Hit the curveball Science shows that the spin from hit curveballs makes the ball fly farther. So, learn to hit the curveball.
Warm Up With Lighter Bat: Warming up in the batter’s box with a heavier bat actually DECREASES swing speed at the plate (according to a scientific study). But, warming up with a LIGHTER bat actually makes you swing your normal bat faster. So, warm up with a lighter bat.
Underload/Overload: There are lots of opinions on how this is to be done, and we’ll save the minutia of that for here. But, this much science knows, underload/overload training works for college-level athletes. It’s possible it also works for youth players. As well, there’s no settled science on the right amount of under and overload in your training bats. But, no matter what, it all appears to positively affect at least the college level and elite high school ballplayer.
Gain Rotational Strength: Medicine ball work can make you hit the ball harder. If you want to hit it farther, work on your rotational strength.
Don’t Skip Leg Day: Forearm strength and bat speed are not correlated (surprising). However, leg strength and bat speed are (not surprising). So, if you want to hit home runs, never (ever) skip leg day.
These ideas of hitting more homers are not our ideas. The following five ways to hit more home runs are not devices.
They aren’t specialty bats or premier access to training techniques.
These are no purchase necessary items.
Here are the kind of questions we answer.
Science Says What About…
What kind of hit pitch will travel the furthest?
How should I warm up before I get in the batter’s box?
What bats should I use during BP?
Do Bat Donuts Work?
What muscle group should I focus on?
Science: How To Hit More Home Runs
With all that said, let’s dive into the top 5 ways science says you can hit more home runs this coming year.
1. Learn to Hit the Curve Ball
What Science Says:
Although traveling slower, a hit curve ball naturally spins the direction that gives the hit ball more lift and distance. Hitting a curveball for distance is more effortless than hitting a fastball for distance because ball spin matters a lot. If you want to hit more home runs, learn to hunt and destroy the hook. Sources.
Conventional wisdom, and your coach, suggest that you can hit it further than a curveball if you can square up a fastball. It is, after all, going faster.
And if you can square it up, you’ll hit it harder than any curve, right?
But, it turns out, science and the data says otherwise.
But, to put it simply, a batted curve ball ALREADY has backspin. To give a fastball backspin, you need to hit it more squarely. Yet, curveballs natural backspin on a hit give it more lift and, potentially, a better chance to get out of the park.
As professor Hubbard who analyzed the data, pointed out, “The well-hit curve ball heads for the field with more of the kind of spin that gives it fence-clearing lift and distance.”
How To Hit and See a Curve Ball
The only real trick to hitting a curveball is practice. If you have access to a three-wheel machine or a dad who can spin it, don’t forget to add curve ball practice to your BP repetition.
Some Other Tricks:
Hunt It. That is, watch the pitcher and see what his tendencies are. If you’re in a favorable curve ball count where the pitcher tends to throw a hook, then stay back, try and drive the ball in the middle of the field and let it rip—no shame in unloading on a curveball over the plate with less than two strikes.
Oppo Taco. If you can keep your hands back when you notice it’s a curve, then you’re more likely to square one up. Let the ball travel deeper than you would a traditional fastball and try and smash it on the backside. If you’re facing a pitcher the opposite hand as you, the principle still holds. Smash proper curves to the opposite field.
Practice, Practice, Practice. There is no secret to recognizing the curveball other than practice. Get reps at home, with Wiffle balls, in the cage, or anywhere else you can find a chance to see the spin.
He Hangs It; You Bang It. Don’t let a pitcher get away with leaving a curveball floating over the plate. A good mantra is if he hangs it, then you bang it. Any count, anytime. If his curve stays in the middle half of the plate, it is time to come out of your shoes. Square up a hanging curveball, and you’ll never go back to hunting fastballs again.
2. When in the On-Deck Circle, use a LIGHTER BAT
What Science Says:
No study has ever shown that a weighted bat in the on-deck circle increases bat speed at the plate. Instead, some studies have shown that a lighter bat in the on-deck circle will improve bat speed and optimal bat paths. Heavier bats, on the other hand, might slow down bat speed at the plate. If you want to hit more home runs, warm up in the on-deck circle with a lighter bat. Sources.
Here is another not well-known principle of warming up. One that MLB players break all the time. A heavier bat, or a bat weight in the on-deck circle, has NEVER proven to increase bat speed or batting average at the plate. Many studies have demonstrated the opposite.
The data doesn’t explain why warming up with a heavier bat might slow down your bat velocity at the plate—it just proves that it does.
Some suggest that a heavier bat changes your swing plane, and, therefore, warming up with it right before you grab your game bat does nothing for you. Others suggest the slower bat doesn’t acclimate your fast-twitch muscles to maximum speed.
Who knows? Both sound reasonable.
In any event, the data suggest you should never warm up with a heavier bat. But, instead, warm up with a lighter bat. We’d suggest you warm up with a bat one inch below what you usually use. For example, if you swing a 32/22, find a 31/21 to get warm in the on-deck circle.
Do Bat Donuts Work?
The data says that bat donuts don’t help in the on-deck circle, at least in bat speed at the plate. We assume that while an MLB game is playing in the background. Without surprise, the on-deck circle is littered with all types of weighted gadgets to make their bats heavier in the on-deck circle.
We don’t get paid millions of dollars to hit a baseball. So, we realize, the advice from lab coat ballplayers should be taken with some salt. But, again, we can’t find a single study that says weighing down a bat in the on-deck circle is useful— it might even be harmful.
3. Overweight and Underweight Bats
What Science Says:
Working with heavier and lighter bats during batting practice increases your bat speed by up to 10%. Studies show that a controlled 12-week program of weighted training bats that are around 12% heavier and lighter than your game bat will allow you to hit more home runs. If you want to hit more dingers this next year, then alternate your bat in the cage between heavier, lighter, and game weight. Sources.
When you take BP, have it look like this. Repeat this five times for a total of 150 swings. Heavy and light bats can be as little as 12% +/-. Some studies showed them as much as 100% heavier.
Another scientifically proven way to hit the ball further is resistance training through under-weighted and over-weighted bats. The data shows that a batting practice drill, as described above, will increase bat speed by 10% on average over 12 weeks.
This process is simple enough, even though a few have made it more complicated than it needs to be.
The most robust and oft quote study on underload and overload training suggest ten swings per bat with the three different bats (30 swings) as one total set.
Repeat that set 5 times.
Do NOT rest more than 15 seconds between swings nor more than 30 seconds between switching bats or sets. This program creates a total of 150 swings to be completed daily for 12 weeks. Complete this work out on live pitched balls four times a week.
Complete this for 12 Weeks. 4 Days a Week. 5 Sets per Day. For best results, hit live pitched balls. But, tee work and dry swinging will work too.
Hitting the ball further is directly correlated to how fast your bat is moving. If you can increase your bat speed by 10% over 12 weeks, then you can expect to hit the ball 10% further and a 10% greater chance of getting it out of the park.
4. Medicine Ball Rotational Strength
What Science Says:
Despite what your high school coach told you, forearm strength does not correlate to better bat speed. Don’t expect big forearms to mean you can hit the ball further. Instead, science has proven that both rotational strength and leg strength are highly correlated with better bat speed. If you want to hit more home runs, work out your major leg muscles once a week and do rotational exercises (like a medicine ball) three times a week. Sources.
Specifically, Szymanski et al. study the exit speeds of players on a rotational strength program. They found that those who added rotational strength exercises (medicine ball) workouts to their strength training showed considerable increases in bat speed and, hence, exit velocities.
This isn’t that surprising. Although likely much less emphasized in a high school weight room than forearm workouts. Yet, rotational workout programs will help increase exit speeds and create more production at the plate.
In the study, here are the rotational exercises added to their strength training program.
Medicine Ball Workout Plan
2 days a week for 12 weeks:
Specific twisting medicine ball exercises were chosen and performed to “mimic the sequential, ballistic, and rotational movements of hitting and throwing a baseball”—using 2 to 6kg medicine balls.
1 Day a week for 12 weeks:
“Other Explosive, whole-body medicine exercises were performed one day a week” on non-leg workout days.
5. LOWER BODY Strength Matters, A Lot
Although forearm strength does NOT increase bat speed (see the study above), leg strength did. Anyone who knows how to hit won’t be surprised by this. Power comes from your legs. To hit bombs, you need strong legs.
Scientific studies prove this too. An article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning measured the effect squat and deadlift maxes had on bat speed. It turns out, if you can increase your squat and deadlift, you will also increase the rate at which you can swing a bat.
There are dozens of ways to increase leg strength. Depending on your familiarity with the gym, the world is your oyster.
We won’t overstate our ability to recommend leg workouts here. There are plenty of youth resources to increase let strength, and we’ll direct you there and there.
A video like this might help too.
How to Hit Home Runs?
So, there you have it. If you want to hit the ball further than the above five, scientifically proven ideas do, in fact, work. But, there is no magic bullet. No particular training program or online service makes you a more potent hitter. Each of them requires practice, and we like the science behind the ideas above.
In other words, if you want to hit the ball further, then (1) Learn How to Hit a Curve Ball, (2) Warm Up with a Lighter Bat, (3) Do Underload and Overload Training, (4) Complete a 12-week Rotational Medicine Ball workout and (5) Build Your Legs.