Softball Hitting Drills for Power and Productivity
Softball Hitting Drills for Power and Productivity is excerpted from our drill and game books, The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide, and Skill Building Competitions (click to learn more).
This article presents five challenging softball hitting drills and games to develop power and increase batting average for your fastpitch player. We change the drills in this article regularly, so check back!
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Before diving into the drills, here are a few hitting terms we reference:
The ready, starting, or set up position the hitter is in before the pitcher begins their pitching motion.
Elements of the gather phase include:
- The hitter shifts weight rearward, preparing their muscles to execute a forward approach. The rearward loading motion of body weight generates energy in the form of muscle tension.
- An inward turn of the upper body stretches muscles and sets shoulder angle in preparation for rotation.
- Hands move closer to the optimum position to start the swing.
Stride and Separate
The stride and separate phase begins as the hitter picks their front foot off the ground to initiate their stride. Stride finishes when the front foot toe again contacts the ground. As the stride completes at toe touch and the hands move rearward, separating from the front foot, the hitter has arrived in hitting position.
Separation refers to the various movements the hitter executes, which result in the stretching of muscles. Separation techniques enable an increase in the quickness, speed, and power of body movements.
The approach phase starts as the hitter’s torso begins its forward move toward the pitcher. Approach finishes when the front foot heel contacts the ground, the front leg firms up, and forward momentum comes to a stop.
Hitting (Launch) Position
The batter’s position just before the barrel begins its journey from behind the hitter’s back towards the hitting zone. To be more precise, it is the body position when the stride foot lands at toe touch before the front heel triggers core rotation.
Softball Hitting Drills #1 – Small Ball Challenge
Hitting small balls is the best hand-eye coordination drill for hitters. Excellent for stations during hitting practice and pre-game warmups.
Level of Play:
All age levels.
Indoors or outdoors.
A (thin) speed bat and golf wiffles (click this link to shop for a speed bat)
Optional – Use an affordable small ball wiffle thrower (click this link to shop for a mutli-use small ball thrower).
- Use the Small Ball Competition at one station during hitting practice. For example, establish a practice station where hitters:
- Compete individually against themselves.
- Compete against all other team members for the highest total of the day at that station.
- Compete head-to-head against another teammate.
- Compete as two-person teams.
- Use a front or side toss with practice golf balls. Start with the hitter using their regular bat.
- After achieving consistent contact, challenge the hitter by switching to a wood dowel or speed bat.
- Count points as follows: 1 point – any contact; 2 points – line drive; 4 points (homerun) – a hit over an established boundary.
- Select an allotted number of swings per hitter based on the time available.
Softball Hitting Drills #2 – Aggressive But Selective Drill
If hitters routinely train to hit the ball hard, they can let their preparation take over when it is time to step into the box. What was formerly “too much” is now baseline. Hitting is a violent but controlled movement, and it is trained with this in mind to repeat it in a game setting.
The training in this drill is not mechanical but rather adjustments to intent. As the hitter practices swinging hard, their movements naturally adapt in many power-producing ways.
Step 1 (Habitually Swing Hard)
When coaching cues emphasize just making contact, protecting, and never striking out, the youth hitter ingrains the habit of swinging with less than maximum effort. The hitter has the purpose, or it may be subconscious, to swing half speed as the best insurance against the “dreaded” strikeout. But, merely trying to put the ball in play results in productivity below the hitter’s potential.
Purpose – Construct habitual hard swings into the hitter’s baseline.
Attention Focus – External Process focus on speeding the bat (click the link for our free article describing how to use attention focus to improve practice and increase performance).
Step 1 utilizes a radar to pair the outcome of exit velocity to the hitter’s purpose. Use technology as a motivator and an objective measurement of swinging hard.
Begin by measuring average ball exit speed off a tee (click the link for how to measure ball exit velocity off a tee and thrown ball); this is the hitter’s baseline to beat.
Now use a pitching machine, live BP, or live pitching. Use the same balls as for the baseline measurement. Ask the hitter to hit five line drives with a higher ball exit speed than their average measured off the tee. Swinging with maximum effort is often a new habit. New habits feel strange at first, so be patient with swings and misses. Repeat this step over numerous practices to allow training to accumulate.
Timing Tip – When the hitter swings harder and faster, timing often needs to be adjusted so that the hitter starts their swing later, further in ball travel. Otherwise, the hitter naturally feels the need to swing slower to avoid being early. Place a cone at the ball travel point where the hitter should start their stride. If the hitter is still hitting the ball with less than their average baseline exit velocity, try moving the cone closer to the batter so they feel that they must turn quickly to catch up to the ball.
Step 2 (Aggressive AND Selective)
Purpose – This batting cage game is excellent for focusing the hitter on:
- Swinging hard.
- Being selective.
The better the hitter does both, the higher their score.
Use front toss, machine, or live BP. Only fastballs. Mix 50% strikes and 50% balls. The constraints are simple, but the drill is challenging.
The hitter gets twenty-five swings. Any strike which the hitter takes or any foul ball counts as a swing. Hard hit line drives count as 2 points. Use launch angle markers between 5 and 20 degrees to designate line drives (click the link for our free article to easily mark launch angles in your cage). Hard hit ground balls or fly balls count as 1 point. No points for weak hits. Subtract 1 point for any swing at a pitch out of the strike zone, regardless of whether the ball was hit or not. The hitter quickly learns to check swing on poor pitches!
Keep the hitter’s tally and continually try to beat it—confidence increases as their score rises. Or form two teams to compete, with three swings per hitter per inning.
Softball Hitting Drills #3 – Head Steady Drill
For simplicity and confidence building, youth hitters should maintain their head as steady as possible. But keep in mind, the hitter’s head should always move toward the pitcher as their approach executes. In this drill, the hitter strives to stabilize all head movement except for this forward movement.
Purpose – Maximize vision and swing path consistency as the hitter strides and swings.
Attention Focus – Internal focus on maintaining a twenty-degree spine angle from stance through swing completion (click the link for our free article describing how to use attention focus to improve practice and increase performance).
For quickest skill development and maximum confidence-building, youth hitters should train a more athletic stance (than found in many experienced hitters).
Step 1 – (Use Noodle)
Use dry swings. Ask the hitter to take their stance with a twenty-degree inward lean (spine angle) as in the above image. The coach places a long foam noodle, level with the ground and pointing at the pitcher, against the front of the hitter’s helmet. Now the hitter executes their gather, stride, and forward movement (approach), stopping in hitting position. The hitter’s helmet should slide lightly along the noodle as they move forward. If the hitter’s head drops or pulls away from the noodle, they are changing spine angle; eyes are moving too much. Repeat until the hitter acquires the feeling of maintaining a twenty-degree spine angle beginning in stance and through stride and approach.
Here are potential issues:
- If the hitter’s head moves away from the noodle, they are straightening up (decreasing their spine angle).
- If the hitter’s head moves into the noodle, they are diving head (increasing their spine angle).
- If the hitter’s head raises higher than the noodle, they are likely straightening one or both legs as stride lands; as the hitter arrives in hitting position, they should be athletic, with both legs flexed and bent.
- If the hitter’s head drops below the noodle, they are likely striding out aggressively and flattening the V made by their legs. Proper lower body mechanics (unweighting the rear foot and dragging the rear toe to narrow up) fix the aggressive strider’s dropping head.
Step 2 – (Dry Swings Stopping in Hitting Position)
Next, use 25 dry swings (with no noodle). Ask the hitter to take their stance with a twenty-degree spine angle, move into hitting position, and freeze. The coach watches from a front view as the hitter moves. The hitter’s head should remain in precisely the same spot as seen from the front (pin the hitter’s head to a point on a backdrop). The hitter observes themselves – are they slightly bent at the waist with weight mostly over toes, and head nearly over the interior batter’s box line (athletic)?
Step 3 – (Slow, Full Dry Swings)
In this step, the hitter begins in their stance using a twenty-degree spine angle. Then the hitter moves slowly into hitting position and swings. Again, the coach watches from a front view to evaluate if their head remains steady. Gradually speed up the swing until game speed.
Step 4 – (Front Toss)
Finally, use a tee or front toss. Again, the coach again pins the hitter’s head against a point on a backdrop. As the hitter gathers, strides, and swings, only forward head movement—no movement in, out, up, or down. Practice maintaining a steady head for 50 swings. Measure and track the number of perfectly steady head swings. Try to beat this number at the next practice.
For preparation to accumulate, it must be performed routinely over some time.
Softball Hitting Drills #4 – 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 Competition
The 3x3x3x3 Competition is an effective hitting skill-builder focusing players on power and production. Players want to play this game at every hitting practice!
Level of Play:
Middle School and up.
Outdoors on a regulation field. Bring at least six cones to make boundaries. Two buckets of balls and two empty buckets are helpful.
- Ideally, make four teams of three players each. Three groups of three players is fine.
- Each team of three rotates through each of the four stations during one inning:
- Station 1 (optional) – On-deck hitters who shag balls that get to the backstop.
- Station 2 – Hitting team.
- Station 3 – Outfielding team.
- Station 4 – Shaggers in the outfield.
- A coach front tosses from behind a screen, mixing half strikes and half balls.
- Each hitter on a team gets five swings (fouls count as a swing). Hitters strive to pick a good pitch to hit. Fifteen swings total for each team.
- The ball must land in the outfield grass to score points. Award no points for the swing if the hit lands before the outfield or is caught by the outfield team.
- Outfielders can move in or back or shift left or right depending on the hitters’ tendencies. A shifting defense focuses hitters on hitting the ball where it is pitched.
- After each team has their 15 swings, rotate teams to different stations.
- Place a line of cones as the home run boundary (or use the fence).
- Points for each team are scored as follows:
- Count one point if the hit lands in the outfield and is stopped by an outfielder.
- Two points if the ball rolls past the outfielder to or through the boundary.
- Three points if the ball takes one bounce and goes to or through the boundary.
- Four points if the ball lands over the boundary.
- Ask an assistant to be the umpire and keep track of points for each team.
- Place an empty bucket with each group of shaggers. Hustle balls to the bucket, so there is time for more innings.
- The team with the most points is the winner. Players on the other teams run five laps around the infield.
Softball Hitting Drills #5 – Timing the Start of Stride Drill
The exact moment when the front foot lifts from the ground (stride start) is often the hitter’s primary timing adjustment. For younger age groups facing slower pitching, the onset of stride occurs somewhere between release and the ball traveling as much as three-quarters of the distance to the hitter.
At higher levels of competition, the hitter fine-tunes the start of stride to coincide with the length of time needed to execute the hitter’s stride and approach, along with the speed of the pitcher’s fastball. Here are standard options for when the hitter picks up their front foot for competitive fastpitch softball:
- As the ball enters the circle over the pitcher’s head.
- As the ball is in the backside of the circle, just before release.
- On release.
- Just after release.
Attain the ability to time any pitcher’s fastball within one pitch. Establish at least two baselines, one for slow pitching and one for fast.
Attention Focus – Use an Internal focus on synchronizing stride start with a particular movement by the pitcher or distance of ball travel.
Step 1 (Quick Hips on Inside Pitch)
After many years of slow pitching, the hitter may habitually slow or delay core rotation. Use this step to make “quick hips” automatic, especially on inside pitches.
Use a static hitting bag. Ask the hitter to take 25 swings rotating hips immediately after toe touch (stride landing) and as fast as possible.
Now use a front toss mixing inside and outside locations. On inside pitches, ask the hitter to focus on firing hips immediately upon toe touch (quick hips). Throw a few outside pitches (the hitter uses a millisecond delay of hips to let the ball travel), then try to surprise the hitter with an inside pitch. Ask the hitter for 25 hard-hit balls. Repeat for at least two practices.
Step 2 (Bat Speed Consistency)
When bat speed varies between swings, timing is inconsistent.
Ensure the hitter is habitually swinging with maximum effort by practicing Softball Hitting Drill #2 – Aggressive But Selective Drill (above)
Step 3 (Adjust Start of Stride to Fastball Speed)
After ensuring quick rotation and maximum effort swings, the hitter is ready to establish baseline timing. The inside fastball sets baseline timing. It is the pitch for which the hitter has to be the quickest. All other pitch locations and types of pitches require varying lengths of millisecond adjustments to swing launch to let the ball travel.
Constraints – Change the speed of pitches by 3 to 5 mph every ten pitches.
Use a pitching machine targeted for inside fastballs. Ask the hitter to be prepared to answer two questions after each speed change:
When did they start their stride (pick up their foot or, for heel raisers, lift their heel)? Did the start of stride occur in the circle, just before release, at release, just after release, or did the ball travel partway? If the ball traveled, how far (10 feet, 20 feet, …, almost to plate) before the hitter picked up their foot to begin their stride?
Were they early or late? What did they feel at contact? Was rear elbow slotted (inner zone), or were arms extended (outer zone)? At contact, how far had the ball traveled relative to the body (even with front hip, front knee, front foot, or out in front)? Where did the ball go (foul, pulled, opposite-field)? Where on the bat did the ball make contact? Ideally, for the inside fastball, inner zone contact occurs just slightly in front of the stride foot, with rear elbow slotted, on the sweet spot of the bat, and travels towards the pull gap. Routinely answering these questions helps the hitter become more aware of timing issues.
Depending on the answer to the second question, adjust the timing of stride start. If the hitter was late, start the stride at an earlier point. If they were early, start the stride at a later point. Repeat this process until the hitter makes consistent solid contact in the pull gap on the inside fastball.
Now change speeds and see how efficiently the hitter can adjust their timing. The eventual goal is one pitch before the hitter has re-timed and is hitting the ball hard. The hitter’s game confidence leaps when they routinely practice start of stride timing.
Establish a separate baseline for the faster pitcher and the slower pitcher. For example, the competitive hitter may start their stride, in the circle, for the speedier pitcher, and on release, for the slower pitcher. Or for youth hitters, they may start stride when the ball is ten feet away for the slow pitcher and halfway to the plate for the fast pitcher. Baselining at least two timing strategies prepares the hitter well for the different fastball speeds they face in games.
Step 4 (Hit All Speeds Hard)
Functional variability is where the movement achieves the desired result, even from multiple positions.
For example, the hitter strives to contact varying pitch speeds with the same maximum ball exit speed. This type of deep practice is not easy, but the learning rate is high. Once the hitter has mastered this step, the player knows they hit any speed hard.
Constraints – Change the speed of pitches by 3 to 5 mph every ten pitches.
Use the same process as Step 3, only this time, measure ball exit speed after each speed change (click here for how to measure ball exit velocity with a thrown ball). The goal is for the hitter’s average ball exit speed to be the same between the various pitching speeds.
Other Fastpitch Softball Articles:
Click the links to read free softball articles from Building Rome Series:
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!