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.
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.