When it comes to fixing mechanics, there are a number of ways to go about doing it. Drills, cues, analysis, etc are all effective ways to do this. However, I recently have been experimenting with using less intense swings or sub max effort swings to help hitters feel certain things. Today I will discuss what this entails and show a case study of one of my high school hitters and how effective this method can be.
What are sub max effort swings?
Swinging a baseball bat should be a max effort, powerful, explosive movement. However, like any other movement, sometimes we have to pull the intensity back to see changes. Often times, our body's muscle memory will take over when moving at full speed. This is why mechanical changes are often seen earlier in tee or front toss swings.
When I tell a player to swing below max effort, I cue them to swing at 50 %. Fast enough that they can replicate the swing but slow enough that they can really focus on changing one aspect. I have begun using these on swings involving bat path issues. Bat path is perhaps the biggest thing that I work on in swings, namely working up through the zone as opposed to swinging level or down. Bat path involves many things to fall in place: body position, lower body mechanics, front arm mechanics and many others. So far, I have found it easier for my hitters to feel all of those things fall in place when using sub max effort swings.
Player: High School Senior with tremendous power
Swing issue: Bat path stays too flat or works down causing lots of hard ground balls or weak pop ups.
Here is a video of his swing the session before implementing sub max swings.
He clearly is swinging down through the zone, clipping the bottom of the ball and hitting a weak pop up. That was pretty much most of this session. Here are his numbers from that session:
Ground Balls: 29 %
Fly Balls: 30 %
Line Drives: 41%
Max Exit Velocity: 90.1 MPH
The next session we worked exlcusivley with sub max effort swings at 50% effort. Here are the results.
Swing video: Clearly getting on plane with the pitch better and squaring the ball up more.
Here are the numbers:
Ground Balls: 5 %
Fly Balls: 39 %
Line Drives: 56 %
Max Exit Velocity: 97.2
Summary: Even with lowered effort and swing speed, he increased his exit velocity, line drive percentage and hard hit average. In addition, he hit 7 HRs in 1 session and set a new distance record by 30 feet.
Why? Creating bat path is incredibly important and he was able to better achieve this with sub max effort swings. Bat path is all about squaring balls up and with these type of swings he was able to achieve this. Right now, full effort swings are leading to falling back into his ingrained patterns. As he gets more comfortable with the new pat path pattern we will increase intensity and eventually get him to the point where that bat path can be seen in every full effort swing.