Softball Hitting Mechanics Part 1 The Feet
Today we are going to talk about the mechanics of hitting. There are so many versions of the skill, it can be hard to pick which one is the best. Here is a hint. Science doesn’t lie. There are basically 3 components of the swing, the feet, the hips and the upper body. On this podcast I will talk about how important the feet are and then in the next 2 podcasts I will talk about the hips and then the upper body.
The mechanics of hitting must be one of the most dissected skills in any game next to pitching. Almost every year there is a “new way” to hit that is based on a successful athlete in baseball or softball that coaches and parents want to mimic so that their player is as good as the athlete that it is being used as an example.
Here is the science of hitting. As we know, everything in softball and in fact everything in most sports starts with the ground up. Our feet. You will see many movements from the ready position for hitting that will be essentially the beginning of the swing. I have seen the front foot go up, I have seen it go forward and I have even seen it go backwards in the initiation phase of the swing and then forward. Let’s think about what happens in each of these movements. Now remember, the desire in swinging at the pitch is to move the energy forward into the ball to maximize the speed of the movements in an explosive creating the most force on the ball.
So, let’s break down the initiation phase of the swing. If the front foot goes up, what direction does your energy start in. That’s right, the first direction your body is going in is vertical or … up. So after you are finished with your foot going up, then you will need to bring your foot back down and then move your energy forward to the ball. Biomechanically, this means that you are taking away the first movement as a part of your swing and basically starting over once your foot is back down on the ground because it’s done in a separate direction. This is usually done at the same time that you are beginning your swing.
Another preliminary movement that I have seen before, is where the front foot actually goes backwards, and then steps forward to begin the swing. In this movement, as you might have guessed from the previous analysis, you are taking the energy in the opposite direction that you want it to go before you even begin so you are biomechanically at a disadvantage right away. Again, you want all of your energy to go forward to maximize movement in order to apply the most force on the ball.
Now let’s talk about simply moving the foot forward, in the direction that the bat will go to the ball. Scientifically, this is the most efficient use of your pre swing movement. Think of the direction that the simple step forward towards the pitcher or the direction that you want to hit the ball does for the actions that follow. The next movement that takes place after the first movement of the feet is the rotation of your hips. Stepping forward is the most efficient beginning, stepping in any other direction takes away from the potential to maximize power in your swing in the direction of the ball that you want to nail.
I have talked about the beginning movements of a swing after the hitch or “trigger” if you use it. What happens in this moment will determine what happens for the rest of your swing so it’s critical that it is done most efficiently. If you use video analysis, which is easier than ever now with the apps available such as coaches eye, you can slow the swing down and see exactly what happens with the body after the first movement of the feet.