Introduction: For a player that has off plane movements or plane dysfunction in their swing, one of the best ways to correct this swing flaw is with swing connection drills. Connection drills are important because they help to establish a stable swing plane with the hands moving connected to the torso rotation.
One of the best implementations of swing connection drills involves the use of constraint-based training techniques. This means that the athletes use other objects as a constraint in the drill, such as a heavy bag they hit into or the hitter rests the bat on their shoulders during the swing. In the case of the heavy impact bag, this reinforces the concept of full intent swings with the body prior to the arms and hands fully releasing. In the case of the bat being constrained to rotate with the shoulders, this reinforces the concept body rotation (torso) bringing the hands into the impact zone. Constraint-based swing connection drills are very important for training as they essentially trick the brain into reestablishing a new movement pattern that is more optimal and easier to control.
Jose: A Case Study
The subject: Jose is in a softball league, he wants to have fun with his friends, but he also wants to have success.
The problem: Jose had what is often referred to as a disconnected swing, in which the hands are kind of working independently of the body. In this type of movement, the player has to control, or more specifically adapt, through the hands. This is not ideal because it takes more coordination and control from the brain for this type of swing. This results in more variability in the swing results, especially when the player has to deal with dynamic pitch properties such as change in speed and location of the pitch.
The result of a disconnected swing is an on plane value that is a lot lower than what we’d like to see. What we typically see at the highest levels are swings with body connection, where the body (torso) rotation brings the hands along. These swings result in higher on plane values demonstrating connection in the swing.
The swing connection drills: One of the main drills we had Jose perform used an impact bag. We have a stand-up mannequin here at Blast that is often used for kickboxing and punching. This serves as a great impact bag for having players hit into with full intent swings as there is some give in the mannequin at impact which provides good feedback of power transfer to the hitter. With an “armsy” swing there is limited power transfer to the impact bag. With this feedback loop, hitters start to understand quickly what a full intent swing really is, which requires them creating better connection in their swing. You can also see that effect almost immediately in the on plane swing metric.
The results: In a typical skill acquisition, the swing metrics will tend to bounce around—up and down—that’s part of the learning motor process. Jose went through these ups and downs, but if we look at his average over time, the metrics went up very quickly because he was able to establish that connection with his body almost immediately. In fact, his metrics went up faster than we thought they would because he started with so much disconnection in the swing. What you typically see is that it takes a little bit longer to get rid of an old movement pattern—even Tiger Woods changed his swing a number of times. Any time you are changing an established movement pattern, it takes some amount of time to overwrite these previously established control patterns. With Jose, the swing connection drill work really helped him get way more connected in his swing. These results are somewhat atypical in that it did not take a very long time to see these changes in his on plane swing metric, especially as Jose transitioned from swing connection drills to full swings.
How connection drills help: One mechanism that helped with his quick results is the metrics provided immediate feedback to a very important swing metric. When players like Jose hit into the impact bag during a swing connection drill and they see an on plane metric go from 38 to 80, they know they’re making important swing changes. This feedback mechanism is extremely important where we take an important swing performance indicator like on plane percentage and provide it in an external cue feedback loop. This really helps the athlete accelerate their development.
Players can also use visual feedback to learn the benefit of connection in their swing. We had taken some videos of Jose, and he could visually see how the bat’s moving connected with his shoulder plane. This really reestablished that concept to him. Not only could he see it in the video, but then when you go back to the metrics, he can actually see the result of that on plane metric increasing and how it shows that he’s actually on plane for longer in his swing.
Conclusion: Sharing Jose’s success shows how we identified a swing problem through an assessment using technology that provides the right swing metrics. We used the Blast Baseball sensor specifically, and saw his disconnection in the swing with the off plane number. By knowing where to focus, rather than having him grind away, hitting off a tee with no feedback, we got to the root cause of the movement pattern problem. Jose could see the results immediately, which can feel very empowering and motivating to the athlete.
Final thoughts: We must give credit to Jose: He understood the problem and put forth the effort to fix it.