Hitting for Power
Top Five Fundamentals and Drills
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Hitting for Power article is excerpted from our new books, The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy Guide and The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide.
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.
How to Measure Potential Hitting Power (Bat Speed)
Let’s begin by comparing two ways to objectively measure power, bat speed (this section), and ball exit velocity (next section).
In a way, it’s rather simple:
- The harder you hit the ball, the more likely you will get on base. Swing speed is the most critical factor influencing ball exit speed and travel distance.
“For every additional five mph of bat speed, approximately twenty-five feet additional distance will be realized.” (Carsello, 2010)
- The faster you swing the bat, the longer you can let the ball travel before making a swing decision.
Click on our free article for how to measure early and overall bat speed.
How to Measure Actual Hitting Power (Exit Velocity)
Bat speed is the principal creator of power and distance. But the laws of physics tell us if the hitter can swing a heavier bat, with close to the same velocity as a lighter one, the heavier bat hits the ball with more power. Therefore, ball exit speed (velocity) is significant as it measures the speed of the ball as it comes off the bat.
Exit velocity (EV) correlates with bat speed. But bat speed is only a predictor of potential hitting power. Exit velocity is the recommended metric for evaluating the hitters’ talent level because it also considers the effectiveness of the hitter’s swing plane and pattern. If you want to be a great hitter at your level of competition, your ball exit velocity must be high relative to other hitters at the same level. When exit velocity increases, hitters tend to outperform expected outcomes.
Critically, to take advantage of the swing’s full force, the barrel’s path must align closely with the ball’s course. The barrel and the ball must be traveling in precisely the same plane for one hundred percent of the energy generated in the swing to transfer to the ball. If the swing path and ball trajectory are traveling at slightly different angles at contact, the center of masses (of the barrel and the ball) never wholly align.
“Up, up is the way; you hit consistently with authority.” (Williams T. , Science of Hitting, 1970)
Since ball exit velocity correlates with batting speed, increasing bat speed should increase ball exit speed. But often, it does not. Bat speed can be much higher than ball exit speed if swing direction is lacking. To maximize EV, timing is right, and the barrel and trajectory of the pitched ball are in the same plane at contact.
Click on our free article for how to measure ball exit velocity off a tee and toss.
Top Five Fundamentals and Drills to Improve Hitting for Power
Now we get started building hitting power. To accurately gauge power improvements, measure the hitter’s average exit velocity before and after completing the following program.
In priority order, here are our top five fundamentals to improve the hitter’s power:
Power Hitting Fundamental #1: Hip Rotation
A rotational athlete is an athlete whose sport-specific skills rely on the proper execution of the rotational movement pattern. Although all sports require rotational movements, there are certain sports where the rotational demands are higher than others, such as Tennis, Baseball, Lacrosse, Golf, and Volleyball.
For hitters, the “champion” power contributor is hip rotation, the circular turning of the hips, utilizing the large muscles of the core. The circular turning of the hips, utilizing the large muscles of the corer, slings the bat around quickly. Core rotation speeds the barrel much faster than the shoulders, arms, and hands can do alone.
Core Rotation Drill
Begin with a static heavy bag placed even with the hitter’s front heel after stride completion. Have the hitter take 25 swings. With each swing, strike the bag, then freeze and observe. Four checkpoints signify a full rotation of hips (images above). They are Universal (absolute) on pitch locations middle and inside:
- Front side in at toe touch (see The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, Tool XI: Universal Stride and Approach Drills, Drill VII – Front Side In drill).
- Hips then rotate 110-degrees to be open and facing the pitcher at contact.
- Rear knee is pointed directly at the pitcher at contact.
- Rear shoelaces are facing the pitcher at contact.
Now move to a batting tee. Ask the hitter to grade themselves on hip rotation: A, B, C, D, or F.
F Rotation – Rear heel remains on the ground. Swing was ALL upper body, no legs or core!
D Rotation – Rear heel slightly off the ground.
C Rotation – Rear knee and shoelaces are facing the opposite field gap.
B Rotation – Rear knee and shoelaces are facing slightly away from the pitcher.
A Rotation – All four checkpoints (listed above).
Complete this drill by swinging 25 times with an “A” rotation. Perform this exercise for four separate practices.
Now use a front toss, pitching machine, and live BP to build muscle memory for 110-degree hip rotation. Block practice hip rotation for 100 swings over numerous practices; purposeful practice is accumulative. The goal is to create a baseline swing where the hitter constantly rotates fully for pitch locations middle and inside (some hitters use a more limited rotation for the outside pitch rotation).
Power Hitting Fundamental #2: Un-Weight Rear Foot
The forward transfer of bodyweight (during the approach phase) coming up against the firm front side enables unweighting the rear foot. Hip rotation is faster and more powerful without resistance from the back foot and leg when this happens, adding at least five mph to bat speed. The turning hips leading the rear ankle and the shoulders followed by a pivot to the back toe are defining techniques of the High-Level swing.
Un-Weight Rear Foot Drill
Step 1 (Get the Feeling of Un-Weighting Rear Foot)
Achieve the feeling of swinging with nearly all weight on the front leg by using an overcorrection (exaggerated) exercise where the hitter lifts the rear foot off the ground.
Use dry swings, a static heavy bag, or a batting tee. Begin in the hitter’s normal stance. Ask the hitter to swing with their rear foot entirely off the ground. The crucial feeling is to drive off the back leg, so all weight comes up against the firm front side, thereby un-weighting the rear foot. The firm front leg halts forward progress, “bouncing” weight rearward and returning the back foot to the ground. For a bug squisher, swinging off the front leg is awkward at first. Have fun with it! Repeat for 50 swings.
Step 2 (Get the Feeling of Staying Centered AND Un-weighting Rear Foot)
Use dry swings, a static heavy bag, or a batting tee. The hitter continues to swing with their rear foot coming off the ground. But this time, they also keep their head centered between their feet (image above left). Body mass rebounds off the firm front side quickly, bouncing the hitter back onto the ball of their rear foot during the follow-through (image above right). Repeat for 50 swings.
Step 3 (Take Away Overcorrection)
Use dry swings, a static heavy bag, or a batting tee. Now that the hitter has gained some feeling for un-weighting the rear foot, take the overcorrection away. Ask the hitter to contact the ball with the back foot toe lightly touching the ground (or just off) and their shoelaces facing the pitcher. Repeat for 50 swings.
Step 4 (Crossover Drill)
Use a batting tee. The hitter starts in their stance but a step away from the tee. Take a crossover step with their rear foot, and then stride and swing. The hitter uses this exaggerated momentum coming up against the blocked front leg to gain the feeling of weight coming off the rear foot. Repeat for 50 swings.
Step 5 (Chock Drill)
Use a cheap but effective wheel chock.
The hitter takes their stance with their rear foot across the chock. The inside of the foot (big toe) rides on the bottom of the chock, and the outside (pinky toe) is higher up on the chock.
Use a tee, front toss, or live BP. The hitter executes 50 swings pushing off the chock and into the blocked front leg – the rear foot unweights, enabling a faster and more powerful core rotation. Remember to stay centered with the upper body. Repeat at four successive practices.
Step 6 (Build Automaticity/Baseline)
Use front toss, machine, or live BP (chock is optional). The hitter drives forward powerfully from the anchored rear big toe (ground power) into their firm front side and makes contact with only the toe touching the ground or just off. They maintain head centered between their feet. Remember, bodyweight rebounds back to the ball of the rear foot as the swing finishes. The hitter completes 100 un-weightings of the back foot. To build automaticity, repeat over at least four practice sessions.
Power Hitting Fundamental #3: Load Hands
Loading Hands Drill
Realize instant power improvement by changing the location and method of loading hands (click for our free article).
Power Hitting Fundamental #4: Hip Cock (Front Side In)
“Front side in” is a fundamental that requires the front hip, shoulder, and knee to be closer to the plate than the rear hip, shoulder, and knee until, or just slightly before, the stride foot lands (toe touch). While Front Side In is a Universal fundamental, there are sequencing options to be Fit to Player.
By cocking the rear hip, front side in provides a “boost” to core rotation. When the hitter starts core rotation (Pillar VII: Core Rotation) from a front side in, or hip cocked position, they add twenty degrees or more to their turn radius. Extra torque is applied when the hips turn to a greater extent and angular velocity increases. Front side in is a significant contributor for maximizing early bat speed.
“Cocking hips, so essential to the golf swing but never articulated in baseball, is at the root of batting power. It occurs in unison with the beginning of the stride, the lead knee turning in to facilitate rotation of the hips and shoulders. The way you bring your hips into the swing is directly proportional to the power you generate.” (Williams T. , Science of Hitting, 1970)
“You are cocking your hips as you swing and it is important to get that right. It’s a pendulum action. A metronome-move countermove. You might not have realized it, but you throw a ball that way, you swing a golf club that way, you cast a fishing rod that way. You go back, then you come forward.” (Williams T. , Science of Hitting, 1970)
Although an early bat speed raiser thereby decreasing time to contact, front side in movements take a little more time before the swing initiates – the hips take time to cock. Therefore, slightly adjust timing to get stride started earlier.
Front Side In (Hip Cock) Drill
Step 1 (Get the Feeling)
To construct front side in, turn the front knee inward towards the plate, so it angles slightly back towards the rear knee. Turning the front knee moves the front hip inward to the plate and “cocks” the rear hip away from the plate. Or, ask the hitter to “show their back pocket” to the pitcher as they stride. Or, simply think about cocking the rear hip away from the plate. Each of these methods gets the front side in.
Caution, too much hip cock increases the risk of “spinning out,” decreasing plate coverage. The hips should cock about twenty degrees.
Use a tee or front toss. First, the hitter moves into hitting position and freezes. Next, they observe whether their front hip and knee are closer to the plate than their rear hip and knee. Then, gradually take out the pause, closely observing front side in.
Constructing front side in is an excellent opportunity for the hitter to coach themselves. If front side in goes away as they begin to take full swings, as typically happens, encourage the hitter to re-add the pause and regain the feeling of hip cock. Then try again with a full swing. Learning to observe and coach themselves (using a step-by-step progression) speeds improvement and raises confidence.
Block practice 100 swings focusing entirely on the hip cocking movement. Repeat this step during at least four separate practice sessions.
Step 2 (Confirm Baseline/Automaticity)
Use a pitching machine or live BP. Mix up locations and speeds. Observe whether the hitter executes the appropriate degree of inward front hip and shoulder turn. If the hitter loses front side in as soon as they focus on External Results, return to Step 1 for additional habit building. Front side in automaticity is the goal.
Power Hitting Fundamental #5: Shoulder Rotation
Just as with overhand throwing, shoulder turn transfers energy derived from the legs and core and passes the energy on to the arms and hands. The shoulders turn to contact. But if they are actively turned to power the swing, this premature turning rushes the shoulders where they lead the hips, limiting bat speed due to a disconnection in the kinetic links. In short, the hitter is not trying to spin the shoulders through but instead allows core rotation to generate and transfer maximum energy to shoulder rotation. Shoulders work with the arms and hands to initially resist core rotation. After the shoulders tilt, the “stretch and fire” mechanics of hip and shoulder separation take over. For complete rotational energy transfer to the arms and hands, shoulders fully rotate until the hitter’s chin rests on their rear shoulder. Full rotation is critical for maximizing overall (outer zone) bat speed.
Shoulder Rotation Drill
The hitter constructs Universal shoulder rotation fundamentals in three steps: transfer of energy, lead shoulder in, and full rotation. Notably, this drill relies entirely on external attention focus, constraints, and self-organizing movements to train shoulder rotation fundamentals.
Step 1 (Transfer of Energy)
The hitter strives for the feeling of not spinning out early. Instead, allow legs to work and hips to lead, transferring maximum energy to shoulder rotation. Shoulders work with the arms and hands to initially resist core rotation.
Use a static heavy bag and a bat speed radar or bat sensor. First, take five swings and calculate the average early bat speed (click Bat Speed: Measurement and Speed by Age).
To swing faster, the hitter learns they need to relax and let hips lead shoulders and hands, rather than forcing the shoulders and hands through. They “use their body” to generate increased speed. The hitter executes ten swings where their early bat speed exceeds their average. If they cannot reach that goal during the first try, keep returning to it at future practices – training accumulates. Additionally, this drill builds rotational strength in the legs and core through repetitive hard-swinging.
Step 2 (Lead Shoulder In)
A too early open of the lead shoulder is a common issue with developing hitters. Lead shoulder often “tags along” with the excessive or early opening of the front foot. Too early “spinning” causes a reduction in bat speed due to a disconnect in the energy transfer from core to shoulders. And critically, spinning out also reduces plate coverage dramatically.
Use a front toss or pitching machine aimed at the outside corner of the strike zone. Allow the hitter 50 swings. Calculate the percentage of hard hits (no dribblers or squibs!) to the opposite field. For four practice sessions, they train to improve.
Step 3 (Full Shoulder Rotation)
To maximize rotational energy transfer to the arms and hands, shoulders fully rotate (180-degrees) until the hitter’s chin rests on their rear shoulder. Full shoulder rotation is critical for maximizing out front, outer zone, overall bat speed. Do this and realize more power immediately!
Use a batting tee to begin. Ask the hitter to hit the ball hard and finish their swing with the rear shoulder pointing at the pitcher (complete shoulder turn), then “pose” for a few seconds in that position. They strive for the barrel finishing long. Repeat 25 times for four practices.
Now use front toss, machine, or live BP. Use a net placed in the middle of the field with a ball speed radar behind the net (click Exit Velocity: Measurement and Speed by Age). To reliably and accurately measure exit velocity, the hitter must drive the ball into the net. For 50 swings, measure and track the number of hits up the middle that exceeds the hitter’s baseline average ball exit velocity (EV). Use a full shoulder rotation to beat their record at four future practices.
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new two-book hitter series 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 powerful and productive hitters.
Enjoy the quest!