I spent years in the strength and conditioning field and one of the most prescribed exercises that I gave to baseball players were deadlifts. Even though I am no longer in that world, I still believe that deadlifts are probably the single best exercise for power generation. I often ask players if they deadlift and just about every player who works out says yes. However, when asked why they do them, I get blank stares. While it is not critically important that players make the direct connection between everything they do in the gym and their movements on the field, deadlifts help explain some of the most important aspects of the swing. Today I want to discuss why deadlifts are so incredibly important for generating power in the swing.
HINGE In lower body exercise, there are two main movements, the squat and the hinge. The simplest way to think about these two movements is that a squat moves the pelvis more up and down while the hinge moves the pelvis more back and forward. When performing a deadlift, the athlete is required to hinge. Take a look at an athlete at the bottom portion of a deadlift.
What do we notice?
The chest tilted forward with the chest tilted over and the hips behind the feet. Now, take a look at a hitter in their launch position.
What do we notice? The chest tilted forward with the head out front of the feet and the hips behind the feet.
HOW DO DEADLIFTS GENERATE POWER? I often talk about the body as a system of rubber bands. In order to generate power, we need to stretch those rubber bands and then release that energy. When doing a deadlift, the athlete must stretch the hamstrings and glutes, the muscles on the back side of the legs. When they lift the weight, they use those muscles to generate power. The same thing holds true for a hitter. When a hitter gets into their launch position, they stretch those same muscles on the back side of the body. When they initiate rotation, they extend the hips in a similar fashion to lifting a weight off the ground.
CAVEAT WHEN DOING DEADLIFTS While I absolutely love deadlifts for hitters to both learn how to hinge and how to use the posterior chain to generate power, they can be a high risk exercise especially when going too heavy. Make sure that you learn the proper form from a highly qualified strength coach before lifting a ton of weight off the floor.