Several years ago while traveling in Missouri, my son and I stopped off, as we often do, to take advantage of a commercial batting cage to get in some strokes. The entire facility, however, was rented out to a youth baseball team. So every stall was filled with team members taking their hitting turns.
The coach was busily walking from one end of the cages to the other giving them baseball hitting tips, shouting out instruction to his hitters.
“You have to keep your elbow up!” was what he said.
“Get the back elbow “ is one of the most common statements used to instruct young hitters. What will this do to allow a player to improve? Why would coaches feel this could add value to a hitters stroke?
I asked, “Coach, is this how you teach and prepare for a baseball game?”
He answered , “Yes, when they finish their practice.”
Then I asked, ”Coach, why do you tell your players to get the back elbow up?”
And he answered honestly, “I really don’t know why. Every baseball coach has said this and some continue to teach it. So it must be a good thing.”
Let’s explore some baseball hitting mechanics.What happens when the back elbow is up as the hitter goes to the ball. Many students who come to me will have their elbow up, and we will immediately adjust the elbow so that it is not up, but approximately 45° from touching the backside.
By raising the elbow to 90°, we change the grip on the top hand, making the knuckles over-rotated, and unless the hitter makes an adjustment, prior to contact, this grip will cause him to roll his hands, losing club head accuracy to the ball.
What about professional baseball players? Why would some of them keep their back elbow up? MLB players make an adjustment with their back elbow prior to approaching the baseball.
What should the back elbow be doing? It allows for supporting the top hand. The elbow will not do this if it is as high as the hand. It allows for support to the grip and its no equal by being under it.
When checking a hitter, as he approaches the ball, the elbow should be under the bat in the formation of a “V”—which we call a “Power-V”. This keeps the grip correct and the hands in a state of strength.
Youth Baseball Tips: The role of the top elbow is to support the bat. The support is gone, and your grip has been changed when it is up. We do not want this.
“Get the Back Elbow Up” is one of the worst things that you can tell your players.