In the game of lawn tennis, the quality of service of a player more or less serves as a make or break for the match. As a matter of fact, if a player can’t serve properly, the game cannot progress further. On the other hand, a player whose service is top notch, not only has an absolute advantage over his opponent, who relies solely on the superiority of his groundstrokes, but also wins the appreciation of the audience.
Every player wishes to have a service that is powerful as well as accurate. Every player wishes to serve clean aces to which their opponents have no reply. However, as strange as it may sound, the service as a skill in the game is often overlooked, by the coaches as well as the players. The reason for this is simple – improving the service takes work. A lot of work. There are various nuances that need to be broken down and worked on separately, and, after that, need to be put together so that they work like a smoothly operating machine and become second nature.
With the help of this article, we’ll try to understand the basic mechanics behind a tennis serve, what muscles are used in a particular serve and how to utilize various techniques to improve a player’s service so they can pack on those aces.
The mechanics of a service
A common misconception when it comes to tennis service is that it requires shoulder strength. Although there is some truth to that, as the shoulder and back muscles do most of the work when it comes to the muscles involved in the upper body, the real factor that drives the service is transfer of momentum from the backward sway motion when the ball is tossed in the air to the forward motion when the ball comes in contact and the continuance of the forward motion of the body as part of the follow through.
The correct alignment of the shoulder - A good way for players to align themselves under the tossed ball is to aim to align both their shoulders. The players should aim to lean back to a point where the shoulders are properly aligned. Although it may not be practically possible to get the shoulders aligned exactly to each other, depending on the mobility of the player, it can be understood over the course of time what the ideal position is for each player.
The muscles involved in the service - The service in tennis involves muscles throughout the kinetic chain. It works the ankle plantar flexors, quadriceps, gluteals, external and internal obliques, deltoids, forearms and the lats in the back.
The correct way to approach training these muscles would be to restrict the perceived exertion to 5 and work them on high volume.
Serve velocity comes from four distinct phases of serve motion – racquet drop, pronation of wrist, vertical explosion and follow through. Therefore, it is important to train for each of these phases of serve motion to increase the power of serve.
Racquet drop: The motion where the player drops the head of racquet on the lower back behind his/her head to eventually extend the arm completely over head to hit the serve.
Exercises to improve this motion – single hand triceps extension with dumbbell, triceps extension with rope on cable and over the head medicine ball throws.
Pronation of wrist: The motion of swiveling of the radius and ulna bones in the forearm is called pronation of wrist. In other words, pronation refers to twisting the forearm in a way that the palm faces the floor when the elbow is extended. Speed of pronation is really crucial to generate racquet head speed.
Exercises to improve this motion – Dumbbell pronation and motorcycle revs.
Vertical explosion: The process of bending the knee and jumping vertically to hit the arm overhead is referred to as vertical explosion. This is the most important aspect that differentiates great servers from average servers.
Exercises to improve this motion – Box jumps, frog jumps, jumps squats and jump lunges.
The follow through - The follow through marks the completion of service from the player. It is important as it transfers the body weight from a leaning back position towards the front and the target of the service. The athlete should aim to transfer all his weight to the front foot and end with the racket under the armpit of the opposite arm.
Put together a workout session with the above exercises and see follow it 2-3 times a week. Rep range should be kept between 8-15 reps for 4 sets.
All in all, the service in tennis is as vital to the sport as it is complex. However, quality practice time spent on this skill will never go waste, and, coupled with confident groundstrokes, turn you into a formidable opponent.
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About the Authors
Anuj Mehta is a former lawn tennis player and a fitness professional. He is a certified Personal trainer from NFPT and also done diploma in Personal training from K11 Fitness institute.
Khushman is a ACE-certified Personal Trainer and a Crossfit L1 trainer. He has been working in the field of fitness for 5 years now. He has experience in training clients from different walks of life, be it in group sessions or in Personal Training sessions.
About Simply Sport
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