Training Bat Speed at Younger Ages
Beginning With a Young Player
Usually, young players have a significant swing “strength” deficits. Significant increases in bat speed will happen with increases in swing strength. After a certain point, when strength reaches a plateau, swing “speed” training the under-load part becomes important as well.
Learning how to make improvements at a young age is very important to future success. We typically start our youth players on routine bat speed programs as young at 9 or 10 years of age.
The Importance of Structured Training
We recommend also implementing a regular structured strength/ speed program for youth players. This would include weight resistance, resistance tubing, body resistance (push-ups etc.), and ballistic (med ball) training, sprint, and direction reversals.
Remember - For every 1 MPH of additional bat speed on an optimally launched ball equates to 5-6 ft of additional distance. This is a big deal considering that our players typically see an average increase of 5-7 MPH (with many younger players gaining 10-12 MPH) to their AVERAGE bat speed in 6 weeks.
Here's a good video discussing the physics of bat speed:
You will not create uncertainty in the player's mind using different weights. The more variation in bat weights is applied to swing load, especially at a young age, the better. The more a player is subjected to and has to deal with variation, the more experienced and capable his neuromuscular system becomes. By swinging heavier loads, the player is forced to find more efficient joint muscle patterns of activation.
One important concept of motor learning is that no matter how many times you practice and repeat the same motion you never use the muscles and joints in the exact same sequence. Nicholas Bernstein found that even the most well-learned skills are never performed with identical motions in joints and muscles. The movement may affect the same results but the means of achieving the sequence of muscle joint actions always vary. The ability to handle variation in muscle joint actions is a key part of hitting.
What is the average bat speed by age?
As you might imagine average baseball swing speed by age increases significantly as hitters mature. But if they do not do something to improve bat speed when they are young they may never make it onto a high school team, never mind college or the pros later.
That said the average bat speed for 9-year-olds is 40-50 mph, which is pretty much the same average bat speed for a 10-year-old. The average bat speed for a 13-year-old is approximately 55-60 mph, while the average bat speed for 15-year-olds is 60-70 mph. Once you make the jump to college and the pros the minimum average speed is around 65-70 with an upper bat speed limit in the mid-80s for most players, with a few venturing into the low 90s.
How to increase bat speed for youth...
Earlier we touched on the need for things like resistance training, resistance tubing, push-ups, medicine balls, sprint and direction reversal drills and such. Let’s take a closer look at those now.
Resistance training for youth - Resistance training is a must for athletes at college and pro level, but must be approached with caution by youth. Any such training should be done under the supervision of a qualified adult and always be done using proper form to prevent injury. In addition, young athletes should limit the amount of weight they train with, focusing more on reps than powerlifting.
Resistance tubing (resistance bands) - Like free weights, resistance bands have been shown to produce strength benefits in young people. But also like free weights it is vital that the young athlete use proper form at all times and perform this kind of strength training in the presence of a qualified adult.
Push-ups - Push-ups are a type of training that uses the body’s own weight to create resistance for the muscles to push off against. There are distinct advantages to this type of exercise, including the fact that it is great for building upper body strength, it does not require special equipment, and the chance of injury is typically lower than with free weights or resistance bands.
Medicine ball training - When it comes to exercise, the medicine ball provides a kind of brute force training designed to activate a multitude of muscles. For kids to make the most of it they’ll need to consult with a PE teacher, coach or trainer.
Sprint and reversal drills - Sprint and reversal drills, also called change of direction (COD) drills, are useful for improving agility and for introducing the body to the intense lateral stresses that come with swinging a bat at high speed from a dead stop.
What is Overload/Underload Training?
Overload/ underload training is a way of achieving better neural muscular organization and coordination. This type of training involves the hitter swinging bats that are both heavier and lighter than the bat they would use in a game. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that overload/underload training can increase bat speed over the course of several weeks by as much as 8%, and in some cases more.