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View Full Version : How to play "less stiff" and more relaxed?


JackB1
11-18-2012, 04:50 PM
I recently posted a video (http://youtu.be/HQs5jHgWXWM) and the common theme among the critiques was that I was too "stiff" and "robotic" in my strokes. I agree, so now what? How do I play looser and more relaxed? I don't know how much of this is actually fixable? If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I try and have a relaxed and loose grip, but when I do that, I am sometimes late with the hit. I try and breathe out on the hit and that helps me "feel" more relaxed, but I'm not sure I look more relaxed?

I really want to fix this issue, but am not sure on how? Is this something a teaching pro can help out with? Thanks.

Timbo's hopeless slice
11-18-2012, 04:53 PM
just hit a million balls until one day you realise you just aren't even thinking about technique anymore..

2ManyAces
11-18-2012, 05:10 PM
Get your shoulders into it.

Migelowsky
11-18-2012, 05:18 PM
Maybe itīs something like people who canīt dance, they are just naturally stiff.
Just relax, be like a whip, or a cartoon character from the 30īs , rubber hose limps. Breathing and yoga exercises muss help with your flexibility.

I guess you already saw this video, but in case you didnīt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Wwg9DB8S8a8

NLBwell
11-18-2012, 05:23 PM
Do you have a whip around the house? If so, practice cracking the whip.
You could shadow practice your strokes with a section of thick rope.

Timbo's hopeless slice
11-18-2012, 05:40 PM
Do you have a whip around the house? If so, practice cracking the whip.
You could shadow practice your strokes with a section of thick rope.

I really want to reply to this post, but I just can't.

JackB1
11-18-2012, 06:06 PM
Do you have a whip around the house? If so, practice cracking the whip.
You could shadow practice your strokes with a section of thick rope.

Does everyone have a whip lying around the house? :)
I sure don't.

Mick3391
11-18-2012, 06:12 PM
I recently posted a video (http://youtu.be/HQs5jHgWXWM) and the common theme among the critiques was that I was too "stiff" and "robotic" in my strokes. I agree, so now what? How do I play looser and more relaxed? I don't know how much of this is actually fixable? If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I try and have a relaxed and loose grip, but when I do that, I am sometimes late with the hit. I try and breathe out on the hit and that helps me "feel" more relaxed, but I'm not sure I look more relaxed?

I really want to fix this issue, but am not sure on how? Is this something a teaching pro can help out with? Thanks.

Couldn't see your video, said "unavailable".

Anyways if I play relaxed I suck. I'm a nervous player, when I'm nervous I play much better, when there is something to lose.

It's like what Cus D'Mato said about fear. "Fear is like fire, it can either fuel you or burn you down".

I use fear to my advantage. When I played "King of the court" with the kids at school, I was very nervous, in my mind it was like "Lose to a kid", so I played my best. I played against Justin Bower, was scared, yet I was "Fueled", played great.

So I would say don't run from your fear, embrase it if you can. Even Fed gets nervous at this stage, sometimes he can't eat. Tyson would be afraid before he entered the ring, it's natural to be scared.

JackB1
11-18-2012, 07:03 PM
Couldn't see your video, said "unavailable".

Anyways if I play relaxed I suck. I'm a nervous player, when I'm nervous I play much better, when there is something to lose.

It's like what Cus D'Mato said about fear. "Fear is like fire, it can either fuel you or burn you down".

I use fear to my advantage. When I played "King of the court" with the kids at school, I was very nervous, in my mind it was like "Lose to a kid", so I played my best. I played against Justin Bower, was scared, yet I was "Fueled", played great.

So I would say don't run from your fear, embrase it if you can. Even Fed gets nervous at this stage, sometimes he can't eat. Tyson would be afraid before he entered the ring, it's natural to be scared.

It's not about nerves. It's about smoothing out my technique and not playing so stiff. I understand what u are saying, but that's not really the point.

Power Player
11-18-2012, 07:15 PM
I think lock n roll tennis is a great website for showing you how to use your body and play more relaxed. Check it out. It looks like you are using your arm to generate power more then your hips and core and LnRs concepts can really help fix that issue.

boramiNYC
11-18-2012, 08:17 PM
confidence will make you relax. knowing what to do with the ball (technique and strategy) and being able to execute that will give you confidence.

NLBwell
11-18-2012, 08:53 PM
Does everyone have a whip lying around the house? :)
I sure don't.

Doesn't everyone have whips and ropes for daily use?

NLBwell
11-18-2012, 08:54 PM
It was a serious tennis tip, though.

Red Sunset
11-19-2012, 02:37 AM
I played against Justin Bower, was scared, yet I was "Fueled", played great

Yet I see you've dropped yourself from a self proclaimed 6.0 to a lowly 5.5? I thought 5.5s were "cake" for you? Could it be reality is forcing itself upon you? Or are you going to blame injuries.

ace_pace
11-19-2012, 02:38 AM
The simple trick to being more relaxed is: FEEL. When you do your strokes you should be able to do it without thinking about it, so you must develop your stroke not based on just words and facts, but on more of a physical sense. Kind of hard to explain but you should do a stroke that feels more natural to you but it doesn't mean you ignore helpful advice lol.

TimothyO
11-19-2012, 04:31 AM
I've struggled with this too and here's what I've learned.

It all starts with confidence in your strokes. To be confident you need to trust that a relaxed, full stroke will achieve your intended shot result.

How do you learn to trust your strokes?

1. Hit lots of the same stroke over and over observing how your body FEELS in a relaxed state relative to the shot result. This is the muscle memory you're trying to achieve. Use a ball machine or, better yet, a hitting partner who can hit consistently. The hitting partner is better since he'll naturally throw in some realistic variety in shots.

2. Don't mess around with your racquet and strings. Find a set up that feels right for you and STICK WITH IT. Changing frames and strings and tensions constantly ruins your trust because each change will cause different shots given the same stroke. So you never develop a relationship between stroke feel and shot result.

3. Watch some higher level live play. The first thing you'll notice is the fearless way higher level players "strike the ball". We rec players often poke the ball or hit the ball. It may sound like semantics but it's an important distinction. Focusing intensely on the ball and striking it fearlessly in a specific manner with the explicit intention of achieving a given result is very different that merely hitting the ball with the abstract hope it will get somewhere over the net.

4. Visualize yourself as playing as a higher level player confident you can do it. When I'm playing confidently relaxed I sometimes visualize myself as a favorite player. I feel like my footwork is better and my strokes worthy of hitting winners. I become those other people emotionally in order to unleash my confidence and trust my strokes. We've all hit amazing shots at various points. The challenge is doing that consistently. Visualization can support that objective as it builds confidence.

Finally, as Obi Wan said, "Let go your conscience self and rely on instinct". If you play selfconciously, worried about what others will think, then you'll play stiff and play worse! Playing with instinct frees you from this social cage to play your best. It may be you don't play all that stiff and only did so aware that you were taping yourself for review on TT!

JackB1
11-19-2012, 06:06 AM
^^^

great advice Tim! I guess there is no "quick fix" to my I-Robot issue :-) I have been in that "relaxed state" when I am not thinking and just "feeling", but it sure can be an elusive place! Its tough when I only have so many hours per week where I can devote time to repetition and developing that muscle memory needed. I'm not sure that will ever happen?

Power Player
11-19-2012, 07:34 AM
Yes, the toughest part is staying with the exact same setup, but that does work wonders, especially when you cant play every day for 4-5 hours a day.

I learned tennis at an early age and had 1 prince racquet and the same string and tension for years. So that really helped me out back then.

One the best things that helped me put together a lot of the concepts on the LnR site I mention and relaxed play in general was watching pros practicing in person. If you ever can do that, it will make a huge difference. Being right next to them while they are warming up and not playing at full bore in a match really slows things down and helps you visualize it better.

maleyoyo
11-19-2012, 07:39 AM
Try this: go out and hit with the ball machine setting it at an easy pace with the ball landing right at the middle so that you don’t have to move a lot. Hit one round with just FH then the next with BH.
Now hit the ball straight ahead with a relaxed swing and not to worry about where the balls are going, just making sure they clear the net with good margin.
The whole point is to isolate your swings and increase your racket head speed (to swing it out). You can’t have a relaxed swing without hitting it out and having a little fun with it.
You can’t feel your swing if your mind is pre-occupied with other stuff.
Free your swing! It works for me. And don’t forget a loose grip and complete follow through on every shot.

Power Player
11-19-2012, 07:44 AM
I think the problem is more based on movement though. I think he should be moving more. Once I really focused on footwork and prep, and stopped thinking about my racquet arm, I smoothed out my strokes.

If the ball is coming at you easily and you dont have to move, it just reinforces low footwork activity.

maleyoyo
11-19-2012, 07:53 AM
I think the problem is more based on movement though. I think he should be moving more. Once I really focused on footwork and prep, and stopped thinking about my racquet arm, I smoothed out my strokes.

If the ball is coming at you easily and you dont have to move, it just reinforces low footwork activity.

I think that is because you have a more solid fundermental than he does. I notice that he tightens up as he hits the balls as if the ball weighs 10 lbs and coming at him 100 mph which is common for rec players.
You are right about the movements though I think that would be the next step.

JackB1
11-19-2012, 08:45 AM
I think that is because you have a more solid fundermental than he does. I notice that he tightens up as he hits the balls as if the ball weighs 10 lbs and coming at him 100 mph which is common for rec players.
You are right about the movements though I think that would be the next step.

good observation about tightening up right before hitting.

charliefedererer
11-19-2012, 09:34 AM
http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/23931486.jpg
Yoda - Feel the Force (Yoda Remixed) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GITb6rzpTWM

Some are born with great reflexes, quickness and hand eye coordination.
But even these practice to make tennis appear more like an art than hard work.
(While it's interesting hearing their childhood coaches gush at how a Federer or Sampras could make the progress in one or two session that others would take months to accomplish, they still had to work years to perfect their craft.
They couldn't play with "the force" if they didn't work so hard to make it look so easy.)



Great footwork is real key to getting in into position to hit as many balls as possible as quickly as possible.
You've got to be coming out of split step every time your opponent strikes the ball in order to get to most of them comfortably to hit it balanced and relaxed.
You've got to recover as quickly as possible to be ready to come out of a split step on that next shot, and the next and the next.


Match play often involves shots hit on the run, or when you are jammed.
Successfully playing these uncomfortable shots is a key to success - not just having fluid strokes.
The problem with match play is that oftentimes rallies never start - the point is over on the serve or return.
We waste a lot of time clearing balls from the court and getting ready to serve and return.
After a match, we may have only hit a relatively small number of balls under pressure, and not gained a lot of experience on how to hit them back with some zip and/or spin.

I have a hitting partner that we usually have two 3 hour sessions a week playing points that start with a moderately hard ball fed deep to the forehand or backhand.
We really try to play full out continuously with only occasional short break.
Almost every ball is hit on the run or forcing in some way.
We both take the net after any short ball.
There are lots of half volleys, difficult volleys and overheads with the ball coming out of the sun.
The hard shots are hit frequently enough to really develop a pattern to how to approach them.
In match play it is then a matter of execution rather than figuring out what will work (with a real expectation of success.)
We are both used to playing for an extended period feeling slightly out of breath with our hearts pounding, just like basketball, soccer and better tennis players do.



Practice serve and returning with a practice partner. Getting jammed, how to read a serve, being comfortable as possible with tough serves is key to returning in a more "relaxed" and effective fashion.



If you are intimidated by speed, hit with a hard hitter. You won't magically become relaxed until you train your reflexes for the timing necessary for a bashed ball.


A ball machine can be an effective way to work on getting comfortable with uncomfortable shots.
Fire to a position you have to run to.
Turn up the speed the and spin every time you fill up the bucket.
Even in one session it is amazing how you can be running and hitting shots you only rarely hit back at the beginning of the session.
This works great with running to volley and difficult half volleys too.


You can even work on uncomfortable shots at the wall.
Stand too close so you are often jammed or have to hit half volleys.

mad dog1
11-19-2012, 01:23 PM
jackb1, i saw your latest vid in the racq-aholic's thread. although it was just 3 forehands, you look more relaxed in that vid hitting w/ a partner. you still have a tendency to pause and watch the ball after hitting your shot instead of recovering and getting ready to react to your partner's shot.

kiteboard
11-19-2012, 08:31 PM
YOu need to shadow swing a few hundred thousand times.

Magnetite
11-19-2012, 09:35 PM
You need to stretch every morning by the looks of it.

Also, yoga or massages.

I would tell you to use your legs and trunk more, but it's probably hard to do if you don't loosen up more.

Stretch your back out too.

travlerajm
11-19-2012, 09:41 PM
One thing jumps out about your vid:

You don't prepare for the swing until the last instant, which forces you to rush the swing in a jerky motion. You start by turning the shoulders early enough, but then you wait to complete the takeback until too late. Then, at the last instant, you yank the racquet back quickly and then jerk it forward into the ball.

If you watch pros, they all use a high takeback, with the head of the racquet at or above your head. And they get the racquet to this high takeback position early (usually lifting the racquet at the same time as the unit turn). Then, from the high takeback position, they usuall start the swing simply by rotating the body toward the ball and letting gravity sweep the racquet forward like a pendulum. Finally, from the bottom of the swing, they accelerate the racquethead to drive it forward with power through the hitting zone.

If you stay slow and relaxed through the takeback phase of the swing and the racquet drop part of the swing, it will feel more smooth and natural when you accelerate the racquet forward on the final "driving" part of the swing.

Mountain Ghost
11-19-2012, 10:04 PM
Most players put 20 percent of their conscious attention and energy on the stroke preparation (backswing and positioning) and 80 percent on the stroke completion (forward swing and finish). I would suggest a reversal to 80 percent on the preparation and 20 on the completion.

MG

Cheetah
11-19-2012, 10:09 PM
That's how I approach it. I'd say I put 80% of my conscious attention on prep. I win!!

TheCheese
11-20-2012, 12:54 AM
Think of swinging fast instead of swinging hard. You want to feel like you're whipping your arm rather than forcing it through the swing path.

It's something you have to develop. It takes a lot of practice to be able to swing as fast as possible without actively forcing your muscles (which actually causes you to lose energy).

You also have to have good footwork. If you set up your feet properly, you should be able to effortlessly generate power. If you don't, you're going to want to force your arm to correct for your positioning and it'll make swinging "effortlessly" even more difficult.


Also, after watching your video again, I see one of the main problems. The acceleration of your racket head is far too abrupt. You go from zero to 100 almost immediately. Your stroke should be continuous from preparation to the end of the swing. You go to your takeback, stop, then accelerate all of a sudden making your strokes seemed forced and jerky.

JackB1
11-20-2012, 08:49 AM
One thing jumps out about your vid:

You don't prepare for the swing until the last instant, which forces you to rush the swing in a jerky motion. You start by turning the shoulders early enough, but then you wait to complete the takeback until too late. Then, at the last instant, you yank the racquet back quickly and then jerk it forward into the ball.

If you watch pros, they all use a high takeback, with the head of the racquet at or above your head. And they get the racquet to this high takeback position early (usually lifting the racquet at the same time as the unit turn). Then, from the high takeback position, they usuall start the swing simply by rotating the body toward the ball and letting gravity sweep the racquet forward like a pendulum. Finally, from the bottom of the swing, they accelerate the racquethead to drive it forward with power through the hitting zone.

If you stay slow and relaxed through the takeback phase of the swing and the racquet drop part of the swing, it will feel more smooth and natural when you accelerate the racquet forward on the final "driving" part of the swing.

great tips Trav...I will try an earlier and higher looping takeback.

Marcus
11-21-2012, 12:58 AM
One thing jumps out about your vid:

You don't prepare for the swing until the last instant, which forces you to rush the swing in a jerky motion. You start by turning the shoulders early enough, but then you wait to complete the takeback until too late. Then, at the last instant, you yank the racquet back quickly and then jerk it forward into the ball.

If you watch pros, they all use a high takeback, with the head of the racquet at or above your head. And they get the racquet to this high takeback position early (usually lifting the racquet at the same time as the unit turn). Then, from the high takeback position, they usuall start the swing simply by rotating the body toward the ball and letting gravity sweep the racquet forward like a pendulum. Finally, from the bottom of the swing, they accelerate the racquethead to drive it forward with power through the hitting zone.

If you stay slow and relaxed through the takeback phase of the swing and the racquet drop part of the swing, it will feel more smooth and natural when you accelerate the racquet forward on the final "driving" part of the swing.




Great Post, getting my head around this stuff a few years ago made an enormous step forward in my game.

CheekyMullet
11-21-2012, 02:46 AM
I have a question related to this topic. Sometimes I feel that on a follow through I stop my shoulders when they are parallel to the net and I don't follow through properly. Today I did a few shadow swings, tried to relax my motion and let the racket do the work. To describe the feeling it was like the racket is trying to constantly fly off my hand the entire follow through and the weight of the swing rotated my hitting shoulder to face the net. Is this how it is supposed to be(feel) or is it unimportant?

Alchemy-Z
11-21-2012, 03:05 AM
I chew gum

NLBwell
11-21-2012, 08:11 AM
Think of swinging fast instead of swinging hard. You want to feel like you're whipping your arm rather than forcing it through the swing path.

It's something you have to develop. It takes a lot of practice to be able to swing as fast as possible without actively forcing your muscles (which actually causes you to lose energy).

You also have to have good footwork. If you set up your feet properly, you should be able to effortlessly generate power. If you don't, you're going to want to force your arm to correct for your positioning and it'll make swinging "effortlessly" even more difficult.


Also, after watching your video again, I see one of the main problems. The acceleration of your racket head is far too abrupt. You go from zero to 100 almost immediately. Your stroke should be continuous from preparation to the end of the swing. You go to your takeback, stop, then accelerate all of a sudden making your strokes seemed forced and jerky.

Thus the tip about using the section of rope or a whip. You can also practice swing with a kids little league baseball bat, trying to stay as loose as possible - it is too heavy to force around or you would hurt yourself.
Lots of words on here, but doing something about the problem is what actually helps. Just train the body to be loose and efficient.

JackB1
11-21-2012, 08:57 AM
Most players put 20 percent of their conscious attention and energy on the stroke preparation (backswing and positioning) and 80 percent on the stroke completion (forward swing and finish). I would suggest a reversal to 80 percent on the preparation and 20 on the completion.

MG

great advice....thanks!

aimr75
11-21-2012, 01:52 PM
I try and shadow swing when i can which helps i think. Its hard to make it translate on the court as you will tighten up when a ball is coming at you..

Sometimes while on the court practicing, i try and not think about the incoming ball, but more so how i am feeling throughout the stroke. I may completely shank or screw up the shot, but it at least gives me the feeling of being more relaxed on the court so that i know how it actually feels. This way I can discern when I begin to tighten up and adjust

watungga
11-23-2012, 03:27 PM
just hit a million balls until one day you realise you just aren't even thinking about technique anymore..

Ok, say I hit a million balls and every next shots after that are like, long and out! And I'll say to myself, oh ***ck, there's something wrong... I followed a freakin million strokes the wrong way..."

ski racer
12-12-2012, 01:38 PM
visualize playing with the hand, not the arm and racquet Credit: oscar wegner

JackB1
12-12-2012, 03:29 PM
visualize playing with the hand, not the arm and racquet Credit: oscar wegner

not sure exactly what this means :confused:

ericwong
12-12-2012, 11:56 PM
One thing jumps out about your vid:

You don't prepare for the swing until the last instant, which forces you to rush the swing in a jerky motion. You start by turning the shoulders early enough, but then you wait to complete the takeback until too late. Then, at the last instant, you yank the racquet back quickly and then jerk it forward into the ball.

If you watch pros, they all use a high takeback, with the head of the racquet at or above your head. And they get the racquet to this high takeback position early (usually lifting the racquet at the same time as the unit turn). Then, from the high takeback position, they usuall start the swing simply by rotating the body toward the ball and letting gravity sweep the racquet forward like a pendulum. Finally, from the bottom of the swing, they accelerate the racquethead to drive it forward with power through the hitting zone.

If you stay slow and relaxed through the takeback phase of the swing and the racquet drop part of the swing, it will feel more smooth and natural when you accelerate the racquet forward on the final "driving" part of the swing.

Question if you may, when you stay low, does it mean you bend your knees at a say around 15~20 degree and use the leg drive to pounce at the incoming ball while swinging through the shot?

TheCheese
12-13-2012, 12:00 AM
Playing loose is a feeling. You're not going to be able to accomplish it by taking written instruction.

You need to capture that feeling and slowly make it a habit through a lot of practice.

TomT
12-13-2012, 01:02 PM
Do you have a whip around the house? If so, practice cracking the whip.
You could shadow practice your strokes with a section of thick rope.

I really want to reply to this post, but I just can't.This cracked me up, so to speak. :)

TomT
12-13-2012, 01:10 PM
I recently posted a video (http://youtu.be/HQs5jHgWXWM) and the common theme among the critiques was that I was too "stiff" and "robotic" in my strokes. I agree, so now what? How do I play looser and more relaxed? I don't know how much of this is actually fixable? If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I try and have a relaxed and loose grip, but when I do that, I am sometimes late with the hit. I try and breathe out on the hit and that helps me "feel" more relaxed, but I'm not sure I look more relaxed?

I really want to fix this issue, but am not sure on how? Is this something a teaching pro can help out with? Thanks.Well, I think you look sort of unathletic. But I like your strokes. They're certainly better than mine, and I'm a really athletic guy. The thing is, if your shots are going in, and they're effective, then why worry about whether or not you look athletic.