There are a lot of things that coaches yell to hitters when they don't get a hit, many of which drive me crazy. Like I said last week, I have a new sign in the facility with rules that fly contradictory to conventional thinking when it comes to hitting. Today I want to speak to rule # 2: Drop your back Shoulder.
Like most of the rules on my wall, this one gets the attention of players and parents all of the time. What? Drop your back shoulder? My coach always says "Don't drop your back shoulder."
Lets first talk about why coaches preach this. One main reason: Avoid pop ups. The conventional thinking is that dropping your back shoulder will keep the bat too far under the ball. These are the same coaches who preach swinging down or level. So, yes if I want to swing the bat down or level, dropping my back shoulder will cause the bat to move even lower under the ball. However, if we take a proper bat bat, up, then dropping the back shoulder is a vital component to a good effective swing. Just like my last article on uppercutting, every good hitter drops their back shoulder.
I could show a thousand more swings and every one would show something similar. I often tell people that one of the biggest mechanical differences that I see between successful hitters and struggling hitters is the amount of back shoulder drop.
So why should I drop my back shoulder? There are a myriad of reasons, but I will talk about the top 2.
1. Generating power
In order to generate power, we need to let the biggest strongest muscles in the body do their work. This requires us to keep our hands and arms from doing too much, especially early in the swing. If the arms break away from the body too soon, the movement principles of creating power break down. We need to keep our hands connected to the body. Take a look at a home run swing by Ian Kinsler. His hands are in a similar position to his body that they were in the start. His body and back shoulder have dropped his body to get to the ball. This allows him to get the bat as close to the ball as possible without having his hands and arms take over too soon.
2. Setting the plane of the swing
Like I have mentioned numerous times, the path of the swing needs to move up. Every pitch that we should swing at is below where the bat starts. Since we know that the bat has to get under the ball and move up to meet it, we have 2 options for getting to the ball, our arms or our body. If we don't drop the back shoulder, our arms are forced to shoot the bat down to the ball (which is often the real reason for pop ups).
If we can drop the back shoulder, the body helps get the bat closer to the ball and allows us to work the bat up through the zone. Like this:
To sum up, every hitter drop their back shoulder. It is a vital part of a good powerful swing. It allows us to generate more power and create more line drives by setting us up for a good bat path.