Monday, October 31, 2011

How to use a Bratt Bat to Shorten Your Swing

2 years ago, I made a post describing how I used a weighted Bratt Bat to help some professional players improve their swing mechanics during their off-season workouts.  I am still using the Bratt Bat as part of my training program to help players improve their hitting, and here is another example of how it works.

From the previous post (linked above), here were the "rules":
What to do:

  • Use a weight appropriate for the strength-age-level of your player (65-75 oz. for high school, up to 100 oz. for stronger college players and pros)

  • Avoid a high volume of swings.  5-10 is enough to get the right feel, then switch back to a regular weight bat

  • Avoid trying to swing too hard.  Save that for your overload-underload swings.  Just get the feeling of the drill.

  • Focus on hitting line drives up the middle and towards the oppo gap

  • Remember this is just a drill and stick to the main principles of swing training for larger numbers of swings


Looking back, I still stick pretty closely to these rules.  But in the upcoming example, we're actually hitting a baseball off of a tee with a full swing (note: the Bratt Bat is not designed to hit baseballs.  It's better to use tennis or wiffle balls for higher volume or intensity of swings, as shown in our previous drill).

Now here is a comparison of a high school junior hitting off the tee with his regular bat (left side) and using a 75 ounce Bratt Bat (right side).  After he took several tee swings with his regular bat, all I did was give him the Bratt Bat and tell him to try and hit it up the middle (tee is placed right down the middle, a bit forward of where the stride foot lands).

[caption id="attachment_3011" align="aligncenter" width="573" caption="regular tee swing vs 75 oz bratt bat tee swing"][/caption]


Here's what happened:

1.  His load stayed more to the inside of his back leg.  This helps create a better angle on the back leg that helps the player move back into his actual hitting position more efficiently.


[caption id="attachment_3013" align="aligncenter" width="573" caption="Better Load"][/caption]


2.  His hitting position is more "balanced" or "centered".  Since the player hasn't had so much sway back towards the catcher, he does not have as long of a distance to move back into his hitting position, and he isn't off balance from having to reach too far forward with his stride foot while his upper body "hangs back".  Basically, he is able to move to a better hitting position due to what happened during his load.


[caption id="attachment_3014" align="aligncenter" width="573" caption="Better Hitting Position"][/caption]


3. He unloads the bat (the actual swing) more efficiently.  What you see in the load and hitting position create a base that allows the rotation to deliver the hands and bat on a better swing path that is more direct to the ball.  Not to mention more powerful...


[caption id="attachment_3015" align="aligncenter" width="573" caption="Better Contact Position"][/caption]


What is interesting here is that this player actually stays "inside" the ball better (or releases the bat head later) with a bat that is two and a half times the weight of his regular bat.  The bat image is blurred but you can still see the angle of the bat at contact and how it affects the direction of the ball - in this case, the ball on the left is slightly pulled, whereas the ball on the right is hit up the middle.

If you recall another post I made about warming up with weighted bats, I suggested that the swings with the weighted donut, when used correctly, could actually improve your swing, rather than hurt is as implied by the Sports Science video.  Why is that?

I wish I could remember where exactly I heard this, but it was a few years ago and I didn't write it down, I just never forgot the saying that...
heavier weight exposes inefficieny

This was said in reference to lifting weights, but it also applies to the baseball swing.  If you cast the bat, come "around" the ball, drag the bat.....all of those things are going to be magnified when you add weight to the bat, especially the barrel.  While finding a lighter bat might be the quick fix in some cases, reducing the weight will not require that you use and sequence your larger/stronger muscles more efficiently like a heavier bat will.

What is typical for the first few swings with a weighted bat is that the ball gets pulled on the ground (coming "around" the ball) or missed altogether.  But as players learn to move effectively and transfer energy to the bat more efficiently, they learn how to swing a heavier bat under control (as opposed to having the bat swing them, as some might say).

The feedback of the Bratt Bat drill, as shown in BOTH examples above, is such that if you can hit a solid line drive up the middle or towards the opposite field gap (now staying "inside" the ball), you are creating a better, more efficient sequence of your swing.  Once you get the FEEL from the drill, it will be easier to recreate the movement when you switch back to your regular bat.



[caption id="attachment_3017" align="aligncenter" width="328" caption="The Bratt Bat"][/caption]


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