One of the most important aspects for any hitter to develop is bat speed. The ability to build bat speed can be the difference between hitting a deep home run or a weakly hit grounder. Though many hitters focus on strength and agility, few understand the subtle nuances that can make all the difference when training to increase bat speed velocity. Improving bat speed requires a combination of proper mechanics, motor-control training, and a well-developed power-to-weight ratio. To increase your bat speed, hitters should focus on Olympic lifting to increase power being generated from the ground up; loading the back hip to increase torque in the swing, which allows for a transferring of maximum force into the front leg for added momentum, and not allowing the trunk to get over the front leg.
Once you implement the following tips and fixes into your training you will see dramatic improvements in your bat speed and hitting power.
Higher Power to Weight Ratio Improves bat speed
The reason you should focus on building strength (aka. increasing your power-to-weight ratio) to increase bat speed is that it has been proven that an increasing bat speed is directly related to an increased exit velocity. Be honest with yourself. Who doesn't want to see their exit velocity go up? With that point fresh in your mind, let's focus on some key exercises to help develop your baseball swing by enhancing your power to weight ratio and overall hitting mechanics.
Power focused lifts
Training for bat speed is not unlike the training that pitchers go through to increase their pitching velocity. Both require a focus on explosive movements such as Olympic lifting and plyometrics. For both hitters and pitchers, it is about producing the maximum amount of energy possible by utilizing the lower body and upper body (the Kinetic Chain). The key difference for hitters, however, is they have less time to develop kinetic energy because of the short stride length and the less linear stance.
That is why developing explosive strength is so beneficial to hitters, as the more power baseball players/hitters can generate through the use of triple extension of the ankle, knee, and hip and power that force up through the kinetic chain, through the barrel of the bat, the faster the bat speed and exit velocity will be. With that in mind let's focus on what specific exercises will help push your entire body and unlock your explosive strength potential.
3 position cleans
This is the complete series of Olympic Cleans. Which encompasses the power clean, below-the-knee clean, and hang clean. To get the most out of these exercises it is best to have a certified Olympic lifting coach provide you with the proper techniques. Finding a certified Olympic lifting coach can be difficult which is why we always recommend that players looking to learn the proper techniques attend one of our 2x Position Player Velocity Camps. No other lifts have such a high correlation to power development than Olympic lifting because they are better suited at stimulating explosive strength, which makes them the top exercise athletes looking to increase bat speed should turn to.
When used in conjunction with Olympic Lifting, plyometrics will help to develop the leg power and quickness required to generate the maximal forces necessary to see an increase in bat speed. One of the best plyometric exercises for training lower body quickness is Rapid Response. The exercise involves rapidly firing the feet into the ground. Baseball players should perform these drills at least once a week with a 1:10 rest ratio per drill. It is key to perform these exercises with the maximum amount of energy to result in the desired translation to lower body quickness. Here is a link to my instructional video on how to perform the rapid response drills.
Heavy Loaded Russian Twists
Load up your Russian Twist core exercise to the maximum you can handle for 15 reps (both sides = 1 rep), and continue to progressively overload. Keep this tip in mind while performing the exercise, velocity can be enhanced more by the intent to move faster than by actually moving faster. This is a good way to develop your speed without sacrificing your mechanics in the process, which we will cover in the next section.
Proper loading of the back leg
Maintaining the load on the back leg is essential to bat speed and power. With the feet just past shoulder width, you want to develop as much ground force torque as possible by keeping your feet straight and then externally rotating the femur. By doing this you are setting yourself up to unload all that energy as you internally rotate and fire the back leg. For hitters, a good indicator of how much energy is being produced by the back leg is if after your front leg extends the back leg almost wants to fly up. Any of the med ball drills found in the 2x Position Player Velocity program and GFT Hitting Program will help develop the strength, power, and good mechanics of the back leg drive that will translate to an increase in bat speed.
If you are someone who struggles with flying open, you can try internally rotating your front leg, this scenario is fine provided you understand how to keep your timing consistent throughout all of your swings. Doing dry drills can help you feel whether or not this would be beneficial in helping develop your bat speed. Other drills you should focus on are linear on knee med ball throws, linear full stride drills, and linear momentum drills. These drills are the foundation of the GFT Hitting Program and provide hitters with the ability to perfect their motor control and mechanics without adding an undo amount of stress to the arm allowing for more reps to be performed over the duration of the program, this allows for great success when training to increase bat speed.
A common injury for hitters is a UCL injury due to an over-aggressive back arm. While the act of bringing the back arm down towards the hip is an aggressive movement there is a measure of prevention that can be exercised to avoid straining the UCL. You want to think about bringing your back arm down towards your hip and then letting it ride your hip through the swing to transfer power to the swing. If the arm does not ride the hip into the swing then you are wasting all the linear force production you generated from the lower half and allowing the rotational forces of the upper body to do the work. This can set hitters up for several upper body injuries and also a significantly lower bat speed. Because there are two forces available for hitters to use in order to improve bat speed, linear and rotational forces, it is essential to utilize both of these to increase bat speed.
Bonus Tip - Mobility
Often defined as flexibility developed through dynamic or athletic movements. This is an underrated and often overlooked key to developing elite bat speed. What this is saying is that the flexibility or mobility of the joint is built around the strength through a full range of motion. Quite often players look to static stretching to develop their mobility, which has its place even in our GFT (Ground Force Torque) Hitting program. However, static stretching will not build the strength aspect required to maintain functional flexibility in the long term. This is why it is key to take exercises through their full range of motion when possible, and if you are unable to go through a full range of motion on a specific lift then you should incorporate other exercises that cover the range of motion for that joint. To get the best of both worlds, utilize static stretching before exercise, and then be sure to take the exercises through their full range of motion to ensure you develop strength throughout the entire range.
Recap on how to increase bat speed
Bat speed and exit velocity are important aspects of hitting for power. If you want to see an increase in your bat speed, you must develop elite explosiveness through proper strength training and conditioning. While learning the best hitting mechanics along with the explosive power will translate to generating the optimal bat speed. If you are serious about moving forward and training your body to increase bat speed and hitting power, it is not enough to have mere head knowledge of the methods listed above. Just as when hitting, you need to stretch and push yourself to try new things that will help with the efficiency of your bat swing, timing, and mechanics. We have been utilizing these methods for fifteen plus years to increase hitters' average bat speed. So, if you are looking for the number one program that will get you to hit your goal of batting faster and with more power, look no further than our 2X Position Player Velocity Program and Ground Force Hitting Program.
If you are interested in learning more about our programs hit us up at (415)-877-4850.