Start With A Question
If you listen to 10 different former or current MLB players, you will get different interpretations of what they felt produced their optimum performance. But they are just that, interpretations, they may or may not be the actual reality of what is happening. And that’s ok. If it works, it works. Because at the end of the day the result is all that matters. The question then becomes, what swing mechanics need to be copied as well as how do we practice a subconscious skill (hitting in a game) in a conscious state (focusing on movement in place of reacting) and get carry over? This is a challenging task. Complex skill acquisition is a more difficult process than can be tackled with just verbal cues and absolutes.
Where To Start
Your movement must be self-organized. I know, it sounds like the easy way out but it’s more complicated than that. Let me explain. The body won’t always self-organize in the most optimum fashion because of the degrees of freedom problem or motor equivalence problem which states that although there may be multiple ways for humans to perform a movement to achieve the same goal, we are not equipped always to find the most optimum way. This motor equivalence problem was first formulated by the Russian neurophysiologist Nikolai Bernstein: “It is clear that the basic difficulties for coordination consist precisely in the extreme abundance of degrees of freedom, with which the [nervous] center is not at first in a position to deal.” Within a framework, we can begin to limit the degrees of movement freedom within each hitter and start to empower them to develop their feel and interpretation of what’s happening in their swing.
Building A Framework For Skill Acquisition And Self-Organization
Giving hitters the freedom to explore their most optimal swing pattern doesn’t come without some context first. It’s not complicated, but we want them to understand that to find an OPTIMUM swing solution that needs to get into basic positions to hit. These are simple:
- Getting into good posture
- Removing slack from the system
- Launching from the ground up
- Rotating the center of mass
Building Constraints That Challenge The Mover
”Constraints” have become a popular buzzword on hitting twitter recently. Many coaches/trainers are using the term or even designing drills where I end up asking myself ”I wonder what they are trying to pattern there?” My constraint process answers this simple question; given the above framework what different feels or movement limitations can we create to allow the athlete to self-organize their rotational sequence along with their bat path all based around the intent to hit the ball hard and in the air.
Applying Weighted Bats
The weighted bat in and of itself becomes a constraint simply because the added weight forces the body and central nervous system to move in a more refined way. I’ve used this analogy before, but it is a perfect explanation of why weighted bat training works for movement refinement. If you bend over and pick up a pencil off of the ground, there are millions of movement options to do that. If you have to pick up a 135-pound barbell, your body is forced to incorporate larger muscles and organize more efficiently to get the weight off the ground.
Removing The “Eye Test”
We have all seen it. The player whose swing looks beautiful but can’t hit. He/she has spent many hours hitting balls off of a tee seeking a “perfect swing.” I don’t disagree that their swing looks nice but often what we see can lie to us. How? When you begin to use technology as a feedback tool, you often see inadequacy that you otherwise wouldn’t notice such as lack of bat speed at impact, lack of the ability to accelerate the barrel or poor consistency of swing plane. A tool as simple as a Diamond Kinetics Swingtracker or a Blast Motion sensor can be a lot more beneficial to our principles of swing self-organization than the biased eyes of a “guru.” There’s truth in numbers and like Peter Drucker says in business, “what gets measured gets improved”
An Inch Wide And A Mile Deep
Swing design driven by data feedback is coming or is already here, whether you like it to or not. Taking the guessing or subjectivity from coaching is a good thing as well as empowering the player to find their most optimal swing solution. This doesn’t come without challenge though. The coaches/trainers that win in player development and ultimately on the field are the ones who can marry the data feedback with training processes designed to give the athlete the best opportunity to discover their potential!