Fix Dipping Under the Ball
Concepts and Drills
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Dipping Under the Ball article is excerpted from our new fundamentals book The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide and our new drills book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click for 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 practical and durable training equipment, click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
Concept – How the Habit of Dipping Under is Formed
After a couple of years of trying to hit a pitch, which is traveling slowly and dropping steeply as it crosses the plate, many young hitters develop a substantial uppercut (as well as bat drag – image above). The hitter intuitively feels the necessity to swing up to match the pitch’s dropping plane if they want to make contact consistently and hit the ball further.
But, as the hitter gets older and faces faster and flatter pitching, habitual dipping results in missing under the ball, especially on waist-high and up pitches. The extreme uppercut swing path no longer matches the trajectory of the now faster pitch.
The mechanics of the dipping swing path:
- The young hitter collapses or drops their rear shoulder and hands before stride foot lands.
- The barrel of the bat “dips” too far under the level of the hands.
Concept – Overloading During Rear Weight Shift Promotes Dipping Under
If the rear weight shift results in the shoulders moving rearward more than the hips, or the rear knee moves over the rear foot, the shoulders tilt upward (images above). As the hitter executes their approach, they feel like they are transferring weight uphill.
Too early “dipping” of the rear shoulder and hands usually causes the swing path to begin and remain on an overly upward plane. Swinging under, too many fly balls, topping the ball, or striking out on the high strike are the by-products of an excessive upward shoulder angle during gather.
Overloading promotes the habit of “dipping.”
Weight Shift Drill
Step 1 (Wall Drill)
In Step 1, the goal is for the hitter to internalize the feeling of a fundamentally sound rear weight shift. The hitter places their rear foot against a wall, post, or fence. They take their stance and shift their weight slightly rearward, but not so much where their knee, hip, or shoulder comes into contact with the obstacle – don’t overload!
The hitter moves from stance to rear shifted weight 50 times utilizing these mechanics:
- The torso initiates the weight shift (not by the front leg pushing rearward). The athletic bending in both legs remains. Critically, the rear knee must stay inside the back foot anchoring the big rear toe for the upcoming drive forward.
- Gathering weight rearward requires the hitter’s rear hip and shoulder to move back the same distance (as if attached by a vertical steel rod). As weight shifts rearward, there is no leaning back, thereby creating an upward angle of the shoulders – the hitter’s shoulders remain level.
Step 2 (Baseline Rear Weight Shift)
Use a batting tee, front toss, machine, or live BP. The hitter completes 50 mechanically sound rear weight shifts (image above) and swings.
Repeat this step during four different practices—a total of 200 swings. Remember, adaptation to training is a cumulative process.
Shoulders Level Drill
Review of Hitting Position – Hitting (launch) position is the position the batter is in just before the barrel begins its journey from behind the hitter’s back towards the hitting zone. Or, to be more precise, it is the body position the batter is in when the stride foot lands at toe touch and before front heel and rear knee drive triggers core rotation.
By definition, dipping never occurs if the following are true at toe touch (hitting position):
- Shoulders are level or sloping slightly forward toward the pitcher.
- Rear elbow is at least 60-degrees (90-degrees is level to the ground).
- The bottom hand on the bat is even with or just above the top of the strike zone.
Use dry swings or static heavy bag. The hitter first moves into hitting position and freezes. Next, they observe whether their shoulders are level or sloping slightly down and into the plate, and rear elbow and hands are up. Complete the swing if there is no evidence of dipping at toe touch. Repeat accurately 25 times for four practice sessions.
Finally, ask the hitter to drop the rear shoulder and hands before toe touch a few times – it is helpful to feel the wrong way (dipping). A few incorrect reps increase the likelihood the hitter makes future corrections on their own.
Two Tee Drill
The Two Tee Drill is an efficient way to eliminate a too early drop (dipping) in the backside. Place two tees, one in front of the other a foot apart. Place a ball on both tees. The top of the ball on the back tee is one inch below the bottom of the ball on the front tee. The ball on the front tee (one closest to the pitcher) is the one the hitter is hitting, so place the front tee even with the front foot after striding (inner zone contact point).
The hitter swings over the ball on the back tee, hitting only the ball on the front tee for a line drive. It is impossible for the hitter to extreme uppercut without hitting the ball on the back tee. This drill promotes a more productive, slightly upward swing path.
Routinely practicing a level follow-through helps the hitter “stay on plane” with faster pitching.
Externally thinking about the barrel’s path on follow-through is an effective method to adjust the swing plane that comes before.
Ask the hitter to swing hard and follow through to shoulder height or just below. Use a noodle to set the level of follow-through, where the hitter finishes beneath the noodle. To execute a level follow-through requires the hitter to maintain the barrel level earlier in the swing.
Concept – Rear Elbow Down Promotes Dipping Under
Most hitters utilize a compact rear elbow angle (image above). The rear elbow elevates at least sixty degrees but not more than ninety degrees (in relation to the body).
Rear elbow pointing more downward encourages dipping and bat drag.
Rear Elbow Angle Drill
Utilize a tee to begin, then front toss. The hitter sets up in their stance with the rear elbow at least at 60-degrees. Next, they move to toe touch, and freeze. The hitter again observes the elevation of their back elbow. If they maintain the 60-degree to 90-degree angle, the hitter hits the ball. If not, they start over. Then combine pieces with no stops but with slow execution. And finally, at game speed. Ask for 50 correct implementations. Repeat at upcoming practices as needed.
Next, use a pitching machine and live BP for 100 swings. As the hitter nears toe touch, slow-motion video of the hitter is helpful. Commonly, developing hitters “leak the load” during their approach, where the rear elbow relocates to point lower than 60-degrees by the time stride foot lands. Return to a tee and front toss if the video confirms mechanics break down.
Line Drive Drill
Routinely ask the hitter to hit a line drive with the tee positioned at the top of the strike zone.
Concept – Tilting Shoulders After Toe Touch is NOT Dipping Under
Shoulders should be level up to the point where the hitter’s stride foot lands (hitting position). After arriving in hitting position, most great hitters establish a rearward leaning axis of rotation as they initiate core rotation (click on our free article Hitting Drills to Fix Lunging).
Hitters begin to establish the rearward axis by tilting shoulders rearward as front heel drive and rear knee drive get the hips turning. The first movement of the shoulders at launch is not a turn but rather a lateral tilting. Shoulder tilt augments the transfer of the angular velocity produced by core rotation to the rotating shoulders.
Shoulder tilt is not to be confused with “dipping.” Dipping occurs when the rear shoulder and hands lower much too early before stride foot lands.
Shoulder tilt begins rotation and occurs after both feet are back solidly on the ground – it sets the hitter up for a productive axis of rotation and attack angle.
Benefits of Shoulder Tilt
Tilting the shoulders boosts early bat speed by:
- Creating resistance in the shoulders allows the hips to lead and As a result, the oblique muscles stretch, then snap back.
- Repositioning the hitter’s body with a five to twenty degree of rearward tilt, forming a powerful torqueing position (Hitting Drills to Fix Lunging).
Shoulder Tilt Mechanics
Hitting Position (level shoulders) Shoulder Tilt; Rear Knee Drive;
Rear Elbow Slotting; Hands Nearly Static
As the hitter obtains hitting position, shoulders are level or sloping slightly down and into the plate (no early dipping of the back shoulder!). Then, shoulder angle transitions to a rearward tilt as core rotation begins. Shoulder tilt and rear knee drive are performed together as one move.
The hitter aggressively drives the rear shoulder down. The hands remain relatively static. The back elbow follows the lowering shoulder and leads the hands, just as in overhand throwing. The barrel’s first move is rearwards towards the catcher, primarily using the torque of the rear elbow leading and slotting, powered by shoulder tilt (image above right).
Crucially, to make this all work, the hitter’s upper body is slightly over the plate with at least a twenty-degree spine angle (click our debate article Should Hitters Stand Tall As They Swing?). If the hitter is too upright in hitting position, they end up collapsing backward as they tilt, inhibiting rather than assisting hip and shoulder separation.
Yes, many youth hitters dip under the ball after finishing beginning levels of competition. But, in our experience, often older hitters are inaccurately diagnosed as “dipping.” Instead, they are successfully getting on plane with the pitch.
We hope you find the concepts and drills in this article valuable for training your hitters to hit productively and powerfully!
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