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How to Hit Faster Pitchers
The Science of Hitting the Fastball
Some helpful tips on how to face and conquer faster pitchers from Little League to the pros. When swinging a bat, every hundredth of a second counts. It can make the difference between a fair or foul ball, and also the difference between making contact or ‘big whiffing’. That’s why hitters spend so much time concentrating on improving bat speed. There are several tips below to help you increase your bat speed, as well as a few exercises. Hopefully, with this information, combined with your determination and hard work, you can see some improvements in your speed and overall improvements in your hitting game. Good luck!
Increase your Bat Speed
Every split second counts. Imagine what it would feel like to swing a bat that felt as light as a broomstick. Not only would there be great bat speed, but you would be able to wait for a pitch and follow it longer. That’s a nice advantage to have over a pitcher because the longer you can track a pitch, the better you can adjust to his movement. Combine bat speed with proper tracking using visual acuity where the eye-brain connection makes you see the ball almost in slow motion, and you can immediately understand the difference it can make in your hitting.
By gradually adding 1 oz weights to a light makeshift bat, such as a broomstick, we can achieve this. Age and strength will determine your bat weight goal. Once there you can maintain and add more power through overload. Do this, but overload the joints without stress. This will get more power to your bottom (lead) hand which is usually weaker than the top hand.
Another great training method is to get a rubber ball about the size of a tennis ball. Squeeze the ball with your fingers (against the palm of your hand) hundreds of times a day. This will work your wrists and forearms. The end result is a stronger pair of wrists that will improve your bat speed through the strike zone. It will also have a good effect on your throwing. This exercise was done by Roberto Clemente when he was a child. This exercise is very cheap. It’s also quiet and can be done anywhere, like class or work, if you don’t make a big deal out of your activity.
One other real good quality drill I have seen performed by major league hitters is to stand a bat length from a fence and swing the bat and try to keep it from hitting the fence. It helps to keep control of your swing and it will work your muscles too. This is more for control, but also works your muscles that determine reflex speed.
Use a pitching machine to increase bat speed
I have seen increases up to 10 mph after extensive training with a baseball pitching machine. The adjustable speed and consistency of the machines make it easy to set up and work with your technique or coordination. Training your eyes to “see” the pitches and really know what certain velocities look like coming out of the pitchers hands is a huge bonus to having a pitching machine. This takes away a lot of the variables when hitting a real pitcher in practice or the backyard. You have speed variations, rotation variations, even mechanical deviations. Normally these are all good to experience as they help keep you on your toes and learn to pick up different rotations and types of pitches. But for the sole purpose of increasing bat speed, I like to set a pitching machine at a certain speed, say 60 mph and work 20 to 30 pitch of that. Then increase it by 5 mph and do the same number of pitches. Repeat until you are at the level you want to be. Then slow down and start working back to your starting speed. Then work back. Once back at your maximum speed, hit about 20 more and call it a day. Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. This will take time and a lot of dedication and practice, but the results are well worth it. There are some great pitching machines available at really affordable prices. First Pitch makes a model that is relatively cheap, but the quality is right up there with the big boys of the industry like Atec and Jugs. Another thing that you might be interested in is good batting cages. Not a must, but could keep you out of a few window repair bills. If you don’t have access to a pitching machine, go to a local batting cage. However, I don’t recommend this because if you really want to see results, you need to do this consistently. And frankly, that could get expensive. Much more than buying a cheap machine for the backyard.
Finally, when done correctly, weight training can provide increases in your swing.
The trunk (abdominals and low back) makes a powerful twisting movement during the swing. Rotational torque gives speed and momentum to the arms and ultimately the bat head. Just like other muscles, it is necessary to develop strength by using resistance. A common mistake with abdominal training is performing bodyweight resistance exercises and expecting the abdominals to continuously gain strength.
In the beginning you will develop a certain strength. However, after a while the exercises become nothing but calisthenics or maintenance type movements. To develop strength you need to add some kind of resistance to the movement – as is the case in all exercises. The good news is that you can use most of the same traditional abdominal exercises plus added weight to get the desired results.
The three areas for you to concentrate on are the lower, upper and oblique abdominals.
Weighted crunches (non-weighted crunches shown) – Lying on your back with legs up in the air, knees bent at 90 degrees, hold a weight of your choice at straight arm’s length. Use only your upper abdominals, raise only the upper body, keep your back flat on the ground. Three sets of 20-40 repetitions.
Hanging leg raises – Hang from an overhead bar, with your feet not touching the ground. Your grip should be about shoulder width. Connecting the lower abdominals, lift the legs together, knees bent at 90 degrees, so that the knees are just above waist height. Empty and repeat. Three sets of 10-25 repetitions.
* This is a difficult exercise that does not require much weight to increase the difficulty. Use ankle weights for the resistance.
* Do not switch back and forth to make it easier to lift the legs.
* To increase difficulty without adding weights, keep your legs straight as you lift them.
Standing weighted twists – put yourself in an athletic stance with your feet spread a comfortable distance apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold a weight about 6 to 12 inches in front of your body. After a slow warm-up, start twisting at the waist (do not twist or bend at the knees) as fast as possible. The key to fast movement is to maintain a low, balanced stance and make sure your shoulder can reach it on the twist. Three sets of 20-40 repetitions.
Never underestimate the value of leg strength for good, powerful hitting. The legs do not seem active. And in terms of movement, they really aren’t. But it is the strength of the legs that enable the abdominals and trunk in general to promote bat speed.
When the swing begins, the stride is in place and the body begins to rotate. Without a solid base, the body will not be able to generate power from the legs into the trunk. The power is generated from the ground, in the legs, to the trunk and finally the bat.
Without leg strength, the power needed to launch a powerful bat is not produced. To take it a step further, the swing can be faulty due to only generation of the upper body and nothing to stabilize the legs.
Basic leg strength has been outlined in previous articles. Don’t expect to have the best swing or the most powerful bat if you only work on your upper body and ignore your legs.
Starting with the grip and ending with the forearms (the two are connected), the bat head will take the right path if there is strength in the hands. Notice how I say hands instead of forearms. This is because grip strength (fingers, hand) is the most important part of forearm strength for baseball.
Take a look at a swing and follow through. The movement is not about forearm flexors or extensors. There really isn’t a point in the swing where these movements are dominant. However, hand and arm strength are involved the entire time.
You may have strong forearms, but not necessarily a strong grip. This is why you should work grip-specific exercises into your routine, such as squeezing tennis balls, racquetballs, and softballs. This will strengthen the fingers, hand and general grip. If you add these exercises to the already regular wrist curls and reverse wrist curls, you will have excellent results.
If you’re looking for running speed, a powerful swing or mph on your fastball, you’re not just working the specific muscles involved. Take the approach that the whole body is a system and if all the parts work together efficiently, the result will be much more positive than the appearance of certain muscles. Train your whole body if you want optimal results, not to mention reducing the risk of injuring yourself.
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