time to contact, the concept for how to improve quickness (see three elements above) is instilled in hitters, directing future practice efforts.
The hitter improves upon what is measured and tracked.
Attention Focus – Use an External Result focus (click the link for how to adjust the hitter’s attention focus for a higher improvement rate during practice) for hitting the ball hard in the inner zone.
Use a bat sensor and pitching machine or live BP. Once the hitter has their timing, use ten swings to measure the average time to contact. Make a routine of assessing time to contact at least once a month.
Early bat speed is a critical contributor for decreasing time to contact, enabling productive inner zone hitting. Early bat speed is the product of the entire body working together throughout the swing.
In this drill, the coach and hitter identify weaknesses in the following list of early bat speed builders and plan training to improve in that specific area:
— All of the bat speed drills referenced are available in The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click for details) —
- Front side in(see Tool XI: Universal Stride and Approach Drills, Drill VII – Front Side In Drill).
- Separate hands (see Tool XII: Experimental Loading Hands Drills).
- Lower body mechanics (see Tool XIV: Universal Leg Drills).
- Full core rotation (see Tool XVI: Universal Core Drills, Drill I – Hip Rotation Drill).
- Axis of rotation (click for our free article Stay Back Drills).
- Hip and shoulder separation (see Tool XVI: Universal Core Drills, Drill V – Hip and Shoulder Separation Drill).
- Shoulder tilt (see Tool XVIII: Universal Shoulders and Head Drills, Drill I – Shoulder Tilt Drill).
- Rear shoulder row (see Tool XIX: Experimental Shoulders and Head Drills, Drill I – Shoulder Row (Scap) Load) Experimentation Drill).
- Rear elbow slot (see Tool XX: Universal Arms and Hands Drills, Drill I – Rear Elbow Slot Drill).
- Bat lag (see Tool XX: Universal Arms and Hands Drills, Drill II – Bat Lag Drill).
- Arm and hand torque techniques (see Tool XXI: Experimental Arms and Hands Drills).
- Strength building workouts focused on developing fast-twitch muscles and core speed (click for free articles Train Rotational Power to Increase Speed and Train Fast Twitch Muscles to Increase Speed).
- Overload and underload training (click for our free article describing the benefits of training with weighted/unweighted bats).
Analysis of an Elite Early Bat Speed Hitter
Here is an analysis of MLB Josh Donaldson’s swing exhibiting 92 mph bat speed (MLB average is 77 mph). His swing is an illustration of how multiple movements can work together to create tremendous bat speed.
- Leg lift type stride 18 inches vertical.
- Front side in (Universal).
- The torso’s substantial forward movement (8+ inches) causes body weight to be “pressed” into the front foot – no soft landing.
- Timing is synced by picking up the front foot and starting stride just as the pitcher’s arm starts forward.
- Lands “toe touch” when the ball is halfway to the plate.
- High torque load and top hand torque (THT).
- Vertical bat tilt and pre-launch torque (PLT).
- Shoulder row.
- A thirty-degree torque angle (hip and shoulder separation). This high degree of separation is primarily due to the shoulder row, which is just finishing as hips begin moving forward.
- 10-degree lead arm angle (almost barred).
- 30-degree inward turn of shoulders.
- Full core rotation (Universal).
- Full shoulder turn (Universal).
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new books containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!