In baseball, being able to actually hit the ball with the bat can be one of the most challenging things to do. It takes a certain amount of skill (and sometimes, pure luck) to make contact with the ball and it takes even more skill to drive the ball far enough into the air to guarantee your team can score as many runs as possible. The best case is that you get a home run, but you will not achieve this unless you first develop a more powerful baseball swing.
In this guide, we will look at what it takes to make contact with a pitch and how to turn your swing into a more powerful one through drills, weight training, and stretching. We will also provide tips on determining when you should swing for the fences or when to reel your bat back for contact.
Elements of a Powerful Baseball Swing
Before we start trying to swing like Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire, we need to break down the elements of a baseball swing.
After all, you will not be able to build up to a more powerful swing unless you have mastered the basics first; this starts with understanding the correct swinging technique and how each part of your body should move before, through, and after the swing.
The following elements are critical to master in order to get a powerful and effective baseball swing:
- Load Up
- The Step
- The Hips Launch
- The Hands Launch
- The Extensions
Perfect Swinging Technique to Get a Powerful Swing
To get started, let’s take a look at Mike Trout’s swing in slow-motion so we can see an example of what a powerful swing looks like in baseball.
To get a more powerful swing, make sure that your body’s positioning and motions are correct in each step leading up to your swing. With repetition, you will eventually memorize how it feels, achieving a consistent, strong swing every time you are up to bat.
Have the Proper Stance To Begin a Powerful Swing
In the baseball world, you will find that there is no correct or universal batting stance used by every player. Some players have their feet directly parallel with each other; others have one foot slightly ahead or behind. Players can set themselves up to be more open at the start of their swing or the complete opposite with a closed stance.
Whatever the case is, make sure you find the stance that is most comfortable for you. Like shooting free throws in basketball, baseball hitters will go through their routine before every pitch: two taps on the plate, a shuffle of the feet, a tug of the jersey, nod of the head, etc.
Whatever the sequence is, get comfortable in your own, unique way. Just remember that this sequence is only the start of how you can get a powerful swing going, but a lot of players find it useful for getting into the correct mindset.
Have the Correct Load For a Powerful Swing
The first real action of any baseball swing begins in this phase: the load up phase. The goal of this step is to get in sync with the pitcher’s timing and build up potential energy in your back leg, inner foot, hips, and hands.
Once you are in your stance, begin to load as the pitcher is getting ready to release the ball. To start the load up:
- Bring your front foot up in the air and back towards your body. Your front foot is going to be under your knee (for beginners, the furthest back your front foot should be is directly under your knee). Your knee should be under your hip and front shoulder, with your hands stacked over the hip.
- When you bring your front leg up, your front shoulder should close slightly; this will “load” the hands. Tilt the bat’s barrel towards the pitcher, with the bat’s knob pointed towards the catcher.
The Proper Step Forward For a Powerful Swing
One of the more complicated aspects of batting is getting the timing down for the body’s different moving parts. The load up phase is designed to get you into the same rhythm as the pitcher, but as we move on to the next part of the swing—the step—we are beginning to time ourselves with the pitch itself.
In other words, the step is the final piece to the load up phase:
- Right at the pitcher’s release point, begin to bring your front leg down, shifting your potential energy and motion towards the front of your body. If you end up early with your step, that is always better than later.
- Place your front foot down either in the original spot or wherever you feel most comfortable with your swing. You should land on the ball of your front foot, near the top where your toes meet the rest of your foot. Keep your momentum on your back leg.
Tip: Avoid moving your head forward with your leg; any head movement can severely hurt the batter’s chances of hitting the ball because it will shift the eyesight’s focus on the ball and force the batter to miss with their swing.
Perfect the Hip Launch For a Powerful Swing
This phase is where we see the first part of the “swinging” or launch sequence. The goal here is to begin generating the power behind your swing and the hips play a crucial role in generating power in a baseball swing.
The hip launch is supposed to be all about the hitter’s lower body; the head should not move, and the hands and upper body should remain ready to launch towards the pitch.
This movement can almost be thought of as a coiling and uncoiling motion. Your hips and lower body are beginning to uncoil and turn the momentum from the back towards the front of the body. Meanwhile, the hands and upper body are continuing to coil up and become ready to release.
To begin the hip launch:
- You will launch your rear hip towards the pitcher; this, in turn, should force your back elbow to tuck in towards your side.
- Along with your elbow tucking in, your back foot should begin to rotate on your toes so that the front of your foot is facing the pitcher.
The next few steps that come after this are so close together that they may blur as one move – although the details of each part are equally important, so keep that in mind. This is just the beginning of the momentum going from the back hip and legs to the front hip and legs.
Launch the Hands For a Powerful Swing
This is the second part of the launching sequence and it is the most recognizable aspect of a swing because this is where batters finally make contact with the ball.
The most important part of this phase is confidence. Batters need to feel that they are swinging at the pitch they think is coming, in the location it is coming, at the speed it is coming, and that their hands will have the barrel of the bat in the right place at the right time. If you’ve ever been at the plate without confidence then you’ve experienced how difficult it is to even make contact with the pitch.
To execute this phase of the launching sequence:
- Once you have your front leg down and begin to fire your back hip towards the pitcher, your hands should launch forward with conviction towards where you think the ball will be. Remember, have confidence that you will hit the pitch.
- The knob of the bat should fly forward, through the strike zone. As the ball is about to cross towards the front part of the plate, you’ll want to flick your wrists.
- When you flick your wrists, the barrel of the bat will swing through, and when you connect with the ball, your top hand should be facing palm up with your bottom hand facing palm down.
- Your front leg also should be firm and creating resistance for the body to take the momentum from the rear hip firing and put it into the hands and into the barrel of the bat that is launching forward.
Follow Through the Pitch For a Powerful Swing
Once you have made contact with the ball through your swing, your job as a batter is not quite done yet. The next part of the swing is the extension phase.
Like throwing a punch or kicking a ball, you do not simply want to make contact; you want to drive through the ball or punch to get some authority behind it and finish the motion. For batters, if one does not complete the swing, the ball will not go very far. This is where the extension phase comes in, which can be further broken down into two parts.
Part I of the Extension Phase of a Baseball Swing
In this part of the extension phase, your focus should be on your bat’s momentum as you follow through.
Going back to the hip firing from the previous step, the batter creates centrifugal forces (the inertial force that acts outward on a body moving around a center, arising from the body’s inertia) that make the momentum of the bat fire through the strike zone above the plate. The batter’s hands act as opposing forces during the swing, which brings more momentum to the bat’s barrel.
Here are some things to remember with this first part of the extension:
- The most important part of this phase is to keep your head down. Like a golf swing, you never want to lift your head until your swing is finished. This is also the part of the swing where you’ll hear coaches tell their players to “keep your eye on the ball!”
- Another thing to remember is not to roll your hands over during this part of the extension. Rolling your hands can lead to balls being hit into the ground and potentially towards the infielders. Remember to keep your top hand facing palm up and your bottom hand facing palm down
Part II of the Extension Phase of a Baseball Swing
This is the final aspect of the entire swing and can be the biggest difference for some batters in hitting singles and hitting home runs. The last extension was all about continuing the swing’s momentum through the barrel of the bat and into the ball itself on contact. For this extension, though, we need to know how to stop the swing’s momentum and turn all the potential power into a positive distance on the ball.
This is the point in the swing when the batter can roll their hands over. At this point, the bat will be almost directly in front of the batter with the barrel at an angle of 130-160 degrees. The momentum we created is now supposed to be going with the ball, and the batter should decelerate the bat.
To do this, some batters prefer to break their top hand off the bat; this creates more extension in the batter’s swing, which can lead to greater distance gained by the ball. Other batters, like Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth, preferred to keep both hands on the bat, and twist it around their back instead. So experiment with both ways and find one that works for you.
How to Build More Power into Your Swing
Now that we have the proper technique for the batter’s swing down, it is time to put the work into turning singles into doubles and those warning track flyouts into no-doubt home runs.
Like any sport where a player is trying to improve, going to the gym, and working out specific parts of the body that most contribute to that sport, is generally one of the best ways you can improve – besides regular practice. The same applies when you want to gain power in your baseball swing.
Work Out Key Muscles For a Powerful Baseball Swing
As you may have noticed from this guide so far, there are quite a few body parts involved in getting ready and following through with a baseball swing.
I won’t be diving into a specific workout regimen in this guide, but I’ll at least go over the muscle groups you’ll want to focus on so you can be knowledgeable about what to focus on. Everyone is in different phases of fitness so make sure to talk with a personal trainer to get a personalized workout regimen for you.
So with that in mind, you will want to focus your exercises on these key areas:
Legs and Lower Body Muscles For A Powerful Baseball Swing
It is rare for batters in the major leagues to consistently hit for power and not have a strong foundation in their legs. All the momentum in a swing can be generated from the legs and hips so strengthening this part of the body is critical. Here is a list of exercises that can target the legs and lower body to help improve the power in your swing:
- Squats: This is the obvious choice, with the thighs, quads, glutes, and hamstrings all getting attention when you squat. You can break this up by doing front and back squats to focus on strengthening specific parts of the legs.
- Lunges: Lunges are another basic exercise to do that can have a major impact on your swing power. Adding the use of weights or resistance bands will increase the muscle capacity in your legs.
- Cleans: This is more of an Olympic-style weight lift, but it can help a batter gain power. The clean emphasizes movements that force you to use your leg muscles in a quick and powerful motion to get the weight above their head.
- Deadlifts: These are done with heavy weights that really enforce strain on a person’s glutes and hamstrings. Proper technique can also prevent lower back injuries while strengthening the back, which can be a troublesome spot with all the twisting motion generated from a baseball swing.
Core Muscles Are Important For A Powerful Baseball Swing
Most of the power hitters in the major leagues are not the ones who have the six-pack abs and look like models in swimsuits, but this does not mean their cores are weak. Momentum is the key to hitting with power and strengthening the core will help with momentum.
Your core acts as the middleman in a swing, transferring the lower body’s momentum and energy to the upper body and, eventually, to the hands and the bat.
Here are some useful exercises to consider when looking to strengthen the core:
- Planks: In a pushup position, with your forearms on the floor and your toes holding up the rest of your body, the plank position is excellent at building up your lower core muscles. Focus on keeping your body parallel to the ground.
- Side Planks: Start with a standard plank, but this time, turn on one side, with the lower forearm on the ground and your feet stacked on top of each other. This side plank will focus on the obliques. If your obliques are weak they will not move as quickly or with as much force, thus dampening your power in your swing.
- Crunches: The most basic ab workout is also an important one, as the crunch works out the upper abs.
- Leg Lifts: Another simple workout, but it can be instrumental in working out the lower abs.
Upper Body Exercises to Consider for a Powerful Baseball Swing
For the upper body, the main focus is going to be on the arms and shoulders.* The wrists and forearms should also be emphasized, but they are not the parts of the body most people consider working out. The wrists and forearms are vital in ensuring you can flick the barrel of your bat quick enough through the strike zone and make contact with the baseball.
Here are some exercises that focus on these critical areas:
- Palms Out: Sitting or standing, put your arms out wide with your palms facing the same direction (up or down). Simply rotate your wrists up or down to turn your hands. You can also hold lightweight dumbbells to offer resistance/weight.
- Open/Close Fist: With your arm on a table, like you are about to arm wrestle, you are going to close your fingers down into a fist with your thumb still out. Then you open your fingers back up to an open palm. If you want to add resistance, use a resistance band, and have your fingers grip it.
- Rotation: Sitting down, with your arms bent at 90 degrees with your palms facing down, you are simply going to rotate your hands so that the palms face up and then back down. You can use a resistance band (gripping it with the rest being under your feet to get the resistance needed) or a lightweight dumbbell.
- Wrist Curls: Sitting down, with your arms on your legs, palms up, your hands should be able to extend down along your knees. You can use lightweight dumbbells to help strengthen and increase muscles in your wrist. You can also try curls with your palms facing down to get to different muscles around your wrist.
- Squeeze: Using a tennis ball, stress relief ball, or a hand grip strengthener, squeeze the object to increase your wrist’s strength.
*Note: While having a large, muscular chest is great for the cameras, it is not required to have a powerful swing. Along with the chest, strong biceps are not really necessary for hitters to have when it comes to their swinging power.
Increase Your Flexibility For a Powerful Baseball Swing
Hitting the gym and building muscle is undoubtedly a great way to put more power into your swing as a hitter. If done properly, the muscles you build in your body will increase the momentum you can produce and translate to more power coming into the baseball swing.
But, swinging the bat is not all about power from building muscles. There are so many twisting and moving parts of a baseball swing that having flexibility is also very important to build up. There is a reason that professional athletes across all sports are taking yoga and dance classes: balance and flexibility help significantly in all sports.
For a baseball batter, though, there are a few areas that they can specifically focus on when it comes to flexibility.
- For one, the flexibility of the core and lower back are essential areas to focus on. With all the contorting and twisting motions going on during a baseball swing, the last thing a batter wants is a core or lower back muscle injury. These injuries can set them back for months because these muscles are key to how a batter builds momentum for their swing.
- Along with those areas, having flexibility in the hips and legs is also essential because that is where the swing’s momentum first begins. Yoga classes, Pilates, and dance classes are all great options that people have to build up their bodies’ flexibility and add power to their swing.
Practice Regularly to Get a Powerful Baseball Swing
Breaking down a batter’s swing into phases can lead to a big difference not only in ball contact but also in the power of a hitter. Additionally, repeating a batter’s swing is the best way to build muscle memory and develop a better swing.
The most important part of practicing a swing, though, is practicing with contact on actual baseballs. Practicing the swing during soft toss, off a tee, or during batting practice is a great way to prepare for swinging through the pitch and turning the momentum generated in the hips and hands into power through the barrel of the bat and into the ball.
When is a Powerful Baseball Swing Necessary?
So, now you know how to add power to your swing, but will a strong swing always be necessary? With everything we have discussed so far, hitting for power might seem like a given. After all, you need a powerful swing to increase your chances of a home run, right?
However, batting is one of the most challenging things an athlete can attempt to do. The best hitters in the MLB every year only get a hit three times out of every ten when at-bat.
So, how do batters know when to load up and swing for the fences and when to dial things back and get on base? Players can usually refer to their coaches to help determine whether it’s a good time to swing away or swing to get on base. However, a few situations will help with that decision:
- If your team is down by a run late in the ballgame, it might be a better idea to go for that base hit rather than going for a home run and potentially flying out.
- Another possible situation would be with a runner on third base with fewer than two outs in the inning – here is where coaches would want you to swing away. The best case is you hit a home run and the second-best case is you hit a fly ball to the outfield and the runner scores from third.
For some batters, they are all-in on swinging for the fences. Their entire approach to hitting is to hit the ball as hard as possible, which can lead to more outs produced from fly balls. On the other hand, it could also lead to more home runs which is one of the reasons that baseball is such a situational game.
The easiest way for batters to improve their chances of getting a powerful hit that is “out of the park” is to adjust their launch angle, which is used to gain an advantage with the direction their baseball flies.
The launch angle is the angle at which the bat moves when it meets the ball. For instance, a launch angle of 180 degrees means the bat is completely level across, and any contact here is usually going to be a line drive.
The very best hitters will try to have more of an uppercut swing with a launch angle between 25 to 35 degrees. This angle drives the ball higher into the air with enough force and momentum that the ball will travel over the fence.
Every hitter in baseball will not be hitting for power every time they are in the batter’s box, but the very best power hitters in baseball believe that with a good enough swing, enough momentum, and with the correct timing, they will get a hard-hit ball.
When hitting for power, what you do before you get to the game is just as crucial as what you do during the game. Working out and building strength is a great way to produce power. Along with power, a batter needs to have their swing and timing down correctly in order to make contact with the pitch.