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vin 08-16-2004 10:06 AM

Primary muscles used for serving
 
There has been a lot of recent talk about what muscles to keep loose and what muscles to actually contract to develop a smooth and powerful serve, but there are a few parts that confuse me.

Starting from the beginning to make sure I have it right ...

The arm all the way to the hand should be loose throughout the motion, but it's hard to keep a loose shoulder since it's helping to lift up the arm and keep the elbow elevated.

It's important to stretch the shoulder/chest and retract the shoulder blade to provide a stable position with no slack so it can be efficiently brought into motion through abdominal contraction and shoulder rotation.

Where I start to get lost (if I am even correct to this point) is when I hear about using the chest and lats in the serve. If someone could elaborate on this, I would appreciate it.

I can see using the lat muscle to pull the shoulder down in addition to pulling it back, but why would this be beneficial? More shoulder stability? More conducive to an upward swing?

As for the chest, I don't even have an idea on how it's used.

Thanks,
Vin

Bungalo Bill 08-16-2004 10:25 AM

Re: Primary muscles used for serving
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by vin
There has been a lot of recent talk about what muscles to keep loose and what muscles to actually contract to develop a smooth and powerful serve, but there are a few parts that confuse me.

Starting from the beginning to make sure I have it right ...

The arm all the way to the hand should be loose throughout the motion, but it's hard to keep a loose shoulder since it's helping to lift up the arm and keep the elbow elevated.

It's important to stretch the shoulder/chest and retract the shoulder blade to provide a stable position with no slack so it can be efficiently brought into motion through abdominal contraction and shoulder rotation.

Where I start to get lost (if I am even correct to this point) is when I hear about using the chest and lats in the serve. If someone could elaborate on this, I would appreciate it.

I can see using the lat muscle to pull the shoulder down in addition to pulling it back, but why would this be beneficial? More shoulder stability? More conducive to an upward swing?

As for the chest, I don't even have an idea on how it's used.

Thanks,
Vin

Vin, dont do the chest and lats thing if it confuses you. If everyone would just focus on a loose arm and good flexibility in the shoulder region you will hit your serve properly.

Yes, the stomach and torso, the legs, lats, the triceps, the forearm, and even some muscles in the hand are all active in the serve - they have to be otherwise you wouldnt be able to hold your racquet or move your arm. I think we can all get here without over analyziing this.

The key to a good serve is not overthinking different muscles and their role. If that was my words that caused this confusion, I apoligize.

The serve more than any other stroke requires less thinking, more relaxation and simply allowing the body to perform what it is suppose to do.

Everything in the serve has a purpose. For example, one of the posters said he took the advice to have a loose hand on the racquet and his racquet flew out of his hand. Well, that is an example of taking something too literally. He later said, the muscles have to contract or have pressure as that is the only way to hold your racquet and lift your arm. He is right - to a point.

The state your muscles need to be in is a relaxed state. In other words, the muscle provides enough contraction to allow the arm to perform its motion but quickly and almost immediately returns to a relaxed state once it is done and another muscle performs its function.

When I serve, this is something I feel. I feel my chest and my lats involved in the serve. But I have been serving tennis balls for long long time. I also feel my stomach muscles in the serve. When I havent served for a long time and then go serve - my stomach muscles are very sore the next day and so are my thighs. My arm is rarely sore.

So just go out and concentrate on smoothness. Concentrate on extending the arm and making contact. Concentrate on relaxing. Concentrate on allowing your arm to swing through the service motion loosely and bring it up for contact. Keep a loose wrist so when you make contact it meets it dead on.

vin 08-16-2004 11:54 AM

Re: Primary muscles used for serving
 
Thanks Bill

You're right. I should make things simple and focus on keeping loose. However, I would still like to study and better understand the details of the serve's kinetic chain. If you'd rather not delve into some of the details, can you recommend any good resources?

I can sense a 'let it happen' style in your teaching that is similar to the philosophy of the book 'The Inner Game of Tennis' and it's focus on self B. The concept of natural learning and how forced thoughts can interfere is very interesting, but with this philosophy, how do you deal with fixing flaws or incorporating improvements that are not resolved through natural learning? In other words, where do you draw the line between 'let it happen' and 'get your elbow in this position'?

Bungalo Bill 08-16-2004 01:12 PM

Re: Primary muscles used for serving
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by vin
Thanks Bill

You're right. I should make things simple and focus on keeping loose. However, I would still like to study and better understand the details of the serve's kinetic chain. If you'd rather not delve into some of the details, can you recommend any good resources?

I can sense a 'let it happen' style in your teaching that is similar to the philosophy of the book 'The Inner Game of Tennis' and it's focus on self B. The concept of natural learning and how forced thoughts can interfere is very interesting, but with this philosophy, how do you deal with fixing flaws or incorporating improvements that are not resolved through natural learning? In other words, where do you draw the line between 'let it happen' and 'get your elbow in this position'?

I see your point. What I am afraid of is, I will mention a muscle and you will go out and spend an hour trying to feel that muscle in the shot and get frustrated thinking something is wrong with your serve or you're not doing it right because you just don't feel it.

The "inner game" of tennis is a great book. It is so true, it is scary.

Just yesterday, I was playing a doubles match. I was caught in the backcourt returning a good serve, both of my opponents were at the net, since I am not a great lobber, I decided to use my strength (my forehand) to go right at 'em. I hit two heavy dipping topspin forehands, the player I was hitting to handled both shots with good strong volleys right back to me to keep me pinned (my partner was doing a good job taking away angles as he is an outstanding volleyer and doubles player).

Both of the topspin forehands I hit were very good forehands and I hit those forehands with just a fleeting thought of fluidness through my mind. Then I felt the pressure, on the third forehand I saw the middle open up a little, I loaded and fired, except what raced through my mind was "dont overrotate, aim it through the middle, don't hit it long, dont overhit, they are not going to get this one, I got it, oh baby, look at what Daddy found", guess what, I flubbed it up. The ball went through the middle but it sailed long. I did everything I wasn't suppose to do. After the shot as I was bent over, I slowly lifted my racquet up and hit it against my head a couple times.

I think a person like Eric here on the boards can help you understand the different muscles involved in the serve and there purpose. That is not my cup of tea. I am more focused on transfer of energy and fluidness and to remove myths about wrist snaps etc.. I will try to point you to some deeper references. I just hope it doesn't bog you down and make you forget that tennis is about fluidness and timing.

vin 08-16-2004 04:34 PM

I hope you didn't hit your head too hard, there's a lot of valuable information in there. :)

Improving energy transfer is actually what inspired this post, so I'll try to explain what information I'm after from a more general view.

I want a more solid understanding of the overall kinetic chain. The major part that is missing is the sequence of movements that happen in the hips, back, and shoulders to build momentum and transfer it along the chain. I want to make sure I have this right so that maximum energy is being transferred to the loose and relaxed arm that I am developing.

I guess I don't really care what muscles are involved and to what extent as long as I sufficiently understand each link of the chain. Or at least each significant link.

Bungalo Bill 08-16-2004 04:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vin
I hope you didn't hit your head too hard, there's a lot of valuable information in there. :)

Improving energy transfer is actually what inspired this post, so I'll try to explain what information I'm after from a more general view.

I want a more solid understanding of the overall kinetic chain. The major part that is missing is the sequence of movements that happen in the hips, back, and shoulders to build momentum and transfer it along the chain. I want to make sure I have this right so that maximum energy is being transferred to the loose and relaxed arm that I am developing.

I guess I don't really care what muscles are involved and to what extent as long as I sufficiently understand each link of the chain. Or at least each significant link.

Vin, you prpbably need a physicist to explain kenetic energy in order to understand how it relates to tennis.

This is all I know and I could be wrong, from there I just can see it. I can see things that someone else may not see and I dont know why I can see it.

So here is my take on kenetic energy (again it may need some refining) and please correct me if I am wrong:

KENETIC ENERGY AND POTENTIAL ENERGY

Kinetic Energy: A gymnast on the beam has kineatic energy. The movements and flips that she does show the energy that is being displayed while she is moving. When you are running, walking, or jumping, your body is exhibiting kinetic energy.

Potential Energy: By stretching a rubber band, you give it potential energy. A book on a shelf has stored potential energy. A baseball in a glove has potential energy until it is thrown and it turns into kinetic energy

Potential and Kinetic Energy: A waterfall has both kinetic and potential energy. The water at the top of the waterfall has stored potential energy. Once the water leaves the top of the waterfall, the potential energy is changed into kinetic energy.

So when you apply pressure against the ground with your feet as you coil (hip stretch, shoulder coil) this is storing potential energy. You don't want anything dissapating this energy (hitches, knee dips, etc.) in the transfer of potential energy into kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is how the release of potential energy moves through the body activating each body part to perform the serve. You can allow the continuance of kinetic energy through braking certain body parts to allow potential energy to be stored and released briefly as kinetic energy is sent through the body.

Gravity works against kinetic energy or works with kinetic energy (ball going up or the latter ball coming down).

If you're relaxed, kinetic energy flows through the body with less friction or short circuits.

From here, you are on your own or maybe some of the smarter tennis players here can add, change, delete to further explain.

vin 08-16-2004 05:14 PM

I was trying to back off from the detail and simply ask what I should be doing in the hip/back/shoulder areas to properly transfer energy. If you were teaching someone how to serve, how would you tell them to use their hips, back, and shoulders? Or would you not address those areas in belief that the proper motion would result from teaching something else?

Bungalo Bill 08-16-2004 05:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vin
I was trying to back off from the detail and simply ask what I should be doing in the hip/back/shoulder areas to properly transfer energy. If you were teaching someone how to serve, how would you tell them to use their hips, back, and shoulders? Or would you not address those areas in belief that the proper motion would result from teaching something else?

If I was teaching someone I would not mention the little things happening with the muscles. I would breifly go over the kinetic transfer as the energy goes up through the body. I wouldnt stay on it and would explain it very simple terms.

I would teach them the motion they are trying to achieve. Once they were using the motion and as they improved I would show them areas that could help improve their use of stored energy, such as the push off, the hip stretch, or more coiling of the shoulders. At times I would remind them of the direction they are trying to send the motion which is up and out by having them toss more in front.

I would use the ball on the string so they would get used to how their arm should swing in the motion.

Later as they continued to improve I would add the braking mechanisms (or reenforce them), such as the non-dominant arm folding in etc.

Sometimes players are very talented and can learn very fast or can learn several things at once. Others it takes time and they need to get past one hurdle before going to the next.

In your motion, I did not see anything that would tell me you would have a problem developing smoothness. You just need to continue to get the most out of your stored energy, push off, hip stretch etc. and allow it to go up to the ball and be relaxed and smooth. Put the ball out in the court and send your energy out there.

Hope that helps.

vin 08-16-2004 06:01 PM

Yes, that helps. Thank you.

fastdunn 08-17-2004 07:30 PM

Hey, I kind of hope this discussion continues...

I can hit 60-70% of my full potential of my serve by serving
with arm action only. Shoulder joint, elbow joint and pronation
can contribute up to 70% of racquet head speed, I've read.
So these must be the primary muscle group for serving !

I do this sometimes when I lost rhythm on my serve.
Actually action at wrist joint contribute large amount for the
final racquet head speed simply because it's the joint closest to
the racquet ! But I guess it should not be intentional.
It should snap a bit naturally because the huge kinetic energy
is going up and whipping action at the end !

Any stiff joint will put a break on transfering kinetic energy
being built from bottom up. As I grow older, I don't lose
much of muscle power(up until mid 50s,I've read from somewhere) but I get less flexible
and thus the deadly explosiveness of my big serve is disappearing !!

Bungalo Bill 08-17-2004 09:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fastdunn
Hey, I kind of hope this discussion continues...

I can hit 60-70% of my full potential of my serve by serving
with arm action only. Shoulder joint, elbow joint and pronation
can contribute up to 70% of racquet head speed, I've read.
So these must be the primary muscle group for serving !

I do this sometimes when I lost rhythm on my serve.
Actually action at wrist joint contribute large amount for the
final racquet head speed simply because it's the joint closest to
the racquet ! But I guess it should not be intentional.
It should snap a bit naturally because the huge kinetic energy
is going up and whipping action at the end !

Any stiff joint will put a break on transfering kinetic energy
being built from bottom up. As I grow older, I don't lose
much of muscle power(up until mid 50s,I've read from somewhere) but I get less flexible
and thus the deadly explosiveness of my big serve is disappearing !!

I can agree with that. I believe as much as the hip stretch and leg stuff is out there for people to think about, the upper body IMO provides the most kinetic energy. This goes back to Bradens teachings and other well known coaches.

Once the body is coiled and ready for release (stored energy), the back foot slides up to prepare the uncoiling, and the stored energy turns into kinetic energy.

Wow, now I am getting dizzy.

vin 08-18-2004 06:42 AM

One thing that I am realizing is that too much activity in the lower body area can ruin the motion of the upper body, which as you guys agree, is the major contributor.

I am finding that a huge leg bend, or a huge hip stretch is not that important, and can easily disrupt balance leading to poor results.

Bill, your advice to not over analyze helped me. While practicing my serve yesterday, I mostly focused on leaving my shoulders open for longer so my that they would have the chance to transfer their momentum to my arm. I was able to do this by slowing down the motion to insure smoothnes, and when I did it, everything felt right and I hit some impressive serves. All your recent talk of open shoulders has made realize that I was incorporating my arm into the swing too early. I bet that's a classic symptom of worrying too much about hitting hard.

One more question I have is about the non dominant arm. I'll make a separate post for it.

Bungalo Bill 08-18-2004 11:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by vin
One thing that I am realizing is that too much activity in the lower body area can ruin the motion of the upper body, which as you guys agree, is the major contributor.

I am finding that a huge leg bend, or a huge hip stretch is not that important, and can easily disrupt balance leading to poor results.

Bill, your advice to not over analyze helped me. While practicing my serve yesterday, I mostly focused on leaving my shoulders open for longer so my that they would have the chance to transfer their momentum to my arm. I was able to do this by slowing down the motion to insure smoothnes, and when I did it, everything felt right and I hit some impressive serves. All your recent talk of open shoulders has made realize that I was incorporating my arm into the swing too early. I bet that's a classic symptom of worrying too much about hitting hard.

One more question I have is about the non dominant arm. I'll make a separate post for it.

Good! When you worry the muscles tighten. When your thinking about something, the other thing feels awkward. The serve motion is the opposite of what you learn in sports. Relax and fire.

CoASH 12-01-2005 06:19 AM

I do'nt need to work out
my swing is fast enough like sanada
invisible swing

cervelo 12-01-2005 09:29 AM

Maybe not on point to this discussion, but I can't help adding my two cents when it comes to bio-mechanics and the service motion:

PROTECT YOUR ROTATOR CUFF - that linkage of muscles that allows the shoulder to rotate the arm can become the source of many aches, pains and even debilitating injuries ...

Do some research on the best ways to keep the muscles loose and the blood flowing to feed them.

I believe that serving is not so natural to the joint's designed use and serving should be afforded due respect in terms of potential overuse and injury ...

A couple of cliches apply, such as: "the ounce of prevention vs. pound of cure" rule ... as well as "the chain is only as strong as the weakest link ..."

AngeloDS 12-01-2005 12:13 PM

For me the serve is about: forearm, hand, chest and back muscles.

The other muscles like your shoulder, bicep, tricep etc. Are all stabalizer muscles so you don't throw your shoulder out or mess up something up.

I don't think loose is a good term. Natural is a better. Do you think about walking, or do you just walk? Do you force yourself to walk, maybe if you were crippled but as a person who is 100% healthy. You walk without giving it a thought, same with the serve. I serve without giving it thought, and it's natural. Thus my body is "loose."

You think about where you're going to walk to. But the process of walking, you don't give it a thought. It's just something you do. Same with the serve. You don't think about the motion, it should be natural and come naturally. And the thought part is just what you want to hit and where.

Marius_Hancu 12-01-2005 12:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cervelo
PROTECT YOUR ROTATOR CUFF - that linkage of muscles that allows the shoulder to rotate the arm can become the source of many aches, pains and even debilitating injuries ...

Agree, very important.

The solution to this is:

- throw the ball more into the court, not behind you
(this might reduce your kick, but ...)
- don't "shoulder" the ball, use the other, more massive body parts, to generate power

nickybol 12-02-2005 03:11 AM

The shoulder is not designed to serve, but when you train it enough to prevent injuries, it can all handle it pretty well.

Geezer Guy 12-02-2005 07:41 AM

For me, it's the BRAIN. Mixing up placement, spin, and speed. Occasionally hiting a soft first serve or a hard second serve, throwing in the S&V occasionally, just basically doing anything to keep my opponent guessing about what's coming next and off balance.

jackson vile 12-02-2005 09:27 AM

Nothing beats the right techniqe, but with that said the shoulder girdle is the muscles that do all that work in tennis.


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