Hitting a baseball is arguably the most difficult skill to perfect in sports. The art of hitting requires exceptional hand-eye coordination, an athletic element that cannot be taught. It’s important for players to hone their hitting mechanics in order to maximize their potential, though. According to leading scientific research Dr. Coop DeRenne, overload and underload training will increase bat speed and improve baseball players’ ability to hit for power.
Overload and underload training is a simple concept that requires hitters to swing different weighted bats in batting practice. This type of training is effective because it consists of adding and subtracting resistance to hitters’ swings. Three complex variables are used to enhance swing action and improve hitters’ reaction time: training volume, repetition and rest intervals. Structuring a developmental program that uses overload and underload training will help hitters reach optimum performance.
Developing faster bat speed enables hitters to increase contact percentage. It also improves their ability to drive the ball deep into the outfield gaps. Overload and underload training helps players become better hitters because it requires repetition of explosive movement, which is a function of fast-twitch muscle fibers. “Overload” requires hitters to use a heavier bat than they’re accustomed to, fueling strength development. “Underload” forces players to use a lighter bat than they typically practice with, increasing bat speed.
The overload process strengthens fast-twitch muscle fibers in the forearms and shoulders. Repetition is a key component of strength development because it improves muscle memory. The underload effect allows hitters to enhance their hitting mechanics by swinging a lighter bat. The added advantage of using overload and underload training is that it reduces fatigue over time, allowing hitters to swing with full authority during their fourth and fifth at-bats of a ball game.
To effectively execute an overload and underload training regimen, a hitter should take at least 10 swings with a heavier bat (34 to 38 oz.) and then take an additional 10 cuts with a lighter bat (24 to 28 oz.). Soft toss should succeed each session of swinging different weighted bats. To start, hitters must practice taking cuts with a lighter bat from each part of the plate: inside, down the middle and outside. The goal of this type of training is to help hitters recognize pitch location and develop better swing-action timing. This drill can be made more difficult by using a heavier bat. Constant repetition of these exercises will help hitters develop better reaction time, allowing them to reach their full potential.