I’m going to start this post with a seemingly obvious statement. But trust me, it’s an important one:
Hips are joints.
Hopefully I didn’t loose too many of you right there, but here’s the point: whenever you hear a hitting coach talking about how important hips are in a baseball swing, it’s important to remember that they’re really talking about two things.
How your hips move and How strong your core is
Which is why it’s so important to remember that hips are just joints. They allow our bodies to move. But it’s our muscles that create that movement, and any power along with it. In order to really understand, and then improve, our swings, we need to separate the terms “hips” and “core.” “Hips” refer to joints. They allow movement. “Core” refers to certain muscle groups. These create movement.
Let’s look at the two points I made above, starting with how our hips move. We just established that it’s certain muscle groups that create the motion. Now we need to figure out which ones. We can do that by breaking down the type of movement we want to make.
It’s a tendency to think of the baseball swing as a) a twisting motion and b) a strange one that we have to learn. It’s absolutely not a “twist,” though it is a rotation. Luckily, it’s a rotation we’ve all been making since we were toddlers. The weight transfer in a baseball swing is very similar to walking.
What do I mean by that? When we walk, we push off our back leg to transfer our weight from our back leg onto our front leg. This is pretty much the same as what we need to do in a baseball swing. The difference is, we are doing this with our body turned sideways when we swing.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and you need to take a left turn (for a left handed hitter, imagine it’s a right turn). At the moment you start to turn, you have your left leg in front, and you start to rotate your hip into the turn. The motion from when you plant your front (left) foot until you raise your back (right) foot is the essential hip movement of a proper baseball swing.
At this moment, you are balanced and your weight is 50-50 between your front and back legs. Your hips rotate because your back hip is moving forward into you front leg and your entire body is rotating on the front leg as your back hip moves in the direction you are going.
So now that we understand how our hip joint rotates (not twists), let’s think about what muscles are causing this motion. That way, we know which ones we need to strengthen and loosen up. Flexibility is key to being able to make this motion as smoothly, and quickly, as we can when hitting a baseball.
The muscles we’re using here are our abs, our glutes, our quads and our hamstrings. In other words, the same muscles we use when we walk and run. How fast they are moving is directly affected by how fast we are moving our arms (a conversation for another time. Ask yourself this…what do sprinters do to make themselves run faster?) Notice that most of these muscles are in our legs. Our legs give us leverage, allow us to stay stable and balanced throughout our swing and the point of contact so that we efficiently transfer the energy we create into the baseball. That is what creates power in a baseball swing.
So to sum up, I like to put it this way. A swing isn’t some unknown motion you only do in baseball. A portion of it is a modified version of a movement you’ve been doing since you were 18 months old. Remember that! Also remember that it’s your muscles that create this movement, just like it’s muscles that make you walk. Hips are only joints. There’s nothing you can do to improve your joints, but your muscles you can strengthen, stretch, and teach to improve the quality of a movement.
Hope this helps!
Bill Dailey is a NCAA Nation Championship Winning 3rd Base Coach. Currently, he owns and operates Pitch by Pitch Hitting Academy in Baton Rouge, La. He created the 3S to help hitters of all ages and skill level reach their hitting potential so they can love the game like he does.