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Using the ground in the swing (what the heck is a force plate?)

Back in February, we upgraded our lineup of technology to include the Swing Catalyst force plate. Just about all of our hitters have been on it and we get a lot of questions via social media asking "what the heck is that thing?" Today I want to discuss what a force plate is, what it tells us about hitters, and why it has become perhaps the most important piece of equipment we use.

As anyone who has trained at Elite Diamond Performance knows, we are greedy for information on hitters. The more information we have on a hitter, the better we can help improve their swing. Before we got the force plate, we had technology to measure batted ball data (Hit Trax), biomechanics (K-Vest and 4D), bat movement data (Blast and Diamond Kinetics) and various camera setups. However, there was one piece that was missing: how the hitter uses the ground.

Thats where the force plate comes in.

What is a force plate?

A force plate is a piece of technology that measures the amount, timing, direction and magnitude of force put into the ground. It shows how much energy each individual hitter gets from their load, stride and launch position to help create a powerful, consistent swing.

Why does ground reaction data matter?

Simply put, the best, most powerful hitters in the world haver one major thing in common: they put a lot of force into the ground and at the right time. As we have come to understand over the past 6 months, the way a hitter uses the ground is not something that can be eyeballed by a coach. We have seen eye opening trends when it comes to how the best hitters we train utilize the ground in their swings. Every one of them has a slightly different load and stride mechanism but the major principles of how they use the ground are the same across styles.

How does using the ground create power?

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that the more force a hitter imparts on the ground, the more energy the ground sends back. Therefore, a hitter that puts a lot of force into the ground has more of a useable pool of energy to send up the kinetic chain to create speed. It doesn't necessarily mean that a hitter will effectively get that power up the chain and create higher bat speeds, but it means that a hitter has the potential to. If a hitter doesn't put enough force into the ground, they are limited in the amount of speed they can create up the chain and eventually turn into bat speed.

Ground force and the kinetic chain

When it comes to power production, the kinetic chain explains how power is generated. Simply put, the body should rotate in this order: hips, torso, arms, hands. Each segment gets its energy from the segment below and the speed should increase as it flows from segment to segment up this chain. In order to put this process into motion, a good hitter will utilize the ground to get energy. The timing and magnitude of how a hitter puts force in the ground is what kicks starts a good kinetic sequence. Check out this video below to understand how this occurs:

What happens if a hitter doesn't use the ground correctly?

Hitters who don't use the ground correctly have 2 major issues show up in the swing. First, they severely limit their potential power. If a hitter fails to put sufficient force into the ground, they have a limited supply of energy to transfer up the chain and eventually transfer to bat speed. If a hitter can't generate sufficient power, the balls that they square up won't have enough exit velocity to get past fielders or travel a long way. In addition, with a lack of bat speed, hitters can struggle catching up to higher pitching velocities.

The second issue that shows up is a lack of adjustability. If a hitter puts force into the ground at the wrong time or direction, the kinetic sequence can be impaired. The biggest trait that good hitters have when it comes to timing and adjustability is their ability to get the body to rotate in correct order (hips, torso, arms, hands). When a hitter puts energy in the ground at the wrong time or wrong direction, this order gets thrown off, usually with a hitter leading the swing with the upper body. This can leave hitters susceptible to off-speed pitches and hinders timing.


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