This is a simple yet highly effective drill I have used with players right up to international level to improve straight driving.
The drill is to get players to hit balls with all your weight on the front foot, the back leg in the air. The feed starts underarm before progressing through to throw-downs and bowling machines.
I was first introduced to the drill by the late, great Bob Woolmer. In 1991/2. I was running a session for a couple of our players who were involved in the Boland Squads (Claude and James Henderson). Bob was Head coach there.
Using elite players
Bob had the players hitting front foot drives with them lifting their weight totally off of their back foot and balancing on their front foot only.
The results were fantastic, the contacts were enhanced and the contact areas were right under both James’ and Claude’s noses meaning that they were in total control.
I then worked with Bob during a number of the Boland senior practice sessions and he had all of the senior players doing the same drill with the results being the same; enhanced contact, increased power and later contact areas giving the batter more control to be able to manoeuvre the ball precisely.
Why the drill works
Bob's view was that too many players drive the ball off of the front foot with too much of their weight being distributed on their back foot.
He used "force-plates" to demonstrate this on a Level IV Batting Module that he hosted in 2002 at Loughborough University. The results of hitting the ball with too much weight on the back foot were:
- Reduction in power (Less body weight being transferred into the ball)
- Players losing their batting shape when being forced to over-hit the ball to increase power
- Contact areas being made in front of your eyes, thus losing control at ball strike
- Ball being hit squarer than the line of the delivery dictates, the ball slides into the point and gully region rather than splitting extra cover to wide mid-on.
The simple act of taking the weight off the back foot counters all this.
Incorporating the drill
I took the drill on into my coaching programmes and soon all the batters that I worked with were incorporating the drill into their pre-game routines and practice programmes.
The feeds from the coach or partner into the batter started as underarm throws to build up the competence and confidence in the drill and then this was progressed up into throw-downs and bowling machine work.
I had been working with the England team for 18 months when Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen started to work with me on a day to day basis as batting coach.
Michael in particular was a keen advocate of the drill as he had seen Younis Khan using it at Yorkshire CCC during Michael's long lay-off with knee injury. Obviously, Younis Khan had picked up the drill during his sessions with Pakistan during the Bob Woolmer era as Coach of the team.
Michael used the drill during his comeback series and averaged 63 against the West Indies.
Other players saw this and started to use the drill as well.
- "Amazed at how much power I can get if I release my weight from my back foot onto my front foot when I drive the ball"
- "I thought that I would be unbalanced at ball strike but in fact I feel more balanced now that I am used to the drill, even though I am on one leg"
- "My contacts are much more controlled as I am waiting for the ball and hitting it under my eyes now.
- "I don’t need to make contact with the ball early to try and get power as my body weight being into the shot gives all the natural power that I require"
- "If I keep my batting shape then I generate all the power I need"
- "I can dictate where the ball goes now so much more, giving me more scoring options with control"
Now, I hear you say that you can’t hit front foot shots with no weight on your back foot in matches and to a point you will be right, but only to a point!
This is a drill that you then take into your normal batting in nets to test how it has impacted on performance.
Batters will still play drives with their back foot down on the ground, yet it is interesting to see how much of the weight is still on the back foot, has it changed as a result of the one-legged drill?
- Is the player making contact with the ball later now?
- Is the ball being hit straighter, rather than squirting away through point or gully?
- How much power is being generated with seemingly no increase in the swing of the bat?
- Is the player in control?
Take a look at a Jaques Kallis on-drive, an Ian Bell on-drive or a number of Kevin Pietersen's front foot shots and observe how much weight is on the back foot and how much power is generated: a lot of the time these shots are played without the back foot being in contact with the ground at all.
Then think back to the One-Leg Front Foot Drill work that these three players would have done and how that has impacted upon their execution of drives under extreme pressure.
It’s a basic drill that - if done properly - will make a huge difference to control, power and performance.
The best players in the world use it, can you incorporate it with even more context and understanding into your caching programmes or preparation routines?