The Move That is Killing Your Swing – Chad Longworth Velo Shop

The Move That is Killing Your Swing

First of all, I don't know the guy above.  He's probably a nice dude, and he is probably doing good things in the baseball community.  I'm only using him as an example to illustrate my point.  Last night on my Sunday Swings Live discussion I pointed out how quickly baseball coaches disregard the greatest minds of biomechanics as not "relevant" to hitting a baseball.  Here's my point...


What? Wait?  You might be thinking to yourself, "I've coached this way for years, and my hitters have had success.  Is this guy crazy."  The answer to that question might be yes, but if you watch the video above you see one of the greatest inefficiencies of movement in the Kinetic Chain that is taught at all levels of baseball.  Let me explain a principle illuminated by Dr. Nikolai Bernstein, a Russian neurophysiologist who was head of all athlete development for the Soviet Olympic teams from the years of 1950-1966. He is considered by many as “The Father of Motor Learning."  I'm sure many of you are thinking "he didn't play, what could he possibly know about hitting a baseball."  Pump your brakes for a second and let's look one of his principles I use daily in writing programs and coaching hitters. 

“Mechanical inefficiencies do not happen in a vacuum; they require two variables, time and tension.”

Let's unpack the idea of time.  Adding time to your swing by slowing down a movement provides the opportunity for mechanical inefficiencies to intervene and to corrupt the execution. Take riding a bicycle for example.  First, try peddling the bicycle very slowly.  It’s pretty difficult to balance at that speed. But speed up a little, and the machine becomes more efficient, and the movement improves.  Intent to swing the bat hard will be forever one of my foundational points. The same goes for throwing, the "easier" you throw the more opportunity for the inefficiency of movement to be present. Even if you don't care to know anything about how swings work or develop, just swing hard.

Now let's look at tension, which is the critical flaw in many hitters and especially illustrated in the video above. Frans Bosch has popularized the concept of muscle slack. It is defined on the early stage rate of force development and the speed at which the muscle and tendon can go from “loose” to “tense.” When a muscle is not activated, it is relaxed, and there is slack in both the muscle and tendon. Bosch uses the analogy of a rope to help describe how muscle slack works. You are holding one end of the rope, and the other end is tied to a car. Before you can pull the car with the rope, the rope first has to become tense. This is the point where the rope goes from lying slack on the ground, to now in a straight line from your hands to the car. This is synonymous with the process of the muscle fibers aligning. The second part of the slack is that the rope now needs to become tense enough so that force can be applied to the truck. At this point, the rope goes from being in a straight line from your hand to the car, to now taut, from you producing a force on the rope. This is synonymous with the muscles co-contracting to produce enough force on the tendon so the muscle can become tense. Bosch says that some athletes struggle to produce this tension and removal of slack fast enough (early phase rate of force development) and it can hinder their performance. Muscle Slack And High-Velocity Training: An Integrative .., (accessed September 18, 2017). Hitting "mechanics" in a game occur extremely fast, this means that the body has to create enough "stretch" or tension to transfer the potential energy stored from the load phase of the swing into kinetic energy through the launch phase of the swing in a very short amount of time.  In the absence of this stretch/tension the body cannot incorporate muscle fibers correctly nor can it sequence your body segments correctly to accelerate the barrel to its potential.

JD Martinez using his back arm/scap to take the slack out of his shoulders and lead arm preparing for turn

What does this mean for your swing?  By forcing your hands forward, or taking your knob a baseball you are putting slack in the system, not taking it out, creating very poor efficiency of movement.  Once this push swing pattern establishes itself and becomes autopiloted by the central nervous system, the older the hitter gets, the more he/she is in a world of trouble to create a new swing pattern.  As a matter of fact, without weighted implement training, it is virtually impossible.  So, long story short, STOP PUSHING THE KNOB TO THE BALL.  It's killing your swing and thus your potential as a hitter.

With Slack removed Mike Trout turning and pivoting knob to contact

You can read part 2 of this post HERE

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