I received a text the other day from one of my minor league clients. He’s been having a great year and just started to struggle a little and said he felt like his front shoulder was flying out. This can be a frustrating thing and like most hitters he didn’t really know how to fix it. It’s one thing when coaches tell you your front shoulder is flying out but that doesn’t really do you any good unless you know how to fix it.
I got on the internet and was able to watch a couple of his at bats that have taken place over the past couple of nights. Sure enough his front shoulder was flying out which was dropping his bat head and causing him to drag the bat through the hitting zone. Which, kills his power and his ability to make consistent contact since the bat head is passing through the hitting zone for such a brief period of time. After watching the at bats I was able to locate the cause and give him a few drills to work on, which 24 hours later got him dialed back in and he ended up going 3 for 4 and his at bats were much better.
How many of you struggle game after game knowing that your front shoulder is flying open but yet don’t know why or how to fix it? I thought I’d go over my process in how I determine what the problem is and therefore cure the disease and not just cover up the symptom like so many hitters do.
First of all it’s important to understand that there are many, many causes for mechanical breakdown and I couldn’t possibly go over them all here. What I am going to do is discuss the 3 most common reasons for the front shoulder flying and how I go about determining the cause.
1. I always start from the ground up so since a common cause for the front shoulder flying is lack of separation between the stride foot and the hands that was the first thing I looked at. Many times hitters hands will come forward when the stride foot lands. When this happens the only thing left for the hitter to swing with is the front shoulder. As such the hitter will pull the front shoulder out in an attempt to generate bat speed. The easy fix for this is to simply work on the stride and load and make sure the hitter is getting the front foot down early to allow for this separation. With my client this looked good so I knew this wasn’t the cause.
2. Moving up the body my next step was to check for proper hip separation. If there isn’t separation between the hips and hands the hitter once again has to pull with the upper body to generate any type of bat speed. Again this looked okay on my client so I knew that lack of hip separation wasn’t his problem. If it had been, the way to fix it would be to A) perform the stride/hips/hands drill making sure when he turns his hips that his front shoulder was staying in the original loaded position and B) to relax the upper body more and mentally think “hips first”. This would allow him to start generating his swing from his hips which would keep the front shoulder locked in longer.
3. Now I move up to the hands which since he checked out okay on the other 2 aspects of the swing I knew this had to be the culprit. Now, I had to look at 2 different aspects of the hands to determine the proper drill. First I checked to see if the front elbow came up when his hands initiated toward the ball. If it had he would be activating the bottom hand and forcing the front shoulder to fly. This checked out okay but if it had been an issue I would have had him take dry swings with the little bat only using his bottom hand and having him try to drive his front elbow straight down. Since that checked out okay it had to be a lazy top hand which it turned out to be. Once his hands initiated toward the ball the front elbow stayed down but the bat head still dropped. This told me he had a lazy top hand so the only answer would be top hand work. I told him to take a little bat and to take swings off a tee only using his top hand. This forces the top hand to be the dominate hand in the swing from load to contact which keeps the bat head up and allows the front shoulder to stay in.
If you start to struggle with the front shoulder flying open start from the ground up and get to the root of the problem. Don’t be like most hitters who alter their stance or swing to compensate for a symptom of the real problem. This only creates bigger problems down the line and doesn’t allow you to ever reach your maximum potential.