Load Hands Shorter For Quickness?
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Load Hands Shorter For Quickness? debate is excerpted from our new book, The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy 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.
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.
Building Rome Series (Roman Theme) Introduction
Many Roman Senators (coaches) are advocates of “short to the ball.” These advocates disagree with “longer to the ball” recommendations in our article Where and How Hitters Load Hands. Short to the ball proponents proclaim hands should load outside the toe line, more inward toward the plate, creating a shorter swing.
Where hands should load is oft-debated.
The Time to Contact Metric Measures Quickness
The time to contact metric (provided by bat sensors) measures the time, beginning when the barrel starts to move towards the hitting zone (at launch) until the bat reaches the ball. Time to contact is affected by the degree of early bat speed, the swing arc radius, and where contact occurs, inner zone (deep) vs. outer (out front).
Time to contact is the primary indicator of quickness.
Identify Loading Hands Inside, On, or Outside Toe Line
Inside Toe Line – Hands disappear, and rear elbow protrudes
Outside Toe Line – Both hands seen from the front view and no rear elbow
On Toe Line – Bottom hand on bat seen from the front view and the only the tip of rear elbow
Besides slow-motion video taken from behind the hitter, the best way to analyze if hitters are loading hands inside or outside toe line is to front toss to the hitter. When they load hands and swing, if the coach can see both hands the entire time and no rear elbow, they are outside the toe line. If the coach can only see the bottom hand and the back elbow’s tip, the hitter is on the toe line. If both hands disappear behind the front shoulder and the rear arm protrudes, they are inside the toe line.
Proponents of Loading Outside the Toe Line
Here are two expected benefits asserted by outside the toe line advocates:
- Shorter is quicker, increasing decision time and allowing the hitter to commit at a later point.
- Avoid Spinning Out.
Coaches who teach shortening the loading of hands outside the toe line believe this method reduces or eliminates the problem of spinning out. The hitter is less likely to cut off the outside corner with the swing path. The rotational impetus of the upper body and hands from a more fully loaded position (inside the toe line) is the culprit, causing the spinning out.
Senate Ruling for Load Hands Shorter
Developing hitters should learn to load hands on the toe line until they are stronger and more experienced. Then experiment with other loading locations and methods.
Here are some crucial concepts:
- Outside Toe Line Creates Late Connection to Rotation.
When hands load outside the toe line, arms and hands do not kinetically connect to the rotating core and shoulders until late. When hitters more aggressively load hands, they feel the earlier pulling action. Energy is transferring from shoulders to arms earlier in the swing boosting early bat speed. A reduction in early bat speed generally results when hands load outside the toe line. Use early bat speed and ball exit speed measurements to objectively confirm.
- Outside Toe Line Promotes an Out-to-In Swing Path (Around the Ball).
Loading hands outside the toe line put the hands very close to hovering over the strike zone’s inside corner as the swing begins. It is challenging for developing hitters to maintain the barrel inside the ball’s path from this load position. Inexperienced hitters are usually around the ball, consistently pulling the inside pitch foul.
- Outside Toe Line Prohibits the Hitter From Being Athletic.
“Keep your hands still … not too much movement … dead hands … as you stride, hands don’t go back … no inward turn … keep hands in front of the rear foot.”
Sometimes coaches are too afraid of movement. Most great hitters have strong natural tendencies for rhythm in their arms and hands. They know what it feels like to throw a ball for long-distance. Don’t teach the athleticism out of a hitter without first objectively measuring power and productivity (see Drills below).
- Shorter Is Not Always Quicker!
Early bat speed is a time reducer, more than making up for any slightly longer movements. Improvements in early bat speed allow the hitter more time to make a swing decision before committing, less likely to be late on the inside fastball, and more productive on off-speed and movement pitches (click the link for our free article Short Swing Equals Quick Bat?). Use the time to contact measurement from a bat sensor to verify how quick the hitter’s swing really is.
Speed overcomes increased length making the hitter more powerful AND quicker.
Load Hands Drill to Accurately Evaluate Where Hands Best Load for the Specific Hitter
Find the following loading hands drill in our new drills book The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide :
- Tool XII: Experimental Loading Hands Drills, Drill I – Inside, On, and Outside Toe Line Experimentation Drill.
Other Hitting Debate Articles You May Find Interesting
Click the links below for further free articles:
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 hitting 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 a powerful and productive hitter.
Enjoy the quest!