As fastpitch softball hitters begin to experience some success with making contact, their next natural evolution is to want to hit the ball harder. Often what that amounts to is trying to swing the bat harder with their arms.
It makes sense in a way. You’re holding the bat in your hands, which are attached to the arms. The faster the bat moves the harder the ball will be hit (theoretically). So…
The natural tendency is to try to make the bat move faster with the arms and shoulders. There’s just one problem: once you try to maximize batspeed with your arms you lose all ability to adjust the bat to the flight of the ball.
That’s because the arms can only do one job. They can either supply power or they can lag a bit behind the body and then deliver the bat accurately and properly in the path of the ball.
So where does the power come from? The strong rotation of the lower half of the body, which most people refer to as driving the hips.
That’s where the biggest muscles of the body are located, so that’s where you can generate the most power. If you’re trying to push a car out of the snow or mud, you either use your legs or it doesn’t go anywhere.
The problem is, if you don’t develop the power from your lower half it has to come from somewhere. So the body will instinctively try to get it out of the part of the body that’s holding the bat.
And now we’re back to the original issue. With no (or little) hip rotation, the bat has to travel a longer distance to get to the contact zone. That means you have to start developing the power and applying it before you really know where the ball will be.
It’s like trying to throw a dart without knowing where the dartboard is until you’re about ready to release it. Sure, you might get lucky and hit the bullseye. But you’re far more likely to wind up on the edge, or miss the target entirely.
Starting with the lower body gives you a little more time (not much, but every hundredth of a second helps) to see the path of the pitch. It also helps carry the bat closer to the contact point before you actually release it into the ball, creating a shorter path to the ball (as in “short to, long through”).
Just as important, though, when it comes time to launch the bat you are able to control it much more effectively so you can take it right to where it needs to go.
The arms (and shoulders) can only do one job – supply the power or guide the bat in a way that’s adjustable. If they try to supply the power, that will override bat control.
Let the power come from the lower body so the arms and shoulders can do their proper job. It’ll make for a much more successful 2020 at the plate.
And speaking of 2020, happy holidays to everyone, no matter which holiday(s) you celebrate, and best wishes for the New Year. I appreciate you reading Life in the Fastpitch Lane and look forward to sharing more about the fastpitch journey next year.