Increase Bat Speed and Hand Strength
Published: November 5, 2014
The late Joe Tanner was an old-school coach who came up in baseball during the 1950s. Back then training aids were not nearly as available and players used creativity to increase their hand strength. As a kid growing up playing baseball myself, Joe (my grandfather) stressed the importance of hand strength to generate bat head speed.
Admittedly, the baseball players of Joe’s era didn't face the same level of pitching (mainly talking about MPH here), nor were they collectively as strong of athletes as what we have today. That’s no dig to their skill as professionals; it’s simply a result of modern-day exercise and physiology combined with human bio-mechanics understanding. Athletes today can get faster, bigger, and stronger with strength routines designed by exercise professionals with eight years of college and a lot of science to back their programs.
But the need for strength and quick hands is no greater now than it was 50 years ago. Players are still trying to achieve those quick, strong hands with a short smooth swing. To build hand strength, Joe Tanner had a technique using two full sheets of newspaper in each hand with his arms parallel to the ground at shoulder height. He would begin to crumble the sheets in each hand until they were balled completely within each fist. This seems easy, but try for yourself it’s an incredibly effective workout for grip strength. At age 17, I remember working on my grip strength with the common spring-loaded grip builder you see in gyms. Joe laughed and told me to try his newspaper method. One sheet was more than I could handle and the crumbled paper I was attempting to put into my fist was pretty pathetic. At sixty-something years old, he laughed, then rolled up two sheets in each fist, and proceeded to tell me how his grip strength was still stronger than any man in the Orioles organization. Maybe true, maybe a stretch, but he did proudly tell a story of a big-league pitcher he made tap out during some understood grip strength competition in a spring training clubhouse.
He then went on to describe the weighted bats he used to build from scrap bats. By drilling out a compartment at the top of the bat barrel, he would melt lead (yes, lead) and then pour it into the bat to let it harden. The result was a weighted wooden training bat. Today, at Tanner Tees, we would never dare try to sell this type of weighted bat system for fear of a flying piece of lead hitting someone in the head, but my grandfather’s weighted bats along with his first Tanner Tees were very popular to my high school team in the 1990s. When it came to baseball, I did exactly what he said. The rolling of the newspaper combined with his weighted lead bats did improve my hand strength, and I never had any high school pitchers overpowering me at the plate.
So today, without the need to build leaded bats for hitters, but recognizing the consistent need for players to increase their hand strength, we do have three products to introduce. Hand strength is the driving factor for “quick hands”, ball exit speed, and bat speed. It all starts with fast-twitch muscle contraction, which generates momentum of the bat through the hitting zone. Strong hands are quick hands. Quick hands with a good path to the baseball or softball is a recipe for success at any level.