For Greater Power, Check Your Feet
Like Greg Maddux famously said in one of my all-time favorite shoe commercials, “chicks dig the long ball.” Now, I don’t know how true a statement that may actually be, but if it is indeed true, then “chicks” are not alone. There are many other groups of people who also “dig” the long ball. They are coaches, recruiters and scouts!
Over the many years of hitting lessons, there has been countless times that I have had a player tell me (or a parent tell me of his/her player) “my swing is good, but I would really like to have more power” and sometimes, it is even accompanied by “my coach tells me I’m just not a ‘natural’ power hitter.” Of course, there is nothing “natural” about hitting a baseball with power. Sure, a stronger, more physically mature player is more likely - or, perhaps I should say has more potential - to hit with power than a smaller framed, weaker player. But that is simply because the stronger player has a greater potential for better bat speed. But here’s the kicker....IF a weaker player has a fundamentally and bio-mechanically sound swing and the stronger player does not, the weaker player will hit with greater power and with greater consistency than the stronger one will. The reason, of course, has nothing to do with nature and everything to do with mechanics, beginning with the feet.
Just as in any other athletic movement, the force of a baseball swing comes from the ground and begins with the feet. The position of a hitter’s feet are of major importance as they are the contact point between the hitter and the ground below him. They are like the prongs of a power cord and the ground, the outlet. Without a proper connection to the ground, the transfer of energy up to the hands will be weak, resulting in poor bat speed. Far too often, however, this basic fundamental of body force production goes overlooked.
Before I begin to explain what the feet should look like in the batter’s box, I should first note that it is of NO matter what the hitter's feet look like while they are still in their “stance” position. I am speaking of course of the “load position” or “load phase,” right before the hitter begins his swing. At load phase, a hitter’s feet should be placed in line with one another and should be a bit wider than the shoulders. In other words, the hitter’s shoulders should comfortably fit between their feet. Imagine the feet of a lineman as he is preparing to block a pass rusher, or a tennis player ready to return a serve. If the feet are too wide, the hitter will lessen his ability to fully rotate his hips through the contact area. Too narrow, and the hitter will lessen his ability to stay athletically balanced, which can promote lunging. In addition to the feet being at greater than shoulder width and in line with one another, it is crucial to insure that the weight of the body is on the inside part of the feet (the ball side of each foot) and that the heels of the feet are in contact with the ground - many hitters have been taught from a very young age, all the way up to high school to be “up on their toes.” This is NOT correct for a couple of reasons. The first reason is balance - the hitter must be balanced and engaged in order to be ready to properly begin his swing. Second, the hitter must have the appropriate muscles recruited to begin his swing. This includes the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves...) and the adductors (the muscles of the upper and inner thigh). Without the recruitment of these muscles, the initiation of the swing - the back side rotation - will be less than optimal, having a negative effect on bat speed and ultimately, power.
In order to hit with power, a hitter simply must display superior bat speed. It’s basic physics, really. A baseball bat weighs only 30 (or so) ounces which, when swung properly with the legs, is not a lot of weight. It is not uncommon for a hitter to see as much as a 20mph jump in bat speed once he has corrected his feet (recruiting the proper muscles in doing so) and swings with a proper sequence of movement - beginning with… his feet.
Director, Player Skill Development
The Farm BPI
Reprinted August 14, 2022