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  • 11/10/2013 initial post

What is Arm Bar? Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

This is 'arm bar'
at toe touch
This is one of the many confusing topics when discussing the baseball or fastpitch swing.

Most people say that arm bar is bad. Is it really?

The truth is, arm bar is good.

But, you ask, I've seen bad arm bar, what about that?

Bad arm bar actually has nothing to do with barring the arm. Say what?

Now that I have you thoroughly confused, we will present below both sides of the argument from experts, then show you some pictures of actual MLB hitters, and finally give our recommendation.


Advocates for 'Arm Bar is Bad'

The first Google result for "hitting arm bar" (which is what most new coaches would see) is high school head coach Dave Vaccaro's website HitMore.Net who says in his 'Hitting Flaws' page:
Arm Bar Demo
Dave Vacarro
Arm-bar is when a hitterís front arm becomes extended across is chest when loading his hands. This is similar to a golferís front arm as he loads up to drive a golf ball. This is a result of too much movement with the bottom hand when loading. This problem makes it difficult to execute a short approach and therefore leads to a bad swing-path.

Corrective Measure: To correct this flaw, tell your hitter to use his top hand to bring his bat to the power slot, while the bottom hand just goes for the ride.

Dr. Larry Van Such, from BaseballSwingMechanics.com in their free ebook Baseball Swing Mechanics, shows this as the proper way to coil/load:
BaseballSwingMechanics Arm Bar


Most people would consider this an example of 'armbar'.
Connor Power of DeadRedHitting.com in Fix Your Arm Bar: How To Prevent And Fix Arm Barís In Youth Little League Baseball.

In his YouTube he shows an example of arm bar at 1:05 (left), and how he fixed it at 1:31 (right):
Connor Power Shows Bad Arm Bar
Connor Power Fixes Arm Bar

Many people would consider both of these images to be examples of 'armbar'.
The NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION offers some advice at Most Common Hitting Flaws - #2 by Matt Schilling, Director of On-Field Instruction at Baseball Factory, professional scout and former college coach
They define bat wrap as:
Players who "wrap" very often bar their front arm which causes a long swing and makes it impossible for the player to keep his hands inside the ball and hit the ball where it is pitched (see photos 1 and 2)
National High School Coaches Arm Bar Fix

They fix it by:
Load Drill-
Players who "wrap" often do so because they "load" their hands too strongly with the bottom hand. When you push too hard with your bottom hand, the tip of the bat goes towards the pitcher thus causing a "wrap." Concentrate on loading your hands back with your top hand. Keep your bottom hand a little looser on the bat and focus on taking your hands back to "load' with your top hand. Do this in a mirror, or have a parent or coach watch you to make sure you are not "wrapping."

Photos #3 and #4 are of players who do not wrap the bat. Notice that the distance the bat head must travel to the hitting zone is much shorter than that in the first two photos. The players' hands have also gotten into a perfect slot in close to their bodies. You can therefore see how much a bat "wrap" lengthens the swing

Notice how photo #3 is in the stance. Arm bar and wrap are not an issue in the stance.

Also notice how the arm is actually barred in photo #4.
BaseballRebellion.com talks about arm bar at The TRUTH About Hand Path in the Baseball or Softball Swing: Look Ma, No Hands!
He defines arm bar as:
Activation of the front arm triceps leads to arm bar, slower rotation, and makes it much more difficult to hit the inside pitch.

Then he fixes it with a product of his:
The Rebelís Rack can help eliminate front arm barring and triceps activation, back arm shoulder push, improve wrist flexibility and barrel direction, as well as teach the hitter to gain more separation between the pelvis angle and the shoulder angle
HittingRebellion Rebel's Rack
HittingRebellion
Rebel's Rack In Use


I'm not sure where to start on this one. This is just God awful. I'm not sure how your back elbow could properly come up at toe touch with this. I'm not sure if you could properly stretch your front arm with this during the coil/stride/load phase.

Advocates for 'Arm Bar is Good'



Gallery of Hitters at Toe Touch

Most MLB hitters have their back elbow up at toe touch.







Note: Some of the above images may be copyright MLB.com and ESPN.com and are used here under "fair use" provisions of U.S. Trademark Law and are instructional, critical, non-commercial, and transformative in nature.

There's Good Arm Bar and Bad Arm Bar

Chipper Jones
I think the phrase 'Arm Bar' shouldn't be used at all. People use this phrase to suggest that you should not bar your arm during the swing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The term 'arm bar' causes many more problems than it fixes.

Bad 'Arm Bar' is simply when the hands are too far from the shoulder. The arm is barred but that's not the problem.

Good arm bar is when you stretch your front/bottom arm during the stride/load/coil phase.

But... your hands can't be too far away from the tip/outside of your shoulder.



Yes, ladies, this goes for fastpitch also.