Does everyone need to "kick back?"

We know that some of the best hitters in the game use a “scissor” move where they step closed and kick back with their back leg into contact. We also know there are some really good hitters that don’t do this, so it brings up a question: Why do some hitters kick back while others do not?

Is it because certain hitters are not “physically capable” of pulling this move off?

Short answer: No.

Everyone has the ability to kick back. Just see what happens when you pick up a hockey stick and rip off a slap shot or bowl a bowling ball. Your back leg is going to work behind you and your back foot is naturally going to come off the ground. It’s not something that you force to happen. It just happens because it’s how we’re made to move. Hitting is no different.

Now the kick back is not something all hitters need to do, but there is something that ALL hitters need to do… 

Watch the back leg on the bowler and Mike Trout...

In the 108 Performance Courses, we share our five Key Movement Indicators (KMI) for hitters. One these is the anchor point. When we look at the best hitters in the game, all of them create some sort of an anchor on their backside. This stabilizes the pelvis and anchors the lower half into the ground so the upper half can work reciprocally against it.

If our upper half is the hand that twists off the pickle jar, our lower half is the hand that’s holding the jar still. We need our bottom hand to create a point of leverage so the top hand can unscrew the lid. Our body works the same exact way. If we can’t anchor down and stabilize the lower half, it becomes really difficult to mobilize and rotate the upper half.  

While everyone needs to anchor and move reciprocally, how guys anchor is where we can see some variation.

Not everyone needs to kick back, but everyone needs to anchor

Some players like Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, and Fernando Tatis Jr. need to kick back and anchor in the air, just the way a hockey player or bowler would. Other guys like Joey Votto, George Springer, and Cody Bellinger need to anchor on the ground to create the same effect. The back leg still stays behind, but the back foot stays sucked into the ground during rotation. In both situations, the back leg is creating as a point of resistance to prevent over rotation. If we can’t resist rotation from the back, we’re going to over rotate beyond impact.

When this happens, we lose our ability to maintain stability down low. The less stable you are down low, the less likely you are to rotate well up top. Good rotation isn’t continuous. There is a point where you need to brace, stop, and decelerate so energy can be transferred up the chain. Not all hitters need to kick back to do this, but everyone needs to anchor. You just need to be in the right positions so it can show up.

Hitters who claim they can’t “physically” kick back aren’t at an anatomical disadvantage. They often have a positional problem. You need to get to your front side if you want to anchor on your back side. If you have too much weight on your back leg when it’s time to rotate, your body can’t anchor from behind. Your lower half is handcuffed. Instead, you need to be able to release your backside so it can work behind you and naturally anchor. It’s like we talked about above with the kick back: You can’t force it. You need to be in positions so it can show up. The sooner you get to your front side, the more freedom your back leg is going to have to pull this move off.

Interested in more? We break down the rest of our five hitting KMI’s in our foundational level one courses.