Stand Tall During the Swing?
A Guide to Hitting Posture
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This Should Hitters Stand Tall? article was excerpted from our new book The Ultimate Hitting Fundamentals, Techniques, and Strategy 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 practical and durable equipment, click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
“Stand Tall” is a Popular Cue
At the next youth baseball or fastpitch softball game, count how many times you hear coaches and parents advising their hitters to ‘stand tall.’ What is meant by this popular cue?
Well, as with many hitting cues, standing tall has many different implications for what is being asked of the hitter. Here are a few intentions being conveyed:
- Copy the Pros
Many successful hitters stand tall in their stance (see the image of Mike Trout MLB above) in a non-athletic position (upright posture, weight on heels, feet close, slight knee bend).
- Maintain Level Shoulders (no “dipping” the rear shoulder)
Coaches are often strident, “Don’t collapse the backside” and “Don’t dip the bat.” Click the link for our free article Fix Dipping Under the Ball.
- Swing Down to the Ball
Some coaches promote a downward swing path to help avoid fly ball outs.
- Keep a Straight Backside
Many amateur hitters have too much curvature (hunching) in their upper spine when they set up in their stance. Standing tall can be a helpful cue when it is meant for the hitter to keep their neck straight with head and eyes level. The hitter maintains their straight backside into hitting position and through core rotation.
Stand Tall in Stance vs. Athletic Hitting Position
Spine angle is the angle of the hitter’s spine compared to vertical. Vertical (upright) is a zero-degree spine angle. Most experienced hitters are relatively upright, from zero to twenty degrees spine angle in their stance.
But, absolutely, great hitters are athletic by the time they arrive in hitting position. Head and shoulder movement is especially evident in slow-motion video when comparing posture in the stance (top image above) to hitting position (bottom image above). High-Level hitters’ spine angle in hitting position is Universally twenty to thirty degrees. Experienced hitters “sit down and back” as they gather and stride as a way to increase momentum and sync timing to the pitcher’s movements.
Youth Hitters Should Not Stand Tall in Stance
When the developing hitter is already athletic in their stance, little or no spine angle transition is required. The hitter maintains the same spine angle from stance to hitting position. To increase simplicity, build confidence, and improve seeing the ball, we recommend developing hitters utilize a spine angle of twenty degrees in their stance with moderate knee bend (image above).
Drawbacks of Staying Tall During the Swing
Click the link for a Hitting Rebellion article WARNING!! Down & Through Hitting Mechanics EQUALS Down in the Lineup
The only way the shoulders can rotate at the same height, without the rear shoulder dropping lower than the front shoulder, is if the hitter remains perfectly upright (zero degrees spine angle) as they swing. If this occurs, one or more of these obstacles arise:
- Reduced plate coverage for outside and low pitch locations; shoulders, arms, and the sweet spot of the bat are further from the outside corner than with a more athletic hitting posture.
- Swing path with a negative attack angle. The only way to not drop back shoulder is to stand tall and take hands directly (linearly) to the ball (images above). When shoulders are level, the lower the pitch, the more downward and chopping the swing path.
- Swing path on an overly upward attack angle for the low pitch. Rather than dropping the barrel on the ball, some too upright hitters drive the barrel directly down to reach the low pitch (as in the golf swing). A “loopy,” inefficient swing pattern occurs. A bat sensor reports a very steep vertical bat angle and unproductive attack angle (too positive creating popups and high flies), especially when contact occurs more out front.
- Inability to generate maximum potential bat speed. When the hitter is upright they feel less powerful. To maximize leverage and torque the swing plane must be at a 90-degree angle to the spine (image below).
Optimal Shoulder Level During Phases of the Swing
Observe these shoulder levels in all great hitters. To avoid “dipping,” shoulders must be maintained level until swing initiation.
In the stance, we recommend the shoulders are level and the body in an athletic position.
Then, here are three additional stance issues, which may cause too early dropping of the rear shoulder:
- In the hitter’s stance, a flat or vertical bat angle can cause the rear shoulder, hands, and barrel to drop too early (“dipping”) before stride foot lands. Fix this issue by utilizing a forty-five-degree bat angle in the stance.
- Front elbow pointing up (should be pointing at the plate).
- Rear elbow pointing nearly straight down (should be at least 60-degrees relative to the hitter’s body).
Gather (Rear Weight Shift)
Shoulders are level or slightly forward sloping.
Hitting Position (at stride toe touch)
Shoulders are level or slightly sloped forward as the stride foot lands at toe touch.
As front heel drive and rear knee drive initiate core rotation, shoulders tilt rearward while hands stay up. This power-creating move stretches the oblique muscles and establishes a rearward tilting axis (click for our free article Hitting Drills to Fix Lunging). All High-Level hitters drop the rear shoulder to get on plane with the ball and create a dominant leveraged position.
Spine angle dictates the level of the rotating shoulders (waist-high pitch image left and low pitch image right). Most successful hitters maintain a 20 to 30-degree spine angle as shoulders rotate. When this occurs, biomechanically, the hitter’s rear shoulder always moves lower than the front shoulder at contact.
Successful hitters do not stand tall as they swing. Instead, they transition to an athletic position as they move from stance to hitting position. Then, as the hitter turns, their spine angle remains stable (click for our free article Pulling Head Fixes and Drills). A decreasing (or increasing) spine angle during core rotation leads to inconsistent contact:
- The head moves with the spine resulting in a reduction of vision.
- The level of the rotating shoulders changes, causing the swing plane to be erratic.
- Balance is lost.
Drills For Posture in Hitting Stance
Click here for an experimental drill to customize posture in hitting stance balancing quality of vision vs improved power for the specific hitter.
Other Hitting Debate Articles You May Find Interesting
Click the links below for further free articles:
Batting Stride: How Aggressive?
The Ultimate Guide to “Squish the Bug”
Out Front Hitting vs Let the Ball Travel?
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new book 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!
Your thoughts are appreciated! Submit a comment (no email required) or send us any question using our contact page and we will get right back to you. All the best – Gary.
Love home you analyze “coach speak.” Meaning coaches who just say what they have heard without doing their homework.