View Full Version : B. Bill or anyone: footwork...

03-24-2004, 07:41 AM
Like any tennis player I feel like my footwork could use a big boost to really advance my game. I can hit a tennis ball as good as anyone when im in position, but i find myself struggling if im pulled out wide.

I guess you could describe it as being flat footed, or having cement filled shoes. I keep telling myself to stay on my toes, and keep my feet moving but they dont always react the way i want them to.

Any one have any tips, or footwork drills that might help my problem...and im sure its not just my problem, i think alot of intermediates struggle with this.

03-24-2004, 11:49 AM
At my tennis high school my coach did some drills, One was that we would run then he would blow a whistle and we would run standing in place,
Maybe that would help?

Bungalo Bill
03-24-2004, 06:44 PM
Sorry, I havent responded quickly I was out on the courts. I will come back and provide some good footwork drills and exercise to help improve your foot speed as well.

Mush Mouth
03-24-2004, 08:26 PM
I need to work on my footwork too so any help is appreciated. Lookng forward to your comments BB.

03-25-2004, 09:43 PM

I would love to see you incorporate some info about generating power with your legs in your discussion of footwork.

03-26-2004, 04:12 AM
Learn to take shorter strides than long raking ones because you will have better stability and be able to change direction quicker. That is shorter strides give you better control of your movement.

Steffi Graf was always bouncing on her toes inbetween points. If done correctly this effectively gives your movement to the ball a head start. There is also IMO a secondary benefit of this:
It will give some opponents something extra to think about when they're deciding where to hit the ball because you are moving about. If you are static when they setup for the shot is makes their choice of target easy.

One other crucial point overlooked by intermediates is anticipation and court geometry. Anticipation is trying to guess what shot your opponent is going to hit by the way they prepare for the stroke.

Court Geometry: This i think is knowing what shots you and the the opponent can play from different positions on the court and which of the shots are high percentage and low percentage(risky). Players generally play the high percentage shot so If you know what that is you can cheat towards the side where the high percentage shot will go. There are books which explain court geometry.

Anticipation and understanding court geometry are atleast as important as raw actual foot speed. IMHO I think it's more important but one without the other will limit court coverage prowess.

If Venus Williams and JHH ran faster than me I wouldn't be surprized but I'm fairly confident of beating Hingis over 100m :lol:
But Hingis will easily get to far more balls than me because she has vastly superior anticipation and court geometry knowledge.

Bungalo Bill
03-27-2004, 12:15 AM
Thanks for waiting. What I will share with you is no secret and some of the information you will have to go purchase. You might want to print this out and read it, then you can email me at usptapro@cox.net. A lot of this is basic to tennis so you will want to practice and perform what I provide below to help you.


First off, I would recommend purchasing the book by Donald Chu that is called "Power Tennis Training". This is an excellent book for tennis training. I have found in general that the areas that include weights, the workouts last about 1 1/2 hours. If you're a working adult that might be tough to do, but see if you can because I think the workouts are very thorough.

Donald's book also provides some good exercises that help build up your foot speed and movement. Such as hexagon drills, side-to-side box shuffles etc.

Sprints, butt kicks, etc. are also great exercises for foot speed as well. If you played football or ran track you will know what these are.

I also recommend a product called Sky King Calf Exerciser. This is an excellent product. In the past, this company sold a product that allowed you to place your foot where the heel is higher then the toes. A strap went over your foot and you lifted your foot up with a very small weight attached to the end of the device. I use this to work out my front leg muscles (shin area). The Sky Calf Isolator will not only make you stronger and more explosive but it doesn't build bulky muscles in the calf.

If you can't afford these items then do the normal calf raises etc. that we all have grown accustom to. You can also use whatever you can to do exercises that lift the toes (therabands, etc.) while isolating your heel to strengthen your front lower leg muscles. This really helps with foot speed.

It goes without saying that upper leg strength is critical as well, especially in the thigh area and hip flexors and buttocks. Lunges are a great exercise to do. Make sure you incorporate front, side and 45 degree angle lunges, these are very very important to tennis. Especially the 45 degree angle lunges.

So think about how you want to incorporate Donald Chu's workout regime. I will be honest with you, I don't have the time to go through all the training he suggests so I cut out some of it. But I try to keep the weight area or building block area as complete as possible. Check it out for yourself.

The best footspeed can be rendered meaningless unless you know how to move your feet. It is a lot like dancing the cha cha. Or something else. You need to know the steps and the moves in order to perform them with efficiency and effectiveness. That is not to say that if you have fast feet your not going to do well in tennis, it just means you can definitely improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

I am a bigger tennis player. I am 6'2 and about 190 lbs. I am fast but some people are a lot lighter and faster then I am and have an easier time moving about then I do with less impact on the joints. I guess that is just the way it goes. For me, I am not blessed with lightning speed, I have to work for it and my footwork in a way helps me to cheat a little and make up for my lack of real quick feet. It sounds like we are similar.


As stated above, footwork is the ability to know how to move your feet so you can cover most of the court without expending too much energy and maintaining your balance as much as you can on every stroke. Foot speed compliments footwork. But as I said in a previous post, some slow people can get away with a lot if they develop good footwork. This is the department I work mostly on, since I am a bigger guy I need all the help I can get against those roadrunners and speed demons on the court.

The Step Out Drill: I don't care what anyone says, this is a damn good drill - and it works. Practice it and you will thank me for it. This drill helps train your nervous system and brain to learn to coordinate and use the leg that is closest to the ball to move towards the ball first. This is not to say you wont use crossover steps or side shuffles, but you will use those at the right time. This drill simply isolates this movement and helps you strengthen it and coordinate it. This is something we worked really hard on in college. Our coach would throw his hand out in one direction and we would step out with the appropriate foot. Then he would throw out the other hand, and so on. You can also practice this with a ball machine. Practice hopping on one foot and when the ball machine hits the ball, step out with the foot closest to the ball. For your forehand, you will be hopping on your left foot and stepping out with your right. Excellent, excellent drill. You will soon find out which side is weak! This will really improve your backhand because your strengthening and coordinating your weaker side.

Split Step: The split step is not hard to perform on its own. Most of us have played basketball and other sports and have used this split step in some form or another. Heck, we used to use it in hop scotch when we were children! The trouble with the split step is learning to TIME the split step for tennis. Learning the split step is good for return of serve, groundstrokes, and getting to net and in some cases when volleying. However, I also said in a previous post on the old board if you have trouble trying time the split step going to net, there are other footwork techniques that you can use to help you. A lot of us don't have the time to practice the split step till it is second nature, especially if we never have been through formal tennis training - such as college or with a coach. The split step should be performed when your opponent is coming forward in his swing to hit the ball and just before he hits it. Just be careful not to perform the split step after the person hits it! The purpose of the split step is to put you on your toes and prepare your legs for quick movement in any direction. Donald Chu's workouts will really help here.

Also, the key to performing a good split step is not to get too low and not allow the heels to touch the ground. Also, watch your posture. Make sure your in somewhat of a forward to balanced position when you land and your center of gravity is not going backward. The split step is a very quick transition movement so you don't want to sink, otherwise you will respond to slowly.

Always keep in mind, the split step or hop allows your legs to bend at the exact time that you will be making your decision to move in the direction of the ball. The split step combined with moving the leg that is closest to the ball saves you precious time while trying to get to the ball early enough to maintain balance and establish a forward momentum on the swing. There is more to this like keeping your body moving effectively so you can position yourself to hit from the 45 degree angle so you don't block the hips and giving yourself the opportunity to hit the ball either down the line or cross court a lot easier and with power.

Side Shuffle step: I think you know what this is. Many sports incorporate the shuffle steps.

Cross over step: This is used primarily if you have a wide ball to get to. You will most likely be forced to cross over and sprint before you start making your adjustment steps to initiate your swing into the ball.

These movements combined are designed to work together for effortless movement or performed individually depending on different circumstances. At sometime you will need to practice doing them together and nothing as far as I know replaces shadow tennis to learn how to incorporate all the different footwork techniques - especially if you don't have the luxury of having a coach to feed balls, a partner to help, or a ball machine. Combining a step out with a split step is something you will have to learn and takes practice. Live balls are the best way to learn how to time the movements. But make sure you practice these movements individually as well so you give your brain enough information to learn them and get used to them.

Shadow Tennis Drills: You can perform these movements individually and combined without balls being hit to you, I suggest you learn them during this time. Make sure you take a swing at the end of each sequence and then initiate your recovery step, shuffle back to position, then time your split-step and move the foot closest to the ball for the next sequence. This is also a great way to warm-up before a match.

For your drills, when you step out with the foot closest to the ball, the opposite leg controls the distance that must be traveled to get to the ball by pushing off with that foot. This push from the outside foot is generated from the knee bend, and works like a springing mechanism, while establishing momentum in the direction of the ball, once you establish this movement eventually your going to want to plant the foot closest to the ball. I suggest you learn to plant this foot pointing towards a 45 degree angle to begin you swing. Altogether the right foot moves twice and the left moves only once. If you find yourself not getting close enough to the ball you have found the limit where you will be able to use this footwork pattern. once you are in good position to hit the ball, you can either step forward to hit the ball turn from the torso and lean into the ball as you swing. The 45 degree angle rule will help you maintain good positioning with your body for maximum power.


Wardlaw's directionals are an excellent aid to help you anticipate and position yourself better to pre-read were the most likely response will be from your opponent or the high percentage shot. You should study these directionals not only for your own hitting but for anticipating your opponents response as well. Nothing is perfect but at least you will be ready to respond quickly to what most likely will be coming to stay in the point.

Saying to yourself HIT, BOUNCE, HIT Is not only good for your timing but also helps you to read and move to your opponents shot quicker. It helps keep your head clear and focused on the task at hand. it seems like you get a better jump on the ball as the ball leaves the opponents racquet. Because the first thing you must say to yourself is HIT. You will have a much better jump on the ball as compared to saying nothing at all and risking the chance that you will watch your own ball too long.

COURT POSITIONING BASED ON WHERE YOU HIT THE BALL: Knowing the distance you should reposition yourself from the center mark based on the ball you hit will also improve your ability to get to almost any area of the court your opponent hits to. For example, if you hit the ball down the line, you will move or shuffle step or slide step to the opposite side of the center mark.

There is more but I am getting tired and I think this is enough to digest for now. You can always email me for clarification on any of these above areas at usptapro@cox.net.

Mush Mouth
03-27-2004, 09:42 PM
Thanks BB, I will print this off and email you with ?????

03-28-2004, 05:44 PM
play badminton.

03-05-2005, 06:06 PM
Learn to take shorter strides than long raking ones because you will have better stability and be able to change direction quicker. That is shorter strides give you better control of your movement.

Steffi Graf was always bouncing on her toes inbetween points. If done correctly this effectively gives your movement to the ball a head start. There is also IMO a secondary benefit of this:
It will give some opponents something extra to think about when they're deciding where to hit the ball because you are moving about. If you are static when they setup for the shot is makes their choice of target easy.

glad to revive this useful thread with some great pics:
Courtesy of TennisOne Magazine
Thanks, Vin, for posting an initial link.

03-05-2005, 09:38 PM
The above hasn't left many stones unturned. I would add jumping rope and alot of stretching after warm-ups and warm-downs related to any on or off-court training. Tight muscles don't move well.

Also be more conscious of the ball coming off your opponent's strings if not anticipating the direction pre-contact. Also, once you perceive direction be conscious of knowing where your opponent's shot will bounce on your side of the court. Most players are very good at detecting direction but weaker at depth perception, meaning they have know idea or are not "interested in" where the ball will bounce. These two things are automatic quickeners.

As you move, be aware of your eye (head) movement. If your head and eyes are bobbing up and down you're not moving as efficiently or quickly as you can. Envision a slo-mo video of a cheetah chasing down its prey. The damn thing is moving @ 80 mph with every part of its body undulating at speed but its head stays almost perfectly level and with its eyes fixed on its moving target. Next time you play, try to keep your head and eyes as steady as you are able as you move to the ball. Note if your vision is being jarred with each stride you take. If you smooth out your view you will automatically be a little, if not alot, quicker to the ball.

03-05-2005, 09:55 PM
...make sure you warm up before matches. If you can't get a pre-match hit, take that jump rope along and due a couple minutes to get your heart rate up and break a light sweat.

Check your nerves. The body is an amazing thing and sometimes a befuddling one. The nervous system's reaction to stress can do things that adversely effect physical performance, including the most basic functions like breathing and simple locomotion. In what you consciously or unconsciously perceive to be a big moment, that fight/flight mechanism kicks in and your body can do some perplexing things. Concrete feet, cramps, etc.. Match play and some calming techniques can help.

03-06-2005, 04:47 AM
Also, once you perceive direction be conscious of knowing where your opponent's shot will bounce on your side of the court. Most players are very good at detecting direction but weaker at depth perception
Yes, I think people should focus on direction while the ball is approaching the net from the opponent, and on bounce and depth anticipation after it's passed it. At least roughly.

03-06-2005, 06:52 AM
Although I spend a great deal of every day on tennis (much too much time according to my wife and maybe others but its really my life) I am going to make it a point to do some of the things BB writes about. I do feel I can move well but like anything, I can and will improve on it.

My only comment is that "some" (not many) might conclude that being fast on your feet means that your running all over the place like a chicken with its head cut off. I have seen some many people moving so much that they just actually end up defeating themselves. The purpose here is to not only to get to the ball or positionASAP but back to where your surposed to be ASAP - and not doing laps, dances or other useless manuevers on the court. This does not mean one should not be always moving with the flow of the point (they should) but some just over do it completely. Good players that are fast move effieienty to play the point.

Again wonderfull work on the part of BB - man, he spends a lot of effort trying to get us all playing this game better.