Younger teenage players don’t have to be concerned about exit velocity. But by the time they reach college or they tryout for a Division 1 Minor League Team, most hitters are expected to have a baseball exit velocity of no less than 90 miles per hour to be accepted. The question arises, how do you increase baseball exit velocity?
The game of baseball has always used statistics. It is truly a game where statistical analysis makes the ultimate decisions. When a major league player comes to bat in a televised game, the moment he steps into the batter’s box, the bottom of the screen comes alive, displaying his batting average, followed by slugging percentage, then his on base percentage, and a statistic for how many hits he made in that year.
Player stats are constantly flashing on the screen, and in a close game situation, there will be stats about how the hitter performed in this exact scenario in the past. It can include his slugging percentage or batting average against the pitcher throwing at that moment, how he typically performs against right handed pitchers or left handed throwers, and what kind of hits he made against each (single, multiple base hits and so on).
But it doesn’t end there. It is as if the stat display on the screen is following him, so much so that in televised games, viewers spend more time looking at the stats coming on the screen than what the batter is actually doing. Real time events have almost become secondary to all the available information about players’ performance. There is so much information, in fact, it is impossible to absorb and process all of it.
Now there is Statcast. Introduced in all major league baseball stadiums in 2015, Statcast, a high-accuracy automated data analyzer, measures exit velocity, launch angle, vector, hang time, hit distance and more. Not only is the speed of the batted ball measured, but also its angle, how long it remains in the air, and how far the hit ball travels. It seems players today not only need talent, they must also be able to hit baseballs that statistically will result in base hits or travel far enough distances to move runners into scoring position.
But hitters are not the only players studied and analyzed by Statcast. Pitchers, fielders and base runners are monitored, the results of their performance analyzed to see if they meet or exceed target constants. In other words, to see if their performance makes the grade.
Hitters who want to increase their exit velocity need to increase their bat speed and their power. Improving these requires practicing drills on the ball field, and the other is focusing on weight training. Exercise with weights improves hitting power.
What is Baseball Exit Velocity?
Exit velocity is the speed of the baseball coming off the bat when contact is made. Exit velocity also measures and evaluate pitchers. Exit velocity is increased by a combination of power and bat speed.
Major league baseball players with the highest maximum baseball exit velocity include Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers, who ranks highest in exit velocity with a speed of 117.50 miles per hour, followed by J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox with an exit velocity of 116.7. After Martinez, Statcast recorded Khris Davis of the Athletics with 112.8. It should be noted that these phenomenal exit velocities were for one time occurrences. The average exit velocity for each of these 3 players is 93.9, 93.0 and 92.4 respectively. These are still high and effective exit velocities.
One can wonder what exit velocities Babe Ruth or Ted Williams recorded in their time. Chances are they were lower than today’s hitters, because of the fact that pitchers throw faster today and the overall increased competitive nature of the game. Use of statistics exploded in the 21st century. Today a player must be superior in his hitting, running and fielding skills.
How Does a Player Improve Baseball Velocity in Hitting?
The two key features of a hitter with a high exit velocity are the speed of his swing and the power behind the swing. The good news is that having a high baseball exit velocity is not an inborn talent for most players. It is improved through bat training and a weight based exercise program. And lots of dedication and discipline.
While a player improves his exit velocity, he’s also getting better at hitting in general. Hitting for power, hitting to a specific place on the diamond and hitting to the opposite field accurately and with power become easier to do.
There are 5 essential ways to increase baseball exit velocity. Athletes who decide to focus on improving their hitting to get their number up must be willing to change their approach to practicing baseball. These steps are more intensive and require focus. Prepare to take more batting practice and to spend time in the gym. Getting the results you want require a more intense focus than what you’re used to, but there is the reward of your hitting improving, perhaps more than you ever thought was possible.
This article presents “common sense” and well established regimens that will build your power and increase your swing speed. Since exit speed has become a hot topic these days, a lot of different approaches are out promising to help you make the mark, from central nervous system workouts to alternatives to swinging a heavier bat. Athletes are encouraged to look into any alternatives, but in the end, nothing can replace the fact that to increase your swinging speed and hitting for power, you need to to swing heavier bat in particular and build up the strength in your body with a weight training program.
These will be your four areas to focus on and improve.
- Body Mechanics. Stance, Load, Stride, Swing and Follow Through. These are the individual components that hitters should work to perfect. Your stance will have little impact on your exit velocity. We all have different ways to stand in the batter’s box. It’s how you move after you stand, where your eyes are, how you hold the baseball bat, how you use your lower body to get your upper body moving towards the ball, your shoulder movement, the strength of your forearms and how well your wrists flex.
These are individual parts of the whole of your body mechanics.
- Bat Speed. The faster you swing the baseball bat, the faster the ball will “exit” the bat and fly at high speed away from you out onto the field. Players should increase their focus on their stride – emphasis on the lower part of the body and how it impacts swing motion towards the baseball. After the stride, the action of the wrists and forearms to turn the bat and make contact.
- Bat Swing. The pitched baseball is heading toward you in a downward direction. Your swing counters the speed of the pitch by moving against it in an upward direction. This is referred to as the “bat path.” Both the bat and the ball have mass. In physics the more force there is (from the bat) on an object with mass (the ball), the greater the speed at which the mass will move on impact.
- Make yourself swing hard. Many players don’t swing as hard as they’re able. This may sound intuitive, but you must have the intention of swinging hard as the bat moves through your swing to the ball. You don’t want to swing hard just for the sake of it, of course. The swing must be a real swing, a product of excellent body mechanics, power and speed. When these elements are all in place, then you must swing hard.
Remember, attack the ball. Hit the ball as hard as you can.
The question becomes, “How to I improve the speed of my swing and the power of my swing?”
- Bat Speed: Overload/Underload Bat Training
- Swinging Power: Gym Weight Training and Exercises
At least once a week, you need to work on your swing speed by overload and underload bat swinging. For power, there is nothing more important that developing five primary areas: your core, your legs and your feet. Hand in hand with these areas are your forearms and wrists.
Your program will consist of weight training to strengthen your legs and your core (abdomen and obliques), and exercises involving weights for the forearms. There are also exercises you will perform to supplement you weight training. They do not involve weights and are categorized as resistance training.
Setting aside time for the regimen that follows will yield marked improvement in your bat speed and swing in about a month. However, you should continue training and check your baseball exit velocity with a radar gun to monitor your progress. Once you have reached an ideal exit velocity (High school and college athletes should strive to achieve an exit velocity between 87 and 90 miles per hour), keep to your regimen to maintain your speed.
Your regimen is a proven approach to increasing your exit speed. Major league players perform the same regimen which follows with slight variations. Once you have reached your target exit speed, maintain your workout. Besides, not only does this training improve your athleticism as it applies to baseball, it also keeps you physically fit and healthy.
- Underload and Overload Swing Training
All our movement is governed by the body’s central nervous system (CNS). It is responsible for all of our voluntary movement and is easily adaptable and responds rapidly to changes in our environment. The CNS is also where muscle memory and body movement is stored.
Learning to ride a bike or play the piano at a young age, the way your feet pedal while you steer the bike, or the fingering the piano player uses when playing a piece by Beethoven, is all stored in as muscle memory, and executed ever after by the central nervous system the same way, over and over.
Baseball involves fielding a baseball, running, throwing and hitting. But out of these, hitting is by far the most difficult to learn and master. If one thinks of the process, a piece of wood coming into contact with an object about 9 inches in circumference that is in motion, seems like a difficult to near-impossible task.
Our brain and central nervous system learn which steps the body must take to make contact, and then by repeating the same set of movements, the brain “remembers” the steps and the contact of the ball with the bat can be repeated because the CNS executes the steps the brain has remembered.
Learning to hit the ball with the bat now accomplished, any and every step taken beyond basic bat contact with ball, can be learned the same way. So, if you want to hit the ball in the air, or hit it on the ground, or to hit it in a particular direction, are all new tasks that once remembered, will be stored forever in the central nervous system. But what if you want to hit the ball harder and with a high exit velocity?
To do this, a new set of instructions must be given to the brain and CNS. You can swing and hit the ball in the air and on the ground. Now, a piano player wants to play a long piano concerto instead of a simple short piece of music. He needs to program a new set of instructions for the more complicated work. A batter needs to do the same.
Swinging faster requires using ha heavier bat than what you would normally use in a game.
Overload and Underload Batting Drills
Research into underload and overload swinging shows that there is an increase up to 10% in swing velocity when using a heavier bat, followed by a lighter bat, and thirdly, by your normal weight baseball bat. The heavier bat you use only needs to be 12 percent heavier than your normal bat, and the lighter bat used is 12 per cent lighter. However, you can go up to (but not exceed) 20% difference for the heavier bat. Any weight over 20% diminishes the results significantly.
If you use a 32 oz. ounce baseball bat, your overload, the heavier bat you will use, when we round up, should be 4 ounces heavier, or a 34 ounce bat.
The lighter bat should be 4 ounces lighter, or 28 ounces.
Regular bat weight used 32 oz. Baseball bat X 12% = 3.84 ounces difference for underload/overload drill.
You can go higher with the heavier bat weight for the first part of the drill. However, don’t use a bat that is more than 20% heavier than your normal bat.
To do the underload/overload bat speed training drill, you will need three bats, your game bat, another bat that is about 4 ounces lighter than your game bat, and a third that is about 4 ounces heavier.
NOTE: You can substitute a broomstick or a click stick for the lighter bat. For the heavier one, you can swing your regular bat plus adding on some heavier material to it to practice with. Ideally, using a bat heavier than your normal bat should be used.
You should team up with a partner to soft toss balls to you, use a batting tee, or go to a batting cage and set the pitching machine to deliver slow pitches.
After a warmup, take 15 swings with the heavier bat.
Take 15 swings with your lighter bat, click stick or broomstick.
Now, take 15 swings with your regular bat. Soft toss, batting tee, batting cage or live.
Perform the same routine, 15 swings, heavier, bat, lighter bat, regular bat. Don’t take more than 15 swings with the heavier bat, so your body can maintain good swinging form and body mechanics are not affected.
Note: Make sure the lighter bat or click stick is the same length as your regular bat.
In about 4 to 6 weeks, you will notice an improvement in your bat speed.
- Weight and Resistance Training
As mentioned earlier, off the field physical training needs to focus on these areas:
- Abdominals and Obliques
Exercises for Building Leg Strength
Powerful hitters have tremendous leg strength. When swinging a baseball bat, the power starts from the bottom of the body and moves up. It starts in the legs, the energy is transferred through the hips and abs and oblique muscles, and finally up to the shoulders, forearms and wrists and finally, the baseball bat. The legs are the starting point. If they are not strong, there won’t be a lot of power in your upper body and your swing will not be powerful.
Exercises that strengthen the legs are
- Leg presses
- Leg curls
Sets and reps: Always start with the standard 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each set. If you find the amount of repetitions to be too intense, you can lower to 3 sets and 5 repetitions and work your way up to ten.
Low Bar back Squat
This is the most common squat but is still an excellent weight training exercise to build leg strength.
- Step up to the bar and face it.
- Wrap your hand around it, but don’t wrap your thumbs.
- Start with a narrower grip (closer to your shoulders, but further apart from them).
- The bar ends up resting on the rear of your shoulders (deltoids).
- Gripping the barbell, brace your abdominal muscles
- Make sure your feet are wider than your hips and your toes outward.
- Squat slowly. When you reach bottom, pause of a second, then move back up to start.
- Try 10 repetitions, 3 sets each. Decrease reps if hard now, increase to 10 later.
It’s recommended to use gym equipment specifically designed for leg presses. This exercise builds up the thigh muscles primarily, the calves secondary. Below the belt, this is a key area to develop and doing leg presses will increase your swinging power considerably.
The average person should be able to lift about 1 ½ to two times their body weight if you’re performing one set of 10. You want to work up to 3 sets of 10, so first try the weight you can lift with your legs with this standard set and reps in mind. Work your way up.
If you don’t have access to a leg press, you can use dumbbells. Grip the dumbbells in each hand and get into standing position. Choose the weight of each dumbbell that is challenging, but not too challenging. You want to develop your leg muscles, and the key is not lifting heavy weights. Instead, it’s the amount of repetitions you do.
Choose a weight that challenges you but still allows you to perform three sets of 10.
- Stand tall, without crouching your back, dumbbells in each hand.
- Your feet should be a little wider than you shoulder width.
- Toes pointing out slightly
- Squat down. Go as low as possible.
- Keep the dumbbells by the sides of your legs, without touching your legs.
- Now, stand back up. Keep your shoulders back, your back flat, and your chest out.
As the name suggests, lunges are a big step forward, or “lunge.” Lunges work on the upper leg muscles.
- Pick up a pair of dumbbells, one for each hand. Stand up straight.
- Feet are little less that shoulder width apart.
- Take a big step forward with your right leg until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Land on your heel.
- Inhale when you lunge forward
- You other leg is bent at the knee and balanced on the toes.
- Now, step back to your standing position.
- Repeat this same motion with your other leg.
- You want to accomplish 3 sets of 12 (6 for each leg is one complete set).
Note: Be sure your forward, lunging leg, does extend past your toes. This can aggravate your knee joint and lead to injury.
- Begin by standing with your feet apart as wide as your hips. Feet are just under the bar.
- Bend and grab the bar with an overhead grip. Your arms should be just outside your legs.
- Bend your knees slightly. Your shins are just brushing up against the bar.
- Keep your chest lifted and your spine straight.
- Flex and tighten your glutes (muscles of the buttocks) and lift the weighted barbell. Keep it close to your legs.
- Stand up straight and avoid leaning back.
- Now, return the barbell to the floor.
You should dead lift in 3 sets of ten. Don’t choose weights too heavy because you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Choose a weight amount that will allow you to get through three sets of 10. Remember, it’s about repetitions, not the most weight you can lift.
Leg curl exercises with weights strengthen your hamstring muscles, located at the back of your legs. Whether performed prone (on your stomach lying down), or sitting up, you can expect to receive the same benefits to your hamstrings.
We’ve included here the version of leg curls where you lie down on a weight bench.
Place a dumbbell on its end at the lower end of a weight bench. The bench should be flat.
- Place your knees close to the edge of the bench.
- Place the dumbbells between the arches of your feet.
- Grasp the bench by its sides for stability.
- Keep your legs and feet squeezed together.
- Exhale and lift the dumbbells with your feet up towards the buttocks.
- The soles of your feet are flat and parallel to the ceiling at all times.
- Next, inhale as you lower the dumbbells back to starting position, until the knees are fully extended.
- Repeat, performing 10 repetitions.
Pick a weight where you can do at least 1 set of ten repetitions. Increase your sets over time, up to a total of three sets.
Exercises for Building Strength in your Core
Your “core” consists of your set of abdominal and oblique muscles. When you swing a baseball bat, power starts from your feet and legs, and your core is engaged next as force and strength rises from this area to your upper body. The stronger your core, the more power there will be in your bat swing.
Core training include exercises involving weights for lifting and rolling. Some are plank exercises without weights and are instead based on resistance, another key concept in strength building. Resistance exercises utilizes your own body’s weight to use to train against.
What follows are examples of core exercises that are recommended to build and strengthen your abdominals and obliques. You should select up to a half dozen to use in your workout regimen.
- If you don’t have a barbell rack, then clean the barbell with weights to your shoulders. Remember to choose weight that will allow you to do 2 sets and 10 repetitions.
- Grasp the bar, hands at shoulder width.
- Raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Let the bar rest at your fingertips
- Step back and set your feet at shoulder width, toes turned out slightly
- Now, squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back
This simple workout doesn’t involve weights and is a great workout for your abdominal muscles.
- Lie on the floor and hold a heavy object to support your arms behind you. If you are in the gym you can grab hold of a bench. At home the legs of a heavy chair will do.
- Keeping your legs together and straight, raise them up until they are completely vertical (90 degrees to your abdomen and chest).
- Move your legs back down. Just before they reach the floor, hold them off the ground to keep tension in your abdominal muscles before the next rep.
- 3 sets of ten reps each.
Medicine ball workouts are indispensable to building your oblique muscles. There are many workouts you can do with medicine balls by themselves. This one is also called a “Russian Twist.”
- Sit on the floor in a position resembling the top part of a situp.
- On one side is a medicine ball. Grasp it with both hands and lift it to the center of your body in front of you.
- Twist your body to one side with rapid power and force, then twist back.
- Next, repeat with your other side.
Forearm and Wrist Exercises
Forearms and wrists should undergo weight training hard and often. Be certain you don’t work them too hard and pull your flexors and extensors. The forearms play an obvious and important role in your bat swing and is the third critical area to develop to improve swinging power.
Dumbbell Wrist Flexion
This workout is designed to develop wrist and forearm strength.
- Sit at the edge of a bench or chair.
- Pick up a dumbbell and hold it in your right hand
- Place your right forearm on your right thigh. The wrist of this hand should rest on your kneecap.
- Using only your hand, lower the dumbbell slowly as far as you can. Maintain a tight grip.
- Keeping your arm on your thigh, curl up the dumbbell toward your bicep.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to starting position.
- Repeat until you feel wrist or forearm fatigue, then switch hands.
Dumbbell Wrist Extension
This exercise will add needed muscle to the wrist extensors in your forearm.
- Sit on the edge of a bench as in the previous exercise.
- Palm down, place your left forearm on your left thigh.
- Your left wrist should be on your left kneecap.
- Keeping your wrist and forearm immobile, curl the dumbbell up as far as you can towards your bicep.
- Maintain a tight grip on the dumbbell.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to starting position.
- When you feel tired, switch to your right hand.
- Perform an equal amount of reps for each wrist and forearm.