a simple way of upgrading my serve power/speed?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Rozroz, May 5, 2013.

  1. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    i have a permanent power/speed shortage in all my serves, and i cannot find any solution of solving it ATM.
    i developed a good selection to add variety so i can hold games with changing serves when i need to (flat, "rafter", slice, kick), and i even manage to keep the consistency of 1st serves. but i just have lame power/speed on all of them.
    even when i hit a decent flat, it can hardly reach the fence after 1st bounce.

    i will try to shoot a video soon, but i wonder if there's any "quick fixes" for power? i know it's not just "build more muscle power", because i can see older people and 13yr girls who can get at least x2 more speed than me.

    thanks.
     
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  2. gregor.b

    gregor.b Professional

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    Try holding the racquet a little lower and 'loosey goosey' on the grip. Relax it a heap and the RHS should increase instantly. Also, increase shoulder flexibility and range of motion will help a lot.
     
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  3. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Hard to tell, without knowing what you are already doing.

    Make sure you are doing the following things correctly, as these are the main sources of power in an advanced serve:

    -Muscle relaxed (frees up the range of movement, allowing more power if the technique is correct)
    -Knee bend
    -Weight transfer forward into the court
    -Forearm pronation
    -Dropping the racquet head as your elbow raises up , just before the swing into contact
    -Rotation of shoulders through the shot

    All of these factor into the amount of power a technique can generate, but they won't necessarily give you a working serve. Your lack of power might be because you are unable to swing out at the ball, due to the height at which you are hitting the ball, or the trajectory you are hitting along.
     
    #3
  4. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    good tips. i suppose i know them, but maybe just don't implant most of them enough.

    i definitely have to make a new video soon!!
    (but when i do i usually get so depressed :( )
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
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  5. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Don't get depressed, knowing what you are doing wrong is essential to improve. Everyone here could do with making a few changes to their strokes, and someone who takes the time to take note of what they are doing wrong, will probably have better shots in the long run.
     
    #5
  6. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    ha ha.. well now i got no choice! just went out and finally bought the Gorillapod so i could now easily stick the cam on the back fence :)
     
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  7. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Watch only the extremely rapid elbow axial rotation just before and after ball impact.

    https://vimeo.com/63709517

    https://vimeo.com/27528701

    https://vimeo.com/63688132

    Several other videos in that collection show the same rotation for the serve.

    Hold your arm straight out from your shoulder and rotate it.

    Watch the Todd Ellenbecker video for details on this motion and important safety advice when serving. See reply #16.
    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=462137&highlight=todd+ellenbecker+shoulder+video
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
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  8. tennytive

    tennytive Semi-Pro

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    Easiest way is to make sure your toss is more out front so you can lean more into the court on contact getting more weight behind your serve.

    Works for me.
     
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  9. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Next time on court, try throwing the tennis ball about 30 feet in the air over the net and make it go as far as you can. Do this by throwing smoothly upward through the contact zone. Don't overthrow because tennis balls are light and you can hurt your shoulder. Then take a few shadow swings and thing of throwing the racket head up thru the contact zone. Then serve about 10-20 ball thinking of throwing the racket head thru contact and try to make the ball land past the opposite baseline. Then keep the concept of throwing the racket head upward thru the ball and add a bit of spin until your ball begins to land in the service box.

    Another thing to try is a shoulder rotation drill. Stand with feet at 45 degree angled open stance toward service box. Try serving by rotating your shoulders and hips without moving your feet. Rotate shoulders back as you go into trophy stance and then rotate into contact as you swing up and forward. Feet do not move as you are hitting with hip and shoulder rotation.

    Do drill above with loose grip and sometimes add another facet by dangling your grip pinky off the bottom of the frame. This forces you to use rythm and flow rather than squeezing muscles.

    I have a friend over 60 years old and under 6' tall that uses a stable stance serve as his "game" serve and he can hit serves that land within a couple of feet of the fence without any leg push. He adds spin to get some carry on the ball. You can hit quite hard without any leg action.

    Also, maybe see a good pro for a couple of lessons which is probably better than anything you'll learn here.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
    #9
  10. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    many thanks for those extra tips! eager to go try them!
    i'll try to shoot that video tomorrow :)
     
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  11. ls206

    ls206 Professional

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    Something that's not usually mentioned - the ball toss. You might need to place the ball further into the court.
     
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  12. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Best not to assume without seeing the action, if he already has a good ball toss, hitting further in front will wreck his control and consistency, without adding power.

    That said, having the ball toss the correct height and distance into the court is vital. If it is too low or close, you will be unable to bring your body weight through the shot and you will still be accelerating when you hit the ball: which means less predictability and less power than hitting when the swing is at a point with a more constant speed.
     
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  13. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

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    Toss more into the court. Slow down the arm a little, loosen up your grip and your arm up until contact. When you make contact, consciously freeze the elbow keeping it high... until the racquet head points down towards the court.
     
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  14. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    i managed to give a little try to some of your tips in a quick practice.

    first of all, i gotta say the "pinky out" trick is not bad at all. makes the whole motion more relaxed and fluid, and gives more pop. feels a bit too free at first but i got used to it.
    my toss is at front as it is, tried tossing a bit more forward. as Goudx says, it might mess things up a little.
    freezing the elbow and proper snap/pronation are things i still not well accustomed to.

    well, i'm sure after i'll post a video we'll all be more productive.
    still, the fence was a feet away even with my best serves.
     
    #14
  15. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    I don't know about older people and 13yr girls having 2x more speed than you. Maybe a little bit, but not 2x. If you're almost hitting the fence on one bounce, then you're not that far from a reasonably fast serve, depending on your level.

    My serves usually hit the fence in one bounce and sometimes stick or go through. I don't swing hard. I don't arch much, or bend my knees much or do anything like explode from a trophy position to the point of contact. But for my level (3.0 to 4.0) I have a serve that's apparently relatively hard for my opponents to handle. All I'm focusing on when I'm serving is to be relaxed, have a relaxed grip and arm, and a good wrist snap into contact.

    What other posters have said about putting the toss a bit more into the court so that your point of contact is a bit farther out in front might help. Doing this has helped me to get a little bit more easy power on my serve.

    At this point we need some vids from you to see why you're not getting the pace you want on your serve.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
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  16. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    I wouldn't make assumptions before I see the actual serve. It could be anything from the toss, the arm, the shoulder, the hips, the legs, the stance, etc. Anything.
     
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  17. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    Good point. Need vids.
     
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  18. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    video soon! :)
    many thanks for the meantime.
     
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  19. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Short guys, extended length rackets.
     
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  20. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    yea, i'm a tennis midget (1.70m), so i guess the pinky trick is extra useful.
    in fact, it immediately made the whole serve relaxed and flowing, as TennisCJC said.

    P.S - should i do it on all the serves? on the more spinny serves it felt weirder.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
    #20
  21. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    Holding the racquet with just a couple or three fingers is called "charming" the racquet and it's something that pros and good players have been doing since the beginning of tennis. It enables you to whip the racquet more, ie., increasing racquet head speed, and it's used for groundstrokes as well as serves.
     
    #21
  22. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    If the part in bold is true, don't mess with it. People get too hung up on serve speed. Too much ego. If you have this kind of variety and consistency, you've accomplished more than many rec players. If you get obsessed with speed 1. your first serve percentage will drop, 2. you'll double fault more, 3. you may wind up hurting your shoulder if not using proper form and pre-habbing correctly, 4. you'll likely win less. So, why bother?
     
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  23. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    Some considerations for taking a video of your serve.

    Include in your videos some taken from directly behind the server viewing as best you can along the line of the ball's trajectory. If there is someone to help viewing from behind hold the camera as high as possible. That view shows best the angle of the shoulders and the angle between the arm and wrist at impact.

    Take your video in bright outdoor sunlight as many cameras with auto exposure control video will select a faster shutter speed when there is bright light - the fastest shutter speed minimizes motion blur. Many smartphone cameras do this. Repeat the videos until you get some frames very near to impact. If you should be taking video with a newer DSLR, if possible, set the shutter speed manually as high as possible (1/2000 or 1/4000) and also video at 60 fps if available. Many cameras have a high speed video mode such as some Canon Powershot models.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
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  24. Greg G

    Greg G Professional

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    #24
  25. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    In a serve instructional video I would like to hear more about the stretch-shortening cycle. The 'kinetic chain' is more a sequence of steps where bigger-slower muscles stretch and move smaller and faster muscles. I don't get that from the 'momentum' discussion or much in the way of specific motions with checkpoints. If anyone can understand the final motion that leads to the high racket speed at impact please indicate the time on the video where it is explained. If I stop the swing motion with the racket in ball strike position at about 4:48, it's not the motion and body orientation used in real pro serves.

    Greg, Have you taken videos of your serves from behind with your high speed video camera?

    You should be able to compare your serve to ones like this and see the differences between 130 MPH serves and yours. There are other similar videos taken from behind.
    https://vimeo.com/27528701

    At impact most pro serves have a straight arm that rotates extremely rapidly at the shoulder joint. The racket is also rising up rapidly and strikes the ball with an angle between the forearm and racket. This clearly shows in the videos taken from behind (and their thumbnails with ball impact). That picture is what you want for an initial assessment of your serve.

    Before anyone tries new serving techniques, they should understand the Todd Ellenbecker video on the shoulder. Search TW Forum: Todd Ellenbecker video shoulder serve
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
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  26. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Not entirely sure what you're getting at when talking about with the stretch shortening cycle. I'm guessing that you're using it to how the muscles generate fast speeds from the racquet head drop. Regardless, talking about this motion when trying to explain a serve is more likely to damage form, as it sounds like it will lead to tensing the arm.

    The high racquet head speed on the serve only requires normal muscle movements and is due to the triple hinged pendulum movement of the arm, about the shoulder, elbow and wrist. The movement of the arm is a combination of a passive and active movement.

    Passive movement: If you keep the arm loose and move it using only the leg, core and shoulder muscles from the dropped head position the arm will naturally unfold into the fast motion we use in the serve, due to the mechanics of a triple pendulum. http://twu.tennis-warehouse.com/learning_center/doublependulum.php

    Active movement: The muscles in the arm do add extra power, however think how slow an arm only serve is (try hitting a serve from a sitting position if you don't believe me). Their main function of the arm muscles is to control the movement of the racquet in relation to this arm movement. The muscles control the planes along which the pendulum will travel, which is why you can hit flat serves, kick serves and slice serves with what is, for the most part, the same swing.


    How does this mean?

    -The racquet head drop is important for power, as it is the start of the pendulum movement.

    -Power comes from relaxed joints, if the joint can move, it will. This is due to the centrifugal force acting on it as the arm accelerates. This includes forearm pronation, which must occur if the correct racquet head drop position and contact point are used.

    -As the arm will naturally amplify the speed, you don't have to worry about really focusing on different muscles. You should relax the arm so that it can swing freely and use the arm muscles to ensure that the arm moves correctly through the contact point.

    -Most of the racquet head speed is generated by the movements which accelerate the triple pendulum, the leg drive and core rotation. These are the areas where controllable power is available.


    Also, height isn't an excuse for lack of power. I am 5'7 and I have hit around 110mph on my biggest serves. 5'5 Olivier Rochus once hit a 136mph serve.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
    #26
  27. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    i actually find this pretty true, when thinking about it. but still, let's say i'm trying to at least maximize my speed potential. even without hitting the fence, just to make sure i use my potential to the max.

    will do my best, thanks :)
    i did consider buying one of those casio slo-mo cams, but the quality of the high speed options are still pretty lame for me to invest. really crappy resolution. i'll wait for a newer better option that i hope will come out soon (ideal budget quality for me will be 1000FPS on 720p. still far away from that ATM)

    great aspect of the momentum thing! those 2 momentum points are great simple way of re-directing "free" energy with almost no effort!
    this went up to my brain successfully ;)
     
    #27
  28. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    We all now expect HD in our TV. Forget the high speed video low resolution issue because you don't need HD to see everything you need to analyze tennis strokes.

    In a high speed video camera the spatial resolution has to be just good enough to see the objects that you need to see: racket, ball, hands, arms, fingers, etc.. Check my videos to see if you can locate these objects. It does not have to be attractive, just adequate. The camera engineers have reduced the number of lines of resolution so that the frame rate could be increased in an affordable camera.

    A high speed video camera gives you time resolution, 240 fps takes a frame every 4 milliseconds. If this time is what is needed to to see the rapid changes in body, racket and ball in a tennis stroke, then it works.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
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  29. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Hall of Fame

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    A TW "thread" search of Chas Tennis Stretch Shortening Cycle gets 9 threads where I've discussed the stretch shortening cycle, mostly for the serve. If you select a "Reply" search it will highlight each reply.

    I find 90% of my views directly from references. The most prominent biomechanical researcher on the tennis serve is, in my opinion, Bruce Elliott. His book Technique Development in Tennis Stroke Production, Elliott, Reid, and Crespo discusses the stretch shortening cycle and the part it plays in tennis strokes. The book is available from the ITF store for a very reasonable price. A summary of the ideas is in the shorter article, Biomechanics and Tennis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577481/

    You can also search the internet for stretch shortening cycle and find many descriptions.

    "only requires normal muscle movements and is due to the triple hinged pendulum movement of the arm, about the shoulder, elbow and wrist."
    How does internal shoulder rotation fit into this pendulum picture?

    I am now reading the very interesting Cross article TW link on the double pendulum. I don't see internal shoulder rotation mentioned so far. ?
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
    #29
  30. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    you are right about the time resolution..
    but if i invest in highspeed cam, i personally need it for other filmic stuff.
    i think that asking for highspeed 720p res today is not too much by todays standards.
     
    #30
  31. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Also, consider....
    You probably cannot increase your service speed without raising your current contact point. At under 9', it would be VERY hard to hit 110mph serves IN ever. You can hit harder curving spin serves, but certainly not flat serves. Possibly, increasing the speed of your spin serves will serve no useful purpose, as it's still going to be slow and curve the same as all your other serves.
    Look at the serves of the short guys, Rochus, Barrasetchi, Chang, Ferrer.....
     
    #31
  32. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

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    Here are a couple quick, easy things you can try.

    1. Find any old racket with a head cover. Stick a paperback book inside the cover and practice the serve without a ball. Concentrate on getting everything right- then hit with your regular racket.

    2. Find an old, heavy-ish, wood racket and, again, practice hitting the ball with good form. You will really need good form to hit well with a wooden racket- then try your regular racket.

    3. Alternate between these 3 things as a king of practice to find better form, increase setregth and speed, and get the feel of hitting the optimal serve (if you do otherwise with a wooden racket- the results and feel will be very bad).
     
    #32
  33. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Don't matter if you increase his speed, he's still short with a low contact point, so the serves cannot be hit all that fast to bother anyone.
    Possibly, increasing his RHS would only move his serves into his opponent's strikezone, so it's LESS effective.
    Plus, if I remember correctly, OP has a decent motion with decent serve speed FOR HIS SIZE.
     
    #33
  34. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

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    If he had asked a different question, I would have answered differently.
     
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  35. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Sometimes, we have to look at the overall picture.
     
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  36. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    listen guys, i made a quick video yesterday.
    and now, after i finally suppressed my depression,






    HELL if i'm gonna show it to you!!!


    my body motion at serving looks disgraceful! horrible!!
    like a lazy bum doing a favor and serving!!! disgusting.
    really amazing how i can somehow hold serves and gain UE's from opponents.

    crazy thing, how you imagine yourself and how you really look.

    i'll have to do some more work, try to take the best tips here,
    take a lesson or two, and THEN make a more respectful video.

    still traumatized :(
     
    #36
  37. andrewpmast

    andrewpmast New User

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    This is what improved my first serve pace overnight:

    - Testing different rackets, just noting behavioral differences without making any changes to my motion.
    - Practicing by throwing tennis balls like a baseball (whipping motion)
    - Not doing intentional twists or other motions, just letting it whip (best learned by throwing tennis balls like you would a baseball)
    - Initially gripping racket with a decent firm fist, feeling for a nice groove in the bevels around your fingers, all using a slightly more extreme continental
    - Throwing out in front not overhead
    - Maintaining an L shape with my hand
    - One continuous motion from the time the racket rises until hitting
    - Not making a huge jump, keeping feet planted until the serve is consistent


    Mostly for me:
    Concentrating immensely on the ball, actually seeing exactly where I'm going to hit is and not taking my eyes from that spot until it's left my racket

    All in all, when it works for me, I have these all flowing in a natural motion requiring little thought besides actually watching exactly where I'm going to hit the ball.

    I will gladly post a video of my serve for you to see.
     
    #37
  38. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    please do!
     
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