Private Baseball Lessons in St. Louis - Rick Strickland Baseball

Two words you’ll hear regularly whenever sports training is being discussed are “flexibility” and “mobility,” and to the average person, they’re synonymous.

They’re not quite the same thing, though -- particularly in the case of an athlete learning to swing a baseball bat correctly. In that situation, flexibility might refer to the length of one’s muscle tissue and how far it can stretch, whereas mobility takes into account a whole lot more.

And while mobility is just one factor for success at the plate -- along with proper mechanics, good eyesight, and sharp mental focus -- it may be the most important one of all. Because without the ability to move fluidly, quickly, and powerfully when swinging, the rest of it really doesn’t matter.

The Big Three
The efficiency with which a batter’s body moves through their swing, the resulting bat speed, and the overall power are all products of mobility, which is made up of three things: the first concerns the hips, the second involves leg drive, and the third requires thoracic maneuverability (more on that later).

When all three are working in harmony, batters are able to maximize fluidity, speed, and power -- think of a lefty like Ken Griffey, Jr. or a righty like Albert Pujols as the ultimate examples of this sort of mobility/athleticism.

Hip Rotation
Many hitters have a tendency to swing and step simultaneously, or even start their arms ahead of their lower half. But this can result in a significant reduction in torque, which in baseball is a fancy way of saying “how fast your hips rotate when you swing.”

For MLB hitters who regularly face pitches in excess of 100mph, “rotational acceleration” of the hips is key to generating power. So without good hip mobility, their energy isn’t transferred effectively from their legs and abs to their arms, hands, and bat; and without that, the force they’re trying to generate through the baseball is diminished.

As every pee-wee player is taught, the key to a compact, efficient swing is keeping the hands back, driving the back knee towards the ball, and rotating the hips forward before swinging. And Rick Strickland Baseball employs all the cutting-edge training techniques to ensure this last essential aspect of batter’s-box mobility is well-developed.

Leg Drive
Can you think of any big-time home run hitters -- or even high OBP line-drive hitters, for that matter -- who don’t have strong-looking legs? It would be difficult to do, and there’s a very good reason for that.

A hitter may do everything else well during their swing -- keeping the hands in, keeping the barrel of the bat above the ball, keeping the top palm up as their arms extend -- but, much like quick hip rotation, a lack of lower-body mobility is sure to hinder a swing, especially in the power categories where the effects of a healthy leg drive are obvious.

The first place is in the front leg, which some hitters slightly lift before firmly planting it in the ground to provide support and leverage for the swing (see Ken Griffey, Jr., above). The second place is in the back leg where hitters lift their heel, get the front knee turning, and, upon contact, push forward on the toes for that extra support and drive (see Albert Pujols, above).

Upper-Body Action
The best hitters definitely need good mobility from hip to toe for all the twisting, turning, planting, and pushing required for making solid contact, and they need it in their upper halves, as well. You’ve certainly seen plenty of examples of MLB hitters with strong-looking arms and chests who have pretty-looking swings.

This is because they have good “thoracic mobility,” or, mobility in their spines which allows for quick, consistent shoulder turn and arm extension, and the “separation” of hips and hands that’s essential to a consistently fluid swing.

The upper-body action found in a proper swing is quite complex, actually. Think about the mobility required of your arms: Your bottom hand makes a sort of pulling motion while your top hand makes a sort of pushing motion as the bat goes through the zone. All while your chest is doing a little bit of both, which you can really feel in your pectorals, and which you’ll definitely notice if you take a few slow-motion swings.

Mobility Training
Working towards the goal of a great baseball swing begins with a full assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and mobility is definitely an important aspect.

Even if you think you’re a flexible athlete, a strong athlete, and a mentally-tough athlete, your mobility may be lacking -- particularly in the very specific ways it affects your success at the dish.

That’s why Rick Strickland Baseball makes it one of the focal areas of our 3D Biomechanics tracking, along with body and hand positioning, eye level, bat movement, swing strength, follow through, and more. Call us today!

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