One of the most difficult skills involved in softball is hitting the ball. There are so many aspects that are involved to achieve proper hitting technique, perfecting the form takes a lot of practice. Just practicing by using a bat and ball is only going to do so much toward making you a top-notch hitter. There are many other aspects of being a consistent hitter, including your position and stance. When coming to the plate, the distance you want to stand away from the plate is based more off your comfort level rather than an exact measurement. Regardless, you want to make sure that you're able to cover both the outside pitch and the inside pitch.
You may notice many players walk up to the plate, take the bat in their lead hand, and touch the far side of the plate. They do this to make sure that they can reach the outside pitch. You want to take a good athletic position when coming up to bat. You should stand with your feet just a little bit beyond shoulder width, knees slightly bent, and hips back slightly. Make sure your chest is up and that you're not shrugging and keeping the tension in your upper traps. This will cause an irregular swing. The back elbow should be just a little bit further from the hip, but the forearm should not be parallel to the ground. The bat should be a 45° angle with the leading arm at a 90° angle. The positioning that they take when standing at the plate is going to be again an issue of comfort.
The more ideal stance is going to be one that will allow you to take off running if you are able to connect with the ball. Squaring your feet facing the plate both an equal distance away from the plate is the traditional stance many players take. A lot of other players will also take an open stance in which the front leg is slightly further away from home plate as their back leg. This allows the player to get a better view of the ball and achieve a little more room to swing.
The 3rd stance is a closed stance. While it allows the player to hit the ball to the far right portion of the field, those take a closed stance have to turn up their hips to start running costing them milliseconds of time, which when you're trying to beat a throw could mean the difference between safe and out. Grip One of the tips you'll hear a lot when learning how to grip a bat is going to be “pretend you're shaking hands with the bat.” While it is good advice to clarify a little bit more, practice with an object that has an oval handle to shake hands. Make sure that the middle crease of your fingers (your proximal interphalangeal) is cradling the front of the grip. The bat grip should be in that same spot, with your knuckles aligning. When gripping the bat try not to squeeze too hard as it will alter the trajectory of your swing. By keeping your knuckles aligned with the firm but not too strong grip, the bat will stay in the same plane as the path of the ball. The mistake that people make when coming up to bat, is being too tense at the plate.
Now that the front leg is bearing the weight lift the heel staying on the toe preparing to take a short step forward. The small step forward is more of a glide than a step known as the stride. The stride is simply the act of establishing your base before you swing at a pitch. The glide forward is only distance of about 3 to 4 inches. This stride is the beginning movement involving rotating the hips and pivoting to generate the energy needed to be a successful hitter. During the stride, the front shoulder, hips and front knee turn slightly towards the pitcher even before the ball is tossed. The hitter’s center of gravity and head do not change, maintaining balance will result in a smooth glide and transition to connecting with the ball. During the stride the batter is going to maintain focus on the point of release even before she know what pitch is being thrown. Different variations of the stride will come about as you get more comfortable with the motion, you want to make sure that every stride is exactly the same no matter what kind of pitch it is.
Hip rotation and swing From the stride, the player will initiate the act of swinging by rotating their hips. The weight shifts from the back leg with the pivot on the ball of the foot. The weight will transfer to the front foot, staying on the balls of the feet to be able to take off once contact is made. The distance between the front elbow and hip will increase slightly just before swinging begins, at which point the 1st part of the swing will include pointing the butt of the bat towards the pitcher keeping the bat parallel to the ground. As you continue with the motion you extend the arms just in front your belly button with the hand on the bottom of the bat face down in the hand on top of it facing up. Throughout the swing keeping the head in the exact same spot and by JUST rotating and not changing their center of gravity will cause the mechanics of the swing to be smooth. Follow-through After connecting with the ball, the players can extend their arms pointing ahead of the bat towards the pitcher. Again, that is going to maintain the same position until the ball leaves it. The wrists don't rotate until after this point. As your following through all the way, you actually want the bat to finish somewhere along the back shoulder. You'll see many hitters releasing the back with one hand during their follow-through.
While this motion is successful in maintaining the bats trajectory through the pitch and staying on that plane for a longer period of time, many people will do the wrong thing. A lot of people will release about with one hand at the point of contact. The key is during contact you want to have both hands on the bat for stability and more power and only letting go of that top hand after the ball is away. The point a hitter should maintain their focus on the point of contact, even after connecting to complete the follow through. Once the ball is away, the bat again should again end up somewhere along the back of the shoulders so that if the hitter connects with the ball, they are able to just drop the bat behind them, not throw it away, so it doesn’t hinder your line towards first base and it doesn’t hit anyone coming out of your hands.
Softball Workout for Improved Hitting:
Exercise / repetitions
Jumping Jacks / 20x
Arms Swings (Lateral)(Alternating) / 20x
total Arm Swings (Vertical, palms out) / 20x
total Scarecrows / 20x
Lightbulbs / 15x
Arm Circles (both directions) / 20x
Toe Touch with a jump / 10x
Sumo Squat Stretch / 10x
Windmills / 10x
Camel-Cats / 10x
Bird-Dogs / 10x
Eagles / 10x
Scorpions / 10x
Bend leg eagle with arm circle / 10x
Wall slides/angels / 10x
Lateral lunge into atlas stretch / 10x
Spiderman to ham to spiderman twist / 10x
Example Lifting Program A (hitting focused) Exercise Set x #
repetitions Power cleans / 5 x 5
Dead lifts /8 x 3
Incline chest press / 5 x 5
Lat pull downs (with shoulder blade depression) / 5 x 5
Walking lunge variations (Forward, reverse, lateral) / 5 x 5 ea leg
Step up with twist /5 x 5 ea leg
Pike with ball rollout / 3 x 10
Suitcase carries / 5 x 15” ea side
Kettlebell swings Tabata method Example Lifting Program B (hitting focused) Exercise Set x # repetitions
Snatches / 5 x 5
Front Squats / 8 x 3
Cable column Chest Flyes / 5 x 5
Incline rows (forehead to bench) / 5 x 5
Rear legged elevated split squats / 5 x 5 ea leg
Turkish Get Ups / 5 x 5 ea side
Prayers / 3 x 10
Stir the pot / 5 x 15” ea side
Farmers Walks Tabata method
With this lifting program, depending on your goals, you can focus one day on these movements or integrate them with a workout plan you already do to help with hitting mechanics in collaboration with drills to improve hand eye coordination and technique. Drills Double Take The stride is going to be a very small but important part of hitting. Perfecting the stride is going to take a lot of practice to keep it consistent every single swing and to make sure that the player maintains balance throughout the entire motion. Have the hitter stand in front of a tee. The player will 1st take a stride without swinging at the ball on the tee. They have to pause at the end of the stride. Before they're allowed to go back to take a swing at the ball, check to make sure that the player maintains balance, keeps her head in the same position, turns the front knee, hips, and front shoulder slightly towards where the pitcher would be standing. If all that checks out, have them return to their original position, repeating the stride, and swinging through the ball. Again have them pause the end of the motion to assess their stride and swing. Newton’s Softball Like the stride, hitter wants their swing to remain virtually similar every time, this means staying in the same plane with small adjustments to accommodate for certain pitches.
Set up two tees one behind the other with a ball on each. The distance between the 2 tees is going to affect the difficulty of the drill, the further the two tees are, the easier the mistakes are seen. The hitters can position themselves in their normal stance with the back tee aligning with where they would normally want their initial point of contact to be. The goal for the hitter is to go through the motion swing through the ball, having the back ball collide with the front ball. The trajectory of the back ball at its point of contact with the front ball will provide feedback of the hitter's mechanics. Keys making share with the hitter follows through and doesn't stop the motion short. They also want to maintain their balance or 2 balls won't make contact. Non-softball hit To practice generating enough force by not only using their arms but proper hitting mechanics, have a player hit a ball that has more mass than a softball. Players can use a volleyball, basketball, or soccer ball placed on the tee to practice generating that kind of force. Alternately, to show a player that the power of the hit does not come shortly from one area, it is a summation of the entire movement.
Have them try swinging at these objects with one of the aspects of the swing then by using the proper mechanics, show them how much easier it is to generate that force. Balance beam Have the hitter stand on a balance beam or 2 x 4. The player will practice the mechanics of their swing from starting position to follow through. The player should be able to go through the entire swinging motion and stay balanced. Initially the player can start by just going through the motions nice and easy, then later on going to the motion as if they are swinging at an actual softball. Players can also do this when going through some of the tossing drills to actually get a feel of connecting with the softball. Double toss The tosser will kneel opposite of the hitter aligning with the point of contact out of the hitter’s reach. The tosser will then lob two softballs calling which ball the hitter should swing at. By having 2 different targets and forcing the hitter to swing at one of them, it will teach them to focus on their target as well as make the adjustments needed to make contact with it. Alternately, the tosser can used colored balls to help identify which one to hit easier or use different sized balls to also increase the difficulty of the drill. Waterfall A player should be able to re-create their starting position and swing every single time they come up to bat. They should be able to do it in quick succession without even thinking about it. A tosser will stand opposite the hitter out of the range of motion of the swing aligned with the point of contact. In rapid succession, the tosser will lob between 5 to 10 balls timing it so the ball is up on the back swing of the hitter's motion. The player should be able to bring the bat back and achieve the same starting position and be ready to take a swing at the next ball. Swing/Don't swing
The batters not going to swing every single ball, but their movement should be the same every time (i.e. stride) whether or not they're going to swing at the ball. A tosser will take the position opposite the hitter out of reach align with the point of contact. Two softballs will be used both with different colored circles drawn on them at 4 different locations. The tosser will hide both balls behind their back, then lobs one of them for the player to identify. Depending on the ball, the player will swing or hold their swing based on the designated colors of each ball. So that the player does not get used to a certain ball being in one hand and swinging when that hand goes up the tosser should try lobbing the ball up with the same hand or switching the balls behind their back. Wall/fence stride A wall or fence can be used as a cue to show players the distance needed for their stride. Have a hitter stand perpendicular facing a wall or fence in their ready position with the fence being where the player should make contact with the ball. The player will go through their motion including their stride and stop at the point of contact. The wall will be a visual to show the plane of motion the player is taking during their swing.
The bat should be parallel and level with the wall. Their strike movement is going be blocked by the fence so they don't overstep and lose their balance. Wiffleball Players can benefit from practicing hitting using wiffle balls and bats. The flight of the wiffleball is uncertain causing the player to adjust as necessary to make contact with the ball. Since the wiffleball bat is smaller though also force them to focus more on the ball since there is a small margin for error. In making the drill more difficult the use of broomsticks or dowels and smaller wiffle balls (i.e. wiffle golf balls) will make it even harder for the player. Players can practice tossing the ball up to themselves or get the help of someone to toss the ball to them. Ball pivot Player will stand in their ready position, with a soccer ball aligned on the outside of their back heel. The object for the player is to practice the back pivot staying on the ball their feet kicking the ball away. Shadow swing A softball player can take a note out of a fighter’s manual by standing looking at a mirror and practicing their motion.
The player can see all parts of their motion from their stride to their follow-through and adjust as needed to see what it should look like and what is most comfortable for them. They will be will to create a balance that will help them be successful. Hitting is an aspect of softball that needs a lot of practice. Between the mechanics and the coordination needed to hit a ball, there is a lot that goes into making contact and creating a situation that benefits the team. By using tools available (i.e. a throwing machine) players will be able to get a feel for a game simulation. It is important that players be well-rounded so that they perform well, and being a reliable hitter will make you a huge contributor to your team success.
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