No matter what type of bat or ball you are using, or what level you are playing, there are two things that will determine your power output–how fast the ball leaves the bat and whether you are putting the ball on the ground or in the air. The metrics we use to measure these are exit velocity and launch angle. This post is a very basic primer on both of those, but you also don’t want to skip the basics. A proper grip, stance and swing mechanics are the foundation we build our power on. If you’re looking for specific softball hitting drills for power, check out this post on six softball hitting drills to unlock your power.
Grip, Stance and Swing
Get comfortable. Imagine you are wearing rings on both hands. These should line up in a straight line. This puts the knuckles in a rough line too. The lower knuckle on one hand should line up with the upper knuckle on the other hand and vice-versa. For current members of The Hitting Vault, we have a great video on fixing your improper grip.
The stance can feel complicated. Don’t let it. Your stance should feel easy–balanced and natural. There are a few factors, though. You’ll need to balance your weight properly, position your feet, hands, and eyes, and hold the bat at the right angle. Our post on the Top 5 Mistakes Hitters Make in Their Stance is a good primer.
A good swing, one that produces power, requires quality practice. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to swing fundamentals, so we recommend a full program when you’re building your swing. The truth is a blog post can’t get at everything you need to know. We recommend our SwingBuild program which is available to all members of The Hitting Vault.
At its simplest, exit velocity is the speed of the ball as it leaves the bat. The higher the velocity, the further the ball will travel if it isn’t slowed by the dirt, grass, or defense. And, a higher exit velocity is achieved by higher bat speed–that’s where your swing comes in. But, it isn’t a one to one correlation. If your swinging the bat hard, but making poor contact, you still aren’t going to get the exit velocity you’re capable of. But, when you do make good contact, the ball will travel farther and faster, giving the defense less time to react and taking the ball into the deeper parts of the field where outfielders have more ground to cover. That’s why we started with the grip, stance, and swing up there. If hitting for power were as simple as swinging hard, you’d be looking for a simple workout program instead of hitting tips.
When we talk about power, we usually mean more than just hitting hard. A hard hit ball on the ground is still going to result in an out more often than you’d like. The second piece of the puzzle is launch angle.
Simply put, this is the measure of the angle the ball comes off the bat. Low numbers mean low hits (on the ground), higher numbers indicate that the ball is launched into the air–too high and it’s a pop-up. That pop-up is the most likely outcome if you’re trying to put the ball in the air without putting in the work on a fundamentally sound swing.
Roughly speaking, here’s what you get at various ranges of launch angle:
- Grounder: less than 10°
- Line drive: 10° to 19°
- Good fly ball: 20° to 36°
- Not-so-good fly ball: 36° to 50°
- Pop-up: over 50°
A ball that comes off the bat below 20° isn’t going to result in a home run unless you’ve got pro-level light tower power. Working with a coach or a hitting program like ours to optimize your launch angle will let you tap into the power you generate with your swing, wherever you are in developing your power.
Fortunately, some of the same drills we linked above to unlock your power will help you achieve a consistent and optimal bat path and set you up for the launch angle you’re looking for. Finally, a reminder from Coach Lisle:
If you’re looking to hit a softball with power, you need 3 things.
- Optimal EXIT SPEED
- Your LAUNCH ANGLE needs to be within 10° – 36°
- The ball needs to be “Fair”
That’s all it takes.