Shorten Your Swing with One-Handed Drills
Having a short, compact swing is vital to a hitter’s success. Among other benefits, having a short swing enables the hitter to start their swing later, which can lead to better two-strike hitting, better opposite field hitting and more success with off-speed pitches.
As players get older, they will face better pitching which will require sound hitting mechanics. The sooner youth hitters develop a consistent short stroke, the better positioned they’ll be for long term success at the plate. Here is one great set of drills to establish the proper muscle memory for a compact swing.
One-Handed Drills are ideal for promoting a short swing because in order to perform the drills effectively, the hitter has to swing the bat correctly. This drill is just like any basic soft toss drill, but the batter will only swing the bat with one arm. The goal is make sure each hand takes as short a path to the ball as possible.
Have the hitter use a shorter, lighter bat than they are used to. If the bat is too heavy, it will put stress on the shoulders and it will be very difficult to do the drill. The hitter will assume his normal batting stance. Have the hitter start off with the bat in their lead (bottom) hand, with their other hand pressed against their chest for balance. For better control, have the hitter choke up.
The tosser should be positioned about six feet away, at an angle. The tosser should throw the ball right around the hitter’s front hip. The hitter will try to hit the ball right back up the middle, using their normal swing. Do three sets of five swings each . As a coach, look for the hitter to keep his lead elbow down and keep the barrel of the bat above his hands.
Next, have the hitter switch hands so the bat is in their top hand. The key here is to make sure the hitter is not throwing their top hand too far out, or “casting” the bat. Again, the focus should be on a short, direct path to the ball with no wasted movement. Do three sets of five swings each.
Variations - Isolate the Hands
Taking this drill a step further, have the hitter drop to one knee when swinging with the bottom hand. It helps to drop the front knee – this will keep the shoulder in proper position. By taking the lower body out of the drill, you will further isolate the hands to focus on a short path to the ball. Keep the repetitions consistent as before. For the top hand swing, have the hitter drop to both knees. This will make it easier to perform the drill. After completing the one-handed drills, work in some regular soft toss so the hitter can put it all together.
Practicing these drills on a regular basis will give the hitter a feel for the proper hand path and will develop muscle memory to be short and quick to the ball. And that will provide a foundation of good hitting for years to come.