Bring It In
Published January 18, 2010 12:09
Stroke Mechanics: Forehand
The forehand ground stroke is one of the most fundamental in tennis and is used to cover two thirds of all baseline area. There are a variety of techniques which can be applied in hitting a forehand stroke. Whether it's the grip, the footwork, the backswing, or the amount of wrist and spin used, it is critical to master each component.
Learning the fundamentals of a forehand ground stroke begins with what comes naturally from each individual, along with the instruction from a certified coach or teaching professional to teach efficient stroke mechanics. The goal is to transfer energy from the leg drive to the racket to get the greatest racket speed.
The best way to maximize power and minimize loads:
Efficient Use of the "Kinetic Chain"
For many years sport scientists have understood that the body functions as a series of interconnected links, a concept known as the "Kinetic Link"principle. The energy or force generated by one body part can be transferred successfully into the next link. If this transfer is not efficient into the next link/joint/body part, force and power will be missing in the racket indicating a risk for injury. The most effective tennis ground strokes begin with:
·Use of ground reaction force a s a base for the stroke:
· Strong leg drive off stable back leg
·Trunk/Hip rotation around back leg
· Shoulder external rotation:
·Upper extremity motion follows trunk
·Long axis rotation on follow through:
Elbow points toward ball path
To hit a forehand ground stroke you can choose from 4 different leg positions:
(Described for a right handed player)
Set up position: left side toward the net with the left foot stepping forward and into the ball. This is not the preferred footwork for today's tennis athletes as it limits hip and shoulder rotation, which equates to reduced power. A closed stance is effective on low mid-court balls, where an approach is played with a left foot-to- left foot forward "hop", which makes for a very effective transition to the net. This involves a highly advanced footwork technique that is very difficult for beginning and intermediate players.
Set up position: left side toward the net with left and right foot directly in line with one another.
·Semi Open Stance:
Set up position: feet approximately at a 45 degree angle to the net with front left foot turned toward the net and the right foot behind.Hips and shoulders rotated right so that your opponent has a good view of the back of your left shoulder.
Set up position: similar to the semi-open stance, however, both feet are in line with one another standing square-on to the net. Hips and shoulders are rotated right as in the semi-open set up position.
Backswings vary from long, loopy, high, continuous backswings to straight back, early, abbreviated backswings that break the stroke up into two very distinct movements. High backswings generate tremendous power, but many of these athletes have difficulty adjusting when put under pressure, or if the shot requires any sort of improvisation. Some tennis athletes prefer to use the left hand out in front of their body to assist with set-up balance.
Generally speaking, tennis athletes like to follow through over their left shoulder. Some even like to wrap the racquet behind the neck. Others prefer to follow through slightly below shoulder level on the left side of the body. Some "catch" the tennis racquet with their left hand at the end of the follow through. As a general rule, the longer the follow through, the more length you'll get on the ball.This also requires more flexibility and stability of your shoulder and upper back muscles.
Dependent upon the upper extremity position and motion of the stroke, we differentiate into 4 different forehand techniques:
·Power - an aggressive stroke stepping into the ball from or near the baseline striking it to the opposite side of the court.
·Volley - an abbreviated stroke with no backswing hit before the ball bounces, usually when standing close to the net.
·Drop - an abbreviated "slice" stroke that carefully drops the ball just over the net
·Smash - a powerful overhead shot hit above the head with a serve-like motion
A Critical Point: The Fitness Base
According to Dr W.B. Kibler, MD, an orthopedic physician specializing in Tennis mechanics, there is a "Critical Point" between the demands of the sport and the individual athlete's fitness base. The critical point is the athlete's ability to meet the demands through successful performance or succumb to improper mechanics and/or injury in attempt to meet demands. Obviously, appropriate coaching can reduce the risk for improper mechanics. However, coaching alone does not eliminate the risk for improper mechanics or injury. Preparing the athlete's body to biomechanically meet the demands of the sport will greatly reduce these risks.
It is essential that developing athletes are monitored closely in their stroke mechanics by a certified coach or teaching professional and undergo regular testing to assess their muscular strength, endurance and flexibility.
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