When we talk about “keeping your weight back” in softball, what we really mean is hitting the ball with your weight centered and your head between where your feet are planted. In contrast, one of the most common problems for young and beginner players is lunging forwards as they swing the bat, as if they’re trying to hit the ball out in front of them. Lunging like this will knock you off balance, and reduce the power of your swing. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to keep your weight back while hitting the ball!
How to identify an improper swing (lunging):
Lunging can be identified by too much bending in the front knee, especially if your knee moves over your toes, rather than locking it up straight as your energy transfers forward. Another way to tell if you’re using improper form is if your head ends up in front, or behind, of one of your feet after you follow through. Remember: when hitting the ball, keep your head between your feet always.
How to swing properly:
The key to a good swing is following a proper swing sequence. This means that in order to transfer your energy forward with the optimal amount of power, you first have to shift your weight backwards, and “load” your energy.
Some players load their energy by shifting their weight back without lifting their front foot, while others bring their front heels off the ground, or even bring their whole front leg off the ground (similar to a pitcher preparing to throw the ball). No matter how you load your body, make sure you’re moving backwards before moving forwards.
Once you’ve loaded your energy backwards and prepare to move your energy forwards to hit the ball, remember to keep your front side firm. This means hitting the ball with a front leg that is completely straightened out and locked at the point of contact. You don’t want flex in your front knee at the point of contact, otherwise you will lose a lot of your power.
Use the following two simple drills to learn how to stop lunging, and keep your weight back.
Softball hitting drills to keep weight back:
Knee to head hitting drill:
Start by drawing a horizontal line in the dirt using your toe. Prepare your stance as if you were in a game waiting for the pitcher to throw the ball, but make sure that your back foot is behind the line, and your front foot is in front of it. Your head should always stay completely centred, so that if you drew a vertical line downwards from your head it would connect perfectly with the line in the dirt.
Now, have somebody pitch the ball to you or hit it out of a tee. Shift your weight back to load your energy, then, as you connect with the ball, transfer your weight back onto your front foot and follow through while making sure your head stays overtop of the line in the dirt and never past it. When you follow through, look down to see where your head is in relation to the line.
The objective is to hit the ball while maintaining that perfect vertical line from the dirt, to your back knee, to your head. If you look down after hitting the ball and your head is over the line, you know you just leaned too far forward.
Knee to ball drill:
A lot of players will spin their back leg forward and upwards, extending it straight so that their hips and body make an upwards corkscrew motion. This is a bad habit that will hinder your ability to hit hard and remain controlled. The knee to ball drill is designed to teach players how to keep their back leg low so this upwards corkscrew motion doesn’t happen.
Simply place a fairly large medicine ball between your back leg and front leg, so that as you move your body to hit the ball, your back knee drives downwards into the medicine ball, rather than extending upwards over it. As you connect with the ball, your back knee should be touching the medicine ball, and your front leg should be straight, like a pole vault planted into the ground infront of you.