Homer Simpson put it best when he pondered, “Donuts…is there anything they can’t do?” Those sweet little edible delights are quite obviously one of man’s top 5 greatest accomplishments. Perhaps moving up a slot depending on whether you believe we did land on the moon or not. And if it wasn’t for the instant diabetic coma that they caused, they would be a staple in my diet.
However, in this article I am speaking of a different kind of donut. I am referring to the warm-up donut that baseball and softball players use in the on deck circle. It is a tradition that probably goes back to the beginning of the game. Swing a bat that is heavier than the one that you use, and it will feel lighter. Unfortunately, the normal conclusion to make from that is if it feels lighter you will swing faster. Faster bat speed will buy you an extra millisecond or two for pitch identification. This logic, as it turns out, is flawed.
Once again, perception does not equal reality. Much like when I get ready to go out at night, and for some reason think I look good. Swinging a weighted bat in the on deck circle is actually detrimental to performance.
Sports Science tested the theory of the weighted bat; along with use a weighted golf club. In both instances the swing speed and performance were negatively affected. Call me a geek, but I love seeing the numbers. Seeing the science behind the sports we play fascinates me. The interesting part was that is wasn’t so much that swinging the weighted implement slowed down the swing, but that it threw off timing. All athletes know how important timing is. While swinging the weight did prime the slower twitch muscles, and decrease the speed of the swing…the end result was poor contact on the ball. And poor contact, negatively effects ball speed more than any other factor.
So what should we do to warm up before an at bat, or the first tee? And do weighted clubs and donuts have their place? Well first off weighted devices definitely have their place in baseball and golf workouts. They should be used in an athlete’s strength training regime. And yes, I just referred to Golfers as athletes. Use of sport specific weighted devices is a nice bridge between the gym and the field of competition. Now as far as the day of competition, I am going to suggest something new…something that will turn your thinking upside down…Literally!
For golf and baseball warm-ups…flip the script, and turn your bat/club upside down. It’s that simple. Anyone familiar with the theory of overspeed, will see where I am going with this. Overspeed is when athletes train at speeds higher than the normal competitive speed. With sports such as baseball and golf this is accomplished by swinging a lighter bat or club. There are all kinds of training aids that you can spend a lot of hard earned money on if you want. Or you can just flip it over.
What happens when you swing a club or bat upside down? Besides the strange looks you may receive, you move more of the mass below your hands. This lightens the weight and allows you to swing faster. This primes the fast twitch muscles, and gets them ready to fire at an increased rate. With the golf club, this is actually an old drill, pay attention to your timing and make sure that you are hearing the “whoosh” at the point of impact. One of the interesting parts about doing this with a baseball bat is that the barrel is much larger than the handle. So not only are you waking up your CNS for your at bat, you are giving your hands a contrast. When you flip the bat back and step to the plate the handle will feel like a toothpick, and your swing will be faster. Sounds like a recipe for success to me. Just be sure that your last warm-up swings are with your game bat or club.
Here is the actual video, with all the numbers for my fellow Sports Geeks.