Tennis: Balance Drill for Low Groundstrokes

Tennis: Balance Drill for Low Groundstrokes

Dick Moss, Editor, PE Update.com

 Left: Incorrect Technique - Bending from the Waist. Right: Better Technique - Bending from the Knees
Left: Incorrect Technique - Bending from the Waist.
Right: Better Technique - Bending from the Knees
A common error when hitting low groundstrokes is for players to bend from the waist instead of bending the legs. This is especially true when the ball is slightly out of reach.

There are several reasons why bending from the waist isn't good practice.

Why You Shouldn't Bend at the Waist

Here's why bending at the waist is poor practice on the tennis court:

  1. Reduced Power
    It reduces players+ ability to use their legs to generating power. Bending and uncoiling legs forward into the ball dramatically increases the speed of the shot. Bending at the waist precludes this movement.

  2. Slower Court Movement
    Bending at the waist places the center of mass ahead of the legs, which puts players off balance and slows their recovery for next shot. Since they must regain their balance before they can move towards the next shot, their reaction to incoming balls is slower.

  3. Accuracy and Shot Selection
    Leaning over for a shot affects your athletes+ ability to aim the ball and reduces shot selection.

  4. Greater Risk of Injury
    Leaning at the waist for low balls puts extra stress on the arms shoulders, core muscles and lower back.

Better Technique
Instruct students that it's important to get close enough to the ball so they don't have to lean out to make contact, even if this means taking an extra step.

To get their racquet down to the ball, they must bend at the knees instead of the waist. This will allow their back to remain upright keeping the center of gravity over the legs and maintaining a good, balanced, head-up power position. The result will be more powerful shots, better balance and an improved ability to aim the ball.

Balance Drill

 Left: Incorrect Technique - Bending from the Waist. Right: Better Technique - Bending from the Knees
Left: Incorrect Technique - Bending from the Waist.
Right: Better Technique - Bending from the Knees
Here's a drill that will teach students the value of bending at the knees instead of the when hitting low groundstrokes.

Gather a number of tennis balls and stand in front of the student. Then roll the balls, one at a time, to either his left or right. Alternate sides on each ball. The student+s job will be to pick up the ball and recover in time to pick up the next one.

Stress that they should bend at the knees not the waist. However, if they do bent at the waist, they'll notice that their ability to recover their balance and get to the next ball is impaired. This is a good demonstration that bending at the knees is more efficient.


References:

1. Dave Hegler, "Bottom View." Tennis Tips by Charlotte, August 2008. http://www.downeytennisclub.com/TennisTips.htm
2. Jon Levey, How to Return a Low Ball With Topspin, Tennis.com, November 21, 2005.
3. Stan Smith (Instruction Editor), with Alexander McNabb, "How to improve your balance." Tennis, July 1989.


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