Weighted Bat Training Program: how did we get here?
When I interviewed for the position of Director of Hitting at Driveline, Kyle was very particular about one thing. It was imperative that the hitting program would be data-driven, and that we would be consistently measuring everything and collecting data to ensure that the athletes were improving. So, as I ventured through the vast sea of hitting training tools, one method of training was continuously supported by the research: overload/underload training.
This is a table from “Effects of Weighted Implement Training: A Brief Review” As you can see, the use of weighted bats to improve bat speed is supported by the research. And despite the existence of this research, training using this method is relatively uncommon amongst the training of hitters.
Although weighted bats or overload/underload training may be new concepts to some coaches, it is not new to the field of sports science. It is used to train fast-twitch/explosive movements, and it has been used to train Olympians for over 50 years.
Furthermore, Driveline’s application of these principles to training pitchers has had tremendous success. Considering all that, it was surely worthy of further insight. So, we decided to do our own case study.
We reached out via social media to local baseball players, and we acquired 28 participants. We split them into two groups. Both groups took 160 swings/week for 6 weeks. The Experimental Group used Axe Bat Speed Trainers and the Control Group used their normal game bat. We tested every three weeks and tracked their peak exit velocities. Below are the results after 6 weeks.
The results are consistent with the previous research done on this training method. We then worked with Axe Bat with the goal of developing the best overload/underload training bats and program on the market. The company’s desire to be on the cutting edge made it a perfect partnership, and their passion for making a second-to-none, high-quality product was very impressive.
Axe Bat Speed Trainer Program: how does it work?
Swinging with an overload bat can have multiple benefits. First and foremost, overload bats are beneficial in developing functional strength for the swinging athlete. The swing is a very complex movement that involves many joints and requires multiple segments of the body to interact via a kinetic link. Strength programming for the swinging athlete is a tricky subject because of the unique nature of the swing. It is difficult to simulate this movement in the training environment. Furthermore, the strongest and fastest athletes are not always the best hitters. So, what is the best way to train the swing? Swing; and swing with increased resistance, which is what an overload bat does for the athlete.
Using overload bats can also aid in developing a more efficient movement pattern by using the human body’s ability to self-organize. When the body feels the heavier bat, and the hitter’s intention is to hit the baseball with quickness and power, the body will respond by moving in the most efficient manner possible. Issues with both force production and energy transfer up through the body can be ironed out by training with overload bats.
Training movement with an underload implement allows the movement to occur at a higher velocity, thus recruiting more fast twitch fibers. The Central Nervous System is responsible for these adaptations that are crucial to the explosive athlete. Simply put, moving faster helps train the athlete to move faster.
The Axe Bat Speed Program comes with 3 training bats. A Barrel-Loaded Overload bat, a Hand-Loaded Overload bat, and an Underload bat. Using these three bats in training along with your typical game bat can aid in training proprioception and kinesthetic awareness, commonly referred to as “feel.” Having an athlete use the bats of different weights and weight distributions requires them to be external and feel how they move the implement through space.
When hitters first begin the Axe Bat Speed program, often times they will have slightly different swing mechanics with each bat. As the training progresses, they begin to blend as the movement becomes more stable. This can be compared to the athletes beginning the Driveline pitching program. Often times, the throwing accuracy with the balls of different weights is terrible on day 1, but improves over time.
Creating a more stable movement that can be replicated when swinging with different weights and speeds is a valuable training adaptation for a hitter. Throughout the course of the season, there will be days where the athlete does not feel 100% physically. Having a stable swing that has been trained at different weights and velocities ensures that the athlete will not lose that movement.
Training hitters using overload/underload implements has multiple benefits, and it is backed by research from multiple sources. We implemented it into our hitting program at Driveline and I used it while coaching at the college level before that. Many teams around the country are utilizing this training method because of its ability to successfully train hitters and we are proud to have worked with Axe Bat in developing the bat speed training system and program.
A series of blogs will follow regarding the Axe Bat Speed Program, our utilization of overload/underload implement training with hitters, performance benefits of the Axe Bat/Handle, and current and future Driveline research in this area.