Home Baseball Content The Hips in Baseball Hitting

The Hips in Baseball Hitting

Written on June 16, 2010 at 7:39 am, by Eric Cressey

In just the past few days, I’ve had two separate conversations with some really knowledgeable CP “dads” who also happen to have a ton of experience with coaching youth baseball players, particularly hitters.  In both conversations, a (paraphrased) line that stood out was “improving as a hitter in the teenage years is largely about learning to use the hips.”

In contrast, have the same hitting conversation with just about any professional baseball player, and he’ll tell you “I hit with my hands.”

So who is right?  Do professional players not use their hips?  Or, do kids not use their hands?

Actually, both parties are right.  You don’t get to professional baseball in the first place if you don’t use your hips well when hitting.  And, you don’t succeed (and stick around) in professional baseball unless you use your hands efficiently and have remarkable hand-eye coordination.  It’s just multiple levels of natural selection that set the best apart – and they may sometimes forgot about the early stages of progress.

Need proof?  Watch a little league batting practice session, and then go to a big-league game to watch their batting practice.  The young players all pull the ball on every pitch, whereas the big-leaguers usually spray the ball all over the field, moving from the opposite field to the pull side.  They do this with their hands and wrists, all the while taking the hips for granted.


Think about this: how many more TFCC (wrist) injuries and hamate (hand) fractures do we see in professionals when compared to teenagers?  There are a lot more – because this area gets used a ton more.  Kids, on the other hand, get stress fractures if they misuse their hips.  It’s no surprise, given the crazy rotational velocities and ranges of motion we see in hitters (outlined in my old articles, Oblique Strains and Rotational Power and Oblique Strains in Baseball: A 2011 Update).

What is a surprise, though, is that nobody has caught on to the ramifications of what this means for the youth baseball player who is learning to hit.

If a kid wanted to be a NASCAR driver, would we start him with a few 200mph laps at the Speedway amongst dozens of other drivers?  Of course not.


Why, then, do we have kids playing 180-200 games per year between school teams, AAU, fall ball, and even winter ball?  Where is the opportunity to learn how to hit in a controlled environment (closed loop), as opposed to trying to learn how to hit in live situations off of kids with no control (open loop).  Don’t get me wrong; many programs do a tremendous job with instruction and really do build outstanding technical hitters – but as much as I hate to say it, the occupation of “hitting coach” seems to be a dying profession.  Why?

1. Schools are starting to put batting cages on campus for year-round hitting, and some kids don’t appreciate that they need to learn to hit.

2. Some people see more money in AAU programs than individual instruction.  If a hitting lesson is personal training, running a team practice is semi-private training: more money in less time (and it’s usually cheaper for the players).  This strategy can work if it’s executed properly with sufficient coaching on-hand and the right demographic in mind; I have seen some AAU programs that are run with outstanding organization and excellent individual instruction at crucial parts of the year.


What is the right demographic?  I can’t say for sure – but I can tell you that we need to be really careful in dealing with kids in the 11-17 year-old range.  They’re learning to use their hips in an incredibly technically precise motion while their bodies are changing rapidly thanks to growth spurts and the fact that they spend 20 hours a day on their cans, thanks to sleeping, sitting at school desks, and playing around on Facebook and Instant Messenger.  We’re giving more physically demanding challenges to less physically prepared (and, many times, less motivated) kids.

Kids need good hitting instruction early.  They also need targeted mobility work, foam rolling, and appropriate resistance training.

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18 Responses to “The Hips in Baseball Hitting”

  1. Hans Says:

    Interesting read. How would you program strength training and “using your hips” for a high school player?

  2. Nick Chertock Says:

    Great insight on the different requirements for little league vs. the bigs. I see a lot of kids at the plate who can’t lead with the lower body because they can’t separate the hips from the upper body. Could it be true that little kids and not just adults who need hip mobility? I wish you were around when I was 12 and hit .069 with 20 HBPs.

  3. Jeff Blair Says:

    Good read Eric

    As usual, the “Cressey Edge” is the ability to analyze information and place it into the proper, real-world context.

  4. don smith Says:

    You give way too much credit to major league hitters EC. A lot of their hand injuries are due to their knucklehead ideas e.g. alinging the knuckles. Hips open during the follow through Nick, otherwise kids can’t hit a good pitch. Thanks EC for this site.

  5. Carson Boddicker Says:


    I definitely think we need to be respecting the concepts of the neurodevelopmental model with our kids especially in the young age brackets simply because the extremity movements in rotational sports are more readily available for use while the torso/hips don’t play quite as well. Curiously, would you see this as an indication to work more in that realm or just let development happen?

    Carson Boddicker

  6. Jeff Beard Says:

    Eric: My thoughts are that kids do not stretch their hips enouugh, esp. gluteus medius which is obviously used on the stance leg as a stabilizer and of course in the front leg as you step out at the pitcher. I think in general, the hips are overlooked and even forgotten.

  7. Jim Winterton Says:

    I have been reading your emails for the last couple of years and I enjoy the fresh outlook on training. I am a racquetball coach and some of the same principles apply to forehand and backhand as hitting. Regarding hip movement, it is a necessity in my sport to prevent overuse injury as well as consistency in technique. Thanks again.

  8. Shane Flamand Says:

    Hi Eric

    Great advise,
    Any chance you could send me extra information on youth baseball development? My son is twelve and plays competitive Baseball in Victoria BC Canada. (catcher)
    I never had this type of development information when I was a youngster and beleive its the difference between a good ball player to a great ball player.
    The importance of strength training and conditioning is as important as skill development.
    Thanks for your time

  9. Tim Rappe Says:

    Eric, I am seeing a tremendous number of stress fractures among young baseball players. It actually may not be an increase as the injury was previously misdiagnosed as a pulled muscle in the back. I have a gifted hitter who just missed two years because of spondylolysis in the L5. Rapid growth and unstable core puts the rotational strain on the lumbar spine. I’m a coach and not a trainer but hip flexor exercises are now part of our pre-game.

  10. pat elias Says:

    Excellent post EC. I defeinately see alot more back(Spondys) and hip(FAI) issues in kids in my clinic.The hips are a forgotten area of training and need to be trained in conjunction with good mechanics an approptiate rest , especially in kids.

  11. Bill Boutell Says:

    Another great article Eric keep them coming. As a longtime trainer of high school baseball players I loved the comments about open and closed end training. Even though I am a die hard Sox fan I got to spend some quality time with Yanks hitting coach Kevin Long this winter. What do all the following hitters have in common Gwynn, Boggs,Ripken, Mattingly, Cano, Jeter, AROD etc.?They spend lots of time on batting tee drills. They focus on how their hips and hands are working together to be able to stay back and crush it.

  12. Andre' Says:

    Great points Eric. We spend too much time playing games year round and abusing unprepared bodies and then wonder why we have failure rates as high as we do.

  13. Doug Miles Says:

    One of the keys in learning to use the hips in hitting, is not necessarily teaching them to use the hips. The last thing you want is a kid thinking that the faster he turns the hips the more bat speed he’ll have. The hips must “get turned”

  14. Jeff Says:

    Why are we praising blanket articles that makes a point but gives no practically to solve the issue? No where in there does he describe why or how to use the hips in hitting? Nick Chertock made a great statement about not seeing a separation between the hips and upper body with kids and adults. This, in part, is due to the un-educated “hitting experts” and other coaches who work with baseball players that don’t know the importance of this separation and don’t know how to develop this separation. The”experts” are saying that it is the hands that are the most important part of hitting. Someone then please do me a favor and stand at the plate while holding the bat out in front of you and hit a fastball using only your hands? Your hands/wrists are used for accuracy in hitting, your hips are used to generate the power.

    2 Causes of injuries in athletes: Poor mechanics, Poor physical abilities as it relates to the mechanics.

    Coaches working with athletes need to understand proper mechanics of hitting and then need to use exercises that strengthen the muscles that are involved as well as how they are involved.

  15. Matt Says:

    I would take more time in the cage with a qualified instructor any day over playing a game.

  16. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’s just one blog. There are over 2,000 more on this site. 😉

  17. kendal Says:

    “get stress fractures if they misuse their hips”
    Stress Fractures where?

    I would say 90% of the injuries I see in Travel Baseball from 9 to 15 are arm related, elbows and shoulders from throwing, overuse.
    I think I have seen only a couple of back issues and none that were hip injuries?
    I believe a good swing uses the whole body
    just like anything else. Weak Link anywhere eyes, Hands, back, abs, legs, even Mind, will diminish your chances of making it to the next level. We all sat at desk for 8 hours in school then went out and played sports and no problems, I think overuse is the biggest issue.
    No offense but I believe young kids doing a ton of speed and agility, pitching and hitting instructors, weight lifting and too many games in their sport is not helping but hurting (without adequate down time) A lot of coaches are not taking into account every pitching instructor, hitting instructor, trainer and workout, they do. Parents should relay this to the coaches and coaches should take it into consideration but most do not.

  18. Eric Cressey Says:


    You can have stress fracture of the lumbar spine when the hips don’t do their job.

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