>>> Hi Jerry,
Couldn't agree more. i get a bit dismayed when I hear kids asking how best to "bulk up" so they can hit like the pro's, or spending their whole off season lifting weights in hopes of increasing power. I have nothing against lifting per se, and I am not one of those old fogies who think all it does is make you musclebound. However, I'll tell you what makes a kid slow - not working on speed. It's all about specificity of trainign - you get what you train for. If you want to bench press a house - train for it. If you want to be faster from home to 1st base, or throw harder, then you'd better be doing some type of throwing or running. <<<
First, let me say that proper strength training is an important element in developing foot, arm or bat speed. I think it is safe to assume that greater results can be expected when more force in applied to an efficient mechanic. This is also assuming that the training includes flexibility exercises. However, I find with the baseball swing, that attaining greater muscle mass at the expense of losing flexibility can be counter productive.
A before and after study of Ron Gant's swing is a good example. Ron was a top performer in the late 1980's and early 90's. He belonged to the exclusive '30/30' club (30 home runs & 30 stolen bases). That was during the time frame of my study and I had charted a large number of his swings. I recall an interview Ron gave while rehabbing after a leg injury that had sidelined him for about a year. He discussed his weight-training program that was to produce a bigger and stronger athlete for his return to the lineup.
The program certainly worked. He returned looking more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than the Gant I had studied. Ron's swing had also changed and he was never able to generate his former bat speed. The main difference I noted was the lack of flexibility he exhibited in his lead shoulder.
In his 'former' swing, as he prepared his launch position, he cocked his lead-shoulder inward 60+ degrees. This inward cocking (or "shrugging") of his shoulder allowed his bottom-hand to extend past his back-shoulder. With his 'after' swing, there was little or no inward cocking of the shoulder. It remained fairly inline with his back-shoulder. This left his hands well short of the back-shoulder as he initiated his swing. -- I explain why the inward cocking of the lead-shoulder impacts bat speed in the post below.
Shrugging the lead-shoulder
One might argue that Ron's lack of inward rotation of his shoulder might not be due to lack of flexibility. Although this may be the case, I find a good number of my stronger students are so tense in the upper body that adequate cocking of their shoulder is not possible.