Hands Down Drill for Hitting
After another year of experimenting with new and old hitting drills, one has emerged as the best for last year. When I say best, it seemed to solve more hitting fundamental mistakes than the other drills used.
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Another exciting year of baseball instruction just ended and it’s time for my favorite hitting drill of the year. As usual, the competition was fierce but the top drill solved more issues than any other drill I used, and most importantly it solved the biggest problem I see with young hitters.
First, though, two other drills were considered for the top one. The Adrian Beltre drill got its name from watching him hit the ball out of the park in this manner. The drop the back knee drill, as seen here, helps with many aspects of hitting fundamentals. With this drill, hitters drop their knee as they swing at the low pitch. That move tells us that they are staying back and beginning their swing with the lower half. Batters who lunge at the ball or start with the upper body have trouble going to the knee immediately. The drill is also excellent for getting a good hip rotation and maintaining good posture with the upper body, instead of collapsing their backside trying to get to the knee high pitch. Finally, it keeps the players head under control, as it cannot pull off the ball with this drill. The drawback to this great drill is that it only works on low pitches and should not be used with live batting practice because it could compromise players getting out of the way of balls.
The other drill that got an honorable mention was the top arm swings done in this manner. The batter chokes up on the bat and holds their top forearm with their other hand. In this way, players do not separate their top arm from the body incorrectly and also, it doesn’t put a lot of strain on the top arm. Hitters should allow their hips to initiate the swing until firing the top hand through the ball.
Hitting Drill of Year – Hands Down Drill
As for the hands down drill which is the hitting drill of the year, it is simple and is good for batting practice and in even in games when nothing else works. Batters simply set their forearms below the letters, against their body and parallel to the ground. After the stride, they swing from this position. This move creates as compact as a swing can be, which is the point of the drill. Batters do not add distance to the swing and it forces them to use the small muscles of the hands, wrist and forearms, along with the hips to produce the bat speed. Batters can still prepare to swing by shifting their weight to the back side and by closing their front shoulder slightly before swinging. There is little room for error and hitters square many balls up in this manner. This is a great drill for hitters’ with long arm swings. Most important it is one of the only ways of solving the batters who push the knob out before swinging, which leads to a number of other hitting flaws.
After a while, longer for some than others because muscle memory changes take time, I have batters begin to take the bat back and up to a good power spot and see if their original problem disappeared. In time, this simple action helps incorrect swing paths and builds up strength in the smaller muscles.
This hitting drill is difficult at first for young players because of their lack of strength. However, that is another good reason for it as over time they develop the hands and forearm strength to handle the bat. Players will feel less powerful at first, also, but what good is power when they never square the ball up in the first place.
This is a great offseason hitting drill to develop a compact swing and to simplify the baseball swing. It is not a bad idea for hitting coaches to use this batting technique for all players at the start of the season, so no bad habits creep into the system even for advanced players with good baseball swings to begin with. For proof that it works, coaches should observe how often players hit solid line drives with their regular batting mechanics and compare it to the number of solid hits with this batting drill. Coaches and players are often surprised that this simple technique outperforms their style. Once players see the results of the 2015 hitting drill of the year, they are much more willing to practice in that manner.
As implied above, I have had to use this drill for long periods of time before some players break their bad habits, but it is well worth the wait in the end. Starting the bat in the correct hitting position gives players, at least, a chance to improve, whereas the wrong position leads to few good results and more bad habits.
Of course, many beneficial hitting drills exist, but they are only great when done correctly and when they address the batter’s problem area. This hitting drill is not for the players who do not get the bat back to a strong launch position. When a swing is too compact, it lacks the power to drive balls and to stay on top of the good high fastball. That is why I do not have baseball players remain in the drill’s hitting position forever, as they are leaving power on the table in that manner.
As for all hitting drills, I have players perform ten to fifteen swings with the hands down drill before going to their regular swing to see if progress comes.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories help create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte at YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.