We wrote an article on how important balance is for hitting in baseball a little while ago, and I thought I would follow up with some advice for using balance boards.
First, I do think that balance is king when a hitter is at the plate. Just like in pitching however, it's important to note that I'm talking about dynamic balance. This means that hitters need to be balanced while in motion.
I think one of the big mistakes that youth coaches in particular make, is that they recognize the importance of balance, but go about teaching static balance. In other words, they do a lot of work with their players on how to stand very still and hold their body and heads in one place.
While their goal is valid and important, the approach is problematic. Hitting and pitching are dynamic actions, explosive movements. At least they are when a player is doing them right. So we need to have a balanced hitter, but we need him to be able to use that balance to launch a vicious attack on the baseball.
With that in mind, here's some advice on balance boards for hitting.
First, the good:
- We like balance boards because they reinforce the need to have solid balance throughout the swing.
- Balance boards also require a player to have properly aligned feet and a straight stride toward the pitcher.
- The hitter is forced to keep everything pretty simple, usually this is a good thing.
- The hitter can learn how to be explosive while remaining stable
Now, the not so good:
- Balance boards are restrictive, they may reduce a hitter's comfort and natural confidence
- Boards that are two narrow don't allow for the explosive movement that we want
- Hitter cannot have an open stance on a balance board, again potentially removing their natural feel.
- Some coaches set up boards that are too high, creating fear and a safety hazard
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So in quick summary, we do like balance boards but we urge you to use them on a limited basis. We don't want our hitters to think of a baseball swing as a soft, standing still, activity. We like our kids to swing hard and really work hard to drive the ball into the middle of the outfield.
We have built balance boards before and we recommend that you use one that is wide enough, and long enough, to allow the player some freedom of movement. 12 inches or so wide seems to work great for reinforcing the need for stability and dynamic balance, while still allowing for some rhythm and aggression.
Something that we like a whole lot better is the tri-fold balance beam that Oates Specialties carries. This can be used to do all kinds of workouts in the cage and weight room to increase awareness and stability in the lower half. It's great barefoot as well, which we're huge fans of for feel and accelerated movement learning.