In this article I’m going to discuss something thats a large part of my teaching; being relaxed. I find that such a large majority of recreational players are tense and tight while playing and practicing tennis, and very few realize it, nor understand the implications that it has on their game.
First off let me go over why this is so important. You will never realize your full athletic potential unless you learn to train your body and mind to stay relaxed. Obviously there needs to be a mental and physical sharpness and awareness to perform any kind of athletic skill at a competent level. However, actual tension of muscles while trying to execute a stroke, or anxiety of the mind and thoughts during a match are incredibly destructive to ones game. Today I will go over how essential a relaxed body is to your tennis.
As a teacher of tennis I have done my best to study each stroke in tennis very closely. The more I can understand about technique the better I can serve my clients in improving their skills as much as possible. In watching a person’s strokes, tension and tightness is definitely way up on the list of things that I try to identify right away. Why? Because any muscle tightness during any tennis stroke immediately make every movement much more work and effort to perform. Worse yet, somebody who is very tight will not only have to work harder, but usually it means that some movements and techniques of any given stroke won’t even be completed because their own body is holding them back. Take for example a forehand ground stroke. When behind the baseline and making a swing at the ball you have at the very least 78 feet of court at your disposal. A good ground stroke is lifted over the net and driven deep into the opponents court so as to keep them pushed back away from you and in a position that makes it difficult for them to attack. The longer of a path your racket travels before, during, and after contact the more likely you will accomplish the lift and drive necessary to hit such a shot. The shorter of a path your racket travels, the more effort it takes to hit the same shot. Basically, speed multiplied times length is going to equal your potential for power and spin on your forehand, and every other stroke requiring pace and spin.
Now consider for a moment how many muscles must be summoned and used to create a deep and effective ground stroke. The human body has around 700, so its pretty safe to say dozens, and probably hundreds of muscles are in use depending on how advanced of a swing you have. The more relaxed those used muscles are the more freely they’re going to move, and the more potential will be available for both length of swing, and speed of swing. The more of them are tight, the less likely your swing will be long or fast to begin with, and even if you still manage it, it’s going to take a great deal more effort than it should. While reading an article recently I saw a great quote coming from the realm of martial arts. I’m sorry I don’t have the exact words nor the source, but it stated: “One’s ability to create power, is directly proportionate to ones ability to relax”. They know their stuff.
Lastly let me talk about where I believe a great deal of tension comes from in the fist place. Failure. Listen to the average tennis player after missing a shot long or wide outside the lines: “oohhh, too much!”, “Darn, I hit it too hard again”. Rarely is this actually correct. If sound technique is used, a great deal of pace is available for any player to take advantage of. When said “too hard” shot is missed, most players’ immediate physical response is to become tentative on the following shot. This may or may not keep the next shot in play, and then the next time a shot is missed, often times the player tightens up even more. This is how people get stuck playing at the same level of tennis year after year. Rather than fix the actual technical reason that the ball left the boundaries of the court, a great deal of players will simply pull back physically to try and rein their shots in. The result after repeating this time and time again is short, tight strokes that take more effort and net less results.
So in conclusion, stay relaxed! If you’re a better than average player please don’t think you’re exempt. Over the past several months I’ve been really rehashing my backhand ground stroke big time. Through less than great technique I’ve acquired a great deal of tension on that side, and it has taken a lot of conscious effort to start loosening it up again. If you’re an average, or less than average player then you’re in luck! This can really help you out a great deal. Next time you go out to practice really be conscious of your muscles as you swing. If your hand, arm, and core feel tight what so ever through out any certain swing, then there’s a lot more to be had. Find a tennis professional who knows good fundamental technique and start getting everything you can out of your game!
As always, its my sincere hope that this could have helped your game! Feel free to leave me any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week