Baseball: Hitting Aids
If you let your training slide in the off-season, your swing will suffer. These hitting-specific training aids are a great way to keep your strength and form at its peak.
Copywriter, T. Scharfenberg | Article date: 02/19/2013
Whether you're looking for power or accuracy, baseball training aids are a great complement to your regular batting practices or your off-season workouts. There's quite a variety of aids available, depending on your offensive style. While there are many more options out there, we'll introduce you to some of the most popular and give you tips for how to choose 'em, and how to use 'em.
There are tons of training aids out there for batting, as it's the aspect of baseball that players want, and often need, the most help with. Whether you're swinging for power or accuracy, we've included tips for every style player.
Remember not to discount the importance of gaining confidence with a hitting regimen. Being comfortable with your timing and form at the plate is the biggest secret to successful scoring.
This is a simple, inexpensive way to improve your swing speed and master full-body hitting technique. These resistance bands connect your wrist to your leg, keeping your body moving in one smooth motion. If every part of your body isn't moving with the swing, then you're losing energy that could be going into your hit. This extra resistance across your body can be helpful for building strength in the lower body and core — areas often overlooked with baseball-specific training.
You can also use a cord to attach your wrist to your bicep for some resistance during your swing, improving your bat speed over time. Another use for these cords is to get the maximum stretch out of your muscles, and the resistance is also great for rehab exercises.
No team should go without a pitching machine, since they're so helpful for team or individual training. A pitching machine is designed to give you tons of repetitions at different speeds and pitch locations. When buying one, don't be afraid of the more expensive models, like the Atec Casey Pro 3G Pitch Machine. These will last longer and be much more effective over repeated use. More importantly, you'll want a machine capable of pitching at (or slightly higher than) the velocity you're seeing in game situations. The high speed will better prepare you for in-game hitting.
A machine that swivels and moves up and down can also be used for shooting baseballs onto the diamond during fielding practice. Double-wheel models are usually more expensive than single wheels, but are an absolute must for elite players. Only a double-wheel design is capable of producing varied pitches and throwing at the speed necessary for high-level training. The Atec Casey Pro we mentioned earlier can deliver varied pitches, has a 360° rotating head with dual wheels, and can throw at up to 100 mph.
Use the repetition of your pitching machine to develop and maintain fundamentals. Even high-level players can sometimes let their mechanics slack in game-speed situations. That's why it's important to train in a way that builds muscle memory, so your body will learn to move correctly. Timing can also be improved with a pitching machine. Generally, you'll want to set your machine to throw 10-20% faster than what you're expecting to see in a game. If you can hit that way, you'll have a much easier time when you see slightly slower pitches in your next game. Developing a quicker reaction time can help compensate for any uncertainty in your first at-bat of the game.
To help improve your accuracy, practice hitting pitches on the edge of the strike zone. After seeing these types of pitches enough, you'll be better trained to lay off the ones that are outside the zone. Keep in mind that a machine can never perfectly simulate an in-game experience at the plate, so supplement your training with live pitching as well.
If you're going to be using a pitching machine, you'll need practice balls that are made to fly more accurately. If you're looking for a varied, unpredictable pitching experience, use the baseballs you would use in a game. Their seams will catch on the machine and not come out consistently every time. Otherwise, practice balls like the Jugs Lite-Flite Baseball will give the best accuracy and are better for the overall treatment of your pitching machine. Also keep in mind that you may want to have an L-shaped screen like Easton's Collapsible 4-Panel Screen to protect the person feeding your machine.
Smaller Size Baseballs
Smaller baseballs are usually sized with a circumference around eight inches, compared to a nine-inch regulation size. They're made to improve your hand-eye coordination, since it takes more focus to keep your eye on a smaller target. Ideally, hitting a normal-sized baseball will be much easier after training with these. Try using them with a thinner bat to really challenge your coordination.
You'll want to choose smaller training balls the same way you would a baseball. They should be constructed in the same way so they provide a similar hitting feel and won't wear out too quickly. You can also consider buying these balls in a high-visibility color or even in a dual-color design to help see the rotation.
There are many types of training bats available, all with different specialties. In addition to your standard baseball bat, you can train with several of these or just one that really zeros in on your weakness. Here are a few of your options:
- Sweet Spot Trainers: These bats are made to vibrate strongly when you don't make contact on the bat's sweet spot. They give instant feedback, so there is no question of whether or not you're getting the most out of your hits. You can even find styles of these training bats that actually have the sweet spot marked on them. This can help with visualizing, or even actually watching the ball make contact with the barrel.
- Small Barrel Bats: These bats require much more accuracy, improving your hand-eye coordination and making it much easier to hit with a normally sized baseball bat. The Easton T10 Thunderstick, is a great choice in this category.
- Overweight Bats: These bats develop strength in the muscles you use specifically for hitting: the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Underweight Bats: A lighter bat will allow you to get in more swings before feeling fatigued. These can also be used in warm-ups for some faster bat speed.
Wear your game socks when trying on cleats for the first time. This will give you the best idea of how they will fit with baseball socks on game day. Make sure your cleats have some flexibility to give them a consistently good fit over time. But when you first buy them, you should be looking for a snug fit that doesn't slip on your foot or cause instability. Even with a tighter fit, you'll want to leave room in the toe. This will help avoid injuries like turf toe when you're changing direction. If you're looking for an extra snug feel but don't want to lose room in the toe, try a pair of cleats that uses a Velcro® strap.
Bat Fins can be attached to the barrel of your bat in order to make it more air resistant. This will make your swing stronger and more explosive, since it will work at developing your forearm muscles. Using bat fins during training should make it feel much easier to swing a regular bat. Many players prefer using a fin design like the Markwort Power Fins, because these don't interfere with your swing mechanics the way round bat weights can.
Bat weights fit over the barrel of your bat. The few ounces of extra weight are used to develop more explosive speed. This is a controversial tool, though, because these weights can upset your natural swing process. Even so, they are still used in the major leagues, where players have achieved results from the tradition. However, studies are beginning to show that warming up with these weights may actually be decreasing players' swing speeds when they step up to the plate.
These weights aren't all bad, though. Players who do like to use them as a warm-up appreciate that their bat feels lighter at the plate. The feeling of the bat and the psychology of a faster swing can make all the difference in your performance. A little extra weight to your bat can also help release some of the tension in your arms and shoulders as you warm up, so don't discount this training method all together. It's about finding what works best for you.
Great for practicing on your own, a batting tee is a compact, portable way of getting in batting repetitions. When you eliminate the need to track thrown pitches, you can really focus on your mechanics and batting technique. We recommend choosing one with a band and ball attached. This will keep you from having to chase your hits, so you'll be able to get more swings in. If you will be using your tee with a team, consider one that has an adjustable height. This can also be a plus if you're looking to practice hitting pitches at different locations. The Swingbuster Stayback Tee is a more advanced model that also trains your form by keeping your weight back as you step forward into your swing.
Batting Grip Aids
These simple devices fit on your thumb to perfect your grip on the bat handle. Training your hands in practice should bring you better technique, stronger hands, and quicker bat speed when you're playing for real. The Pro Hitter Batting Aid designs also eliminate some of the sting that comes with hitting.
No matter which position, skill set, or level of play you're training for, Eastbay has a selection of baseball hitting aids to meet your needs. Keep in mind that all of these aids should be used as part of a complete training system that includes live play. Complete training is especially important for the arm muscles involved in hitting. During the off-season, use these aids to build strength and accuracy, but make sure to not overuse your muscles to the point of exhaustion. If you're also looking to train the rest of your game, you can read up on fielding and pitching aids within our Baseball Training Aids article.