Batting is an extraordinary display of body mechanics, power, and timing. Each time a batter goes to swing, they load a tremendous amount of momentum to the backside of their body in the hopes of achieving an explosive hit. While the amount of force that is transferred from the ground to the player’s leg, to their hips, and ultimately to their hands cannot be physically seen, the sight of a baseball being launched off of a bat at 100mph is nothing short of incredible.
High school, collegiate, and professional baseball players must repeat this cycle thousands of times over the course of their career. The amount of stress that batting places on their hips, when repeated over and over, can lead to sudden, painful injuries such as strains or chronic conditions such as tendonitis.
Unfortunately, the stress of overuse is far too often compounded by poor body mechanics. Many batters use techniques that increase their risk of a hip injury. In fact, in some cases, the batter may have never been taught proper technique in the first place.
This article will explain proper baseball hitting mechanics that will not only lower your risk of a hip injury but also lead to more home runs.
Proper Body Batting Mechanics
Your stance is the foundation for your swing. While every player has their own unique style, every stance utilizes the same muscles and mechanics to build load. Regardless of which stance you use, it is important that you pay close attention to the distance between your feet, foot position, knee bend, shoulder level, and hand grip. A proper stance at the start of your swing will help you safely and efficiently transfer energy from the back of your leg to your hips later.
Feet Distance and Position
Position your feet a little more than shoulder width apart, with your toes slightly pointing in. This provides the lower half of your body with the room it will need later in the swing. It will also shift the weight of your body to the balls of your feet and off of your heels. Concentrate your body weight on the ball of the inside foot, in particular, since the impact of the hit begins where the foot connects to the ground.
Take caution not to point your toes out, especially if it is a habit that you have developed. Pointing your toes out will shift the weight of your body onto your heels and result in a weaker swing. Additionally, a stance that is too wide will also diminish your hitting power.
Bend your knees slightly so you are comfortable and so the rest of your body is stacked up and down. Your hips should be stacked over your knees and your shoulders should be stacked over your hips. Keep your eyes parallel to the ground and your shoulders level.
Keep your body as vertical as possible and do not bend at the hip. A vertical position allows you to rotate faster and generate more force in your swing.
Position your shoulders to be level with one another. Avoid dropping your back shoulder below the front shoulder. Conversely, avoid any stance that causes your shoulders to be “uphill”, meaning the front shoulder is higher than the back shoulder. Imbalanced shoulders can cause problems in the load, path, and stride associated with a swing.
Keep a firm grip on the bat at all times. Your hands should not be too far above your back shoulder or too close to your waist.
The energy for a swing starts in the back leg and is transferred up to the hip and ultimately into the hands. While a proper stance allows more potential energy to be stored up for a swing, the hips are the direct source of hitting power.
Cocking the Hips
The most important movement of the hip—the cocking of the hips—occurs during the load phase of a swing, after the backward rotation of the spine but before the cocking of the wrists. It occurs simultaneously with the beginning of the timing step.
Your hips should cock as you move your lead foot to stride, turning your front knee to help the hips rotate back. When you cock your hips, you rotate the hips away from the pitcher and toward the catcher. The action should be driven by the momentum that is created by the backward movement of your shoulders and arms, the rotation of your spine, and the shifting of your body weight to the back leg. Another way of thinking about this movement is that you’re opening your hips while you shift your body weight. Your hips should open before your shoulders.
All too often, baseball players make the mistake of just swinging their hands while their hips remain stationary. Another common mistake is letting the front hip do all of the work. These mistakes not only create less power but frequently result in hip strains, sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, and other injuries. Moreover, poor form is rarely isolated to just one phase of a swing. A hitter who does not properly use their hips is often making other mistakes that can harm their legs, knees, feet, and ankles.
Practicing Proper Body Mechanics
The square stance is often the first stance a player learns and is arguably the easiest stance to learn proper batting mechanics with because it involves the least amount of movement. Once you master proper body mechanics with the square stance, you can apply your technique to other stances. Ideally, your stance should make you feel stable, comfortable, and confident at the plate.
If you are uncertain if you are performing the correct movements at the correct time, consider talking to a hip specialist or physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine. A specialist can demonstrate the proper mechanics to you and can ensure that you perform each movement correctly.
Talk to a Hip Specialist
Proper batting technique is perhaps one of the hardest concepts to teach in baseball. For many of us, our batting habits began at an early age. By the time we are in high school or college, it is not only difficult to learn new habits, but we are often coping with the pain and damage caused by years of improper mechanics.
Ultimately, proper batting technique will propel you ahead of the competition and help you enjoy a long sports career. Dr. Steve Hamilton at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine knows this first hand because he has helped a countless number of high school and college athletes prevent injury, improve their technique, and achieve even greater success in their sport than ever before. You can rely on Dr. Hamilton for top quality sports medicine.
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Hamilton to discuss ways you can prevent hip injuries or for the treatment of an existing injury.