Fundamental Baseball Skills

The Myth about the Elbow

hitting-elbow-1I have heard fathers and coaches yell out commands to their sons and players for quite a few years now. Many times their information is incorrect. One command in particular that stands out in my mind (because I hear it so much) is the one telling the hitter to keep his back elbow up. I’m not sure where this tip first came from, but I can tell you that it is not exactly a “fix.”

With the back elbow up in the air it changes the hinging of the wrists during the swing. Can you see this in the picture? This, in turn, changes the path (see section on swing plane) of the bat, as well as the leverage which affects the speed of the bat. The wrists work much better in the swing if they are slightly hinged back toward the forearm as in the picture to the right.

hitting-elbow-2The proper advice, which may have gotten lost in translation years ago, is for the batter to make sure his back shoulder is slightly higher than the front. The forearms should actually be in a reverse “V” and somewhat close to the body. This allows the bat to flow freely to the ball and maintains a short, compact swing.

Of course, as with all hitting instruction… nothing is a hard fast rule. It can be debated that plenty of Major Leaguers have their elbows up. This may be true, but they are Major League players with Major League bodies. If you are teaching a young player, this is the safest and most practical starting point.

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  1. I’ve been coaching baseball and softball for about 6 years now and it never fails. Every spring I get a kid with their chicken wing flying and, as I begin the correction, I hear it from the crowd. “Keep your back elbow up.” Some father that was taught this 30 years ago when he played thinks he knows swing mechanics more than the guy that played baseball through the college. So, I make my way to him and begin to explain the strength difference between the 8 year old on my field and Mike Trout, the gravitational pull the bat has when little Johnny swings it and the misalignment of the door knocking knuckles when throwing your chicken wing in the air.

    I never tell the kid where to put his back elbow. I just align his knuckles and let his back arm relax. This immediately increases bat speed and control – what a combination!

    1. Morgan. I’m with you I haven’t coached in 15 year so I go to watch my friends grand kids practice and I hear from the stands keep your back elbow up to their kid while he bats so I’m watching and the coach is teaching the same thing you don’t want to say anything but at being 8-9 years old that’s where bad habits start.

    2. The pros do swing the bat with the back elbow up. But, this is from a loaded stance, not a batting stance (before the ball is thrown). How do they get to the loaded stance? Most of them by having their knuckles in the right position in the batting stance with their elbows down, then coming back with the bat. If you teach a kid to stand with his back elbow up, in a batting stance, what does this do? 1 his knuckles are 180 degrees from what they should be. 2 He will be holding the bat in his palms not by the fingers. 3 When he brings the bat to his loaded stance, he drops the bat way down and usually swings up. Some small kids look like they are making a golf swing. 4 When you swing a bat, you reach a point where one fist will rotate over the other. With the knuckles in line as they should be, this happens way after contact with the ball. With the knuckles lined up 180 degrees from what the should be, the fist rotate at, or a little before contact, which causes the bat to make a loop upward. Now, know this. I am not a coach. I am not an expert. I am a no body. A lot of people watch everything and see nothing. I am just calling it as I see it.

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