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United States Patent Application 20180161653
Kind Code A1
Aldoupolis; Jamie ;   et al. June 14, 2018

TRAINING DEVICE

Abstract

A training device for use in teaching proper hitting mechanics includes an elongated, narrow beam, a rear foot support slidably coupled to the rear end of the beam, and a wedge-like front foot support fixedly mounted onto the front end of the beam. A longitudinal slot is formed in the rear end of the beam to restrict displacement of rear foot support along a three-inch linear path. To facilitate displacement of rear foot support, the beam is provided with a pair of removable glide strips constructed of a self-lubricating, low-friction plastic material. Rear foot support includes a balance plate that teeters relative to a base plate in contact with the glide strips. The ability of the balance plate to pivot and slide relative to the beam trains a hitter to utilize the proper sequence of connected movement between the lower and upper body using both sensory and auditory feedback.


Inventors: Aldoupolis; Jamie; (Wellesley, MA) ; Miller; John; (Chelsea, MA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

PITCHERS POWER DRIVE, INC.

Holliston

MA

US
Family ID: 1000003079897
Appl. No.: 15/836070
Filed: December 8, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62431570Dec 8, 2016

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63B 69/0002 20130101; A63B 69/0057 20130101; A63B 2069/0008 20130101; A63B 69/3667 20130101
International Class: A63B 69/00 20060101 A63B069/00

Claims



1. A training device, comprising: (a) an elongated beam having a front end and a rear end; and (b) a rear foot support slidably coupled to the rear end of the beam.

2. The training device as claimed in claim 1 wherein the rear foot support is restricted to slide along a linear path relative to the beam.

3. The training device as claimed in claim 2 wherein the rear foot support is restricted to slide approximately 3 inches relative to the beam.

4. The training device as claimed in claim 2 wherein the rear foot support is adapted to pivot relative to the beam.

5. The training device as claimed in claim 4 wherein the beam comprises an elongated frame having a front end, a rear end and a flat top wall.

6. The training device as claimed in claim 5 wherein the beam further comprises at least one glide strip affixed to the top wall of the frame to facilitate slidable displacement of the rear foot support relative to the elongated beam.

7. The training device as claimed in claim 6 wherein the at least one glide strip is constructed of a low-friction plastic material.

8. The training device as claimed in claim 6 wherein a longitudinal slot is formed in the top wall at the rear end of the elongated frame.

9. The training device as claimed in claim 8 wherein a pair of glide strips is affixed to top wall of the frame on opposite sides of the longitudinal slot.

10. The training device as claimed in claim 8 wherein the rear foot support comprises, (a) a base plate slidably coupled to the elongated beam, the base plate having a top surface and a bottom surface, the bottom surface of the base plate being in contact with the at least one glide strip; and (b) a balance plate pivotally coupled to the base plate, the balance plate having a top surface and a bottom surface.

11. The training device as claimed in claim 10 wherein the rear foot support further comprises a pivot bar mounted on the top surface of the base plate, the balance plate teetering on the pivot bar.

12. The training device as claimed in claim 10 wherein the rear foot support further comprises a foot strap mounted on the top surface of the balance plate.

13. The training device as claimed in claim 10 wherein at least one guide rail extends from the bottom surface of the base plate, the at least one guide rail projecting though the longitudinal slot formed in the top wall of the frame and retaining the rear foot support coupled to the beam.

14. The training device as claimed in claim 5 further comprising a front foot support mounted on the front end of the beam.

15. The training device as claimed in claim 14 wherein the front foot support is repositionable upon the front end of the beam.

16. The training device as claimed in claim 15 wherein a plurality of lateral slots arranged in parallel is formed in the top wall at the front end of the longitudinal frame.

17. The training device as claimed in claim 16 wherein the front foot support includes a tab dimensioned to fittingly protrude into each of the plurality of lateral slots to secure the position of the front foot support on the elongated beam.

18. The training device as claimed in claim 17 wherein the front foot support includes a top wall that extends at an acute angle relative to the top wall of the elongated frame.
Description



FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to athletic training devices and, more particularly, to training devices designed to promote the utilization of proper mechanics when hitting a baseball.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] A hitter is required to engage in a well-timed and fluid sequence of interrelated actions in order to hit a baseball in a technically sound manner. Specifically, a proper swing technique relies upon a kinetic chain of synchronized movement using both the lower and upper body of the hitter to generate a considerable degree of torque and power while maintaining suitable balance.

[0003] A technically sound swing starts with a balanced athletic stance which then transitions into a front leg stride. After front foot plant and foundation, the hips of the hitter immediately rotate, or fire. Lower body movement and hip torque generates forward linear power that, in turn, drives rotation of the torso. As a result of this well-timed and properly connected sequence, the arms extend the bat through the hitting zone with considerable power. Thereafter, the hitter completes upper body rotation using a balanced finish.

[0004] The utilization of proper mechanics when hitting a baseball is highly encouraged. The use of proper hitting mechanics serves to, among other things, (i) maximize bat speed through the hitting zone and thereby improve power and overall performance, as well as (ii) minimize stress on the upper body of the hitter as it uncoils by relying, in part, on muscular power from the lower body, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury.

[0005] Nonetheless, hitters regularly exhibit a number of know mechanical flaws. In particular, it has been found that hitters commonly mistime or inadequately execute the linear component of a technically sound swing. As noted above, the linear component of the swing, which is executed primarily using the lower body of the hitter, is responsible for fueling, or driving, the rotational component of the swing, which is executed through the upper body of the hitter.

[0006] Traditionally, hitters rely on instructors and/or video equipment to monitor swing mechanics. Although useful, instructors and/or video equipment are not always readily available to a hitter and, in addition, are typically expensive in nature.

[0007] Accordingly, portable training devices are well known in the art and are commonly used by hitters to improve swing performance. Due to their portability, training devices can be routinely used in a wide variety of environments, such as in the home or in designated athletic facilities, to intuitively train proper mechanics and thereby ensure an optimal swing through repetition and muscle memory.

[0008] For instance, in U.S. Pat. No. 8,740,731 to B. Miller et al, which is incorporated herein by reference, there is shown a training device that includes a pivotable balance plate that supports the rear foot of the hitter. In use, the device teaches a hitter to maximize lower body power using sensory and auditory feedback created from pivoting of the balance plate during a baseball swing. By training the user to initiate a swing using lower body drive, the hitter generates forward linear power that accelerates rotation of the torso such that the bat travels rapidly through the designated hitting zone.

[0009] Portable training devices of the type as described above, which include a plate-like structure designed to support the rear foot of the hitter, are well-known and widely used to train proper hitting techniques. However, these types of devices have been found to suffer from a notable shortcoming. Specifically, traditional training devices, which are designed to support the rear foot of a hitter, are stationary products that remain fixed in place on the designated flooring surface. However, during a properly sequenced swing, the rear foot of a hitter slides linearly forward as the momentum of the hitter advances forward through the swing. As a result, traditional training devices of the type as described above fail to account for the linear power drive motion of the back leg during a proper baseball swing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] It is an object of the invention to provide a new and improved training device for teaching and reinforcing proper mechanics when hitting a baseball, softball or the like.

[0011] It is another object of the present invention to provide a training device as described above that designed to train a hitter to initiate the hitting process using a forward, linear, lower body power move.

[0012] It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a training device as described above that is safe, durable, portable, and easy to use.

[0013] It is still another object of the present invention to provide a training device as described above that has a limited number of parts and is inexpensive to manufacture.

[0014] Accordingly, as a feature of the present invention, there is provided a training device comprising (a) an elongated beam having a front end and a rear end, and (b) a rear foot support slidably coupled to the rear end of the beam.

[0015] Various other features and advantages will appear from the description to follow. In the description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part thereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration, an embodiment for practicing the invention. The embodiment will be described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the invention. The following detailed description is therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is best defined by the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] In the drawings wherein like reference numerals represent like parts:

[0017] FIGS. 1(a)-(d) are top perspective, top plan, right side, and bottom plan views, respectively, of a novel training device constructed according to the teachings of the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 2 is a bottom perspective view of the base shown in FIG. 1(a), the base being shown with selected stiffening tubes removed therefrom for illustrative purposes;

[0019] FIGS. 3(a) and 3(b) are top perspective and left end views, respectively, of the frame shown in FIG. 2;

[0020] FIGS. 4(a) and 4(b) are top perspective and front plan views, respectively, of the front foot support shown in FIG. 1(a);

[0021] FIG. 5 is a partially exploded, bottom perspective view of the rear foot support shown in FIG. 1(a); and

[0022] FIGS. 6(a)-(d) are a series of front perspective views of the hitting training device shown in FIG. 1(a), the device being shown with a baseball hitter positioned thereon at various stages during the execution of a proper hitting technique.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Training Device 11

[0023] Referring now to FIGS. 1(a)-(d), there are shown top perspective, top plan, front plan, and bottom plan views, respectively, of a training device constructed according to the teachings of the present invention, the training device being identified generally by reference numeral 11. As will be described in detail below, training device 11 is specifically designed to intuitively teach the use of proper mechanics when hitting a baseball.

[0024] As a feature of the present invention, training device 11 is designed to teach proper sequencing of the lower and upper body of a hitter throughout the hitting process in order to generate a swing with optimal torque and power. Device 11 provides immediate feedback to a hitter throughout the six essential skill points of a proper swing which consists of, in order, initial athletic stance, front leg stride, front foot plant to foundation, hip torque connectivity, arm extension and balanced finish. In particular, training device 11 provides a novel means for teaching the proper sequence of movement in a baseball swing which results in the weight of the hitter being driven linearly forward to maximize power.

[0025] For purposes of simplicity only, training device 11 is described herein as being used as a training aid for teaching proper swing technique when hitting a baseball. However, it should be noted that principles of the present invention are not limited to use in connection with baseball swing training. Rather, it is to be understood that training device 11 could be used in any conceivable sports training application that requires immediate and intuitive means for teaching proper upper and lower body sequencing when hitting or striking an object, such as in conjunction with softball, tennis, or hockey swing training.

[0026] Training device 11 is a compact, portable and highly intuitive training device which comprises (i) an elongated base, or beam, 13 having a front end 13-1 and a rear end 13-2, (ii) a front foot support 15 fixedly coupled to beam 13 proximate front end 13-1, and (iii) a rear foot support 17 slidably coupled to beam 13 proximate rear end 13-2.

Base 13

[0027] As seen most clearly in FIGS. 1(a)-(d) and 2, base 13 is an elongated, lightweight, beam-like structure that serves as the foundation on which front and rear foot supports 15 and 17 are mounted. Base 13 comprises (i) an elongated frame, or track, 19, (ii) a plurality of tubes, or ribs, 21 which extend transversely within track 19 to provide, inter alia, adequate stiffness and rigidity to beam 13, and (iii) a pair of glide, or runner, strips 23 secured to the top surface of frame 19 to provide a low-friction contact surface for rear foot support 17, as will be explained further below.

[0028] Referring now to FIGS. 2, 3(a) and 3(b), frame 19 is an elongated, generally rectangular member which is preferably constructed of a rigid, durable and lightweight material, such as aluminum. Frame 19 has an overall length L.sub.1 of approximately 50 inches and a width W.sub.1 of approximately 6 inches, thereby rendering device 11 relatively compact and portable in nature while, at the same time, ensuring device 11 is of a suitable length for use by hitters of various sizes.

[0029] Frame 19 has a track-like construction with a generally inverted U-shaped configuration in transverse cross-section. More specifically, frame 19 includes a generally flat, rectangular, plate-like top wall 25, a pair of shortened side walls 27-1 and 27-1 that extend orthogonally downward from opposing side edges of top wall 25 along the entirety of its length, and a pair of shortened, flange-like bottom walls 29-1 and 29-2 that extend orthogonally inward from the distal ends of side walls 27-1 and 27-2, respectively.

[0030] Together, walls 25, 27 and 29 define a largely open interior channel 31 which is generally rectangular in cross-section, channel 31 extending longitudinally throughout the length of frame 19. As can be appreciated, the open nature of interior channel 31 within beam 13 not only renders beam 13 relatively lightweight but also enables components of front and rear foot supports 15 and 17 to be received therein as part of the assembly of device 11.

[0031] As can be seen, bottom walls 29-1 and 29-2 together define a generally planar mounting surface for beam 13. As such, base 13 is rendered suitable for placement on any conventional flooring surface, whether part of a designated training facility or otherwise. Accordingly, the ability to use device 11 in a wide variety of different environments allows for its frequent use and ultimate effectiveness as a swing training aid.

[0032] A plurality of equidistantly spaced, lateral slots 33 is formed in top wall 25 of frame 19 proximate front end 13-1, lateral slots 33 being in communication with elongated channel 31. In the present embodiment, twelve lateral slots 33 are provided in top wall 25, with each adjacent pair of slots 33 being spaced apart approximately 1.5 inches. As will be explained further below, slots 33 enable front foot support 15 to be securely repositioned along front end 13-1 of base 13 in order to accommodate variances in user stride lengths.

[0033] Top wall 25 of frame 19 is additionally shaped to define a narrow longitudinal slot 35 in rear end 13-2 of base 13, rear slot 35 being in communication with elongated channel 31. Slot 35 has a length of approximately 7 inches and a width of approximately 1 inch, which are appropriate dimensions for restricting displacement of rear foot support 17 relative to base 13 along a shortened linear path, as will be explained in detail below.

[0034] As referenced briefly above, a plurality of shortened stiffening tubes, or ribs, 21 extend transversely within interior channel 31 of beam 13. Tubes 21 are preferably constructed of a rigid and durable material, such as aluminum, which in turn provides beam 13 with the structural integrity that is needed to support the user.

[0035] More specifically, as shown in FIG. 2, a first stiffening tube 21-1 extends transversely between side walls 27-1 and 27-2 at front end 13-1. Tube 21-1 is permanently welded flush with the front end of track 19. As can be seen, tube 21-1 is dimensioned to substantially enclose front end of channel 31 and thereby effectively serves as an end cap for beam 13.

[0036] A second stiffening tube 21-2 extends transversely between side walls 27-1 and 27-2 in flush alignment with the leading edge of longitudinal slot 35, as seen most clearly in FIG. 2. As will be explained further in detail below, tube 21-2 effectively serves as a stop for limiting further forward displacement of rear foot support 17 within slot 35.

[0037] In FIG. 1(d), a third stiffening tube 21-3 is shown extending transversely between side walls 27-1 and 27-2 at the approximate midpoint of track 19. Welded in place within channel 31, tube 21-3 serves to provide the requisite level of stiffness through the center region of beam 13.

[0038] Lastly, as seen most clearly in FIG. 1(a), a fourth stiffening tube 21-4 extends transversely between side walls 27-1 and 27-2 at rear end 13-2 to enclose the rear end of channel 31. Tube 21-4 is disposed flush with the rear end of track 19 and is releasably secured thereto by driving a screw 37, or other similar fastening element, through a preformed hole 39 in each side wall 27 and into engagement with an associated end of tube 21-4. As can be appreciated, rear rib 21-4 is preferably secured to side walls 27 of frame 19 in a removable fashion to permit disassociation of rear foot support 17 for maintenance, modification and/or repair of device 11.

[0039] As seen in FIGS. 1(a) and 1(b), a pair of low-friction glide, or runner, strips 23-1 and 23-2 is secured to the outer surface of top wall 25 at rear end 13-2 of base 13. Each runner strip 23 is approximately 7 inches in length and 1 inch in width. Strips 23 are affixed onto top wall 25 over the portion of frame 19 which immediately defines slot 35. Runner strips 23 are preferably affixed to top wall 25 by removable means, such as using a double-sided, very high bond (VHB), adhesive tape.

[0040] Each runner strip 23 is preferably constructed of a low friction plastic material, such as a DeInn.RTM. acetal homopolymer resin material. Furthermore, runner strips 23 serve as the sole region of contact of rear foot support 17 on beam 13. As a result, the self-lubricating and low frictional nature of runner strips 23 enables rear foot support 17 to slide easily on base 13 within slot 35 during routine use of the device, as will be explained further below. Furthermore, because runner strips 23 are removably affixed to frame 19, replacement of runner strips 23 can be readily achieved (e.g. after extended usage) to maintain an adequate glide surface.

Front Foot Support 15

[0041] As referenced above, front foot support 15 is mounted on base 13 towards front end 13-1. In fact, front foot support 15 is adapted to be secured at various fixed positions on base 13 towards front end 13-1 in order to compensate for variances in hitter size and/or stride lengths, as will be explained further detail below.

[0042] Front foot support 15 is a wedge-like member that is appropriately dimensioned to receive the front foot of the user upon forward stride. The upward forward angle of support 15 is preferred to encourage a balanced foot foundation. However, it should be noted that support 15 could be alternatively constructed as a generally horizontal surface without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

[0043] Front foot support 15 is represented herein as a unitary member that is preferably constructed of a rigid and durable material, such as aluminum. In this manner, support 15 is suitably manufactured to support the weight of the user.

[0044] As seen most clearly in FIGS. 4(a) and 4(b), front foot support 15 comprises an angled top wall, or plate, 41, a tall front wall 43 extending vertically downward from the front edge of top wall 41, and a short rear wall 45 extending vertically downward from the rear edge of top wall 41. The distal end of each of front and rear walls 43 and 45 extends horizontally inward to form a flattened bottom foot 47 on all four corners of support 15. As can be appreciated, feet 47 enable support 15 to lie flat and stable on a flooring surface.

[0045] Rear wall 45 is shaped to define a central opening 49 that is dimensioned to fittingly receive front end 13-1 of beam 13. Similarly, front wall 43 is shaped to define a central opening (not shown) that is dimensioned to fittingly receive front end 13-1 of beam 13. In this capacity, front foot support 15 mounts directly onto base 13.

[0046] A locking tab, or tongue, 51, generally rectangular in transverse cross-section, protrudes downwardly from the rear edge of top wall 41 and into central opening 49. Preferably, tab 51 is dimensioned to fittingly protrude through a lateral slot 33 in frame 19 in order to fixedly secure the position of front foot support 15 on base 13 and thereby create a stable surface for the front foot of the hitter during use of device 11.

[0047] Through manipulation (i.e. lifting) of front foot support 15, locking tab 51 can be selectively disengaged from a first lateral slot 33 and repositioned on base 13 at another position at front end 13-1. The spacing between lateral slots 33 enables front foot support 15 to be fixedly positioned along base 13 in 1.5 inch increments. As referenced above, this adjustability enables device 11 to accommodate varying stride lengths.

Rear foot support 17

[0048] As referenced briefly above, rear foot support 17 is mounted onto base 13 at rear end 13-2. As will be explained in detail below, support 17 receives the rear foot of the user and is designed to both pivot and slide relative to base 13. By accommodating both of these motions, each of which provides an immediate auditory and tactile response, the user is able to intuitively learn the proper connection between the lower body and the upper body that, in turn, generates a highly powerful, linear forward drive motion.

[0049] Referring now to FIGS. 1(a)-(d) and 5, rear foot support 17 is preferably constructed of a rigid and durable material, such as steel, and includes (i) a base plate 71 slidably coupled to beam 13, (ii) a narrow pivot bar 73 mounted on base plate 71, (iii) a balance, or pivot, plate 75 loosely coupled to and teetering on pivot bar 73, and (iv) a foot strap 77 secured to balance plate 75 for retaining the rear foot of the hitter in place on pivot plate 75.

[0050] As seen most clearly in FIG. 5, base plate 71 is constructed as an enlarged plate that includes a generally flat top surface 79 and a generally flat bottom surface 81. Base plate 71 is generally rectangular in shape and has a length L.sub.2 of approximately 12 inches and a width W.sub.2 of approximately 6 inches, the selection of these dimensions to become apparent below.

[0051] Base plate 71 is preferably preformed to include two linear arrays of slots 83 that extend transversely therethrough, the function of slots 83 to become apparent below. Furthermore, a pair of guide rails 85-1 and 85-2 is integrally formed onto and project orthogonally out from bottom surface 81 of base plate 71. Guide rails 85 extend in parallel laterally across bottom surface 81 and are spaced apart approximately 0.875 inches.

[0052] As can be seen, each guide rail 85 is generally L-shaped in transverse cross-section, with the distal end of rails 85-1 and 85-2 flaring outward in opposite directions. Accordingly, rear foot support 17 is designed to be mounted onto base 13 in the following manner. Specifically, with pivot plate 75 oriented in a generally orthogonal relationship relative to the longitudinal axis of base 13, the distal ends of rails 85 are disposed behind open rear end 13-2 of base 13 in alignment with interior channel 31. Then, rear foot support 17 is advanced forward such that guide rails 85 penetrate into channel 31, with rails 85 projecting through narrow slot 35 in frame 19. Accordingly, guide rails 85 serve to limit displacement of base plate 71 along the linear path defined by slot 35 in frame 19. Furthermore, upon any upward displacement of base plate 71, the distal ends of rails 85 abut against the interior surface of top wall 25 to prevent disassociation of rear foot support 17 from beam 13. Once assembled in the manner set forth above, tube 21-4 is secured to open rear end 13-2 of frame 13 with screws 37 to retain support 17 mounted on beam 13.

[0053] As seen most clearly in FIG. 5, narrow pivot bar, or fulcrum, 73 extends longitudinally across top surface 79 of base plate 71 along its center line. Pivot bar 73 is a generally rectangular bar that includes a set of downwardly projecting tabs 87, each tab 87 being arranged and dimensioned to fittingly protrude into a corresponding slot 83 in base plate 71. Tabs 87 on pivot bar 73 are then permanently secured to base plate 71 by any conventional means (e.g. by spot welding tabs 87 to the portion of base plate 71 that immediately defines slots 83).

[0054] For simplicity purposes only, base plate 71 and fulcrum 73 are represented as two separately constructed pieces that are subsequently joined together as part of the manufacturing process. However, it is to be understood that base plate 71 could be constructed with an integral pivot bar 73 without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

[0055] Balance, or pivot, plate 75 is pivotally coupled to fulcrum 73 and is designed to teeter forward and backward thereon. Balance plate 75 is preferably constructed as an enlarged plate that includes a generally flat top surface 89, a generally flat bottom surface 91, a straight front edge 93, a straight rear edge 95 and a pair of opposing side edges 97-1 and 97-2.

[0056] Balance plate 75 is generally rectangular in shape and is of the same approximate dimensions in length and width as base plate 71. As such, top surface 89 of balance plate 75 is appropriately sized to support the rear foot of the user during operation of device 11, the limited size of top surface 89 training the hitter to maintain adequate balance throughout the swing.

[0057] As referenced above, balance plate 75 teeters on pivot bar 73. A pair of opposing retention arms 99-1 and 99-2 is integrally formed onto side edges 97-1 and 97-2, respectively. Each retention arm 99 is generally L-shaped in transverse cross-section and extends orthogonally down from bottom surface 91, the distal ends of arms 99 projecting inward towards one another. In this manner, it is to be understood that, when lifting balance plate 75 upward, the distal ends of arms 99 engage pivot bar 73 to prevent disassembly from base plate 71. In other words, retention arms 99 selectively engage fulcrum 73 to keep balance plate 75 loosely coupled thereto.

[0058] Balance plate 75 is additionally shaped to include a negative feedback projection, or flange, 101 that is integrally formed onto rear edge 95. Projection 101 is represented herein as a rectangular tab, approximately 0.5 inches in height, which extends orthogonally down from bottom surface 91 along rear edge 95. With device 11 assembled, projection 101 is dimensioned to extend only a portion of the distance between bottom surface of balance plate 75 and top surface 79 of base plate 71.

[0059] In use, projection 101 is designed to contact top surface 79 of base plate 71 upon any limited rearward teetering of balance plate 75 on fulcrum 73. In this manner, projection 101 provides the user with detectable feedback of rearward weight shift at any point during the swing, which is discouraged to the largest extent possible.

[0060] As seen most clearly in FIG. 1(a), foot strap 77 is secured to top surface 89 of pivot plate 75 and is designed to releasably retain the rear foot of the hitter in place thereon. Foot strap 77 is preferably an elastic strip of material which is formed as a closed loop and, in turn, secured to pivot plate 75 by inserting a suitable fastener 103, such as a bolt, through a preformed bore 105 in balance plate 75, which is visible in FIG. 5.

[0061] Preferably, the size of the closed loop formed by foot strap 77 is adjustable (e.g. through releasable engagement of strap within a buckle or other similar type of locking head). In this manner, foot strap 77 is capable of accommodating different foot sizes.

Operation of Training Device 11

[0062] As referenced above, device 11 is specifically designed to train a hitter to initiate his/her swing by driving the powerful muscles of the hitter's lower body forward along a generally linear path. The forward momentum created using the hitter's lower body, in turn, powers rotation of the hitter's upper body. Through proper connection and sequencing of movement between the lower body and upper body of the hitter, the bat ultimately travels through the hitting zone with an optimum amount of power.

[0063] Referring now to FIGS. 6(a)-(d), there is shown a series of figures which are useful in illustrating how device 11 trains a hitter to swing a bat using a proper sequence of movement between the user's lower and upper body. As will be explained further below, device 11 provides real time feedback to the hitter throughout the hitting process, from initial stance, to front foot stride, to front foot plant and foundation, to torso torque, to arm extension, and ultimately to balanced finish.

[0064] To use device 11, bottom walls 29 of base 13 are disposed on any suitable flooring surface, with front foot support 15 oriented in the forward direction (e.g. in the direction of a baseball being pitched to the hitter). Due to its relatively compact construction, device 11 can be used in a wide variety of common locations, such as on a sports field or even in a residential setting. Additionally, device 11 can be used as a swing training apparatus either with or without a baseball to be hit. This ability to use device 11 in any suitable environment renders it highly effective in training a hitter to achieve an optimized swing through repetition and muscle memory.

[0065] With device 11 positioned as such, it is to be understood that front foot support 15 is preferably repositioned along base 13 to accommodate any variance in the stride length of the user. As referenced above, adjustment can be achieved by lifting front foot support 15 until tab 51 disengages from the slot 33 into which it is inserted. Front foot support 15 can then be longitudinally displaced along front end 13-1 of beam 13 and subsequently locked in position by reinserting tab 51 into the slot 33 which is closest in alignment therewith.

[0066] As seen in FIG. 6(a), a hitter H engages in a properly balanced initial stance by positioning his rear foot R on balance plate 75 of rear foot support 17. To help retain rear foot R on pivotable balance plate 75 throughout the hitting process, rear foot R is preferably inserted through elastic foot strap 77. At the same time, the front foot F of hitter H is preferably positioned on top wall 25 of track 19. As a feature of the invention, the relatively narrow width of beam 13 challenges hitter H to maintain an optimal degree of balance during the period of initial stance, which is highly desirable.

[0067] While in his initial stance, hitter H adjusts his body so that his center of gravity aligns with the inner portion of his rear leg. With the weight of hitter H properly distributed in the manner, balance plate 75 remains horizontally disposed relative to base plate 71. In this manner, hitter H is provided with immediate feedback that the majority of the weight of hitter H is effectively loaded in the inner portion of the rear hip, leg and foot.

[0068] To initiate the hitting process, hitter H drives his lower body linearly forward, as represented by arrow A in FIG. 6(b). As can be seen, this movement is accomplished by striding front foot F forward and planting it on angled top wall 41 of front foot support 15. As a feature of the present invention, a front foot plant onto an angled surface trains hitter H to rely upon a strong lower body foundation that can be used to generate substantial torque.

[0069] The linear power move created using the lower body transfers the majority of the weight of hitter H linearly forward, with the rear hip and knee of hitter H advancing substantially in front of rear foot R, as shown. When completed properly, this linear power move causes balance plate 75 to pivot forward and strike top surface 79 of base plate 71 with such force so as to create a substantial auditory signal (e.g. a loud metal clanking noise). In addition, the forward articulation of balance plate 75 provides hitter H with a sensory reaction (i.e. the sensation of rear foot R teetering forward). As a result, hitter H is immediately provided with both auditory and tactile feedback from device 11 that the magnitude and timing of the linear power move has been properly executed, which is a principal object of the present invention. Completion of the linear power move results in hitter H disposed in the attack position shown in FIG. 6(b).

[0070] The considerable lower body momentum initiated through the linear component then powers, or transitions into, the rotational component. Specifically, the forward movement of the lower body powers the rapid rotation of the hips, torso, shoulders and arms of hitter H as part of a connected chain of movement. This rapid rotation, coupled with suitable arm extension, drives the bat through the hitting zone with considerable acceleration and power, as shown in FIG. 6(c).

[0071] It is important to note that the rotational component of a properly executed swing causes rear foot R of hitter to slide forward. Because rear foot R is connected to balance plate 75 by strap 77, a properly connected swing causes base plate 71 of rear foot support 17 to slide linearly forward on runner strips 23. Due to the elastic nature of strap 77, rear foot R is permitted to move slightly in relation to balance plate 75 in order to accommodate natural rotation of rear foot R.

[0072] Preferably, rear foot support 17 slides forward approximately three inches during the execution of a properly sequenced swing. Immediate response of proper rear foot slide is provided to the user through an audible click as rear foot support 17 reaches the front end of slot 35 and contacts stiffener tube, or stop, 21-2 with such force so as to create a substantial auditory signal (e.g. a loud metal clanking noise). In addition, the forward slide of rear foot support 17 provides hitter H with a sensory reaction. As a result, hitter H is immediately provided with both auditory and tactile feedback from device 11 that the magnitude and timing of the rear foot slide has been properly executed, which is a principal object of the present invention. For instance, if hitter H merely spins on rear foot R without the proper use of lower body drive, rear foot support 17 will remain stationary on base 13, the absence of sound immediately notifying the hitter H of an improper swing sequence.

[0073] Through proper connectivity between the upper and lower body, hitter H completes the hitting process using a balanced finish, as shown in FIG. 6(d). As a feature of the invention, the narrow top wall 25 of track 19 reinforces hitter H to maintain proper balance through finish. As can be appreciated, any imbalance of rear foot R on beam 13 will immediately provide sensory feedback to hitter H (i.e. through lateral movement off beam).

[0074] The embodiment shown above is intended to be merely exemplary and those skilled in the art shall be able to make numerous variations and modifications to it without departing from the spirit of the present invention. All such variations and modifications are intended to be within the scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.

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