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View Full Version : Learning non-dominant strokes in order to improve


boojay
10-17-2009, 12:21 AM
I've fallen into a bit of a rut recently (plateau phase) and decided to take a drastic approach in order to improve. I'm not sure how I came up with the idea, but I started practicing my left-handed (non-dominant) strokes--everything except for the serve. Not on the court, mind you, that would be catastrophic, but just shadow swinging, which I do a lot of anyway.

I came to a humbling discovery; my left-handed forehand is better in terms of mechanics than my normal, right-handed forehand. The most frustrating part is that it came so naturally, no thought, no concentration, just swung and it was comfortable. So I spent the last few years working like a madman on my right side, only to have my left side shoot past it in just a few days. The bright is, I've been using this to my advantage. I'm literally using my left-side to teach my right-side now and am getting very interesting results indeed. I haven't actually tried it on court yet, but it feels good and I'm definitely making significant changes to my stroke(s).

Anyway, I will keep this up to date because I think I may have stumbled onto something special here. I've been practicing forehand, one AND two-handed backhands on my non-dominant side. Maybe someone else will benefit from this or has tried this out before and has something to add.

P.S. I should also point out, I write left-handed, but play right-handed, the opposite of Nadal. I can also write right-handed and strangely enough my right-handed writing is neater than my left, albeit much MUCH slower.

spacediver
10-17-2009, 12:48 AM
I've had a similar experience. All my life I've been extremely right dominant, and have a very powerful forehand and 1 hbh stroke. When I recently got back into tennis, I decided I wanted to learn the 2hbh, which derives a lot of power from the left arm. I remember spending about an hour in my room one night trying to swing my left arm as fast as my right arm, and I was using my right arm as a guide.

I'd try to get that whipping sound through the air, and finally got it. Once I was in the groove it was easy to maintain, but the next day I had to work to get to that groove again, though it took less time.

I remember breaking down the kinetic chain into the different components and mimicking my right arm with my left - i think that was a key part of the learning experience.

Anyway, I later decided that I wanted to develop my 1hbh so I abandoned that project :p

tennis angel
10-17-2009, 01:17 AM
Interesting - one may find that if given the chance one can do many things adequately (or better) with the "non dominant" hand. In teaching young chldren tennis I notice that some will switch the racket from one hand to the other to hit a "forehand" from both sides. i also notice that older players who are very one-sided in their trained activities are significantly weaker in muscle strength on the non-dominant side. I teach the 2HBH in exactly the same way i teach the forehand: I have the student face the net and lay the racket net to her right on the ground (assuming she's right handed), then I ask her to pick it up near athe center of the grip. This automatically produceds a semi-western grip. I then ask her to hold the butt of the racket at ther belly button, the to touch the ball on the strings after it bounces and finally to touch her opposite shoulder with the racket. Touch the ball, touch the shoulder. After she can easily clear the net in this way (usuallly within 5 to 10 minutes) I aks her to do the exact thing on the opposite side She will perform the stroke just the same way. After a few sucessful touches over the net I will then show her how to place her right handbelow her left hand and ask her to hit the ball just the same way with the right hand along for the ride. Then I hae her alternate one handed and two handed strokes until she is comfortable ding both. Some very young children will like to hit two handed on both sides, and that's OK too. If a child is very young (or small) I might start them out placing the index finger through the throat of the racket for more stability, then gradually move the hand down as they get the hang of the weight of the racket/ This technique also works well for adults who want to lern the 2HBH for the first time. It reallbuilds confidence to realize that one can hit very well with the non-dominant hand with a little practice. Try doing ordinary chores with the non-dominant hand to build strength and coordination as well. For 2hbh who are struggling with control, have them alternate one and two hands on the racket, and have them drive the ball more with the left hand, not try too hard to muscle the racket with the right hand. They will gain more control and accuracy.

Quikj
10-17-2009, 02:32 AM
My naturally dominant hand is my left hand as well, yet I play right handed like the OP. I also have noticed that I have much better mechanics on my left handed forehand than my usual right handed stroke.

My forehand has always been my weakness, and my two handed backhand is not only my more consistent stroke but yields greater power potential.

I've also discovered a similar method of using my non-dominant hand to teach my dominant side better forehand mechanics. It's a slow and laborious process, yet it's generating better results.

moroni
10-17-2009, 05:07 AM
there is just no way i would be able to do this.. my non-dominant hand is a real mess i tried to hit 2hbh a long time ago like 16 months ago and I sucked really the strokes were really slow .. so if i hit with my left hand alone i would be hitting in slo mo

raiden031
10-17-2009, 05:54 AM
Are you doing this specifically with the intent of improving your right-handed strokes or are you considering switching to left-handed permanently?

I once had the same bizarre idea that learning to hit left-handed strokes would benefit my current right-handed strokes. Because my practice time is limited though, I decided it wasn't worth the effort since I feared it might be useless. Keep us informed on your progress if you continue this.

halalula1234
10-17-2009, 06:39 AM
similar to me. i write right handed but i started out left handed but parents kept changing me to right for some reason. I do everything else mostly with left except writing and tennis. so like u one day i decided to try play left handed. and it turns out that im not too bad on that side , its just the matter of getting power on my left hand but my backhand 2 handed is alright since im usig both arms. I always use right unless i wanna much around because i rarely get time to do so, but if i have the opportunity to do so i would surely learn to play consistently with both hands. its gonna be an advantage im sure.

boojay
10-17-2009, 02:08 PM
Are you doing this specifically with the intent of improving your right-handed strokes or are you considering switching to left-handed permanently?

I once had the same bizarre idea that learning to hit left-handed strokes would benefit my current right-handed strokes. Because my practice time is limited though, I decided it wasn't worth the effort since I feared it might be useless. Keep us informed on your progress if you continue this.

I'm doing it strictly to improve my right-handed strokes although the thought has crossed my mind about switching. Keep in mind though, I've only been shadow swinging. If I were to step onto the court and try to hit left-handed, it would not go well. The swing mechanics may be there, but the rhythm, timing, feel, and footwork are not. Strokes are no good if you can't setup for them properly.

There are a few extra things I'd like to mention. I've studied a sh*tload of video over the years so I have a pretty excellent idea of what looks right even if I can't execute it. I can see problems with my forehand, but due to poor habits and incorrect muscle memory/development, I haven't been able to successfully make the adjustments yet. Little by little I try to add elements to my stroke(s) in order to mirror a specific body movement until it looks right, then I move on to the next aspect. I think because of this trial and error method, my non-dominant side's been subconsciously picking up all this theory and since it hasn't had the chance to develop "bad" habits, I was able to simply pick up a racquet and execute what I think resembles the correct picture more closely than my dominant side. It also helps that my left side is looser and more relaxed because my muscles are not as developed and therefore not as stiff as my right side. The catch is I'm sorer the day after, but that's to be expected and a minor price to pay.

I've always been a huge advocate for making significant changes to my strokes because if it doesn't feel new and foreign, that means I'm doing the same old habits over and over again (i.e. if it feels comfortable and your strokes are inherently wrong, then you're doing it wrong; unless you're trying something different--hopefully the correct thing--you're not improving). This is why I'm excited, because my left side looks correct and I'm slowly able to mimick it on my right side. This is the first time I've ever taken this approach to incorporating something new in my stroke. I'm activating new muscles and sensations and am discovering which muscles should NOT have been activated and so on and so forth.

I'm hesitant to step on the court at the moment as I'm sure I'll fall back to old habits, particularly when pressured. At the very least, I feel like I'm headed in the right direction and hopefully I'll be out of my "rut" by the end of this experiment.

ubermeyer
10-17-2009, 05:43 PM
weird

maybe ill try this on the forehand

aimr75
10-17-2009, 05:55 PM
P.S. I should also point out, I write left-handed, but play right-handed, the opposite of Nadal. I can also write right-handed and strangely enough my right-handed writing is neater than my left, albeit much MUCH slower.

wow, this is a coincidence in every respect, not joking, i write left handed, play right handed, can write with my right hand and is neater then my left but slower too..

i should probably try this non-dominant idea.. :)

boojay
10-18-2009, 01:16 PM
wow, this is a coincidence in every respect, not joking, i write left handed, play right handed, can write with my right hand and is neater then my left but slower too..

i should probably try this non-dominant idea.. :)

That is pretty freaky! I already knew we were quite similar, but that's a little too eerie....

Definitely give it a shot. Maybe I was fortunate in that my left side fits the profile of a more correct looking stroke (in my mind), but as I said, this is a new way of learning for me so maybe you and others can benefit from this radical method as well.

Thus far, I've done nothing but shadow swinging and I'm happy to say I'm progressing nicely. I would say my right side has matched my left side by about 85-90% so far, but not without its struggles. I've been at this for nearly a week now and I'll tell you it's frustrating having your body not obeying you and trying to unwind years of habits that have been incorrectly ingrained in muscle memory (and possibly fitting it with "other" bad habits :shock:). It's also tedious trying to catch every little nuance and testing it out to see if that's the part that needs to be changed, but that's something I've come to expect anyway. My left side's gotten a lot stronger almost to the point where I'm confident enough with it to actually step on the court to hit a few. Hopefully in another week or so I'll be ready to test out my new form.

BullDogTennis
10-18-2009, 01:20 PM
do you happen to have a 2 handed backhand?

boojay
10-18-2009, 01:28 PM
do you happen to have a 2 handed backhand?

I do not. In fact, I have no idea how to hit a two-hander :D. Glad you brought that up though because I have a fairly strong one-hander and I'm guessing that served as an excellent foundation for my leg drive and body rotation for my left-handed forehand. I've noticed my body movement from the torso down remains almost the exact same on my one-handed backhand (right) and my left-handed forehand. I was able transfer this over to my right side (i.e. learning the one-handed backhand for my left hand, then discovering which muscles were being activated and subsequently trying to use them as I re-learned my forehand). I'm practicing two-handed backhands on either side too because I'm finding I rotate my shoulders better that way and my swing is less erratic, not to mention I'm able to use either arm as the leading arm in the two-hander on either side.

BullDogTennis
10-18-2009, 01:43 PM
the only reason i asked is because one of my friends who has a really good backhand practices sometimes on court with a left handed forehand to get his strength up in that arm since that is the dominant arm in his 2 handed backhand. and thought that might help you, but since you have a 1hbh it probably wont!

aimr75
10-18-2009, 09:10 PM
That is pretty freaky! I already knew we were quite similar, but that's a little too eerie....

Definitely give it a shot. Maybe I was fortunate in that my left side fits the profile of a more correct looking stroke (in my mind), but as I said, this is a new way of learning for me so maybe you and others can benefit from this radical method as well.

Thus far, I've done nothing but shadow swinging and I'm happy to say I'm progressing nicely. I would say my right side has matched my left side by about 85-90% so far, but not without its struggles. I've been at this for nearly a week now and I'll tell you it's frustrating having your body not obeying you and trying to unwind years of habits that have been incorrectly ingrained in muscle memory (and possibly fitting it with "other" bad habits :shock:). It's also tedious trying to catch every little nuance and testing it out to see if that's the part that needs to be changed, but that's something I've come to expect anyway. My left side's gotten a lot stronger almost to the point where I'm confident enough with it to actually step on the court to hit a few. Hopefully in another week or so I'll be ready to test out my new form.


cool, let me know how it goes out on the court, will have to try this, see what results i get.. its an interesting idea

boojay
10-19-2009, 10:42 AM
cool, let me know how it goes out on the court, will have to try this, see what results i get.. its an interesting idea

I'm getting antsier and antsier to get back on the court, but I'll be patient as I'm purposely staying away so that I minimize any falling back to old habits which I know is bound to happen because it's not so easy to change.

I knew what my goals were in attempting this, but I've gotten a pleasantly unexpected surprise; my left side is actually improving, I can feel it and see it. It's not just getting stronger, but it's evolving and my right side is playing catch up. Time will tell if this pays off.

aimr75
10-19-2009, 03:54 PM
I'm getting antsier and antsier to get back on the court, but I'll be patient as I'm purposely staying away so that I minimize any falling back to old habits which I know is bound to happen because it's not so easy to change.

I knew what my goals were in attempting this, but I've gotten a pleasantly unexpected surprise; my left side is actually improving, I can feel it and see it. It's not just getting stronger, but it's evolving and my right side is playing catch up. Time will tell if this pays off.

sounds like you could almost switch to being a lefty :) the issues ive had and continue to have, especially on the forehand, is practicing off court swings ends up turning out different once i get on the court. When i practice swinging at home, my swings tend toward how i want my swing to be, but when i get on court it changes.

hopefully this doesnt end up being the case for you

boojay
10-19-2009, 04:08 PM
sounds like you could almost switch to being a lefty :) the issues ive had and continue to have, especially on the forehand, is practicing off court swings ends up turning out different once i get on the court. When i practice swinging at home, my swings tend toward how i want my swing to be, but when i get on court it changes.

hopefully this doesnt end up being the case for you

Unfortunately, this is EXACTLY the case and I know precisely how you feel. That's why I know for a fact I would not be able to go on a court and swing away. Getting the swing down is one thing, but actually executing it on the court with an incoming ball is a different ball game altogether. Much in the same manner that receiving a feed right in your strike zone is easier than hitting a feed that's moving away from or into you, and that, in turn, is easier to hit than higher and heavier paced balls that go deep and away or into you, and so on, and so on.

And that's why we're playing and practicing ;).

aimr75
10-19-2009, 04:25 PM
yeah, put an incoming ball headed toward me and all bets are off :) even though it can be frustrating, i'm still enjoying the process and the incremental improvements..

recently ive noticed how much more shoulder turn the pros use compared to me on the forehand. I noticed this in particular how the non-hitting arm stays with the racquet alot longer on the take back compared to what i did, hence generating more shoulder turn before letting go of the racquet.. i tried this last night and felt like i had alot more explosiveness into the ball, possibly due to a greater coil.. felt really good..

boojay
10-19-2009, 04:35 PM
Funny you should mention that because I did this naturally on my left-handed forehand (i.e. non-hitting arm stayed on the racquet longer allowing for more shoulder turn), but forcefully on my right-handed forehand. Since my experiment began, I've loosened up my arm quite a bit (still stiffer than my left side though), and I've been getting better shoulder turn. It's not where it needs to be yet, but at least it's improving. I'm also working more on leg drive. I'm getting it on my one-handed backhand now and my left-handed forehand, but I have to think too much about it on my right side, which is why I'm afraid I'll forget to do it once I'm on the court.

If you want, I can email you a quick vid of the drills I've been doing. It's quite simple.

aimr75
10-19-2009, 05:12 PM
^^ yeah that would be great, thanks

aimr75@hotmail.com