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P. O. Box 460429
Escondido, CA 92046
Tel: (760) 480-0558
Fax: (760) 480-1277

E-mail: dryessis@dryessis.com
Visit our web site at: www.dryessis.com

Sports Training's mission is to be the preeminent sports training


and exercise resource for athletes. From youngsters through
professional and senior levels, coaches, doctors, personal
trainers, and others our unique services allows you to improve
athletic performance; such as the ability to run faster, hit further,
throw further and faster, jump higher, kick further, cut faster and
perform better.

 Michael Yessis 2000

No unauthorized duplication of this manual is permitted (photocopy, digital


or any other mechanical or electronical means) without consent of the
authors. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

i
About The Authors
Dr. Michael Yessis is president of Sports Training, Inc., a
diverse sports and fitness company. Dr. Yessis is also Professor
Emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, where he was
a multi-sport specialist in biomechanics (technique analysis)
kinesiology and sports conditioning and training. In his work,
Dr. Yessis has developed many unique specialized strength and
speed-strength (explosive) exercises and training programs. He
has been the training and technique consultant to several
Olympic and professional sports teams, such as the L.A. Rams
and L.A. Raiders football clubs, Natadore Diving Team and the
U.S. Men's Volleyball Team. He has successfully worked with
athletes from junior high school to the professional levels. Some
of the sports in which he specializes include golf, tennis,
basketball, soccer, baseball and track. Coaches and athletes
who use his methods of training (which incorporate the latest
technology from the Eastern bloc) have developed many
outstanding athletes. Comparisons have shown that most of
these athletes improved more in six months than fellow athletes had in two years! Dr. Yessis writes
monthly features in Muscle & Fitness. His "Muscles in Motion" column has been the number one
article read. Other topics include sports medicine, bodybuilding and sports training. He also
contributes a monthly column called Swing Doctor for Senior Golfer. In addition, Dr. Yessis writes
for other magazines on sports training and fitness topics. Many of his articles have been translated
into German, Spanish and Japanese and published in foreign journals. Some can be read in various
web sites. His TV appearances have been the Today Show, PM Magazine, Good Morning Los
Angeles, Eye on San Diego, Cablevision, Sports Page on Cox Cable and CNN News. He has also
been featured in newspapers and referred to in many journals, including Sports Illustrated, Sport,
California Magazine, Time, "M," Special Report, Los Angeles Times, People, and others.

Brad Albert is a member of the United States Professional


Tennis Association, United States Tennis Association, Orange
County Community Tennis Association, and National Athletic
Trainers Association. Brad has served as on-site trainer for the
USPTA national tournament in Palm Springs, the Seventeen
tournament, Junior World Pentathlon and Battle of the Sexes.
He also serves as an Oral examiner for the NATA national exam.
While working on his Masters Thesis in Specialized Strength
Training he attended the Institute of Physical Culture and Sport,
in Moscow for insight on Soviet training methods. In 1984 Brad
worked with the USA coaching staff (cycling) for the Summer
Olympics. Since 1983, Brad has been Director of Tennis at Dana
Hills Tennis Center in Dana Point, CA. Under his guidance and
with the support of his head and assistant pros he oversees 150
children a week in the junior lesson program. The facility has
received national honors from the USTA for being the "Tennis
Center of the Year, 1991". In January of 2000 he received the OCCTA teaching pro community
service award. As tennis director at DHTC he has been involved with numerous events and
programs including the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis, Rehabilitation Institute of Orange,
local civic groups and Sports for Understanding. He has worked with beginners to competitive,
highly ranked juniors, and collegiate players. He is also the tournament director for the Boys
National Championships and the Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tournament. Brad has published
articles in sports medicine, strength training and/or tennis for Sports Fitness Magazine, Muscle &
Fitness, USPTA Journal & Tennis Magazine.

ii
CONTENTS

..................................................................... i

About The Authors ....................................................................................................................... ii

Preface ........................................................................................................................................... vii

Acknowledgments ........................................................................................................................ x

CHAPTER 1 .................................................................................................................... 11

Improving Your Game ............................................................................................................... 12

Step 1 – Biomechanical and Physiological Evaluation .......................................................... 14


Step 2 – Special Strength Training for Learning and Improving Stroke Execution............. 15
Step 3 – Special Strength, Speed and Explosive Training ..................................................... 16

CHAPTER 2 .................................................................................................................... 17

Improving Your Forehand Groundstroke through Biomechanics & Kinesiology ..... 18

Side-Facing vs. Open-Stance Forehands ................................................................................ 19


Force and Power......................................................................................................................... 21
Role of Biomechanics and Kinesiology ................................................................................... 24
Biomechanics.......................................................................................................................... 25
Kinesiology.............................................................................................................................. 25

CHAPTER 3 .................................................................................................................... 27

Forehand Technique: General Description.......................................................................... 28

The Ready Position .................................................................................................................... 28


The Side-Facing Position .......................................................................................................... 29

iii
CHAPTER 4 .................................................................................................................... 32

Basic Biomechanical and Kinesiological Background Information ............................. 33

Types of Muscle Contractions .................................................................................................. 33


Concentric Strength ............................................................................................................... 33
Eccentric Strength .................................................................................................................. 34
Isometric Strength .................................................................................................................. 34
The Rebound Effect (The Stretch Reflex) ............................................................................... 34
Stability........................................................................................................................................ 35
Force............................................................................................................................................ 36
Levers .......................................................................................................................................... 37
Vision........................................................................................................................................... 38

CHAPTER 5 .................................................................................................................... 40

Biomechanical and Kinesiological Swing Analysis of the Forehand ........................... 41

The Backswing ........................................................................................................................... 41


Side-Stance Power Phase.......................................................................................................... 43
The Follow-Through................................................................................................................... 52
Open-Stance Power Phase........................................................................................................ 53
Learning and Improving ............................................................................................................ 57

CHAPTER 6 .................................................................................................................... 59

Forehand Groundstroke Cinematograms with Trouble Shooting & Solutions ......... 59

Cinematogram 1 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke - Kirsten....................................... 59


Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematogram 1................................................................. 61
Cinematogram 2 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke - Erin ............................................ 61
Cinematogram 3 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke - Erin........................................... 62
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematograms 2 & 3 ........................................................ 64
Cinematogram 4 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke - Rick............................................ 65
Cinematogram 5 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke - Rick .......................................... 65
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematograms 4 & 5 ........................................................ 67
Cinematogram 6 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke - Celeste ...................................... 67
Cinematogram 7 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke - Celeste..................................... 68

iv
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematograms 6 & 7 ........................................................ 70
Cinematogram 8 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke - Bill.............................................. 70
Cinematogram 9 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke - Bill ............................................ 72
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematograms 8 & 9 ........................................................ 73
Cinematogram 10 - Side View of Two-handed Forehand Groundstroke - Michelle ............ 74
Cinematogram 11 - Front View of Two-handed Forehand Groundstroke - Michelle........... 75
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematograms 10 & 11 .................................................... 76
Cinematogram 12 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke - Brian ........................................ 77
Cinematogram 13 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke - Brian ...................................... 78
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematograms 12 & 13 .................................................... 79
Cinematogram 14 - Side View of Open-Stance Forehand Groundstroke - Bill .................... 80
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematogram 14............................................................... 81
Cinematogram 15 - Side View of Open-Stance Forehand Groundstroke - Kirsten ............. 82
Troubleshooting & Solutions for Cinematogram 15............................................................... 83
Forehand Exercise Chart ………….……….………………………………………………………… 84

CHAPTER 7 .................................................................................................................... 85

General vs. Special Strength Exercises ............................................................................... 86

The Need for Analysis................................................................................................................ 87


Commonality of Movements and Exercises ............................................................................ 88
The Need for Rubber Tubing (Active Cords) ........................................................................... 88

CHAPTER 8 .................................................................................................................... 90

Specialized Strength Exercises for the Forehand ............................................................. 91


1. Hip (Leg) Abduction......................................................................................................... 91
2. Hip Abduction .................................................................................................................. 92
3. Forward Hip Rotation ...................................................................................................... 92
4. Forward (Shoulder) Rotation .......................................................................................... 93
5. Shoulder Rotation to the Rear........................................................................................ 94
6. Shoulder Rotation in a Side Stance ............................................................................... 96
7. Shoulder Rotation in the Open-Stance.......................................................................... 97
8. Shoulder Rotation - The Russian Twist......................................................................... 98
9. The Arm Swing............................................................................................................... 100
10. Wrist Flexion .................................................................................................................. 101
11. Wrist Extension.............................................................................................................. 102
12. Medial Shoulder Joint Rotation.................................................................................... 103

v
13. Supination/Pronation .................................................................................................... 104
14. Hand Grip........................................................................................................................ 105
15. Lower Body Stabilization .............................................................................................. 108
16. Hip Rotation with an assist from the Active Cords® ................................................. 109
17. Hip Extension ................................................................................................................. 110
18. Combined Weight Shift and Hip Rotation ................................................................... 111
19. Side Arm Throw ............................................................................................................. 112
20. Back Extension. ............................................................................................................. 113
21. Breathing Exercise ........................................................................................................ 115

CHAPTER 9 .................................................................................................................. 116

Designing Your Workout Program ....................................................................................... 117

Proper Breathing During Exercise.......................................................................................... 118


Getting Started.......................................................................................................................... 119
Personalize Your Program....................................................................................................... 120
When to Work Out .................................................................................................................... 121

Reps and Sets ............................................................................................................................ 121

Days Per Week.......................................................................................................................... 122


Increasing the Difficulty........................................................................................................... 122
Making the Workout More Specific ........................................................................................ 123
Maintaining Speed, Strength & Endurance............................................................................ 124
Recovery ................................................................................................................................... 124

CHAPTER 10 ................................................................................................................ 127

Principles of Training .............................................................................................................. 128

1. Individualization ................................................................................................................ 128


2. Gradualness....................................................................................................................... 128
3. Progressiveness................................................................................................................ 129
4. Overload............................................................................................................................. 129
5. Awareness ......................................................................................................................... 129
6. Consistency ....................................................................................................................... 130

SERVICES AVAILABLE FROM SPORTS TRAINING, INC................................................ 131

Contact us for more information about any of the equipment used in this book. ............ 131

vi
Preface
Our search to provide the most comprehensive guide for tennis training,
which integrates specialized strength and flexibility exercises to improve technique
and stroking power, culminated in the development of this book. The main
objective was to reveal a deeper understanding of how efficient technique and
motor performance are deeply intertwined with specialized strength and flexibility.

Most books written on fitness or player development cover the general


principles of strength training but fail when it comes to showing how strength is a
multifaceted quality and is very specific in nature. Typical training programs are
based on very simple models addressing only strength or endurance. They rarely
identify the different types of strength such as general and specific, relative and
absolute, speed-strength, strength-endurance, explosive strength, etc. As a result,
U.S. athletes have been limited in developing their true potential. We hope to help
remedy this problem and at the same time introduce a method of training that is
highly specialized and has shown tremendous results.

For over thirty years the Eastern Bloc countries dominated most Olympic
sports by applying the main concepts presented in this book. In tennis, the Czechs
along with various European countries brought this training philosophy and method
into their tennis schools. Unfortunately, most Americans have yet to subscribe to
scientifically based training methods, which come mainly from the former Soviet
Union and East Germany especially in the area of specialized strength training.

Few individuals had the technical training and translation ability to uncover
these advanced training methods. Fortunately, Dr. Michael Yessis, the foremost
expert on Russian training methods has combined his expertise with Brad Albert, a
teaching tennis professional for over twenty years, to bring this information to you
in a simple, understandable manner. For those of you who seek a more detailed
and thorough understanding of the symbiotic relationship between technique and
strength training we suggest checking out the Fitness and Sports Review
International (formerly the Soviet Sports Review). Other training aids that can
be cross-referenced for their application to tennis can be found in Women’s
Soccer Using Science to Improve Speed, Explosive Running, Explosive Golf,
and Secrets of Soviet Sports Fitness and Training.

This book is not a "work out" or fitness book. It is a stroke and game play
improvement book, which incorporates specialized strength and flexibility
exercises. When a stroke deficiency is determined (based on a biomechanical
analysis of the stroke), a specific exercise or exercises that are based on the
needs of the player are prescribed. They help to modify and improve the stroke so
that technique, and as a result, total execution is improved.

vii
An example of how strength impacts technique can be seen in young
children when they use two hands to hit the backhand (and sometimes forehand)
groundstroke. The reason for using two hands is obvious, they lack the strength to
hit the ball with only one arm. By introducing the second arm the stroke becomes
much easier! The help that children receive by using two hands is related to
specific strength and applies to anyone who plays tennis. If you do not have the
strength to execute the stroke, technique will be impeded and the chances of
hitting a clean shot will be greatly diminished.

Resolving technique problems is typically addressed by seeking out the


advice of a teaching pro by taking lessons to improve the shot in question.
Unfortunately, most teaching pros do not have a keen sense or understanding of
specialized strength and technique training. Consequently, stroke deficiencies that
are related to the strength component are often ignored or corrected in reverse
order (technique before strength). As a result, corrections are made through
repetitive practice in the hope that strength will improve together with technique.
Rarely is the player informed that one or two specific strength exercises would
correct the problem and allow them to develop a better stroke in a shorter period of
time.

The application of the theories and practices presented in this book produce
positive results and their impact can be enormous. Once you read this book you
will learn that by incorporating specialized strength exercises to address problem
areas your game will improve greatly. When coupled with guidance from a good
teaching professional you may be able to develop your true tennis ability to an
even higher level.

Those of you who wish to use this book as fitness guide may be somewhat
disappointed because the information is specific to the tennis stroke and only
partially to fitness. Although the exercises are specific to the tennis stroke, by
doing the exercises, you also become more fit. Getting fit is a consequence of
doing the program rather than being the primary focus.

The information in this book can carry over into other sports, especially the
sports medicine field. Injury is a constant concern of elite athletes as well as those
who participate in sport for recreation and health. Developing adequate strength
and flexibility levels specific to your style of game and way of hitting is critical in
long term development and enjoyment of the game without injury. In addition, the
stroke analyses are very valuable in uncovering the causes of injury. By correcting
technique you can correct the problem. Also the application of specialized strength
and flexibility exercises can target the specific muscles and actions involved in the
injury for faster recovery and prevention of the injury or a repeat injury.

The quality of the images reproduced in this book may not be as good as
you are accustomed to seeing. The reason for this is that they were taken from a

viii
digital video-camera tape which was used to capture a true action groundstroke
and actual execution of the exercises. This is the best method suited for seeing
exactly what takes place. None of the pictures are posed which typically occurs in
tennis books. Also the digital high shutter speed video camera is needed for
biomechanical analyses. Some 8mm camcorders, which are readily accessible
and relatively inexpensive can also be used for these purposes. However, the
digital camera captures motion better than any other photographic medium, though
the images do not reproduce as well as conventional 35-mm cameras.

ix
Acknowledgments
We are deeply indebted to the people who helped make this book possible.
Their assistance and patience during the long process of filming, editing and
exercising made our task that much easier. The order in which the names appear
is not related to the importance of the work and assistance they provided. More
specifically we would like to thank:

• Kirsten Smith, a top California and ex-collegiate player from Pepperdine


University for her assistance as a model in filming the forehand groundstroke
and specialized exercises.
• Bill Howie, a former junior college All-American and University of Illinois
collegiate player. Currently a teaching pro at Dana Hills Tennis Center who
served as a model for the forehand groundstroke and specialized strength
exercises.
• Chip Dunbar, a junior varsity conference double champion, who served as a
model for the exercises.
• Erin Ivey, a nationally ranked junior player who was a model for the forehand
groundstroke and the exercise pictures.
• Rick Conkey, an Open category player, President of the Laguna Beach Tennis
Foundation and previous coach for club teams in Austria, Sweden, England
and Germany who served as a model for the forehand groundstroke.
• Michelle Manley, an open category and ex-collegiate player from UCI who
served as a model for the forehand groundstroke.
• Brian Barry, an open category player and teaching pro from Phoenix, Arizona,
who served as a model for the forehand groundstroke.
• Celeste Wallace-Albert, Brad's lovely wife who pulled double duty, first as a
model for the forehand groundstroke and for spending countless hours
proofreading the material for this book.
• Marissa Yessis, who spent countless hours with the graphics, web site
development and computer work.
• Edie Yessis, Mike's lovely wife for all of her assistance and in putting up with
the two of us.
• Loren Nelson, our guru to the internet and for all of his time, input, skill and
talent in designing our web site, his marketing savvy and efforts in helping us
launch this project.

x
CHAPTER 1
Improving Your Game

www.dryessis.com
12
CHAPTER 1 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Improving Your Game


Welcome to EXPLOSIVE TENNIS: THE FOREHAND. This book is the
first in a series of books that will cover all the important aspects of playing tennis.
Subsequent books will be on the backhand, serve, volley, footwork (agility and
quickness), singles and doubles strategy and others. Each book will present the
most comprehensive analysis and treatment of the skills or tactics involved. Each
book will contain the latest in biomechanical/kinesiological analyses of the different
strokes and skills pertinent to tennis. In addition, each book will address how each
skill and strategy can be improved through technique changes and application of
specialized strength and flexibility exercises. By following the guidelines presented
in each book you will be able to play your best and capitalize on your maximum
potential.

The books planned in this series will introduce a new concept for improving
your tennis skills and overall tennis play. It is known as the "Yessis Method" that
revolves around specificity of instruction and training. Specificity is not a new term
to tennis. Several authors have used this term differently than how it is addressed
in this book. These authors used specificity to indicate that an exercise or
movement involves the same muscles used in the execution of the skill. However,
this is an example of general muscle specificity, not true specificity of training.

In true exercise specificity not only does the exercise involve the same
muscles but it involves them in the exact way they are used in the execution of a
stroke or movement. True exercise specificity has certain criteria that must be
met. This includes duplicating the same type of muscular contraction, the same
range of motion of muscle action and the same movement pathway as seen in the
stroke. In order to adhere to this concept of specificity, many new exercises must
be created to duplicate exactly what occurs in the tennis stroke. Therefore, you
will see many exercises presented in these books never before seen in tennis
literature.

Each book will introduce and expand upon the "Yessis Method" for both
learning and improving tennis skills. This method has been perfected over many
years of working with tennis players and other athletes. Not only is it based on the
13
CHAPTER 1 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

latest scientific and theoretical knowledge but practical experience. It consists of a


3-step approach to improving and perfecting your tennis play.

For many years and in most circles today, players have been told to
increase their practice and playing time in order to improve tennis play or tennis
skills. Thus it is not uncommon to find many tennis players playing year round, for
several or more hours a day beginning in early youth. However, merely playing the
game and practicing tennis skills does not improve your ability to hit harder with
greater control and accuracy, to move faster on the court, to leap higher for
overheads or to exhibit greater quickness.

The three proven methods to improve and perfect your tennis skills, athletic
abilities and overall game performance are:

1. Improve technique (skill execution);


2. Improve your physical qualities as they relate to tennis to the optimal level;
3. Improve your technique and physical abilities simultaneously.

Of the three, technique coupled with specific physical development shows


the fastest and greatest improvement! One reason for this is that your execution of
a tennis stroke depends to a great extent on your physical abilities. In other words,
your swing is only as good as your physical abilities allow. If you do not have the
strength and flexibility needed to execute a particular movement or joint action, you
will unable to execute the most effective shot or swing. For example, if you do not
have the wrist strength to hold the racquet in a particular position while striking the
ball you will not be able to execute a good shot.

The many differences in the physical abilities of players explain why there
are so many different styles of hitting as well as styles of play. This includes how
they move on the court, execute various shots, and how they select a particular
strategy in their game play. Because of this, each player requires a different
training program. This is one of the main principles of training: individualization,
i.e., your exercises and exercise program must be individualized to you and only to
you.

Following is a detailed description of the "Yessis Method", which is the basis


for improving your game. It is based on the latest scientific principles and practical
experience and has been proven to be very successful by both professional and
amateur athletes.
14
CHAPTER 1 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Step 1 – Biomechanical and Physiological


Evaluation
Knowing exactly what you do in the execution of the main tennis skills is
needed before specific exercises and drills can be developed to modify and
enhance your technique and improve your physical abilities. To analyze technique
and to allow for an accurate biomechanical analysis of your tennis skills, video
taping of each stroke must be done. This is why in each of the books in this
series; many players from all levels of play are analyzed in the execution of the
different strokes. This in turn makes it possible to get a good understanding of the
stroke, which then enables you to make speedy and effective progress in your
improvement.

The key actions executed in each of the skills are determined from the
frame-by-frame analysis of the videotape. As expected, all good players use
basically the same joint actions but with some modifications. As a result, each one
may look different in execution due to differences in the amount of force applied in
certain actions or in the sequence of joint actions, or one part of the total stroke
may be emphasized, and the range of motion of the different body parts involved
will differ. Therefore, even though everyone executes the same basic skill and
uses the same or most of the same joint actions, they are still different because of
how the movements are executed.

In the biomechanical analysis a videotape is made of the stroke from


different views. The tape is then viewed at different speeds and in detail, frame-
by-frame, to see exactly what occurs. Once determined, it is then possible to
uncover the changes that must be made to make the execution more effective. In
addition, it then becomes possible to create the exercises that are needed to not
only modify skill execution, but to enhance the skill execution.

With this information, technique changes are made. When you understand
what must be done to have an effective stroke, you can then physically go through
the changes that must occur. If you do not have the physical abilities to make the
changes, then you must incorporate special strength and flexibility exercises to
enable this. For example, the reverse trunk twist (See Fig. 1.1) allows for 90
degrees of separation between hip and shoulder rotation and determines
midsection strength along with flexibility. If you cannot raise the legs from position
a to b, this indicates a lack of strength in your oblique muscles. If you cannot touch
the floor (b to c) while keeping your shoulders from rising you lack midsection and
shoulder flexibility. Either way, you need to practice this exercise to develop the
strength and flexibility in this area to allow for technique modifications to occur in
15
CHAPTER 1 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

your stroke. Some of these exercises are also included in Step 2 for enhancing
the stroke.

Figure 1.1 The Reverse Trunk Twist

Step 2 – Special Strength Training for


Learning and Improving Stroke Execution
In Step 2, special strength and flexibility exercises, which duplicate the
action in the execution of the forehand, backhand etc. are introduced. The
exercises created and presented in this and in future books duplicate exactly what
occurs or should occur in the execution of the most effective stroke. The
specialized strength and flexibility exercises simultaneously develop the strength
and flexibility needed to execute the movements and refine technique so that it is
more effective.

By doing these exercises you learn not only how to better execute the
movement, but you develop a muscular feel for the action so that it can more
easily be incorporated into the total skill. You experience what it is like to execute
the movements needed for more effective stroke production. Thus, by doing these
exercises, not only can you learn more effective stroke execution but you are able
to make the changes and corrections needed in your technique.

These are not ordinary strength and flexibility exercises. They are highly
specific to what occurs in the stroke. They duplicate the same exact movement
pathway that you need for the most effective execution. In addition, they include
the same muscular contraction and the same range of motion over which your
strength and flexibility are displayed. The beauty of using these exercises are that
you not only will learn technique but also enhance it as well.
16
CHAPTER 1 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Step 3 – Special Strength, Speed and


Explosive Training
Speed is the key to success in most sports. Speed is usually associated
with running, but keep in mind that in hitting it is the speed generated by the
racquet that determines how hard and how far the ball will travel. Initially, speed
and explosiveness will improve dramatically through the special strength training
but as you gain additional amounts of strength, you need more speed and
explosive training to physically convert increases in strength to more speed and
explosiveness. Not doing this may make you slower!

Many of the exercises done at this time are faster and more explosive in
nature. They are executed quickly and forcefully. In addition, you are introduced
to new and more advanced strength exercises, and you continue doing some of
the special strength exercises from Step 2.

Prior to peaking or when you are getting ready for major competition, the
exercises and workouts become highly specific to the tennis skills being worked
on. At this time you will be perfecting your technique in relation to the levels of
strength, flexibility, speed and explosiveness that you now possess. This means
that you will be able to leap higher, be quicker in changing direction on the court,
be able to move to the ball faster, be able to hit harder under control and with
accuracy, and have better all-around movement skills on the court. Because of
your ability to execute the skills more effectively and to move more efficiently on
the court, you will be able to carry out any planned strategy that you desire. You
will be able to carry out the strategy because you will have the skills and abilities
needed to implement the type of play you desire!

The ball is in your court. Do you want to play at your maximum potential or
do you want to continue doing the same thing and playing at the same level?
Because you have already purchased this book it shows that you are desirous of
playing at your maximum potential. To get you started on the right path, read on
for details on the forehand stroke.
CHAPTER 2
Improving Your Forehand
Groundstroke through
Biomechanics &
Kinesiology

www.dryessis.com
18
CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Improving Your Forehand


Groundstroke through
Biomechanics & Kinesiology
The forehand can be considered the bread and butter stroke in tennis. It is
used more often and in more situations than any other stroke. In fact many
players, including professional players, run around their backhand so that they can
hit another forehand. This is understandable (although not always the best
strategy) since most players can execute the forehand better than any other
stroke.

The forehand is usually the first stroke learned and is practiced more than
any other stroke. The reasons for this are simple: With the forehand not only can
you create more force but you can hit the ball more accurately for better
placement. On the highest levels of play, winning or losing is often determined by
how accurately your shots are placed in addition to how hard or how fast the ball is
traveling.

World-class players can literally hit the ball to just about any spot on the
court, especially when they have ample time to execute the shot. As a result they
can have a much more effective shot, making it more difficult for the opponent to
return the ball. When they are rushed, they still have great placement because
they are capable of making last minute modifications in wrist, arm and body
position when hitting the ball to change the direction of the shot.

The ability to execute well-placed shots depends to a great extent on how


well hitting technique is mastered. Not only is technique the most important quality
to be developed from the very earliest ages, but it also plays a major role with
adults and high level players who are able to execute the best shot for the given
circumstances. When they do not execute the stroke well, and their shot is closely
analyzed, it is possible to see that they were not in the best position to execute a
good shot or did not get into the most advantageous position (within the time
possible) to execute the most forceful or well-placed shot. There are also
instances when they did not have the physical ability to return the ball as well as
they could have. If they had more specific strength, a better or even a great return
would have been possible.

It is important to understand that when you have correct or effective


technique you can generate more power than another player who is very strong but
has poor technique. In the latter case, the shots are usually wild and not under
19
CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

control. Understand that control comes not only from your levels of strength and
how hard you hit the ball, but more importantly, how effectively you hit the ball with
ample power. Thus, technique should not be ignored. It is the most important
factor for ensuring success from the early stages through the highest levels of play.

All too often, however, we see instructors who rely more on teaching
particular shots rather than how well the player can execute the particular shot with
the technique that he is capable of acquiring. In other words, technique is usually
ignored and emphasis is on where the ball goes. The placement of the shot
becomes more important rather than how well the ball is being struck. What is
overlooked here is that when your technique is mastered placement of shots and
execution of a particular shot becomes much easier and effective. This in turn will
allow you to hit the ball more effectively so that your opponent will not be able to
get to it or have difficulty in returning your shot. Because of this, when we analyze
a player we do not pay particular attention to where the ball goes. Our initial
concern is to see what the body and limbs do in execution of the shot. This is
where most players can gain tremendous improvement.

Side-Facing vs. Open-Stance Forehands


There are now two distinct views as to how the forehand should be hit in
today’s game. Many advocate the open-stance forehand while others maintain
that the classic side-facing stance is best. Because many pros often hit from an
open-stance it has been assumed that this is the best way to hit the forehand. But
this is not necessarily true. Instructors who teach the open-stance have not closely
examined the reasons for hitting in an open-stance nor have they determined how
the classic side-facing stance is related to the open-stance. The role of the
player's physical abilities or playing style appear to have been ignored as well as
the court surface which often dictates hitting stance.

If you can hit an effective classic forehand that uses the side-facing stance,
you should not have any problems in hitting the open-stance forehand, which is
basically the latter half of the side-facing forehand. Better players who use the
open-stance forehand usually do so whenever there is insufficient time to assume
the side-facing position to execute the total swing. This is often seen in the return
of service. At other times, it is used to save a step or to recover faster when time
is critical or when you are becoming fatigued or are too tired to execute the
footwork needed for getting into the side-facing stance.

For some reason the open-stance forehand is considered to be a unique


and different stroke. As a result, many instructors teach only the open-stance and
ignore the more effective and powerful classic side-facing stance. The belief in the
open-stance is so strong with some instructors that they begin teaching it to
youngsters who then never learn how to hit the ball from a side-facing position. As
a result they do not develop the ability to impart the most power into the shot.
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

In addition, they do not learn the proper footwork for getting into position,
which is also important for movement on the court. When they execute only the
open-stance stoke they remain flat-footed and wait for the ball to come to them.
As a result it is very difficult for them to be in the best hitting position. If you look
closely at many players using the open-stance you will see that they are often
jammed in execution of their swing. The elbow is in very close to the side of the
body, even when they have ample opportunity to get into a more favorable position
to have the arm more extended which gives them even more force. This is visible
in Fig. 2.1. Even though this highly ranked player goes into a side-facing stance in
these pictures, she is basically an open-stance player. Because of this, she hits
with the elbow in in almost all forehand shots. This leads to a loss in power and
control and increases her risk of elbow injuries.

Figure 2.1 The elbow leads the stroke (see cinematogram 2, frames 5-10).

When you assume an open stance position you have a wider than shoulder-
width stance which is very effective for sideward stability which makes it more
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

difficult to move out of this position. As a result many of the shots taken in the
open-stance are not always the best possible. As you will see in the following
discussion, the classic forehand side-stance is still the best stroke, not only for the
production of force and power but for ball placement and the prevention of injury.
When executed well, it also puts you into position for all-around movement and
prepares you for your next shot (See Fig. 2.2). Even a combination of the side
and open-stances is more effective than only the open-stance.

Figure 2.2 (For full stroke see cinematogram 1, selected frames 11-13).

Force and Power


In today’s hard-hitting game the production of power is very important. To
generate the most force possible you must get the body and racquet into motion
with maximum acceleration. Note that the formula for force is F=m x a where F is
equal to force, m is for mass, and a is for acceleration. This means that the more
mass (body) you can put into motion with acceleration, the more force you will be
able to generate.

In order to exhibit great force in any stroke and especially in the forehand, it
is necessary to utilize the entire body, i.e., involve as many body parts and
muscles as possible. Yet, this does not mean that involving large muscle groups
into the swing will guarantee you a powerful shot. To effectively hit the ball with
pace, each joint action must occur in sequence so that the force generated by one
action can then be transferred to the next action. When the force generated from
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

one joint action is transferred to the next joint, such as the legs to the hips to the
shoulders to the arm to the wrist and finally the racquet, this will allow for the
culmination of maximum force (and speed) of the racquet when you contact the
ball.

Therefore, the most efficient and powerful stroke occurs when the force
from the preceding joint is added on to the next joint action in the swing. For this to
occur, all the joint actions cannot occur simultaneously. They must occur in
sequence with some overlap between them if you want to generate the maximum
amount of force.

Because the game of tennis is becoming faster and the ball is being hit with
increasingly greater force, very often there is insufficient time to involve a
maximum number of joint actions. As a result, you must cut down on some of the
actions. This is why it is not uncommon to see some players hitting mainly with
arm actions while others use trunk rotation or a combination of shoulder rotation
and arm swing to generate hitting force. (See Fig. 2.3.) When time permits
players should include the legs, hips, midsection and arm to create the most force
in the most efficient way.

When you use a limited number of actions (for example: only shoulder
rotation and an arm swing even when time allows for total body involvement) you
are inviting serious arm, shoulder or back problems. When you involve a
sequential combination of the large body actions (i.e., weight shift, hip and
shoulder rotation) with finer arm and wrist actions not only can you generate more
force but also there will be less chance of injury. As an added bonus you will have
greater accuracy.

Understand that when you involve a sequential progression of body actions


(weight shift, hip and shoulder rotation), they produce most of the force so that the
arm and wrist actions can be used to produce greater accuracy rather than to
create more force. In other words, use the major large body actions to produce the
force so that the arm and wrist actions, even though they still contribute additional
force, can be used more for directing the ball to the intended target. In this way
when you have an effective sequential combination of actions, you not only
become more accurate with your shot but you also have increased your power with
less chance of injury.
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 2.3 (For full stroke see cinematogram 6, selected frames 5-11).
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Role of Biomechanics and


Kinesiology

Because the forehand groundstroke in tennis is most often superficially


described, in order to determine the key actions involved, it is necessary to analyze
the stroke biomechanically and kinesiologically. Only in this way can you uncover
the finer points of execution and know with greater assurance exactly which
actions are used, the sequence and timeliness of their occurrence, the muscles
involved, the type of muscle contractions used and other important details. A
general description of the stroke does not address these points and as a result is
often misleading. An analysis, however, answers such questions as:

• Is the stroke effective? If yes, why is it effective?


• What is the role of each joint action?
• Which actions can be changed to make the technique more effective?
• How can the actions be changed to bring in greater involvement of specific
muscles?
• How can specific actions be made more powerful?
• Should the stroke be modified? If so, how?

Most sources of standard instruction fail to address important points such as


these. Because of this there is often lack of agreement among coaches, players
and teaching pros as to how the forehand stroke should be executed or why a
particular joint action in the stroke is needed. Seldom is there agreement when
identifying the key actions or in describing the total execution that is needed to
insure safety and to produce maximum force in the stroke. Rarely is there
conformity as to how each joint action involves specific muscles.

Instead we see articles expressing the opinions of players, coaches and


teaching pros who are often at odds with one another’s views. For example, you
have probably read articles dealing with certain issues such as whether the open-
stance or the side-facing stance should be used when executing the forehand
stroke or whether the hips or arm should lead in the hit. Most of these are based
on personal opinion, trial and error or copying the latest trend with little or no
scientific inquiry.
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Biomechanics
Biomechanics is the study of movement: more specifically, the movements
involved in skill execution. It deals mainly with physical factors such as speed,
mass, acceleration, levers and force as well as the physical functions of the
movement. Biomechanics is often considered the science of movement based on
principles derived from physics and anatomy. It explains the "why" of a movement
and how the movement can be improved through scientifically based modifications.

Kinesiology
Kinesiology is the study of human motion and deals mainly with the muscles
and muscle functions. It describes movement, which muscles are involved in the
movement and how they are involved. It explores the muscular involvement in the
stroke technique while biomechanics looks at the physical factors involved in the
movement.

By applying basic scientific laws it is possible to come up with accurate


descriptions, not only of what should take place in execution of the forehand, but
also the role that each key action plays. By studying the physical characteristics of
the human body and the principles of mechanical physics, it is possible to
determine the most effective technique for people with different physical abilities
and levels of skills. It also gives you the basis for selecting and using specific
exercises to produce the results needed in the execution of the skill.

Biomechanics, and to a limited extent kinesiology, is relatively new to tennis


but is very important emerging sciences. For example, if you use biomechanics to
analyze technique you will be able to determine the strong and weak points of the
technique and to an extent how they should be corrected. In essence, the
biomechanics helps to determine the most effective way to execute the skill in
relation to your physical abilities. Once weaknesses and strengths are identified,
it is possible to identify which exercises are most effective to remedy or enhance
the technique as well as show how the exercises should be done most effectively.

With information from the kinesiological analysis you will know exactly which
muscles are involved in the particular actions or in the new actions that must be
learned, so that you can select or create the best exercise to improve the skill. As
a result of doing this, you will be able to improve the execution of your forehand
stroke faster and more effectively than with any other known method.

The information from the biomechanical and kinesiological analyses will not
only help determine how to most effectively execute a skill, which exercises you
should do, and how your workouts should be conducted, but also if the exercises
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CHAPTER 2 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

you use are safe. Biomechanics shows you the way to do exercises most
effectively, while kinesiology tells you exactly which muscles are involved and how
they can be strengthened in the joint actions that take place.
CHAPTER 3
Forehand Technique:
General Description

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CHAPTER 3 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Forehand Technique:
General Description
(Note: all descriptions are based on a right-handed player)

The Ready Position


Before being able to execute a forehand stroke you must be able to move
out of the ready position. There are several ways of doing this, and they are
discussed in detail in the book on footwork and agility. At this time, only a cursory
look will be taken at how you move out of the ready position into the side-facing
position to execute the forehand.

In the ready position, you assume a front-facing position to the net with the
feet approximately hip to shoulder-width apart. The legs are slightly bent, the trunk
is inclined forward about 20-30 degrees and you are ready to move out in any
direction with your weight equally distributed on both feet (Fig. 3.1).

Figure 3.1

To move into the side-facing position when the ball is hit deep you must first
shift your weight onto the left leg and then step back or turn with the right leg. As
you do this, your body turns to the right into a side-facing position. When the back,
right foot is placed on the ground, the foot should be parallel to the baseline, and a
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CHAPTER 3 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

line through your hips should be at right angles (perpendicular) to the net and
baseline. You then unweigh the left leg getting it ready to step into the ball for the
shot.

If the ball is short and you must move into the court to hit it, you then must
first unweigh the right leg and then turn the foot so that it is parallel to the baseline.
As you do this you also turn your body and put your weight on the now rear right
leg and then step toward the ball, as you push off your rear leg.

In some cases, it is possible to see players literally leap out of the ready
position and jump into a side-facing position ready to execute the forehand.
Regardless of which method you use to get into the side-facing position, the key is
to assume this position in order to execute the forehand stroke. Not getting into a
side-facing position will automatically force you to hit in an open-stance or in a
partial open-stance if you only turn your body part way. For the most power, it is
best to get into the full side-facing position in order to execute the most effective
forehand groundstroke.

The Side-Facing Position


In the classic forehand stroke, assume a side-facing position with the weight
distributed on the right rear leg. Bring the racquet back with the right arm until it is
in line with the shoulders. As you complete bringing the racquet back, step into the
ball. The first action is hip abduction (hips move away from the leg) in the rear hip
joint. In this force-producing action, the hips are pushed forward to place the
weight on the forward left leg.

At the same time as you push the hips forward, the left leg is raised and
moved in front (left hip joint abduction) and you step forward. Thus, there is
abduction in the left hip joint (leg moves away from the hips) as you step out to
meet the incoming ball and to move your body weight on to the front leg. At the
same time, the hips go into action via hip abduction in the rear hip joint. This starts
the hips in motion to push the hip (body) forward.

Once the front (left) leg is placed it becomes the axis of rotation and the
hips (and often the shoulders) rotate forward (accelerate) to the open position
toward the intended target. As the hip rotation slows down in the open position,
forward shoulder rotation should begin with acceleration while the rear right foot
stays back or slides forward slightly if you have a strong forward weight shift. After
this, forward movement of the arm with the racquet begins together with the
shoulder rotation. The shoulder rotation pulls the arm into initial motion and creates
moving inertia.

As the shoulders get square to the target, (open-face position) the arm
action begins to pull the racquet forward with greater speed. As the arm moves
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CHAPTER 3 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

forward, the wrist is laid back (wrist hyperextension) to create a shorter lever arm
for greater forward speed. Wrist flexion takes place prior to the contact phase to
square the racquet and then is laid back to remain perpendicular. Wrist flexion
then picks up again in the follow-through.

When there is insufficient time to execute all of the major body actions, it
may be necessary to hit from the open-stance position, that is, with the feet, hips,
and shoulders facing the target. In this case, there is usually only time to rotate the
shoulders to the rear and to utilize the shoulder and arm actions to generate the
force needed to hit the ball. The more shoulder rotation you can achieve, the more
powerful the shot will be.

When time is at a premium you should shorten the backswing, and as a


consequence, have a shorter follow-through. This will enable you to prepare for
the next shot, especially if the return is going to be fast. Some players when in
basically the open-stance also forcefully extend the right leg, to shift weight from
the right leg to the left leg to get more topspin and to be in a better hitting position.
(See Fig. 3.2.)

Figure 3.2 (Cinematogram 7, frames 7-12 and Cinematogram 15, frames 7-14.)
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CHAPTER 3 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

These actions are similar to what occurs in the side-facing stance forehand
stroke after weight shift and the hips have rotated forward. It is also possible to
see some hip rotation to the rear if the weight is kept on the right leg (after it turns)
to allow the hips to turn. Some players also turn the right foot to the side to get into
more of a side-facing position. (See cinematograms 2, 4, 8.)

Continual use of the open-stance to hit the ball, however, is not


recommended. Hitting from this stance is less accurate and produces more wear
and tear on the body. Even though you will see well-placed shots from the open
position by top players, you do not see the amount of practice that it takes to
develop this accuracy. In the classic forehand stroke not only is it easier to get
greater accuracy but you can get additional force generated from the forward
weight shift (stepping into the ball) and hip rotation so that there is less stress on
the arm actions involved.

It is important to understand that top players execute an open-stance


forehand stroke primarily to allow for a quicker recovery and to limit the available
angles of return for their opponent to capitalize on. Their accuracy is very acute
mainly as a result of the years of practice spent to perfect this method of hitting.
Because of this the open-stance forehand should be treated as an advanced
method of hitting if you expect to be successful with it.
CHAPTER 4
Basic Biomechanical and
Kinesiological
Background Information

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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Basic Biomechanical and


Kinesiological Background
Information

A general stroke analysis is effective in giving you a picture of what takes


place in the forehand stroke. By following each of the actions you can visualize the
stroke taking place. However, a general analysis does not address the intricate
coordination of the muscles that are constantly firing to allow the various actions to
occur. By looking deeper into the exact mechanisms involved, you can get a very
good idea of how the muscles operate as well as how the mechanical movements
of the body and body parts are integrated to produce the force and coordination
needed for the shot.

Before going into exercise or stroke details, it is important to have a good


understanding of how the muscles function, especially the different kinds of
muscular contractions and how they operate during execution of the stroke and in
the strength exercises.

Types of Muscle Contractions

Concentric Strength
In a concentric contraction the muscles shorten and produce movement. It is
sometimes known as overcoming strength. In other words, when the muscle
contracts, it overcomes the resistance and puts the limb into motion. An example
is the biceps curl exercise. When you contract the biceps and other elbow flexor
muscles you get movement of the forearm which raises the weight held in the
hand. Concentric strength is usually measured by the maximum amount of weight
that can be overcome in one repetition.
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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Eccentric Strength
In an eccentric contraction (often known as a yielding contraction), the muscle
lengthens (stretches) as it contracts. The more the muscle lengthens or the faster
it is stretched, the greater the tension that is developed. An eccentric contraction
plays a very important role in controlling and stopping movement and in preparing
the muscle for an explosive type contraction. It can generate up to 50% greater
force than the concentric contraction.

For example, in the biceps curl exercise when you lower the weight to return
to the initial position, the muscles are involved eccentrically. They contract as they
lengthen in the lowering action. Since gravity is the force involved in lowering the
weight, the eccentric contraction counteracts the pull of gravity to guide the
movement. The intensity of the contraction depends on the resistance being
handled. In a ballistic movement, (an initial explosive contraction which puts the
limb into motion with acceleration after which the limb moves or continues to move
with momentum) as the antagonist muscle lengthens it increases in the intensity of
its contraction. When it is strong enough, it stops the movement.

Isometric Strength
In an isometric contraction you exhibit strength but there is no movement of the
limbs. The muscle develops tension and there is some shortening of the muscle
fibers and tendons, but there is no limb or body movement. This type of
contraction is seen in stabilization of a joint or the body as when you hold a
particular position to execute a stroke. You can generate approximately 20%
greater strength in an isometric contraction than you can in a concentric
contraction.

When executing a tennis stroke or a strength exercise, all three muscle


contraction regimes are involved. As you perform a movement, the main muscles
undergo a concentric contraction while the antagonist muscles undergo an
eccentric contraction. The adjacent parts of the body that are not in use are
stabilized via the isometric contraction. Thus, all three operate simultaneously,
each with a very important function.

The Rebound Effect (The Stretch Reflex)


The elasticity of the muscles and tendons is used to a great extent in tennis
play and in strength training. In tennis play the ability of the muscles to stretch and
to contract very quickly – often explosively – is the key to executing fast and
powerful shots. It is also the secret to moving quickly on the court especially when
making quick cuts (changes in directions).
In order for the muscles to act resiliently they must first be placed on stretch
(eccentric contraction) in the backswing and then quickly contracted in the
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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

concentric regime to bring the racquet forward in a change of direction movement.


To place the muscle on stretch you must bring the racquet back (backswing) or
hold the arm and racquet in place while the body turns forward and then quickly
bring the racquet forward in the forward swing.

A perfect example of the stretch reflex in action is Andre Agassi’s forehand


groundstroke. With his limited backswing and firm wrist most players could never
develop the power he does. In Agassi’s case the forearm and shoulder undergo a
short but powerful stretch that develops great tension so that he can produce a
powerful shot with this compacted stroke.

The stretch reflex also is useful in court movement. When changing


direction on the court the leg muscles (mainly the quadriceps) contract
eccentrically to stop movement in one direction and when the contraction quickly
switches to concentric to extend the leg you are pushed in the opposite direction.
This is commonly seen when a player is pulled wide for a service return on the
forehand side/court where you must lunge by stepping out to the right with your
right leg to make contact with the ball, then quickly pushing off with the same leg to
start moving to cover the open court.

In a strength training exercise, muscle elasticity is used to handle more


weight and to enhance fast and explosive movements. For example, when doing
the bench press, as the weight is being lowered, the muscles involved undergo a
strong stretch (eccentric contraction) and the muscles become strongly tensed. As
a result, when the bottom position is reached, there is a great amount of energy
stored. To utilize it, you must quickly reverse directions and push the weight back
up in the concentric mode. If you stop in the bottom position, the tension (energy)
in the muscle decreases (turns to heat) and you then have to develop much more
muscle force to push the weight upward.

We call making a quick reversal in the bottom position (without bouncing or


when switching from the backswing to the forward swing) the rebound effect, which
is the key to explosive movements. It is basically the stretch reflex. However, the
amount of stretch is not the critical factor. Most important is the amount of forced
tension developed, how quickly it is developed in the stretching action and how
quickly you change directions.

Stability
Maintaining a stable (balanced) body is needed to ensure a safe and
effective stroke. The basic principles of stability are simple: the larger your base
of support, the greater your stability. This is why you should always have a hitting
position in which your feet are shoulder width or slightly wider. If you have your
feet together you have a very small base of support which will not give you the
foundation needed to execute a powerful stroke.
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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Another way of increasing stability is to bend your knees in order to lower


your center of gravity, i.e., where your weight is concentrated. The lower it is, the
more stable you become. Thus a knee bend is necessary for hitting, but when you
want to be active and move quickly on the court, you must be relatively tall with
little knee bend so that you are ready to go into motion immediately. In this case
you want to be on the verge of becoming unstable, i.e., being in motion.

Foot placement also plays an important role. If your feet are parallel and
shoulder-width apart while in a side-facing position, you will have good stability in a
left to right direction (forward-to-back motion to the net). If you are in a front-facing
open-stance, and your feet are parallel and wider than shoulder-width apart, you
will have good balance in a side-to-side direction (to the sidelines). In a side-facing
stance with better balance forward to back is another reason why the side-facing
forehand can be a more powerful stroke.

Force
When you exhibit a force, it must have a specific direction. In the forehand,
the direction of the force should be applied directly through the ball in a line with
the target. The point of application of the force is also important as this entails the
exact positioning of the ball on the racquet. If the ball is contacted directly in the
center of the racquet, i.e., in the “sweet spot”, there will be little or no rotational
forces present so that all the force developed from the racquet will be transferred
into the ball. If the ball makes contact low on the racquet (See Fig. 4.1), rotational
forces will come into play causing the racquet face to slightly "close".

Figure 4.1 (For full stroke see cinematogram 4, selected frames 10-12.)

Also important in regard to production of force is the line of force, i.e., the
direction in which the force is supplied during the hit. This is why you lay the
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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

racquet back by using wrist joint hyperextension (See Fig. 4.2a,b,c) to ensure that
the racquet and ball travel in a straight line during contact. Therefore, for effective
transferring of force, the racquet needs to stay perpendicular to the target line.

Figure 4.2 Notice the wrist position during contact for all of these players

It is also important to understand the definition of force and its relationship


to mass and acceleration. In essence, when you generate a force you must
accelerate an object. For example, when you bring the racquet forward you must
accelerate the racquet to apply great force to the ball. If you move the racquet at a
steady speed through its entire range of motion, the racquet will have some
momentum that is applied to the ball; however, if the racquet is accelerating as it
moves into the hitting area, then you will be able to generate even greater force
when contact is made. This is also related to generating power or explosiveness.
The faster the racquet moves and the quicker you execute the stroke, the more
power you can generate.

Levers
Levers are very important in the execution of the forehand groundstroke. In
essence, the longer the lever, the greater the force you can generate at the end of
the lever. This is why many club players started using longer racquets. However,
for speed of bringing the racquet through, you want as short a lever as possible
(the extra length will actually slow the swing down - all other factors being equal).

Thus, after you take the backswing and as you begin bringing the racquet
forward, it is laid back and your arm is bent to help create a shorter lever of the
arm. This positioning helps to bring the arm through faster, but before contact is
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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

made, you must flex the wrist to bring the racquet square to the target line and in
line with the arm (which may straighten somewhat) to create a longer lever to
create even more force when you make contact with the ball.

Levers also apply to rotation of the various body parts. For example, if you
stand in one place with the weight equally distributed and rotate the hips, you will
see that one side of the hips moves forward while the other side moves backward.
Thus you effectively have only a lever half the size of the hip width. To create a
longer lever for more force the axis should be in the forward leg so that you can
rotate the entire hip forward to generate more force (in effect doubling the size of
the lever). This same principal applies to shoulder rotation as well. The axis for
the rotation should be in the left shoulder (on the left side) rather than in the spine
for more power.

Vision
For greatest accuracy of contact, it is important that you follow the flight of
the ball as long as possible up to the moment of impact. By following the path of
the ball, your eye-hand coordination is improved. For example, if you look at Fig.
4.3 (frame 12 of Erin) you can see the vision focused on the ball and the ball
making excellent contact in the sweet spot. The same can be seen in Fig. 4.3
(frame 9 & 12.)

Figure 4.3 For full stroke see Cinematograms 3, 1and 8.

In Fig. 4.4 you can see slight miss hits (frame 11) and the eyes are not
focused on the ball (frames 11 & 12). Many times you can still have good contact
even if you are not looking directly at the ball but only if you have exceptional eye-
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CHAPTER 4 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

hand coordination. However, to insure that the shot will be maximally accurate, it
is important that you maintain visual contact.

Figure 4.4 (For full stroke see cinematograms 4, 6, and 10.)


CHAPTER 5
Biomechanical and
Kinesiological Swing
Analysis of the Forehand

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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Biomechanical and
Kinesiological Swing Analysis of
the Forehand

The Backswing
Getting into the side-facing position from the ready position is explained in
the general description of the forehand. Suffice it to say it is necessary to get the
entire body turned to a side-facing position. As you do this, you will also be
beginning the backswing. See cinematograms 2-12 in chapter 6 for full stroke. In
Fig. 5.1 you can see how the racquet is brought back as the body goes into
rotation to attain the side-facing stance.

Figure 5.1 (For full stroke see cinematogram 2, selected frames 1-5.)
As you turn your body your weight must be shifted onto the rear right leg.
For greater power you should also have the right hip directly above the right leg at
the end of the backswing. This means that all your weight is on the back leg and
you are in good position to forcefully shift your weight forward and to step out with
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

the left leg to begin the forward stroke. See Fig. 5.2 and 5.3 for good hip
positioning (cinematograms 1 and 8 for full swing).

Figure 5.2 Note how hips have shifted from the rear leg to front leg.

Figure 5.3

As your hips and trunk rotate to the rear and you shift your weight to the
rear leg, you also bring the arm with the racquet back to the rear in an action
known as shoulder joint horizontal abduction (See Fig. 5.1). In essence, the arm
moves basically perpendicular to the trunk from in front of the body to the rear.
The muscles involved in this action include the posterior deltoid, teres minor and
infraspinatus. They are responsible for bringing the arm to the rear while the
middle trapezius and the rhomboid muscles pull the scapula in toward the spine to
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

move the shoulder joint to the rear. This scapula action allows for the full range of
motion of the arm to the rear.

As this action occurs it places the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid
muscles of the chest and front of the shoulder respectively, on stretch. These are
the muscles that will pull the arm forward when they contract concentrically. By
being placed on stretch, the muscles will contract with greater force, or even
explosively if executed with sufficient speed.

Side-Stance Power Phase


While the arm is moving to the rear and approaches the final position you
initiate the forward weight shift and step into the ball. The forward weight shift
should occur basically through movement of the pelvis forward via contraction of
the gluteus medius and minimus in the right hip joint. (See Fig. 5.4.)

Figure 5.4 Taken from cinematogram 12, frames 5-7


As the hips move forward, the entire body joins in. In addition, you step
forward with the left leg in toward the ball. If a step is not taken you will at least
have shifted your weight forward to create more force. In Fig 5.5 you can see how
the hips have moved forward considerably. Other good examples are seen in
cinematograms 4 and 12.
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 5.5
Forward movement of the left leg is made possible by concentric contraction
of the hip abductor muscles in the left hip joint (gluteus medius and minimus). This
assumes you step forward sideways towards the target. If you step to the side and
front you will also involve the hip joint flexor muscles. The hip joint abductors play
a very important role not only in weight shift actions but in all side leg movements
on the court. After you step out and the forward (left) leg is placed on the court,
most of your weight is then shifted onto your front leg. (See Fig. 5.6 and 5.7.)

Figure 5.6
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 5.7 Even with a short step this players weight is shifted to the front foot.

You are now ready to begin sequential movements of the body to generate
maximal force. Note however that many players begin other body actions before
the leg is placed on the court. When these actions occur simultaneously with the
forward weight shift, you will not be able to generate the maximum force possible.
It also indicates that you rely more on the shoulder and arm actions and not the
body for producing force. For example, in Fig. 5.8 the player has rotated her body
to the full front facing position as the left leg is placed on the ground.

Figure 5.8 (For full stroke see cinematogram 6, frames 5-11.)


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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

When the weight is on the forward leg you establish a new axis of rotation
for the hip rotation which should be the next sequential action to occur. If you start
rotating the hips or trunk while stepping out you will not generate as much force for
the hit. The hips should begin forward rotation when your weight is on or moving
onto the forward left foot.

However, not all players initiate the swing with the hip turn; instead, they
begin an early arm action or shoulder rotation (This is seen in cinematograms 1
and 4). As a result, they do not get the maximum force that is possible had they
first rotated the pelvis around the left leg. Hip rotation not only creates a
tremendous amount of force but also sets you up for more a more powerful
shoulder turn.

The hip rotation, which should be the first major body action in your
summation of forces, involves the gluteus minimus and the tensor fascia latae of
the left hip joint. As the hips turn forward the left internal and right external
abdominal oblique muscles undergo an eccentric stretch in preparation for their
concentric contraction when they pull the shoulders around in the next action. For
maximum force it is imperative that there is separation between the hips and
shoulders. Even if the hips only rotate 20 to 30 degrees instead of a full 90
degrees to the open position (without the shoulders rotating) they will still place the
oblique muscles on stretch. As a result you will get a stronger contraction of the
muscles to produce more force from the shoulder rotation.

When the hips slow down and stop rotating as they approach the open,
front facing position, acceleration of the shoulders takes place. The deceleration
and stopping of the hips is needed to create a firm base upon which the abdominal
oblique muscles can pull. If the shoulders begin to rotate before the hips are
open, so that the hips and shoulders rotate together as a unit, less force is created.
In essence, the greater the separation between the hip and shoulder rotation, the
greater the force generated. But, as important as these actions are, very few
players master them. Most often you can see the hips and shoulders rotating
together in trunk rotation. As a result these players rely more on the arm actions
for hitting power. (See Fig. 5.9 and cinematograms 1, 9 and 10.)
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 5.9 Two-handed forehand - notice how hips, shoulders and arms act as
one unit - for full stroke see cinematogram 11, selected frames 8-11.

When the initial shoulder rotation begins with acceleration, the arm should
remain to the rear so that the chest and shoulder muscles can be placed on stretch
in preparation for the arm movement. In this case the force generated by the
shoulders is transferred to the arm to produce even greater total force. Keep in
mind that in each consecutive joint action, the force generated is transferred to the
next action. For example, force from the hip rotation is transferred to the shoulders
and the force generated by the shoulders is transferred to the arm, which is then
transferred to the wrist and then the racquet.

The internal and external obliques contract forcefully (explosively) to


execute shoulder rotation. At the same time, the pectoralis major and the anterior
deltoid go on stretch but only if the arm remains to the rear. In the stretch, the
muscles develop greater tension through the eccentric contraction so that when
they begin to shorten, they contract with much greater force than if they were not
stretched prior to their contraction.

This is analogous to a spring or rubber band being pulled. The more the
rubber band or spring is stretched, the greater the tension that is stored in the
stretching action. When the band or spring is then released, it quickly shortens to
return to its original resting state. As a result you get tremendous force in the
release of this energy.

As the shoulders begin to decelerate, the arm is partially through its range
of motion due to being pulled by the shoulder rotation. (See Fig. 5.10, Fig. 5.11
and Fig. 5.12.)
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 5.10 For full stroke see cinematogram 5.

Figure 5.11 The shoulder initiates the arm movement forward.


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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 5.12

In Fig. 5.12 above, the shoulders help initiate the arm swing. (Taken from
cinematogram 7, frame 10 and cinematogram 13, frame 7.)

As a result, the arm has momentum so that when the pectoralis major and
the anterior deltoid muscles contract they accelerate the arm to move it even
faster. As a result, the arm can move with greater speed and power. Note also
that the force generated by the hip and shoulder (or trunk) rotation has also been
transferred into the arm movement. This is why the arm has speed and force.

How quickly you bring the arm through in the hit is also determined by how
far away the ball is from the body. If the ball is in close, and you have a slightly
bent arm, the racquet can be brought through faster. (See Fig. 5.13 and
cinematograms 6 & 8.) But it will have less force than an arm that is almost fully

Figure 5.13 (Taken from cinematogram 1, frames 8-10.)


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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

extended when ball contact is made away from the body. (See Fig. 5.14 taken
from cinematogram 4, frames 10-12.)

Figure 5.14 Notice how the arm is almost fully extended.

Also the more the arm is bent the more there is a tendency for the elbow to
jam into the side of the body which does not allow you to swing freely or make last
minute corrections. (See Figure 5.15, and cinematogram 3.)

Figure 5.15 (Taken from cinematogram 3, frames 9-12.)

In the ideal situation for maximum production of force, and for greater ability
to direct the ball to exactly where you want it to go, it is more effective to have a
straighter arm when contact is made. The reason for this is that you can increase
your accuracy with a straighter arm. This is done by having slightly more or less
extension in the elbow or wrist joints so that you have two joints with which to
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

change the pathway and the head of the racquet face and thus, the pathway of the
ball. If your arm is bent severely at the elbow especially when the ball is in tight,
your only recourse to change the direction of the shot is through the wrist, which
leads to less control of the ball.

The arm swing continues through the contact phase into the follow-through.
There is little to no wrist action during the contact phase. Instead, the wrist is used
to maintain or to modify the position of the racquet head to keep the ball on target.
Most often there is wrist extension-hyperextension to keep the racquet face
perpendicular to the target line.

As the arm and racquet come into the hitting area, the grip tightens. This is
extremely important not only to produce the most powerful hit but also to prevent
injury to the wrist, elbow and even shoulder. A firm to tight grip at contact is
needed in order to transfer the forces that have been generated into the ball. If
you have a relaxed or loose grip at contact, the racquet is capable of moving and
will “give” at ball contact to absorb some of the forces. This is a method used to
hold the ball on the racquet longer and to keep the ball from rebounding strongly
as seen when executing a drop shot. A firm to tight grip, on the other hand, does
not allow for any absorption of forces and allows for maximum pace or transfer of
force.

A strong grip at the moment of contact also prevents off-center forces from
rotating the racquet or traveling up the arm to cause elbow injuries. The
prevention of injury becomes especially important if you constantly hit off-center.
Anytime the ball is contacted off the “sweet spot”, there is a tendency for the
racquet to rotate in the hand. Your grip must be able to counteract this rotational
tendency and still direct the ball where it is needed. If the racquet is capable of
turning, not only must the hand and wrist experience the forces but they are also
transferred up the arm to the elbow or shoulder. In addition, your hitting accuracy
will diminish greatly.

However, having a tight grip throughout the swing will restrict your
movements greatly and not allow for effective wrist actions. The tightness of grip
can translate to greater tension throughout the body, which leads to a choppy and
ineffective technique when executing a particular shot. Thus, it is important that
you have a relaxed grip when in the ready position and as you get into the side-
facing position. As you step into the stroke and then begin the arm action, the grip
should firm up as you are ready to make contact with the ball. At the exact
moment of contact, the grip should be very firm to tight and then change to relaxed
in the follow-through. These changes usually take place subconsciously but they
must be learned. If not, you will experience decreases in the amount of force
applied to the ball when you make contact.
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

The Follow-Through
After contact, the arm and racquet continue to move forward and around the
body to help dissipate the forces. Following the arm, shoulder rotation picks up
again followed by the hip rotation and a step forward (or a sliding forward) with the
rear leg to reassume the ready position. In addition, the arm bends in the elbow to
shorten the radius of rotation and to dissipate more forces. (See Fig. 5.16.) The
exact amount of follow through depends upon how forcefully you swing and the
type of stroke you execute, i.e. topspin or flat. The greater the force generated,
the longer the follow-through will be.

Figure 5.16 Note how the elbow bends during the follow-through.

Even though the ball is already on its way and you cannot change the ball
pathway in the follow-through it still plays an important role. It includes:

1. Generation of maximum force. If you do not have a full follow-through, you


will be unable to generate maximum speed of the arm and racquet. Understand
that the racquet is moving at its fastest speed immediately before and somewhat
during contact. If you did not have a follow-through and wanted to stop the racquet
immediately after contact, you would have to begin braking the body and arm
speed prior to contact. This would then decrease the amount of force generated.

2. Production of a smooth swing. If you tried to stop the racquet suddenly or


within a short period of time, the braking action would cause erratic movement of
the racquet, which would lead to a jerky swing and less control of your shot.

3. Less chance of injury. Trying to stop immediately after making contact with
the ball is very hard on the muscles and joints. When there is no smooth and full
dissipation of the forces, the stopping action has to be accomplished by very
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

strong antagonist muscles, which must undergo a powerful, quick, short stretch. If
the muscles are not adequately prepared for this type of powerful contraction,
injuries can easily result not only to the muscles but also to the joint soft tissues.

4. Greater accuracy of the hit. Once you get the racquet moving on a certain
pathway, it should not be disrupted. Any disruptions in the pathway leads to erratic
racquet movement which throws off the accuracy of the stroke. When you have a
smooth full swing, without any deviations in its pathway, your accuracy will be
maximal (This is also why you do not always have to "see" the ball make contact).

A few additional points must be made in regard to injury prevention. In the


follow-through, the antagonistic muscles on the back of the right shoulder undergo
a strong eccentric contraction to slow down and to control the arm movement
through the full range of motion. When the eccentric contraction becomes
sufficiently great and as the forces are dissipated, arm movement with the racquet
stops. During the follow-through, the arm also undergoes additional medial
rotation in the shoulder joint. This places additional stress on the teres minor and
infraspinatus, which are also involved in slowing down the horizontal adduction
movement of the arm in the follow-through.

The involved muscles undergo an eccentric contraction while the


subscapularis muscle is responsible for medially rotating the arm (along with the
pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi and anterior deltoid of the shoulder) in the follow-
through. In essence, some of the muscles are involved in pulling the arm through
and in rotating it forward at the same time. Failure to have an adequate follow-
through can give rise to rotator cuff muscle tears and strains over a period of time.

Open-Stance Power Phase


The open-stance forehand stroke is basically the same as the classic side-
facing stance except that there is no forward weight shift, no hip rotation and the
side facing position is eliminated in most instances. This saves time if the ball is hit
back to you so fast that it is impossible for you to get into the side-facing stance.
However, you do not gain any power or accuracy by staying in the open-stance
while hitting because the stroke is without some of the key force-producing actions
- notably weight shift and hip joint rotation.

For example, look at Fig 5.17 and 5.18. The players have an open-stance,
and as the ball approaches and they start the backswing, they rotate the shoulders
to the rear. In order to get full rotation of the shoulders they pick up and turn the
right foot to the side so that they are capable of rotating not only the shoulders but
the hips to the rear. This is almost identical to what takes place in the classic side-
facing stance, but without a weight shift to begin the build up of force and to
overcome inertia. As they turn the right leg they also shift their body weight onto
this leg so that it now becomes the axis of rotation allowing the left foot to become
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

unweighted. The arm is not brought as far back but it is very close to the position
attained in the side-facing stance stroke.

Figure 5.17 (Taken from cinematogram 14, frames 1,5 & 6.)

Figure 5.18 (Taken from cinematogram 15, frames 2-5.)

The players rely on shoulder rotation, together with the arm swing, to
generate the forward force. Most of the force is in the arm as can be seen in Fig.
5.19 and Fig. 5.20, in which the arm gets ahead of the shoulders. The entire arm
and racquet are ahead of the shoulders that have not yet reached the front-facing
position. Thus the shoulders do not provide as much force in the stroke as
possible. To do this, they would have to precede the arm action and end in a front-
facing position when the arm action takes place. Instead the players use mainly
the arm (especially in Fig. 5.20), and the arm pulls the shoulders around.
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 5.19

Figure 5.20
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

In both players notice that as the arm and racquet are brought through the contact
zone, the wrist remains laid back to insure the perpendicular racquet face position
at the exact moment of contact. (See Fig. 5.19 frame 9 and Fig. 5.20 frame 11.)
The wrist action then picks up with some wrist flexion in the follow-through by a
straight arm position.

At the exact moment of contact, the chest is in a front-facing position, as are


the hips. Most people see this at the moment of contact and believe that the
player never rotated and only remains in the open position while hitting. But as it is
possible to see there is a full 90 degrees of rotation in these and other open stance
players to create the force needed to hit the ball with appreciable power.

If they did not have the body rotation and relied solely on the arm action,
very little power and accuracy would be produced. In fact, it would be impossible
to maintain the same swing pathway without shoulder rotation. The shoulder
rotation brings the arm back through a greater range of motion (longer pathway)
than if only the arm is involved and starts the racquet in motion so the arm can
generate more force. In addition, if you used only the arm, the ball would have to
be somewhat further away from the body when contact is made if you were to
impart sufficient force to the ball. But with the shoulder rotation, and especially by
adjusting the amount of shoulder rotation, and where it occurs, you can control
how far the ball is from the body especially if you have poor footwork and use the
open-stance when hitting forehands.

In the open-stance, stability is greatest in a side-to-side direction, i.e. from


sideline to sideline. Backward to forward (from the baseline to the net) stability is
compromised. As a result you cannot shift your weight forward for more force.
This makes you hit off your right leg, i.e., contact the ball alongside the body
further in front as occurs in the side-facing stance when you step in. This in turn
does not allow for the production of most force. This is very visible in
cinematograms 14 and 15.

In order to make up for the open-stance deficiencies, players usually shift


their weight from the right to the left leg. (See cinematograms 7, 13, 14 & 15.)
However, if most of the weight shift occurs after the hit as in this example, it does
not contribute force. Its main value is in creating a longer swing pathway for
greater topspin and to help dissipate the built up forces.

The player in cinematogram 14 demonstrates this pattern that is so common


in many players. Most characteristic is the weight shift from the right side to the
left side mainly because there cannot be any weight shift forward. Thus, only a
portion of this side weight shift actually assists in the stroke especially in creating
more forward force. It is not near the amount that can be generated in the true
side-facing position. Also, the weight shift must occur before the hit in order to
have any transfer into the hit. If it occurs in the follow-through, as it does with the
player in cinematogram 14 and 15 (See Fig. 5.21), the weight shift is a
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

consequence of the stroke and does not contribute any force. If weight shift
occurs during the contact phase of the stroke, only a portion of the force generated
will transfer into the shot.

Figure 5.21

Learning and Improving


By using the major body actions, such as weight shift (stepping into the ball)
and hip and shoulder rotation to create swing force you make the forehand stroke
less taxing on the joints (especially the arm and shoulder), even though you are
generating more power. But the ability to execute weight shift, followed by hip and
shoulder rotation requires mastery of the coordination involved.

Execution of these actions separately but in sequence requires practice, not


only to learn the movements, but also to be able to execute them as needed in
match play. Once they are perfected, you will notice that the amount of force
generated will be quite significant.

When learning the forehand or when making changes in the stroke, you
must concentrate on the actions involved in the force production phase of the
stroke. You must maintain the exact hitting technique used in practice in play. In
other words, in all your practices the stroke must be executed exactly the same
way as when you are hitting the ball during play. Only in this way will there be a
direct transfer of any technique changes or enhancement of the hitting technique
into your game. Practicing one way and then hitting the ball another way in match
play leads to poor results. There should never be any “easing up” or “goofing off”
when executing practice strokes. Only in this way will your practice show the
greatest improvement in your ground strokes and game play.
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CHAPTER 5 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Special technique exercises can also be used to speed up the learning


process. By doing specialized strength and flexibility exercises that duplicate the
movements involved, not only can you enhance the learning of these major actions
but you can substantially increase the amount of force generated. You will then be
able to hit the ball harder, with the same or even a greater degree of accuracy and
with less effort!
CHAPTER 6
Forehand Groundstroke
Cinematograms with
Trouble Shooting &
Solutions

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Cinematogram 1 – Side View of Forehand Groundstroke – Kirsten
61

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematogram 1

Kirsten - (Side view) - The open category player in these sequence pictures
displays some very strong points and some key actions that can be improved to
further increase hitting power. In essence, she can be classified as an arm
swinger after a powerful weight shift. If you look from frames 2-8 you can see how
she shifts her hips (and body) forward as she steps out and pushes from the rear
hip joint. The push-off leg remains basically bent so that the major action is hip
joint abduction.

However, she does not follow up with hip rotation to fully capitalize on the
body actions. Notice how the hips remain basically in a side-facing position from
frame 4-8 while the arm with the racquet is brought forward. In frame 7-8, there is
slight rotation of the hips together with the shoulders but the arm out-races the
shoulders in frame 8-9. In frames 9-10 where contact is made, the shoulders still
have not come around to the full open-face position. Thus, she does not get the
most out of the hip or shoulder rotation and relies mostly on the arm. Her finish
position, in which she is ready to move again in any direction, is excellent.

To develop the ability to create more force she should do exercises such as
hip rotation (Ex. 8.3), weight shift with hip rotation (Ex. 8.18), the reverse trunk twist
(Ex. 8.4) and shoulder rotation (Ex. 8.6).

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Cinematogram 2 – Side View of Forehand Groundstroke – Erin
63
Cinematogram 3 – Front View of Forehand Groundstroke – Erin
64

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematograms 2 & 3

Erin - (Side view) – This top ranked junior player has limited body and arm
actions. By making several technique changes she can impart even more power to
the ball and increase her accuracy. First, her push-off can be much stronger.
Weight shift occurs from frame 5 to frame 8 but the hips are not driven forward
very far or very forcefully. They remain fairly centered between the legs. Ideally
we would like to see the hips over more of the left leg. This action can be
improved by doing the hip abduction exercise seen in Fig. 8.2.

Most striking is her arm action. She is basically an arm swinger and has
very little hip and shoulder rotation before the arm action. Doing exercises 8.3
(forward hip rotation), 8.4 (forward shoulder rotation), 8.7 (shoulder rotation in an
open-stance), and 8.8 (the russian twist) would be beneficial to improve these
actions. Notice in frames 6-8 it is basically the arm that is coming forward and
bringing the racquet with it. The elbow of the arm appears to be jammed into the
side of the body rather than kept away from the body to allow for an effective and
free arm swing. She leads with the elbow (frames 8-10) and then forcefully
extends the elbow to make contact with the ball. In time this action can lead to
elbow injury. Her hip and shoulder rotation follows the arm rather than precedes it
so that they contribute very little force to her shot. It appears as though the
rotation helps to clear the arm action. (See cinematogram 3.) Also in her follow-
through she has full extension of the body rather than staying in a slight crouch so
that she can be ready to move for the next shot. This is possibly a consequence of
her using her legs in extension to gain more topspin on her stroke.

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65

Cinematogram 4 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke – Rick


66

Cinematogram 5 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke – Rick


67

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematograms 4 & 5

Rick - (Side view) – This open category player is a powerful hitter. He relies to a
great extent on his arm action rather than utilizing the hips and shoulders to their
maximum potential. For example, after his weight shift, he begins to bring the
racquet forward with shoulder rotation as can be seen in frames 6-8. The hips are
still basically in a side-facing position. In frames 9-12, the arm is in motion through
the hit and there is a little shoulder turn. His shoulder rotation gets the arm and
racquet moving forward. He finishes up with all of his weight on the forward foot
and is ready to go into action for his next shot.

In cinematogram 5 showing the front view of this player it is possible to see a


modified open-side facing stance. The hips remain basically in place and rotate
with the shoulders from frames 4-7. After this he brings the arm through to finish.
However, because of the stance he cannot shift his weight forward but shifts his
weight from the right side to the left side, in order to allow a longer range of motion
of the arm and racquet and at the same time, allow him to put more top spin on the
ball as he hits a cross court shot. To get more force from the hips and shoulder
this player should do exercises 8.3 (forward hip rotation), 8.4 (the reverse trunk
twist), 8.6 (shoulder rotation in a side stance) and work on modifying his technique
so that the hips and shoulders precede his powerful arm action.

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Cinematogram 6 - Side View of Forehand Groundstroke – Celeste


69
Cinematogram 7 - Front View of Forehand Groundstroke – Celeste
70

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematograms 6 & 7

Celeste (Side view) – This 4.5 (National Tennis Rating Program – NTRP) level
club player hits with basically an open-stance and can be characterized as a total
body swinger. As she executes the swing, she steps into the ball with the body
rotation (frames 6-13). In frame 6 it is possible to see the arms, shoulders and
hips basically in the same plane. She then turns the trunk together with the arm up
until just before contact (frames 6-10). To make some changes in the swing, she
should first learn the weight shift with Exercise 8.1, 8.2, 8.18. After the weight shift
is mastered, separation of the body actions is needed with exercises to develop
the flexibility and strength of the midsection (Ex. 8.4 - the reverse trunk twist).
Doing these exercises may help keep her weight on the forward foot so that she
does not end up falling slightly backward as can be seen in frames 14-15. Once
these changes are made reevaluation should be done to see if other exercises
might need to be prescribed. The total body rotation can also be seen in
cinematogram 7. Also note how the weight shift from the right to left side allows for
the arm and shoulder to let the racquet travel over a longer pathway.

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Cinematogram 8 - Side View Forehand Groundstroke – Bill
72
Cinematogram 9 – Front View Forehand Groundstroke – Bill
73

Troubleshooting & Solutions


for Cinematograms 8 & 9

Bill - (Side view) - This high level, open category player can make relatively small
adjustments in his swing to create even more force. Most important would be to
improve the power of the weight shift onto the front leg. He exhibits a weight shift
(Figures 5-8) at which point he blocks with the front leg so that the hips never move
fully onto the front leg. This could be one reason why he does not fully rotate the
hips before the arm and shoulder actions take place. To improve these actions, he
should work on hip abduction (Ex. 8.2) and hip rotation while holding the shoulders
still (Ex. 8.3). Exercises 8.9 and 8.6 should help him develop the ability to
separate his arm swing and shoulder rotation.

In cinematogram 9, frames 7-11 (front view), it is possible to see how the


hips, shoulders and arm move simultaneously during the hit. From the side facing
body position (frames 5 and 6) the hips have turned just slightly together with the
shoulders and the arm is already on its way forward. This becomes more obvious
in frames 9-11 and through the contact phase. His front leg remains slightly bent
but straightens to hold his weight back. Slightly more knee bend and muscle
strength from Exercise 8.15 (squat) will allow the weight to come forward and stay
there. It can also put him into a lower position to hit this ball which is slightly below
hip height. His follow-through is somewhat long and extremely high which does
not place him in a ready position for a quick return.

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Cinematogram 10 - Side View Two-Handed Forehand Groundstroke – Michelle
Cinematogram 11 - Front View Two-Handed Forehand Groundstroke – Michelle 75
76

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematograms 10 & 11

Michelle (Side view) – Players using the using the two-handed forehand still use
some of the same body actions as those using the one-handed stroke. It is
possible to see weight shift from frame 6 through 10 although it is not powerful.
She takes a step forward but does not shift her hips onto the forward leg. To make
up for this, she leans in with the head and shoulders, which is not very efficient
(Cinematogram 10, frames 9-13, and cinematogram 11, frames 6-11). Because of
the forward lean of the upper body, it becomes impossible for her to rotate the hips
prior to the shoulder rotation, thus she loses out on additional force from this very
important body part action.

This player relies heavily on trunk rotation and somewhat on the arms to
bring the racquet around into the hit. In cinematogram 10, frame 10, and
cinematogram 11, frame 8, you can see how the racquet and shoulders are still in
the side facing backswing position. In frames 13 and 11, respectively, where
contact is made, the shoulders have rotated and the arms have brought the
racquet slightly in front of the body. Most of the effort at this moment comes from
the arms in comparison to the shoulders.

Thus some important exercises for her would be to work on shifting and
rotating the hips forward with exercises 8.3 (forward hip rotation) and 8.18
(combined weight shift and hip rotation), which would then change what happens
in the upper body. Also important would be hip abduction to get a stronger weight
shift leading with the hips (Ex. 8.2). After she makes the change with the hips and
weight shift, additional exercises for the upper body would be recommended.

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Cinematogram 13 - Side View Forehand Groundstroke – Brian 77
78
Cinematogram 13 - Front View Forehand Groundstroke – Brian
79

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematograms 12 & 13

Brian (Side view) – This open category player demonstrates some excellent
actions that other players do not have, and also some poor ones. There is good
weight shift and hip rotation as can be seen from frames 5 to 10 but there is little
separation between the hips and shoulders. Doing the reverse trunk twist (Ex. 8.4)
would be needed to develop the flexibility and strength needed for this separation
and separate actions. He gets his hips and shoulders through and onto the forward
leg.

Notice how his head and shoulders stay back behind the hip during the
stroke (frames 7-12) which creates less force. However, he does this to get more
topspin on the ball or to hit higher trajectory balls.

In the front view, open-stance position of this player it is also possible to


see how the shoulders stay back in cinematogram 13, frames 7-8. As he did in
the side view, he appears to be leaning backward with his weight on the rear, right
leg rather than the front leg (frames 7-10). This is partially due to the rapid lifting of
the racquet to generate topspin. Also, there is a slight collapse in the rear leg,
which is inefficient for transferring force.

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80
Cinematogram 14 - Side View of Open-Stance Forehand Groundstroke – Bill
81

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematogram 14

This cinematogram is an example of hitting from an open-stance, but also


shows elements of the side-facing stance. As the player goes into the backswing,
he lifts the right leg and turns the foot so that he can turn his body into the side
facing position. If he did not turn the foot, then only the shoulders would be able to
rotate to the rear to bring the racquet and arm back.

In execution of the forward swing to hit the ball there is no weight shift
forward because of the stance and how he rotates the hips and shoulders together
with the arm to bring the racquet around. He hits off the right leg rather than the
left (which many open-stance players do). A partial reason for this is the location
of the ball and the type of shot being executed. Additionally, by shifting the hips
from the right leg to the left leg the racquet can travel over a longer distance. The
key exercise for him would be the reverse trunk twist to get the flexibility and
strength needed to separate the hips and shoulders to create more force. In
addition exercises such 8.7 and 8.8 for shoulder rotation would also be important.

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82

Cinematogram 15 - Side View of Open-Stance Forehand Groundstroke - Kirsten


83

Troubleshooting & Solutions for


Cinematogram 15

She shows a similar open-stance but with a few different actions. She
turns the right foot outward to get a full body turn (frames 1-5) and to place all her
weight on it. Her forward swing is a total body swing off the right leg and only in
the follow-through does the weight get shifted to the left leg. Part of the reason for
this is that she is hitting a flat return and possibly cross-court.

For a more compact swing and more power she should do the reverse trunk
twist (Ex. 8.4) to get more flexibility and strength in the midsection so that a leg turn
is not needed and so that the swing can be executed faster. This would give her
more time to get into position for future returns.

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Breather Exercise 8.21
84

Back Extension 8.20

Forehand Exercise Chart


Side Arm Medicine Ball Throw 8.19

See Chapter 8 for details regarding execution of each exercise


X

X
Medicine Ball Throw 8.18
Good Morning Exercise 8.17
Assisted Hip Rotation 8.16

X
Squat 8.15
Grip Strenghtening 8.14
Supination/Pronation 8.13
Medial Shoulder Joint Rotation 8.12
Wrist Extension 8.11
Wrist Flexion 8.10

X
Arm Adduction 8.9

X
The Russian Twist 8.8

X
Should Rotation OS 8.7

X
Shoulder Rotation CS 8.6
Back Raise With Twist 8.5

X
X
X
X

X
Reverse Trunk Twist 8.4

Open Stance Analysis


X
X
X

X
X
Forward Hip Rotation 8.3

X
X

X
Hip Abduction 8.2

X
Leg Abduction 8.1

Michelle
Celeste

Kirsten
Kirsten
NAME

Brian
Rick
Erin

Bill

Bill
CHAPTER 7
General vs. Special
Strength Exercises

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CHAPTER 7 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

General vs. Special Strength


Exercises

The specialized strength and flexibility exercises that will be described in


this book duplicate what occurs in the forehand swing. When there is a high
degree of duplication, the exercises have an immediate effect on how effectively
and forcefully you execute the stroke. Merely doing general exercises, i.e.,
exercises that develop overall strength can make you stronger, and may give you
some stroke improvement, but it is far from the amount that can be generated
through the use of specialized exercises.

The push-up exercise can be used to illustrate the difference between a


general and a specialized strength exercise. This exercise is most often done with
the elbows held in close to the sides of the body. The action in the shoulder joint is
flexion, in which the arm moves directly forward in front of the body from a position
of being alongside and behind the body. This action involves the anterior deltoid
and upper pectoral muscles.

However, in the forehand stroke the arm moves diagonally across the body.
The push-up does not duplicate this action. The diagonal arm movement involves
the anterior deltoid and upper pectoral muscles as in the push-up, but in a different
pathway. It also brings into play the lower pectorals (which are more powerful than
the upper pectorals), and the coracobrachialis muscles which are not involved in
the push-up. Thus, the push-up is of limited value in the tennis forehand swing.

To truly enhance the forehand it is necessary to do specialized exercises to


strengthen the muscles in a movement pattern that duplicates the same arm
pathway used in the stroke, as well as in the same range of motion in which the
strength is displayed. Doing a general exercise that simply gets some of the
muscles stronger, but not necessarily as they are used in the forehand, will not
produce the same results. More specifically, specialized exercises fulfill one or
more of the following criteria:

1. The exercise must duplicate a portion of the forehand stroke. This means
that the movement involved in the strength exercise must duplicate the same
movement involved in the forehand stroke: for example, a special strength exercise
that duplicates weight shift, another that duplicates the hip rotation, still another
that duplicates shoulder rotation and so on. The more closely each exercise
duplicates the actual joint action in the skill, the greater will be the transfer of
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CHAPTER 7 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

strength and flexibility to the stroke. At the same time you will develop a muscle
"feel" for the action involved.

2. The exercise must involve the same range of motion as used in executing
the forehand stroke in competitive play. This means that you should gain strength
and flexibility in the same range of motion as used in the skill segment being
duplicated. For example, the arm action (moving the arm forward to make contact
with the ball) begins after the shoulder rotation. At this time, the arm should be
about halfway forward from the backswing position.

Thus, the exercise should start with the arm in this position or slightly more
to the rear. Doing an exercise beginning with the arm all the way back from the
body, as in the end of the backswing, and then pulling forward to the front will
enhance arm power when the arm is all the way back but not prior to contact
where the greatest power is needed.

3. The exercise must involve the same type of muscular contraction as seen in
the stroke execution. For example, the squat is an excellent exercise since it can
improve dynamic strength in the legs which is needed for movement on the court
(during the push-off) and in the execution of certain shots. Thus the squat would
be a specific exercise for these movements. In hitting the forehand, however, after
you stride out (or when you use the open stance), the legs remain stationary to
stabilize the lower body and allow for more accurate movements of the upper
body. At this time, the leg (quadriceps) muscles undergo a static contraction to
hold your position. Thus, you must develop static strength to duplicate what the
legs do when hitting the forehand stroke.

For a right-handed player in the classic side stance, the left leg is usually the
leg off of which the hit occurs and the right leg is used to push the weight forward.
However, if you use an open-stance, both legs basically remain under static
contraction during the swing. There are some exceptions to this when players
incorporate a combined open-side stance. They come around to a 45° angle to
the net with some push off forward, but most movement is from the right leg to the
left.

The Need for Analysis


It is important that you know where and through what range of motion each
movement occurs so that the strength and flexibility exercise can duplicate what
happens in the swing. This is best done through a biomechanical analysis of your
forehand stroke.

From the biomechanical analysis, which is done by viewing a high shutter


speed video tape of your stroke, frame by frame in stop action, it is possible to
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CHAPTER 7 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

identify not only which body actions you involve in the stroke but also how
effectively you execute the actions and the range of motion involved in each action.
This in turn makes it possible to determine the muscles and muscle actions
involved.

With this knowledge, it is possible to create special exercises to make


corrections of or modifications in how you stroke the ball or simply make it even
more effective. Doing specialized strength exercises at this time will enhance your
learning of more effective technique while simultaneously increasing the amount of
force that you can generate in the hit. In essence, the biomechanical analysis
makes it possible to create a personalized program that fits your capabilities.

For information on obtaining a biomechanical analysis of your strokes


contact Sports Training, Inc., P.O. Box 460429, Escondido, CA 92046. Tel:
(760)480-0558 Fax: (760)480-1277, by email: dryessis@dryessis.com or visit our
web site at http://www.dryessis.com

Commonality of Movements and Exercises


Even though each specialized strength and flexibility exercise and training
program is unique to every player, there are some common exercises that
duplicate the key actions involved in the forehand. These key actions are based
on analyses of professional and top amateur players who have effective
forehands. Every player uses these actions but to differing degrees. As a result,
each player may look different in his or her execution of the forehand. Body
position and the type of shot being executed can also alter the looks of the
forehand stroke.

Some of the better exercises that duplicate the key actions in the forehand
are explained below. They not only enhance your technique of hitting the ball but
also increase your hitting power. In addition, the strength and flexibility that you
gain will establish the needed foundation for doing explosive exercises at a later
time. Such training can hasten your mastery of the stroke, increase the speed of
execution and the force produced in hitting the forehand.

The Need for Rubber Tubing (Active Cords®)


Most of the strength exercises described in this manual are done with
rubber tubing (more specifically with the Active Cords® set) for two very important
reasons:
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CHAPTER 7 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

1. Most tennis players who compete, do extensive traveling and find it difficult
if not impossible to carry heavy equipment with them. In addition, they often
cannot find a gym with the needed equipment. The Active Cords® set, however, is
light and can be carried around easily, enabling you to do the exercises at home or
in a hotel room. Also, most of the exercises can be done on the court! Doing the
exercises with these elastic cords are very effective and you will not gain any
significant advantage by doing other exercises in a gym. In some cases, gym or
machine exercises can be a disadvantage.

2. Many of the exercises done with the Active Cords® involve rotation, which is
impossible to duplicate with exercise machines or free weights (dumbbells and
barbells). If you do work out in a gym, you can duplicate a few of the exercises
with free pulley cable machines but for the hip and shoulder rotational exercises,
you will still have to use rubber tubing. The Active Cords® allow you to rotate and
move the body and limbs in a manner that duplicates what occurs in the swing in
competitive play.

The exercises and the exercise program recommended in this book are not
intended for a total body conditioning program. Information on how to get in shape
is available from many different sources. In this book, emphasis is on improving
the forehand stroke, thus the exercises are specific to the stroke itself. By doing
these exercises you will find improvement in the stroke and as an added benefit,
you will also become more fit. The prime objective is to improve your tennis skills
and to do this in the quickest and most effective way possible. The following
exercises are very specific in nature and duplicate various aspects of the tennis
forehand stroke.
CHAPTER 8
Specialized Strength
Exercises for the
Forehand Groundstroke

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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Specialized Strength Exercises


for the Forehand
1. Action: Hip (Leg) Abduction
Hip abduction (with the leg in motion) is a key movement involved in weight
shift and stepping into the hit from the classic stance (when moving the forward leg
toward the ball). When the rear foot is in contact with the ground, hip abduction
pushes the hips forward, to shift your weight forward and to make stepping into the
ball more effective. Hip abduction is also the key force producing action in all side
(lateral) movements to initiate movement of the body or to continue movement as
in the side shuttle. Since your hips are where your center of gravity is located;
when you get your hips in motion, you in essence, have the body in motion.
Execution: Attach the Active Cord tubing to the ankle strap around the lower
shin of the outside leg (the one to be in action) and the other end to an immovable
object close to the floor. Stand erect with your feet together and the leg to be
exercised farthest from the attachment and slightly forward so that the cord does
not rub against the stationary leg. Inhale and hold your breath as you keep the leg
straight and pull it out to the side as far as possible. Maintain an erect upper body
and keep the toes pointed in front. (See Fig. 8.1. For stability hold on to a training
partner.) Exhale as you return to the initial position and then repeat. The range of
motion will not be very great.

Figure 8.1 Leg Abduction using the Active Cord®


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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

2. Action: Hip Abduction


Hip abduction with the hips in motion occurs in the push off when driving the
hips forward. This is also the key action for initiating all side movements.
Execution: Assume a side facing position with the feet approximately shoulder
width apart. Secure the Active Cords® belt around the hips (about 2 inches above
the pubic bone) and attach one end of the cord to the side of the belt on the rear
hip. Attach the other end to an immovable object approximately hip high. When
you are ready, hold the head and shoulders basically in place as you drive the hips
forward and step out. Keep the hips level as you concentrate on driving the hips
forward for a powerful weight shift. (See Fig. 8.2.)

Figure 8.2 Hip abduction using the Active Cord®

3. Action: Forward Hip Rotation


The forward hip rotation exercise is great for improving your ability to drive
the hips forward and to rotate the hips forward quickly from the side-facing stance.
Note that the hip rotation should always follow weight shift, which is first needed to
establish the axis of rotation in the front leg. When the weight is on the forward
leg, it becomes the axis of rotation for the entire pelvis which creates twice the
force in comparison to keeping the axis in the mid-body (weight equally balanced
between the feet) during the swing. If you keep the weight on the rear leg you will
create backward forces which make you lean backward in the hit and in the follow-
through. In some cases you may even lose your balance.
Execution: Attach the Active Cords® belt around the hips and secure it firmly.
Do not place the belt around the waist! Nor should you wear “silky” spandex
clothes, which will slip around the body and not allow you to do the exercise
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

correctly. Wear cotton or some other type of material that is non-slip. Attach one
end of the cord to the ring in front of the right hip and stand with your right side
closest to the attachment of the other end of the tubing at hip height. When you
are ready, rotate the hips slightly to the rear as in the backswing while still retaining
tension on the tubing. Then shift your weight onto the left leg to create more
tension in the tubing. As you conclude the weight shift, turn the hips to the left
(rotate them forward) against the resistance of the tubing. (See Fig. 8.3.)

Figure 8.3 Hip rotation using the Active Cord®

Do not rotate the shoulders. They should remain in the side facing position. This
is an exaggerated movement which is great for learning not only correct hip
rotation, but for getting more power out of the hip turn and as a result more force in
the hit.

4. Action: Forward (Shoulder) Rotation


The reverse trunk twist is one of the best exercises to strengthen the
abdominal oblique muscles that are involved in rotating the shoulders forward.
This exercise is also excellent for developing midsection flexibility to ensure a full
range of motion for the shoulder rotation.
Execution: Lie face up on the floor with your arms out to the side and your
palms down. Your arms should be perpendicular to your trunk so that your body
forms the letter T. Raise your legs so that your thighs are vertical and together.
Bend the knees slightly to accommodate "tight" hamstrings and then maintain this
leg-trunk position throughout the entire exercise.
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

When you are ready, lower your legs to one side while continuing to hold
the 90-degree angle in your hip joints. Touch the floor with the outside of the foot
(or knee if the knees are fully bent) keeping your shoulders and arms in full contact
with the floor. Then raise the legs up and over to the other side and repeat in an
alternating manner. (See Fig. 8.4.) Exhale as you lower the legs and inhale and
hold your breath as you raise the legs. If the almost straight leg position makes the
exercise too difficult, bend the knees more, however, be sure to keep the thighs
vertical at all times. If your shoulders raise up as you do the exercise, have
someone hold them down.

Figure 8.4 Reverse trunk twist

5. Action: Shoulder Rotation to the Rear


To give you a strong and full backswing, especially if you use the open-
stance, you should do the back raise with a twist or simply, back twist. It is an
excellent exercise for developing the erector spinae muscles of the lower back
which are involved in shoulder rotation to the rear. This is the key action in the
forehand backswing and is also used to create force when hitting the stroke
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

especially when hitting a high shot or when rotating and extending the back during
the hit.
This exercise also plays a role in situations in which you must hit off the rear
foot, for example when you are going deep to return the shot. You must rotate the
shoulders backward in order to get the shoulders around to generate some power
to return the ball. Today it is possible to see many players hitting off the back foot
because of faster play and their inability to get to the ball and set up for a better
return.
Execution: Position yourself face down on the Yessis Back Machine® (or high
sturdy table) so that when your feet are secured, your pelvis rests directly on top of
the seat. This position is needed to stabilize the pelvis so that the action is only in
the waist when the shoulders are rotated. Your upper trunk should hang down at
approximately a 60-degree angle with a long pole placed across the shoulders and
held in place on outstretched arms. Your arms and trunk should form the letter T.
When you are ready, inhale and hold your breath as you raise the trunk slightly
above the horizontal position. Hold this position and then rotate 90 degrees to the
right, twist back to the face down position and then lower yourself to the initial
position, exhaling as you do so.
After a momentary pause, inhale again and raise your trunk. When your
body is horizontal, rotate to 90 degrees to the opposite side. Turn back to the face
down position, lower your body, relax and then repeat, twisting to alternating sides.
When you are sufficiently strong, you do not have to lower the trunk and then raise
it for each twist. In this case hold your body in the up position with the normal
spinal curvature and then rotate the shoulders left and right a full 90 degrees in
each direction. (See Fig. 8.5)
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 8.5 Back raise with a twist

If the Yessis Back Machine® (See Fig. 20) is not available, you can use a
high sturdy table. Position yourself face down so that your navel is at the far edge
of the table and have an assistant hold your legs down. Place a folded towel under
your hips (lower abdomen) for a stronger effect and greater comfort. Execute in
the same manner.

6. Action: Shoulder Rotation in a Side Stance


Shoulder rotation is a major force-producing action in the forehand stroke.
To get maximum power from this action, however, it is important that you clear the
hips first, i.e. shift and rotate the hips forward. As the hips rotate forward, they
forcefully stretch the abdominal rotational muscles (the internal and external
obliques), but only if the shoulders remain in the side facing position. Because of
the quick stretching action, the oblique muscles contract with greater force and
more quickly to accelerate the shoulders around. If the hips and shoulders rotate
at the same time, you will only get slightly more force than if you used only the
shoulder rotation.
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Execution: To execute shoulder rotation with the Active Cords® assume a


side-facing stance holding the handle attached to one end of the cord and with the
other end secured approximately shoulder high. The arm holding the handle
should be bent approximately 90° in the elbow and the hand should be in line with
the shoulders. When you are ready, inhale slightly more than usual and hold your
breath as you rotate the hips forward. Then, keeping the arm in line with your
shoulders, rotate the shoulder/arm unit forward. (See Fig. 8.6.)
There should be tension on the tubing when you first start and as you rotate
the hips forward. You can also take a slight step forward before you rotate the hips
and then the shoulder/arm unit. The key to successful execution is to rotate the
shoulders after the hips have rotated forward, or start to rotate forward, i.e., so that
the hips are somewhat open.

Figure 8.6 Shoulder rotation in a "closed stance" using Active Cord®.

7. Action: Shoulder Rotation in the Open-Stance


Many players, especially professional players, are hitting more
groundstrokes with an open-stance. Hitting in the open-stance is needed when
time is of the essence and you cannot get set up in the classic side-facing stance
to execute the hit. Using the open-stance for all forehands is not the most effective
stance because you cannot generate as much force as you can in the side-facing
stance. To create more power in the open-stance, you must rely on more forceful
shoulder rotation and arm swing actions. Doing this over a period of time,
however, often leads to back, shoulder or elbow injury.
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Execution: Assume an open-stance holding the Active Cord® handle in the


right hand with the shoulders rotated to the rear. The arm should be in line with
the shoulders. Keep the knees slightly bent and the hips open toward the target.
In the initial position, the shoulders should be closed, (rotated to the rear) in
relation to the open, forward facing hips. The arm should be bent in the elbow and
held in line with the shoulders. (Note that this positioning is similar to the position
described in exercise #6, after you rotate the hips forward). When you are ready,
inhale slightly more than usual, hold your breath and then rotate the shoulders
forward in a vigorous action until the shoulders are in a front-facing position. (See
Fig. 8.7.) Return to the initial stance under control and repeat. Be sure to start off
with ample tension on the tubing when first beginning the forward shoulder turn.
This is where most force production is needed to accelerate the shoulders forward.

Figure 8.7 Shoulder rotation in an "open stance" using Active Cord®.

8. Action: Shoulder Rotation - The Russian Twist


The Russian Twist is for those who have adequate strength in the lower
back and abdominal muscles. To do this exercise without assistance, you should
use a Yessis Back Machine®. This is the only machine that has the adjustability
needed to fit all body types and sizes. If an assistant is available you can execute
the exercise on a sturdy table or bench.
Execution: Adjust the apparatus so that when you sit with your pelvis directly
on top of the rounded seat, your legs will be straight when your feet are placed
between the rollers. Lower your trunk backward to the horizontal position so that
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

your entire body is straight and basically parallel to the floor. Raise your arms so
that they are perpendicular to your trunk.
Rotate the shoulders to the right a full 90 degrees and then back, continuing
the movement up and over to the other side until your arms are once again parallel
to the floor (See Fig. 8.8). Alternate the right and left shoulder rotation movements

Figure 8.8 Russian Twist.

until you have completed the desired number of repetitions. Hold a light weight in
your hands for greater resistance. (For most tennis players, extra resistance is not
needed.) When you rotate upward from the right side, you duplicate the muscular
action in the sideward swing. However, both sides should be exercised for muscle
symmetry and maintaining correct spinal alignment.
The Russian Twist is considered a highly specialized tennis exercise as it
duplicates a major swing action (shoulder rotation), having the same type of
muscular contraction and range of motion. It can dramatically increase the force
with which you can hit the ball.
In this exercise, you must hold your body in proper alignment at all times. If
you find yourself weakening and your back hyperextending, then immediately stop
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

doing the exercise. In this, as in other rotational exercises, when you rotate with
your spine in a flexed or hyperextended position, there are great shearing and
compression forces that may injure the spinal discs or vertebrae. Always maintain
the natural spinal curvature.

9. Action: The Arm Swing


In the forward swing when the shoulders accelerate forward, the arm
remains to the rear so that you can get a stretch of the chest and front shoulder
muscles which play the major role in bringing the arm and racquet forward. The
early arm momentum from the shoulder rotation, the stretch of the muscles and the
following concentric contraction allows the arm to move forward with greater speed
to create even more force in the hitting action. The initial arm movement that
occurs together with the shoulder rotation when the arm is brought back full range
creates a long pathway over which you can generate force.
The arm begins its maximum force production when it is approximately half
way through its full range of forward motion prior to contact. The shoulders
decelerate as they approach the front facing position so that you can begin
movement of the arm with maximum speed (and force) to make contact with the
ball. The exact positioning of the arm is determined by how close the ball is to the
body when contact is made. If the ball is sufficiently far from the body, the arm will
be basically straight, if it is close to the body, the elbow will be bent as the arm
goes into action. The closer the ball is to the body the greater the elbow bend.
Execution: Hold the handle of the Active Cord® in the arm to be exercised
and secure the stationary end approximately waist high. When you are ready,
stand with your back to the attachment and far enough away so that the tubing has
tension. Then rotate the shoulders 90 degrees to the rear with the arm in line with
the shoulders. There should be tension on the tubing in this starting position.
Inhale and hold your breath as you rotate the shoulders forward then pull with the
arm to maintain position. Be sure that the shoulders lead, not the arm. As the
shoulders become open, pull strongly with the arm so that it gets in front of the
shoulders in the contact area. (See Fig. 8.9.)
If you swing mainly with the arm and do not fully rotate the shoulders
forward, you will probably maintain the shoulders basically in a side facing position
as you pull the arm across the body. However, if you use an open stance or the
classic forehand stance and fully rotate the trunk, then not only should the hips be
in an open position, but also the shoulders when the arm is brought forward
(unless you use a combination of actions).
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 8.9 Arm adduction using Active Cord®.

10. Action: Wrist Flexion


In initial stages of swinging the arm forward, the wrist is first flexed to
accelerate the racquet head. The flexion stops when the racquet face is square to
the ball and target line or slightly before. The wrist then gets laid back
(hyperextended) as the hand continues to move forward through the contact area
to ensure that the ball travels in the intended direction. In addition, the wrist
hyperextension places the wrist flexor muscles on stretch so that they can contract
with force in whipping the racket through at the end of contact and into the follow
through. The main purpose of the wrist hypertension is to keep the racquet face
square to the target.
Execution: Assume a seated position holding the handles attached to the
Active Cord® in the hands. The middle of the cord should be secured under the
feet and you should have ample tension on the tubing when in the initial position.
Rest your forearms on the thighs with the wrists and hands free to move through a
full range of motion while holding the handles.
When you are ready, lower the hands in full hyperextension and then raise the
hands as high as possible with wrist flexion. Inhale and hold your breath as you
execute wrist flexion and exhale as you return under control, to the initial position.
You should be able to bring the hand approximately 45 to 60 degrees above the
horizontal (See Fig. 8.10). Strengthen the muscles mainly from the hyperextended
to the neutral position. This is where the major force production occurs in hitting
the ball. Full wrist flexion occurs in the follow-through but this range of action does
not contribute any force to ball contact. It does, however, allow for a full, smooth
swing.
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CHAPTER 8 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Figure 8.10 Wrist flexion using the Active Cord®.

11. Action: Wrist Extension


Wrist extension is not used to generate force in executing the forehand
stroke. However, it is important that your wrist flexors and extensors be strong to
prevent wrist injury. Because of this, the wrist extension-hyperextension exercise
is included at this time even though it plays its most important role in the backhand.
Execution: Assume a seated position holding a handle attached to each end of
the cord in the hands. The middle of the Active Cord® should be secured under
the feet and you should have ample tension when in the initial position. Rest your
forearms on your thighs with the wrist and hands free to move through a full range
of motion while holding the handles. Palms should face downward. When you are
ready, lower the hands in wrist flexion and then rise as high as possible. (See Fig.
8.11). Most force should be generated from the flexed to slightly beyond the
neutral position. For best results go through the full range of motion.
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Figure 8.11 Wrist extension using the Active Cord®.

12. Action: Medial Shoulder Joint Rotation


Before the arm comes through the hitting area, there is some turning of the
arm (medial shoulder rotation) to square the racquet face to the ball. During
contact the racquet remains square to the ball and the medial rotation picks up
again in the follow-through. Because of this and because both medial and lateral
shoulder joint rotation take place not only in the forehand but in other strokes, it is
important to strengthen the muscles involved in these actions (mostly rotator cuff
muscles). This is needed not only to prevent injury, but also to create additional
force.
Execution: Grasp a Strength Bar® with the weighted end upward and hold it
on an extended arm. The bar should be perpendicular to the hand and arm.
Raise the arm so it is approximately 45 degrees to the horizontal and incline the
trunk to a slightly forward position as when hitting the forehand.
When you are ready, keep the arm straight and then rotate it so that the
weighted end is lowered to the outside (lateral rotation) and the palm turns upward.
Then rotate the bar up and over to the inside (medial rotation) so that the palm is
down (See Fig. 8.12). Modify the position of the arm to more closely duplicate
where the medial and lateral rotation take place during the swing. Be sure to keep
the arm straight. To keep the stress off of your back bend slightly from the waist
with knees also slightly flexed.
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Figure 8.12 Lateral & medial shoulder joint rotation with the Strength Bar®.

13. Action: Supination/Pronation


Supination/pronation is used to a great extent by players who are more
"wristy" and when hitting with a bent arm. Supination/pronation occurs in the
backswing and in the forward swing prior to contact. The exact amount depends
on your particular stroke. These actions are also needed independently and jointly
with medial and shoulder joint rotation to position the racquet face for executing
different serves and touch shots such as the dink and drop shot. Pronation and
medial rotation in the shoulder joint usually occur together and are natural follow-
through movements. Strengthening the muscles involved can not only enhance
these movements, but can prevent injury, especially tennis elbow.
Execution: Execution of supination/pronation is done with a Strength Bar®. In
supination, you turn the hand palm up and in pronation, you turn the hand palm
down. Assume a kneeling position crosswise to an exercise bench with the
forearm in full support on the bench, holding a strength bar with the weighted end
up. If an exercise bench is not available, the exercise can be done with the
forearm supported on the thigh when in a seated position.
When you are ready, hold the strength bar in the right hand at a 90 degree
angle to the forearm and then lower the weight all the way to the right (supination)
and then up and over to the left (pronation). You should go through a full 90
degrees of motion on both sides. (See Fig. 8.13.)
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Figure 8.13 Elbow joint supination/pronation using the Strength Bar®.

14. Action: Hand Grip


The firmness of the grip is extremely important when hitting the forehand
stroke. If you have a loose grip when contact is made and especially when you are
hitting hard, some of the forces will be absorbed (lost) and the shot will be weak
and off target. To ensure that all the forces generated by the body and arm
actions are transferred to the ball, your grip must not only be firm, but tight at the
exact moment of impact. The grip, however, is relaxed in the backswing and initial
stages of the forward swing and in the follow-through. But during contact, it must
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be tight in order to ensure that the forces are transferred, so that you have
maximum accuracy and that no injury to the wrist or elbow will occur.
Execution: For a stronger grip, use of the Exer Rings®, which have different
tensions, is most advantageous. For example, place a round ring at the base of
the thumb and palm of the hand and in the middle of the fingers. Then squeeze
until the ring assumes the shape of a hairpin and then relax the ring. Repeat at a
moderate pace for the desired number of repetitions. This exercise can be done at
your convenience, as for example, when watching TV. (See Fig. 8.14a,b.)

Figure 8.14 Grip strengthener using the Exer Rings®.

To strengthen individual fingers, use a ring with a flat outer surface and
place on the tips of the fingers to be exercised. For example, if you wish to
strengthen the thumb, place the fingers on a table with the thumb uppermost.
Press down on the ring with the thumb, release and then repeat as needed. (See
Fig. 8.14c,d.)
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Figure 8.14 Thumb exercise using Exer Ring®.

If you wish to strengthen the index and middle finger, place the flat surface
ring on the fingertips with the thumb down against a table top and the fingers to be
exercised uppermost. Then squeeze down with the fingers until the ring is in the
shape of a hairpin and then release until it reassumes its shape. Repeat for the
desired number of repetitions. (See Fig. 2.14e,f.)
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Figure 8.14 Individual finger strengthening using the Exer Rings®.

15. Action: Lower Body Stabilization


To ensure a stable body position when the forehand stroke is executed, it is
important that the legs maintain a slight knee-bent position. There should be no up
or down movements during the contact period except when hitting topspin. One of
the best exercises to strengthen the leg muscles in stabilization is the delay squat.
Execution: Execution is basically the same as in a regular squat except that
you modify speed of movement and you pause several times on the down phase.
For example, begin in a standing position with the middle of the Active Cord®
under the feet and holding the ends in each hand in front of the shoulders with
bent arms. Or, you can hold dumbbells in the hands. When you are ready, lower
the body very, very slowly for a count of four (four seconds) so that the most you
travel down is about six inches. Hold this position for a count of four and then again
slowly lower the body for another count of four. When using Active Cords® be
sure to start with the greatest resistance in the standing position. Stop three times
in approximately the same leg positions as when you swing the racquet with the
ball at different heights. Hold each position for up to 4 seconds. After the last
(lowermost) stop and hold, then rise up as fast as possible. Pause and repeat for
the desired number of repetitions. If your legs begin to shake on the down phase,
stop immediately. This is your body’s way of letting you know that you have had
enough work. (See Fig. 8.15.)
You can vary the exercise once you know the exact angle in the knees that
you use most often when hitting the tennis forehand with both an open and side-
facing stance. Duplicate this angle by doing the squat to this position, hold for four
to six seconds and then come up as fast as possible to complete the exercise.
When using dumbbells you can leap up.
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Figure 8.15 Squat using the Active Cords®

16. Action: Hip Rotation with an assist from the Active Cords®
This exercise is used to learn and develop the feel of hip rotation. Because
of the assistance from the tubing, you also develop greater quickness in getting the
hips shifted and rotated prior to the shoulder rotation and arm action.
Execution: Attach the Active Cord® belt snugly around the hips and hook one
end of the cord to the ring on the right posterior hip. The other end should be
attached to an immovable object approximately hip high. Turn your body and step
into the tubing a full 180 degrees so that the tubing goes across the front of your
body and your left side now faces the immovable attachment. Be sure that you
stand far enough away from the attachment so that you have ample tension on the
tubing.
When you are ready, rotate the hips backward as in the backswing and after
you bring your arm back and then take a short step forward, shift the weight
forward and then rotate the hips. As you do this, the Active Cord® will pull the hips
around quickly and forcefully to give you the feel of rotating the hips quickly. (See
Fig. 8.16.)
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Figure 8.16 Hip joint rotation assisted with Active Cords®.

17. Action: Hip Extension


The "good morning" exercise is one of the best exercises that you can do to
strengthen the hip extensor muscles (gluteus maximus and hamstrings) that are
responsible for holding the trunk in a forward lean when stroking. In addition, this
exercise strengthens the erector spinae muscles of the lower back, which are
responsible for maintaining the proper and safe curvature of the spine. When you
have the correct curvature of the spine, hip and shoulder (trunk) rotation can take
place safely and effectively. Trunk rotation with a rounded or hyperextended spine
can be dangerous!
This exercise appears easy, but in reality, it is difficult for most tennis
players, even experienced and professional players. The reason for this is that
most players are accustomed to bending over from the waist with a rounded spine
rather than bending over from the hips. In analyzing professional, amateur, and
recreational tennis players, I can safely say that at least one third to one half of all
players assume a rounded spine in the initial stance. For many of them, this leads
to lower back problems. But, by doing the "good morning" exercise on a regular
basis, you can develop the strength and flexibility needed to hold an effective
stance and to eliminate problems that arise from the rounded spine position.
Execution: When learning the "good morning" exercise, use only the
resistance of your upper body. Assume an erect standing position and lock the
lower back in its normal, slightly arched spinal position. When ready, inhale and
hold your breath as you bend over from the hips, maintaining the normal spinal
curvature. Keep the legs straight in order to get a good stretch of the hamstrings as
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you bend over. If you experience any stress in the knees or if they hyperextend
hold the knees slightly bent during execution.
As you incline the trunk forward from the hips, push the pelvis to the rear to
keep the body in balance. Note that this is also the action that you use when
assuming an effective tennis stance! Allow the arms to relax and hang freely or
allow them to rest next to the body as you bend forward. When you reach the
lowest position, that is, where you feel the greatest stretch of the hamstrings on the
posterior thighs, hold the position for two to three seconds (See Fig. 8.17). Then
return to the upright position and relax. Repeat the same movement and lower the
trunk slightly more than you did previously if more flexibility is needed. For greater
strengthening, hold light dumbbells in your hands to increase resistance.
The "good morning" is especially important for women who are pregnant or
who have a large bosom. The increased weight in front of the body makes it
extremely important to have a strong lower back and hip extensor muscles to hold
not only the trunk erect but to hold the basic stance. By strengthening the lower
back muscles, the normal position of the spine can be held comfortably for longer
periods of time, which allows you to play a good game of tennis without fatigue or
danger of injury.

Figure 8.17 The Good Morning exercise with weights.

18. Action: Combined Weight Shift and Hip Rotation


This exercise is similar to Ex. 8.3 (Forward Hip Rotation) but it also involves
the use of a medicine ball to get greater resistance.
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Execution: Attach the Active Cord® to the right side of the hip and stand
sideways to the attachment. Hold the medicine ball in both hands so that you have
the resistance of not only the tubing but the medicine ball. When you are ready,
take a backswing and then push the hips (weight) forward. Then rotate the hips
forward to increase the muscle tension and then rotate the shoulders to bring the
ball across the body until the hands are on the left side of the body. Return to the
initial position and repeat. When this exercise is mastered you will be ready to
release the ball. Also you should now be able to demonstrate greater speed of
movement for all the actions in sequence. (See Fig. 8.18.)
As you do this exercise, you should feel the built-up tension in the muscles
prior to letting go of the medicine ball. This is effective in letting you know that you
have cleared the hips which in turn will increase the speed of the arms coming
through the hitting area. After you have mastered these actions with the Active
Cords®, remove the belt and do the same exercise with only the medicine ball or
with no resistance. You will experience easier and faster movements of the hips.

Figure 8.18 Hip rotation and weight shift using Active Cord® and medicine ball.

19. Action: Side Arm Throw


This exercise is used to duplicate the entire forehand stroke. The only
difference is that you are using both arms rather than one. Because of this it is
especially beneficial for two-handed players.
Execution: Hold a ball weighing approximately 4-10 pounds on extended arms
while in the forehand stance. The exact ball weight will depend on your physical
abilities and exercise mastery. Rotate the shoulders to the rear as in the
backswing. If you take a sufficiently long backswing, there will also be some hip
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rotation to the rear. When the trunk is rotated back, shift your weight forward and
then rotate the hips and shoulders forward to release the ball. If you are in an
open stance there is no weight shift. Simply rotate the shoulders to the rear and
then rotate forward with a release of the ball. (See Fig. 8.19.)
In the initial stages, hold the medicine ball on extended arms as you
execute the backswing, forward swing and follow-through. Keep the movements at
a moderate speed and concentrate on developing the rhythm of the movement.
Throw the ball in a sidearm motion to a partner or against a rebounding surface if
practicing by yourself. After catching the ball on the return, stop and prepare for
another throw. This exercise can also be performed together with Active Cords®.
It should be noted that even though the balls provide resistance they do not
interfere with your swing mechanics. The muscles of your midsection and hips are
large and strong and they can handle heavy weights without detracting from the
fine points of the stroke.

Figure 8.19 Side arm throw with Medicine Ball.

20. Action: Back Extension.


The back raise is not directly related to the forehand but is included here
because of its importance in preventing lower back problems. It is the most
effective exercise you can do to strengthen the lower back muscles through a full
range of motion. Once strengthened, they will be able to easily hold the needed
natural curvature of the spine and help to prevent low back muscle fatigue, strains,
and other problems. As an added benefit, you will have an effective trunk position
for stroking and better posture.
Execution: For best results, do the back raise on a Yessis Back Machine®. Lie
facedown on the apparatus so that your pelvic girdle is in full support on the seat
when your feet are placed between the rear pads. Hang over from the waist as far
as possible (about 50 to 60 degrees down) and relax. This is the active stretching
phase. (See Fig. 8.20-1.)
When ready, inhale slightly more than usual and raise your trunk until it is
above horizontal. You should have a slight arch in the lower back. Exhale as you
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return to the down position, pause momentarily, and then repeat. Hold the top
position for one or two seconds if you want greater stability of the spine.
If a Yessis Back Machine is not available, the exercise can be done on a high,
sturdy table. Position yourself so that the pelvic girdle is in full support on the end
of the table (naval at the edge). Place a small rolled-up towel under the lower
abdomen to help create greater intra abdominal pressure. (On the Yessis Back
Machine®, the rounded seat creates the necessary pressure.) To be held in
position, you must have someone hold your legs down. Execute as described
previously. (See Fig. 8.20-2.)

Figure 8.20-1 The Back Extension using the Yessis Back Machine®.

Figure 8.20-2 The Back Extension using a table.


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21. Action: Breathing Exercise


Resistive breathing is very important for strengthening the inspiratory and
expiratory muscles to delay the onset of fatigue and to improve muscular and
cardio-respiratory endurance. To most effectively strengthen the respiratory
muscles, you must use a resistive device such as The Breather®. With this
device, you can adjust the resistance for inhalation and for exhalation to better
match your capabilities.
Execution: To exercise the muscles, inhale against a pre-set resistance on the
Breather® and then exhale against a preset resistance at a steady rhythm for up to
one minute and then rest for a minute and repeat. The breathing can be modified
to match different conditions. For example, since there is breath holding when
executing the forehand, inhale, hold your breath and then forcefully exhale so that
you can prepare for the next shot or move. Since one of the key actions in
breathing is forceful exhalation, you should concentrate on greater development of
this ability. The faster you can get the air out, the quicker you can take in more air
for greater effectiveness in exchanging gases in the lungs. This is also a great
exercise for players who have asthma or other respiratory problems. (See Fig.
8.21.)

Figure 8.21 Resistive breathing using The Breather®.


CHAPTER 9
Designing Your
Workout Program

www.dryessis.com
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Designing Your Workout


Program

It is generally understood among tennis players that strength training can


lead to greater speed and power. However, many players and coaches still believe
that resistance training will make them slower, decrease their flexibility, and lead to
injury. These are myths that have persisted in tennis for many years and should
be dispelled. Weight or resistance training, when done correctly, is a player’s ally.

Depending upon the type of strength training program that you undertake,
you can: 1) improve hitting technique, 2) increase leg speed and quickness, 3)
increase muscular and aerobic endurance, 4) prevent injury, and 5) increase
speed of movement and power.

By tailoring the training program to fit your needs, you can develop any
specific type of strength that is required. This includes strength-endurance,
absolute and relative strength, speed-strength, eccentric strength, explosive
strength, and starting strength. You should not think of strength training simply as
a means of getting bigger or stronger. Think of it as a means to improve various
aspects of your game.

As brought out in research by Dr. Yessis, strength and endurance are


related and are on a continuum. In the initial stages of training both strength and
endurance are developed simultaneously. Yet, they are both very specific physical
qualities and development of each requires a separate training program. There is
no single type of exercise that is capable of simultaneously developing both of
these or other qualities to the levels needed in tennis.

Since specific strength is developed through specific adaptation to the


demands you place on the muscle, muscle overloading must be carried out in a
progressive manner in order to constantly raise the level of strength. This is best
done through the use of pulley weights, rubber tubing, and/or free weight training
(dumbbells and barbells). This equipment is most effective for the development of
strength in tennis players and the total energy output is minimal when compared to
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hill running, heavy labor or playing itself. Weather conditions do not prohibit their
use and the resistance can be adjusted to your abilities.

Resistance training can be done at home with adjustable weights and


rubber tubing as with the Active Cords®. The most important advantages of using
such equipment are:

1. The overload principle can be made progressive by the gradual increase in


the resistance used, thereby assuring a continuity of strength gains in the desired
actions or body areas.

2. Resistance training can be used to develop strength in any or all of the


muscles of the body according to the requirements of your hitting or playing style.

3. The strength development program can be designed primarily to develop


strength in those muscles which assist you in making the most effective use of
your speed, skill, endurance, and tactics as required for your best playing.

For your exercise program to be most effective you must individualize it


according to whether you are a recreational or competitive player. In addition, the
amount of resistance that you use, the kind and number of exercises that you
execute, and the number of sets and reps used for each exercise depend on your
mastery of the exercises and your mastery of game skills. As your ability levels
improve you should move up to the next level of exercise difficulty.

Proper Breathing During Exercise


When you do your exercises the way in which you breathe is very important.
Because of this, you should develop proper breathing patterns from the start. This
also applies to execution of the forehand.

The instructions for the exercises tell you to inhale and hold your breath on
exertion—that is, on the hardest part of the exercise, when you are overcoming
resistance. You then exhale on the return, staying in control of the movements.
But don’t be surprised if you read or hear the opposite from other sources—that
you should exhale on the exertion and inhale on the return.

The widely used recommendation to exhale on exertion is based on theory,


not research, and applies mainly to people with heart and circulatory system
problems. For example, if you hold your breath for too long (up to eight seconds
with a maximal exertion), you could pass out. This happens because the internal
pressure in your chest and abdomen increases when you hold your breath on
exertion. If it increases greatly, especially when using maximal resistance, it
squeezes down on the blood vessels shuttling blood and oxygen to and from the
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heart. When this happens, you can black out. But this occurs very rarely and
mainly on a maximum exertion, not in general weight training.

If you are without cardiovascular problems and do not hold your breath for
more than a few seconds in the recommended exercises, the breath holding on
exertion is perfectly safe. It makes the exercises safer and more effective. If you
have high blood pressure or other circulatory system or heart problems, avoid
heavy resistance and breath holding.

Inhaling and holding your breath briefly on exertion—any exertion, and in all
sports, comes naturally. Many studies have shown that whenever athletic skills are
executed properly, athletes hold their breath on the exertion—during the power
phase, when maximum force is generated. The breath holding is especially
important in hitting strokes and in all explosive movements. The inhaling and
holding of the breath on exertion provides up to 20 percent greater force, stabilizes
the spine, and helps prevent lower back injuries. It transforms the trunk (and, in
fact, the whole body) into a stable unit against which your hips, shoulders, and
arms can move more effectively.

Breathing exercises can also help you relax. For example, a common
recommendation is to inhale fully and then exhale before starting play or before a
point. This is a good technique to help you relax. But before starting, it is
important that the muscles have some tension—not excessive tension, but
sufficient tension to start with power and quickness. This is also the reason why
players hold their breath during stroke execution.

Studies done with devices to monitor breathing patterns have proven this
beyond any doubt. To execute a powerful swing, you must hold your breath during
execution.

In effective breathing, do not take a maximal breath and then hold it. Doing
this can make you very uncomfortable. Just take a breath slightly greater than
usual and then hold it to experience the positive benefits. This is especially
important for stabilizing the body, holding the spine in position, and getting greater
power in your swing. Execution of the swing or exercise is relatively fast. Thus,
you should have no fear of holding your breath too long or of overexerting yourself.

Getting Started
For beginners and those who have not worked out for months or years, it is
necessary to first go through a learning and familiarization stage. It is used to
accustom your body to exercise gradually without soreness or discomfort. To
begin, read (and sometimes re-read) exactly how to do the exercises. Have this
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book with you when you train. Since most of the key exercises can be done at
home, you can do them at your leisure and with privacy.

Do one exercise for 3-5 repetitions with light resistance. When using rubber
tubing, adjust the length so that you can execute the exercise easily through a full
range of motion. This means that you do the exercise (up and down or away and
back) 3-5 times. Execute each repetition at a moderate rate of speed.

As you do the exercise, concentrate on exactly how you are doing it and
how it feels. Recognize what each exercise feels like and which muscles are
working. In this way you will gain a better feel for the movement and how it relates
to your stroke. After completing 3-5 repetitions, relax and then get ready for the
next exercise. Read the description and then do several repetitions. Proceed in
this manner until you do all the exercises selected.

You do not have to do every exercise that is described in this book for each
aspect of the forehand stroke. When beginning, pick out exercises for your
troublesome areas or the joint actions you would like to improve. Other exercises
can be attempted the following week or as you get used to doing the core (for you)
exercises. For example, a sample exercise program for the player in
cinematogram 2 would consist of three exercises:

1. Forward Hip Rotation


2. The Reverse Trunk Twist
3. The Russian Twist

If you desire greater improvement of other particular actions, include even


more exercises. However, for many players this sample program is quite sufficient
for the first 2 to 4 weeks, especially in regard to learning the exercises. It is
important that you record each exercise and the number of repetitions done so that
you know exactly where you are on each exercise at the next workout. A record
keeping book or e-book with many workout tips is also available and can be used
to evaluate your progress. For information contact: Sports Training, Inc., P. O. Box
460429, Escondido, CA 92046, phone: (760) 480-0558, fax: (760) 480-1277; e-
mail: dryessis@dryessis.com

Personalize Your Program


Each of you is a unique individual and you will respond to the exercises
differently. This is why you should never copy what someone else is doing.
Because someone you know may have responded quickly to the exercises, it does
not mean that your body will also respond in the same manner. This is especially
true in the senior years.
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If you copy someone else's program regardless of how successful it is, you
take a chance of getting injured. Not only may the resistance be greater than what
your muscles and joints can handle, but the way the exercise is executed by
another person may not fit the way your body is designed to move. In these
instances there is a high likelihood of injury. Your training program must be
individualized, just as your tennis game is very individual.

When to Work Out


Schedule your workouts so that they are not done immediately before or after your
playing. An ideal situation would be to do the exercises in the morning and to play
(or practice) in the afternoon. If you prefer playing in the morning then you should
do the exercises in late afternoon or evening. The key here is to give yourself a
few hours of rest and recovery in between. Do the exercises consistently and at a
fairly regular time so that you have ample time for recovery and for your body to
adapt to the exercises.

Reps and Sets


Add one or two repetitions at each workout (or each week) until you reach
15-20 repetitions maximum (RM). This means you cannot do any more repetitions.
When you repeatedly reach 20 RM or more you will be ready to increase the
resistance for that particular exercise. If you have not reached 20 RM in the other
exercises, remain on the same level for those.

After a few weeks you will become more comfortable with the exercises and
have greater confidence. Since you will be able to handle more resistance and
execute more repetitions without any discomfort or trepidation, you may want to
add other exercises at this time. This is especially true if you are also doing
special exercises for other strokes and footwork. If you experience soreness on
any workout day or on the day after, it means you did too many repetitions or used
too much resistance. When this happens use the same or even less resistance in
the next workout to help your body recover. When you feel good, then you can
gradually increase the resistance or the repetitions.

You should do only one set of each exercise at this time. A set means
doing a particular number of repetitions of one exercise one time. For example, if
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you do 20RM of the squat this constitutes one set of the exercise. If you then do
an additional 20 RM or less, it is considered set number two.

Since the main purpose of the workout program at this time is to familiarize
you with the exercises and to gradually have your body adapt to the exercises and
the workout, only one set is needed. Doing more than one set will not produce
greater results. A greater number of sets are needed as you make progress and
become more fit and have greater mastery of the exercises. This is where
additional sets play their most important role.

Days Per Week


You should work out three days per week. The workouts should last a
maximum of 20-30 minutes at this time. That's right, 20-30 minutes! This is not a
long time. For a maximum of ninety minutes a week, you can gain sufficient
strength and flexibility to enable you to hit harder, be faster and play better. Elite
players may require more time because of the need for higher levels of not only
strength but speed-strength.

You will reach 15-20 RM fairly rapidly in some exercises while in other
exercises progress may be much slower. This is perfectly normal since some
muscles take longer to respond and certain exercises are easier to learn than
others. For many individuals it takes 1-2 months to reach 15-20 RM in all the
exercises.

It is important that you work out on a regular basis. When on a 3 days per
week program you must not skip days and say, "I will do four days next week
because I only did two this week." This is not effective. Working out more than
three days per week does not bring additional benefits, and can lead to
overtraining and the possibility of injury and soreness. A three-day a week
program allows for a day's rest in between to give your muscles ample time to fully
recover. As a result, it will not interfere with your playing! When you are more fit,
working out 4-6 times per week can be successfully integrated with your playing

To get maximum benefit from the strength training program, you should
continue playing and practicing to constantly make minor adjustments in how you
hit. Most of the changes will be made unconsciously because of the muscular feel
developed when doing the exercises. The changes will feel very natural to you!

Increasing the Difficulty


When you reach 15-20 RM for each exercise, and the exercises become
"easy", you will be ready to make changes. At this time the workouts become
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more strenuous. If you are already strong and have been working out, you should
begin on this level, especially if you are already familiar with the exercises.
However, when starting a new exercise, start as previously described and
gradually build up to the level needed.

Regardless of whether you use rubber tubing, dumbbells or barbells, when


you reach about 20 RM regularly, increase the resistance. Doing this should bring
you down to 12-15 RM. Then work back up to 20 RM and repeat the process.
When you do an exercise for 15-20 RM it is important that the last repetition be the
most that you can do with proper technique. Do not, for example, do 15 or 20
repetitions and still feel refreshed. When you finish the set you should feel slightly
out of breath and have muscular fatigue.

Be in tune with your body as you do the exercises. Only in this way can you
find out what is working for you and determine which exercises appear to be most
effective. You can then make the necessary changes in the exercises or exercise
program to produce the desired results. If you need more work on certain muscles
add another set to selected exercises. Also add a set to some exercises if more
development of the muscles is needed.

Making the Workout More Specific


You can change your hitting significantly, depending not only on which
exercises you use, but also on how many repetitions and sets you use. Thus, how
you set up your program at this time is critical to your success. Most important is
that you make your workout specific not only to your event but to the changes you
desire.

Keep in mind that your workout program for strength is different from that for
producing increases in muscle mass as well as being significantly different from a
program aimed at increasing speed and explosiveness. In essence, the workouts
must be geared toward the qualities you are desirous of improving as well as the
role that they play in your particular event.

For example, a beginner may find great success from doing only one or two
sets of 15-20RM in improving their performance. Greater strength at this time will
not be as important as raising the levels of muscular and cardiovascular endurance
which play more important roles. An advanced player on the other hand needs
greater levels of strength (both eccentric and concentric) as well as greater levels
of speed-strength, starting strength, and explosive strength. Thus the programs for
both types of players must be distinctly different, yet include some of the same
exercises.
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CHAPTER 9 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Maintaining Speed, Strength & Endurance


It is not necessary to continually increase your strength or muscular endurance
levels. This is especially true if you are a recreational player. Once a desired level
of hitting ability is reached maintaining your developed strength or endurance
levels becomes most important. Keep in mind that if you cease your workouts and
only play, you’ll lose some of the gained strength and endurance. This in turn will
affect not only your force and speed but also your hitting technique and may even
lead to injury.

Keep in mind that continual increases in strength and other physical


qualities are typically not called for in season because it may cause changes to
your technique. When in season, maintaining the same technique for accuracy
and for the development of strategy based on one’s physical and technical abilities
becomes most important for winning success. All increases in your physical
qualities and technique changes should take place prior to the season or major
competition.

To maintain your level of strength or endurance, you should continue to


work out 1-2 days per week. Do one set of each exercise to maintain your hitting
abilities. In some cases two sets may be needed. The number of repetitions will
vary depending on your level of fitness and your goals. For most players doing
one set of the key strength and endurance exercises for 10-20 RM is usually
sufficient when done twice a week.

If you stop your training and only play (or if you do not exercise to maintain
your fitness levels), you may find your hitting technique changing. This is
especially true as you age. But by maintaining your strength and flexibility levels,
you will be able to maintain the ability to hit basically the same way in the later
years as in your youth. Increase your physical abilities and you will hit and play on
a higher skill level.

Recovery
The amount of tennis played and the training load have increased greatly
over the last few years. In addition, more tennis players are getting involved in
physical conditioning than ever before. As a result, the body is undergoing much
greater stress than previously. This in turn results in greater fatigue, a decrease in
the immune system, overtraining and more injuries. In order to reverse this trend
you must get more rest to allow for sufficient recuperation between workouts.

The use of natural ways of restoring the body, i.e., getting the body rested
and ready for more work as soon as possible is gaining greater recognition by
athletes and coaches. By helping the body to recover faster after workouts you
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CHAPTER 9 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

can actually increase the amount of playing and conditioning work that can be
done.

In order for the tennis player of today to train longer and harder, specific
means of recovery to allow his/her body to withstand and cope with the loads must
be incorporated into the training plan. By using natural scientific recovery methods
it is possible to significantly increase (sharply in some cases) the volume and
intensity of training. From using various methods of restoration the number of
injuries and ailments that occur to the player’s skeletal-muscular system do not
increase, but are reduced!

There are three phases of the normal recovery process that are recognized.
They are ongoing recovery, quick recovery, and delayed recovery. Ongoing
recovery occurs during the actual workout. It takes place mainly in between
games, workouts or whenever there is a rest period during match play. To
maximize the rest period you should include some exercises for relaxing and
sometimes some easy stretching. Some mild activity such as easy walking can
also assist in ongoing recovery.

One of the most important areas relating to ongoing recovery is adequate


hydration during practice sessions or match play. Since heat is generated during
muscle activity your body responds by sweating to allow for proper internal
temperature control. The process of sweating (water loss primarily from the
circulatory system) cools the body down and dissipates the heat, but in turn, the
oxygen rich blood increases in viscosity because of the loss in water. The heart
now must work that much harder to circulate oxygen to the working muscles. A 2-
4% loss of water can cause premature fatigue (definitely hindering your ability to
play third set tiebreaks); your susceptibility to muscle cramps increases, and fine
motor coordination deteriorates. A 4% loss in water (sweat) in a tennis player
weighing 150 lbs. equals 6 lbs., or 3 quarts of water intake. Obviously, such losses
cannot be replaced during a match, but this amount is generally more than most
will encounter. However, replacing a portion of the water lost is absolutely critical
and easy to do for anyone concerned with performance and ongoing recovery.
From the above discussion it should be obvious that the best fluid replacement
available is water, preferable clean, cold water (45-55 degrees) with good taste
and water drinks such as Oxy Water which contains additional oxygen. The
oxygen helps greatly in recovery by removing some waste products and helps to
reduce fatigue.

Quick recovery begins immediately upon cessation of play or the workout


and leads to greater removal of waste products and replenishment of expended
resources. It is at this time, that supplements to assist in the process can be of
benefit. For example, using Oxy Water immediately after the workout speeds up
the removal of lactic acid and other waste products while also bringing in additional
oxygen for energy replacement. Also helpful in replacing the expended energy
supply is to immediately take in some carbohydrates and then after a period of
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CHAPTER 9 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

time, protein and other nutritional products. The carbohydrates immediately


replenish the energy sources and make it possible for the protein to work more
effectively. Whole food nutritional bars such as those made by Standard
Process® are especially beneficial when you do not have time for a regular meal
until much later.

Delayed recovery, which is also known as the supercompensation phase, is


usually considered the most important. From studies in endocrinology, physiology
and medicine, experts believe that the optimal recovery process occurs during the
phase of supercompensation. During this time, your functional capabilities are
increased beyond the initial levels. In other words, your body does not only
replace what was used up, but leaves additional supplies of energy so that you are
then capable of doing more work in the next workout.

Such supercompensation is the key to progress. It is most important for


developing the physical qualities and increasing the levels of energy expenditure.
At this time however, it is critical that you have ample nutrients in the body. If your
diet is lacking it may inhibit the process of supercompensation. When this occurs
you may not be experiencing any gains from the workout.

This explanation may seem to be very simplistic, but it is extremely


important! Very often tennis players, because they cannot look inside the body to
determine what is occurring, think that lack of progress is due to the actual workout
or in the amount of weight or repetitions that are employed. However, in many, if
not in most cases, the real problem is poor nutrition resulting in inadequate
supercompensation.

Specific recuperative means should be used for each of the three phases of
recovery. For example, some of the measures that are used in your warm-up such
as easy aerobic activity or active stretching are also effective in ongoing recovery.
The methods that you employ during the workout and immediately after the
workout assist in quick recovery, as well as in supercompensation.

The exact methods and procedures, however, depend upon the workout
and the individual player. Much research is being devoted to determine exactly
when each of the different methods can be used most effectively. For example,
different kinds of sports massage can be employed on a regular basis. In addition
you can use various kinds of hydrotherapy including the sauna, spa (Jacuzzi)
various types of showers, and underwater stream massage. Other methods
include electrical stimulation, neurolymphatic system stimulation and psychological
methods with light and sound.
CHAPTER 10
Principles of Training

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CHAPTER 10 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

Principles of Training

Working out can mean many things to different people, but how you work
out is critical to your development. To get the maximum results, you should
adhere to the following principles of exercise:

1. Individualization
You are a unique individual. Aside from the obvious structural differences
there are also physiological differences in your muscular, circulatory and nervous
systems that require differences in your program. This is why you must be the one
to make the final decision as to exactly which and how many exercises are done
and how many sets and reps should be in effect. Your training program should be
for you and only you.

Even though you cannot change your genetic make-up (which determines
only one third of your potential), you can greatly modify your speed, strength,
flexibility and other qualities. I have worked with many players who have literally
transformed their bodies and their hitting and playing abilities. Some started off
being fairly lackadaisical about doing various exercises but ended up being the
most active exercisers (and players) I have ever seen.

2. Gradualness
Regardless of your exercise program or level of performance, any increases
in flexibility, strength, resistance, repetitions or sets should be very gradual. For
example, if you are accustomed to doing 15 RM for two sets, you should not in one
day change to 50 or 60 repetitions or do four sets. Your body is not ready for such
abrupt changes and because of this injuries may occur. To prevent injury and to
maximize your results, all gains should be gradual.
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CHAPTER 10 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

3. Progressiveness
In order to continually show increases in speed, muscular strength and
endurance, you must progressively but gradually increase the amount of
resistance (intensity), the number of exercises or the total number of repetitions
(volume) used. If you continue working at the same level and do the same number
of exercises, sets and reps you will only maintain your achieved fitness level.

4. Overload
Overload means that you do more than what your body is accustomed to.
In order to develop greater strength you must use additional resistance. To
increase flexibility you must increase the range of motion. Other ways to achieve
overload include increasing the rate of work, i.e., doing the exercises at a slightly
faster rate of speed or in an explosive manner. These methods apply to all fast,
explosive players and should be used only after you have achieved base levels of
strength and endurance. They include plyometrics, explosive and other speed-
strength type exercises.

5. Awareness
To put this principle into practice you should keep a record of your workouts.
Record not only the resistance, sets and repetitions for each exercise, but also
how you feel. Make notations of what you experience, both mentally and
physically.

This is especially important for women who respond differently in each


phase of the menstrual cycle. Some women do their best work (or playing) before
or after menstruation, while others perform better at the actual time of
menstruation. Because of this, women should determine when they can do their
most productive work and schedule the workouts (and playing) around the
menstrual cycle. In general, stay away from very strenuous activity (such as using
heavy resistance) during the menstrual period.

Awareness also means being cognizant of what is happening to your body.


You should learn what each exercise feels like and how your body responds to it.
In time, you develop a muscle memory so that when you execute the exercise (or
the forehand stroke) you can tell immediately if it is working for you or if something
is amiss. When things do not feel right, you should check to see if your execution
is correct or if there is some other problem that is interfering.
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CHAPTER 10 Explosive Tennis: The Forehand

6. Consistency
Without consistency in your exercise and tennis program, all the work that
you do may come to naught. For example, after each workout your energy supply
is depleted. It is replaced while you are resting and sleeping which is also when
additional energy supplies for later use are deposited. This is known as
supercompensation. If you do not exercise sufficiently to use the extra energy that
has been deposited, your body will re-absorb it and as a result you may be left with
the same energy as before. For example, I am sure you have noticed that when
you have not played for a while or have become sedentary you actually become
more tired than if you were active throughout the entire day.

Consistency, which means doing the exercises on a regular basis, is the key
to success in any exercise or tennis training program. What I recommend,
therefore, is that you block off the time needed in your busy schedule so that the
exercise program becomes as important as all your other activities.

If for some reason you are unable to work out for a week or two, start your
exercises again upon your return using less resistance. In one or two days you
should get back into the groove of doing the exercises and seeing the results. Do
not be overly concerned when situations arise that do not allow you to continue the
program since they can be made up. However, do not allow this to happen on a
regular basis.

If you want to improve your hitting most effectively and in the shortest
amount of time, schedule your workouts. Once you set up a regular exercise and
training program you will see the benefits quite soon. It is at this time that you will
become hooked. You will look forward to doing the exercises because you will see
what the exercises are doing for you and how they are improving your hitting. You
will also experience greater confidence in yourself, which will show up in better
hitting and in everyday life.
131

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TRAINING, INC.

• Biomechanical/kinesiological analyses of your strokes

• Analysis of your physical abilities

• A personalized exercise program

• Technique enhancement

Contact us for more information about any of the


equipment used in this book.

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Escondido, CA 92046
Tel: (760) 480-0558
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E-mail: dryessis@dryessis.com
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Sports Training's mission is to be the preeminent sports training and exercise


resource for athletes. From youngsters through professional and senior levels,
coaches, doctors, personal trainers, and others our unique services allows you to
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further and faster, jump higher, kick further, cut faster and perform better.