The ability for a baseball or softball player to increase their bat speed is paramount for their success. Becoming an elite hitter can be broken down into three main areas of focus: mechanics, strength, and quickness. If a player is lacking in any one of these departments, they are setting themselves up to never reach their potential - which to players and coaches truly is the ultimate goal at the end of the day. In this article we will be covering a number of different exercises to improve a players bat speed by focusing on both strength and quickness exercises guaranteed to show results.
The most important part when starting your fitness training, especially for those at a young age, is to have a primary focus on maintaining proper form. Any of the exercises and technique descriptions below need to be done correctly to reduce the risk of injury. That being said, the next most important thing is to stay consistent with your new or current fitness routine. Fitness and physical training is one of those things where if you consistently do it, results will be easily seen.
Players should ideally shoot for 3-4 workout sessions a week minimum, especially during the off-season. If you can perform the exercises below with the prescribed sets and reps of each movement and are done over an extended period of time, your bat speed is guaranteed to improve!
Beginner exercises - available for all age groups
1. Balance and Reach
Performing the balance and reach exercise is perfect for working your core, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The exercise is done by standing on one leg with the other leg up around waist height - similar to a position if you were to go stand on top of a large box. Let’s say the athlete is standing on their right leg and is up off the left leg, they should have their right arm out in front is a running type form. Then, fold over and reach toward the ground out in front of you and hold for a couple seconds before standing back up. The standing leg should swing back with you. As the left leg goes back, the left arm should reach out in front (opposite arm from the standing leg should reach). Proper running form should be considered when doing this movement. This movement will improve a players bat speed by improving glute and overall leg strength, as well as the core muscles for balance.
Reps: 8-10/each set
2. Russian Twist
In order to improve bat speed a players needs to have strong rotational core strength. Perform this movement by sitting on the ground, put your hands together at heart-center, and lift up your legs and cross them on front of you so you are only sitting on your butt. Think about staying long through the spine, and begin to rotate your shoulders back and forth is a twisting motion. More advanced students can do this with a weight of 10-25 lbs. This movement will improve a players bat speed by strengthening a player’s core muscles in a rotational transverse plane.
3. Reverse lunge with knee drive + jump
This particular movement can help teach players how to be more explosive. Starting from a standing position, the athlete should focus on one leg at a time for each set. Take a step backwards into a reverse lunge position while using proper arm action - i.e. Right leg goes back, right arm out in front. Push through the front leg while driving the back leg up in front and jump as high as possible. Land softleftly on the front leg and return right back into the reverse lunge position. This movement will increase a player's bat speed by strengthening the leg muscles with an emphasis on explosiveness.
Reps: 8-12/each leg
4. Hand Release Push-up
Start in a high plank position with the athlete holding their body in a straight line on their hands and feet. Begin by lowering all the way down to the floor and rest chest and body completely on the floor. Lift your hands an inch or two off the front and pinch the shoulder blades. Then drive through your palms and push all the way back up to the top. Be sure to lead with the hips slightly on the way back up, rather than collapsing the hips and lifting the chest first then lifting the hips. Modify the difficulty on this move by staying on the knees. This movement will increase a player’s bat speed by strengthening the core and upper body muscles and explosiveness.
5. Plank with reach
Start with the body in a low plank position on the forearms. Spread the feet about two feet wide and pull the pelvis toward the belly-button. Alternate reaching out each arm and holding for a moment keeping your body in the plank position. Use the obliques to keep the hips square when reaching out with the arm - i.e. As the right arm reaches out, try not to let the right hip move up. This movement will increase a player’s bat speed by strengthening the core and oblique muscles.
Intermediate to Advanced Exercises to Improve Bat Speed
Be sure to use proper safety and all precautions necessary when performing these exercises to reduce the risk of injury. Additional supervision from a professional trainer is recommended when learning these movements.
1. Barbell Back Squat
When first learning the back squat be sure to use any and all safety precautions. Begin by placing the bar evely on the squat rack and line the center of the bar on the center of your spine. The bar should not rest on the actual neck, but more on the traps. Lift the bar up and take a step and a half backwards. Shoot your hips back as the first movement and squat down - having the hips go back behind the heels and a slight tilt forward at the waist.
The weight should stay back on your heels as the shines and torso are parallel.
The knees should not go over the toes at any point.
Quad should be close to level to the ground at the bottom ideally.
The knees should track right over the big toe. We don’t want the knees to collapse in, or have the weight push outward on the feet.
Stand all the way back up by pushing through the heels into a full standing position.
This movement will improve bat speed by strengthening the glutes, quads, hamstrings and core muscles.
2. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
Start with the hands evenly distributed on the bar and hold the bar with your hands down by your legs, slightly wider than shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the knees, chest up. Hinging at the hip, slide the bar down your legs keeping the back flat and the neck neutral. This is extremely important! Do not let the back collapse and just slouch over. Proper posture in the posterior chain is paramount.
Slide the bar just passed the knees while maintaining posture. The athlete should then think about pressing the hips forward to stand back up to the upright position. This movement will increase bat speed by strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and many muscles throughout the posterior chain.
3. Hi-Low Choppers
On a cable stack where weights can be adjusted, start off by placing the anchor point just above head height. Lift the stack of weights slightly before beginning and start with your shoulders parallel to the cable. While holding the handle or rope, turn and rotate the shoulders in a downward chopping motion down to hip height. This part of the motion will represent the initial part of the swing. This movement will increase bat speed by working diagonally across the transverse plane and coronal plane in a downward direction.
Reps: 10-15 each side
4. Core Rotation
On a cable stack, move the anchor point to belly-button height. Grab the handle and bring it right out in front of the belly-button. Keeping the shoulders parallel with the cable, lock your arms in place with a slight micro-bend in the arms. When the arms are directly out in front of you - let's call that “12:00,” rotate the shoulders from a 10:00 to 2:00 position. Try not to let the hips twist backwards when reps increase. This movement increases bat speed by strengthening the core muscles in the transverse plane.
Reps: 10-15 each side
5. Low-Hi Choppers
Similar to the High Low Choppers, this movement will be the opposite of that. Start with the anchor point on the cable stack around knee height. Turn and rotate the shoulders and arms from a low position to an upward position, while keeping the torso leaning slightly over the waist. Height of the hands should go to about shoulder/head height at the top. This movement will increase bat speed by working diagonally across the transverse plane and coronal plane in an upward direction.
Reps: 10-15 each side
6. Single Arm Dumbbell Row
Take a bench or box of some kind and grab one dumbbell. Start with the dumbbell underneath you, and lean over placing one hand on the bench or box. Grab the dumbbell while keeping your back flat, and pull the dumbbell with one arm up toward your chest to where your elbow goes back behind the spine. Try to keep your neck in a neutral position when performing. This movement will increase bat speed by strengthening your core and back muscles.
Reps: 8-12 each side.
Keep working hard out there!
Written by Coach Corey at Catalyst Fitness