Myth #2: Back Elbow Up

If you’re over 30, chances are you were told this at least once by someone growing up.  And chances are you still hear it being shouted by parents in the stands today.  And sometimes by little league coaches.

The myth simply says to raise your back elbow when addressing the plate (even before the swing load).  As opposed to just keeping it “down” or naturally and comfortably by your side.

In the video below, we’ll uncover:

  1. Why this “hitting tip” came to be
  2. Why starting with the back elbow up can lead to more harm than good
  3. When the back elbow should move up

Let’s get to it:

Why it came to be

When I ask a parent or coach why they tell their kiddo “back elbow up,” the following sequence has a 60% chance of happening 100% of the time (haha):

  • Dad tilts to the left
  • Dad looks up and to the side (it’s where we look for memories)
  • Dad crosses his arms, stumped
  • Dad says “you know, I’m not sure.  It’s just what I was taught by my old man.”

And their old man was taught that by his old man.  🙂

So after digging, here’s two main reasons why back elbow up became popular:

  1. The thought that it would generate more bat speed because it let’s the back elbow lead aggressively into the swing slot (we’ll have a lot to say about this slot in our Hitting Fundamentals course).
  2. The thought that we need to do everything we can to stay on top of the ball.  And that perhaps “back elbow up” will help create that top-down approach (which as you’ll see in hitting myth #2, isn’t helpful).

Why it usually leads young hitters astray

“Back elbow up” isn’t completely “wrong.”  Many great hitters address the plate with their back elbow up.  But just as many great hitters have their back elbow comfortably “down.”

So here’s where the problems often arise, especially with young players.

  1. It messes up the proper knuckle/finger alignment, which makes it harder to get to a strong “palm up palm down” point of contact
  2. It make most kids uncomfortable, which in turn messes up other things, and above all takes their mind off of what IS most important (see the ball, be on time, hit the ball hard).

For more on proper knuckle alignment, I’m going to need to defer to today’s video.  It’s easier shown than written.

A potential better way

In today’s video, I have Coach Elliott (Elementary PE teacher of 26 years and youth baseball coach of almost 30 years…he gets young player development!) show us how he teaches young hitters to address the plate.  It’s a simple step-by-step approach that your 5 year old can follow…and that your 15 year old might need to revisit if he’s gotten out of whack over the years.

Above all, the concept of “comfort” and “athletic” will lead the charge in this portion of the swing.  If your player is comfortable and in a strong athletic stance, they’ll be able to get uncomfortable soon thereafter more effectively.  And make no mistake, when the swing starts (the load), there’s a tension that should quickly build (and subsequently release).

And that leads my to my final point.  The back elbow usually DOES come up during the swing load.

Some kids more than others.  And that’s completely fine.  There’s a lot of room for nuance in a great swing, especially with regard to how one addresses the plate.  Just watch the next major league game on tv and you’ll see that each player is different (at this point).

For now, let’s settle on a bottom line:

At plate address, get your hitter into an athletic and comfortable position, and have them thinking about one thing: hitting the ball hard.

IF your player DOES feel more comfortable and athletic with the back elbow already raised, more power to him.  Just make sure that the knuckles are getting into proper alignment, especially at the point of contact!

Everybody In,

Youth Baseball School Founder

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