Backhand volley 'aha' moment

Curious

Legend
I have been thinking about why backhand volley is more difficult, feels weak, less natural etc. Why can't I keep doing it for more than 4-5 shots against the wall although I can keep going for 20-30 shots on the forehand side?
I think I know why now. When I started making sure I use an extended arm, the problem went away! Mostly, I mean.
Then I wondered how it helped. I think it might be an anatomical fact. With the bent arm you tend to rotate the shoulder, with a straight arm you raise the shoulder during the swing. Weak external rotator muscles vs large deltoid muscle at work.

 
Lol I struggle way more on FH volleys than BH. Probably because I hit so many slice BHs. Like 70-80% of my BHs are slices I think.

FH volley for me is the most unnatural shot in tennis. I feel so stiff on it.

I think I've heard it said by tennis commentators that BH volley for most players is more natural than FH.
 

Curious

Legend
FH volley for me is the most unnatural shot in tennis. I feel so stiff on it.

I think I've heard it said by tennis commentators that BH volley for most players is more natural than FH.
Interesting. I always thought it was the other way around just like the case on groundstrokes. I would like to hear from others also, which side they are weaker on volleys.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I have good forehand volley. Good forehand slice. My forehand volley motion is now what I use for all my forehand returns.

My bh volley is less natural. I have a tendency to misplay it if I just let the ball hit the racquet and don’t remember to add some solid punch. Keeping contact point further from body with more extension and more unit turn of shoulders helps.
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
@Curious - do you have any video of your BH volley?

The way you describe it, I'm not sure with your stroke that you're hitting a traditional BH volley (i.e. Edberg, Sampras, Fed, etc). The BH volley is much like an abbreviated version of a BH slice (in fact, the BH volley is often taught as a precursor to the BH slice, for those trying to learn the slicing motion).

The BH volley with proper form is very easy on the arm/shoulder, on most shots you're basically just deflecting the ball (except on high, slow incoming balls where you need to generate some of your own pace). On many volleys against passing shots, you're actually trying to take some pace off the ball.

I can literally hit hundreds of BH volleys in a row, when working on volleys I will hit several hundred on any given day with my ball machine.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
I have been thinking about why backhand volley is more difficult, feels weak, less natural etc. Why can't I keep doing it for more than 4-5 shots against the wall although I can keep going for 20-30 shots on the forehand side?
I think I know why now. When I started making sure I use an extended arm, the problem went away! Mostly, I mean.
Then I wondered how it helped. I think it might be an anatomical fact. With the bent arm you tend to rotate the shoulder, with a straight arm you raise the shoulder during the swing. Weak external rotator muscles vs large deltoid muscle at work.

Yeah, what you're doing in the first part of that video is super weird. I can definitely see how you have problems doing it that way. That looks like more of a table tennis backhand, to me.
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
I have been thinking about why backhand volley is more difficult, feels weak, less natural etc. Why can't I keep doing it for more than 4-5 shots against the wall although I can keep going for 20-30 shots on the forehand side?
I think I know why now. When I started making sure I use an extended arm, the problem went away! Mostly, I mean.
Then I wondered how it helped. I think it might be an anatomical fact. With the bent arm you tend to rotate the shoulder, with a straight arm you raise the shoulder during the swing. Weak external rotator muscles vs large deltoid muscle at work.
I remember an instructor telling me to keep the volley shape to more of a "U" on one side and a "V" on the other side. Can't remember which side was which.

He also told me that an extended arm for a normal volley was wrong.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
One reason my bh volley is less natural is that I learned to play with a 2hb volley in high school (even though I was a serve-and-volleyer), then switched to 1hb volley.

I still instinctively add the second hand in certain situations. The 2hb volley has pros and cons.

2hb volleys better for dealing with harder-hit balls or heavier spin, while 1hb volley is better for generating pop to put away high floaters or digging out low first volleys at knee height. 1hb also more reach.
 

ByeByePoly

G.O.A.T.
Ditto. My BH volley is money. My FH volley is hot garbage. Fortunately, people repeatedly try to pass me to the backhand side when at net so, it works out ok. FH volley is habitually late to the party.
You just described my bh and fh volleys perfectly.

bh $ ... fh bankrupt
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
One reason my bh volley is less natural is that I learned to play with a 2hb volley in high school (even though I was a serve-and-volleyer), then switched to 1hb volley.

I still instinctively add the second hand in certain situations. The 2hb volley has pros and cons.
I use a 2HBH volley for smashes occasionally. If it's coming shoulder or head high and kind of fast to my backhand and I'm close enough to the net, two hands is actually better than one.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I use a 2HBH volley for smashes occasionally. If it's coming shoulder or head high and kind of fast to my backhand and I'm close enough to the net, two hands is actually better than one.
2hb volley is definitely good for poaching in doubles from ad court against hard hit crosscourt return over the middle.
 

Curious

Legend
The BH volley with proper form is very easy on the arm/shoulder, on most shots you're basically just deflecting the ball (except on high, slow incoming balls where you need to generate some of your own pace
It could be from hitting predominantly forehands that I feel less confident, less natural on backhands in general like groundstrokes, volleys, overheads. But everything feels more natural on forehand. Backhand is like the nondominant left arm of my right arm! And I seriously don't understand how anything backhand could be better than anything forehand. Have you seen any player who runs around to hit a backhand instead of forehand?? We all see the examples of the opposite.
 
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Curious

Legend
You can keep discussing and offering opinion for the sake of doing it but let's not miss the point of this thread: I found something that changes the quality of the backhand volley dramatically. Think about what I'm saying and the anatomical reasoning behind it. Jesus!!
 

navigator

Hall of Fame
I rarely have anything intelligent to say regarding technique but...

The reason the BH volley is easier and more natural for most folks is that when you turn your shoulder your racket is automatically out in front of your body by the very nature of turning your shoulders, which is where it's supposed to be for a volley. The problem with the FH volley is that when you turn your shoulders... your racquet wants to be behind your body, so you have to really force yourself to get the racquet out in front of your body. Consequently, most folks have a better BH volley than FH volley - the positioning for the BH volley is more naturally in the right place without giving it much thought.

How to force yourself to get that racquet out in front of your body for the FH volley? No idea other than practice and remind yourself to move forward once you see you're going to hit a FH volley. Like most folks, I find the FH volley much tougher than the BH volley.
 

mad dog1

G.O.A.T.
I have been thinking about why backhand volley is more difficult, feels weak, less natural etc. Why can't I keep doing it for more than 4-5 shots against the wall although I can keep going for 20-30 shots on the forehand side?
I think I know why now. When I started making sure I use an extended arm, the problem went away! Mostly, I mean.
Then I wondered how it helped. I think it might be an anatomical fact. With the bent arm you tend to rotate the shoulder, with a straight arm you raise the shoulder during the swing. Weak external rotator muscles vs large deltoid muscle at work.

Neither of the 2 movements in your video are the correct way of hitting the backhand volley.
 

Curious

Legend
The reason the BH volley is easier and more natural for most folks is that when you turn your shoulder your racket is automatically out in front of your body by the very nature of turning your shoulders, which is where it's supposed to be for a volley. The problem with the FH volley is that when you turn your shoulders... your racquet wants to be behind your body, so you have to really force yourself to get the racquet out in front of your body. Consequently, most folks have a better BH volley than FH volley - the positioning for the BH volley is more naturally in the right place without giving it much thought.
One would think that similar rules apply for backhand and forehand groundstrokes. Why is it that most people have better forehand than backhand groundstrokes? Or am I wrong here too?
 
One would think that similar rules apply for backhand and forehand groundstrokes. Why is it that most people have better forehand than backhand groundstrokes. Or am I wrong here too?
Ain't volley more like a tuck forward motion? Followthrough is on the same side where you contact the ball. On ground strokes however most energy is rotational, you followthrough on opposite side, be it shoulder or whatever. Rotational motion is more natural on FH. Tuck more on BH.
 

mad dog1

G.O.A.T.
In what other ways can the arm, elbow move then?
Your arm isn’t supposed to move much at all on volleys. Hold the racquet with a bent arm in front of you in line with your nose or chin. Lay the wrist back holding the racquet using a continental grip. Slight turn of the shoulder to the side the ball is heading to. Take a step forward and meet the ball with soft hands like you are catching the ball. The forearm pivots downward at the elbow with an abbreviated slicing motion. Good volleying is more about footwork.
 

navigator

Hall of Fame
One would think that similar rules apply for backhand and forehand groundstrokes. Why is it that most people have better forehand than backhand groundstrokes? Or am I wrong here too?
I think the issue is - and someone who knows more about this than I do should step in here - timing. When you're hitting a volley, you're very close to where your opponent is striking the ball and it's not bouncing first. So, you don't have a lot of time to react and set up. So the issue of getting your racquet out in front of your body is paramount... and difficult. When you're hitting a groundstroke you've got a lot more time to get prepared - as the ball is traveling farther - and the ball bounces first. So, overall, timing isn't as much of an issue - you've got time to prepare. For volleys, the ball is often right on top of you very quickly. Given more time, the FH is the more natural shot for most folks. Given little time, the BH volley (due to the nature of the shoulder turn and the subsequent location of the racquet in front of the body) is the more natural shot for most. I think.
 

StringSnapper

Hall of Fame
One would think that similar rules apply for backhand and forehand groundstrokes. Why is it that most people have better forehand than backhand groundstrokes? Or am I wrong here too?
Heres my theory;

I think it could be different on ground strokes because usually you need to generate more pace. Using the backhand to generate pace you need to time it better i think because the shoulder is in front so you have less time in general. I think this is why an eastern 1hbh is so good, the more old school grips allow you to hit further back. On the FH you can just power through to get the racquet out in front, and you usually need more spin to control your attacking shots back into the court.
 

Curious

Legend
I think the issue is - and someone who knows more about this than I do should step in here - timing. When you're hitting a volley, you're very close to where your opponent is striking the ball and it's not bouncing first. So, you don't have a lot of time to react and set up. So the issue of getting your racquet out in front of your body is paramount... and difficult. When you're hitting a groundstroke you've got a lot more time to get prepared - as the ball is traveling farther - and the ball bounces first. So, overall, timing isn't as much of an issue - you've got time to prepare. For volleys, the ball is often right on top of you very quickly. Given more time, the FH is the more natural shot for most folks. Given little time, the BH volley (due to the nature of the shoulder turn and the subsequent location of the racquet in front of the body) is the more natural shot for most. I think.
How much of a shoulder turn do you think you do after ready position for backhand and forehand volleys? Say the overall movement of your right shoulder in each? I'm asking because it looks like the opposite of what you're saying. I mean, on forehand volley you just open up the right shoulder slightly and you're set up, on backhand though it travels all the way from the right to a position pointing towards the net or even further to the left. No?
 

navigator

Hall of Fame
^^ I don't really know. I'm not a technique guru. I just kind of know the theory of volleys a bit as it's something - unlike groundstrokes - that hasn't really changed much over the decades. I don't really think too much about my strokes at all - I just see the ball and hit it. I probably gave it some consideration 40 years ago when I was learning but now... how to hit the ball doesn't cross my mind too much.
 

Curious

Legend
^^ I don't really know. I'm not a technique guru. I just kind of know the theory of volleys a bit as it's something - unlike groundstrokes - that hasn't really changed much over the decades. I don't really think too much about my strokes at all - I just see the ball and hit it. I probably gave it some consideration 40 years ago when I was learning but now... how to hit the ball doesn't cross my mind too much.
Fair enough. Do you think he is rotating his shoulder more on the backhand volley here? To me it looks like it.

 

navigator

Hall of Fame
^^ Yeah, I think he is. Which demonstrates the point to some extent. I think it's natural for folks to rotate their shoulders more on the BH volley... which naturally puts the racquet in a better (forward) position for a successful volley. Turning one's shoulder for the FH volley isn't as natural a motion which, combined with the natural position of the racquet (further back), leads to problematic FH volleys.
 

mad dog1

G.O.A.T.
Fair enough. Do you think he is rotating his shoulder more on the backhand volley here? To me it looks like it.

Dude, you’re overthinking it. Once you get the fundamental technique down, you just need to continue to experiment with things on your own. You will eventually figure out what works best for you assuming you have the right fundamental technique.
 
Dude, you’re overthinking it. Once you get the fundamental technique down, you just need to continue to experiment with things on your own. You will eventually figure out what works best for you assuming you have the right fundamental technique.
Footwork...After I figured that out all else magically seemed to drop in place.

And might be just me, but I use a chopped grip on volleys. Helped me a ton.
 

onehandbh

Legend
Something seems off with your video, IMO.

I think volleys are kind of the opposite of groundstrokes.

Grounds are kinetic chain, from the ground up, big muscles, to generate power.

Volleys rely on the body to get as close to the net as possible BUT for me, volleys start with the hands and racquet, keeping both slightly in front of your body. More of a short jab punch than a swing. I add more backswing only on sitters i have time to hit down on.

Swinging groundstroke topspin volleys are different and more like a groundstroke.

I have been thinking about why backhand volley is more difficult, feels weak, less natural etc. Why can't I keep doing it for more than 4-5 shots against the wall although I can keep going for 20-30 shots on the forehand side?
I think I know why now. When I started making sure I use an extended arm, the problem went away! Mostly, I mean.
Then I wondered how it helped. I think it might be an anatomical fact. With the bent arm you tend to rotate the shoulder, with a straight arm you raise the shoulder during the swing. Weak external rotator muscles vs large deltoid muscle at work.

 

Curious

Legend
You guys are really good at derailing a thread. It was very simple: I focused on keeping the elbow straight on backhand volley relying more on shoulder and eliminating elbow and wrist and that made a huge difference and I postulated an anatomical reasoning for it. But no one tried to understand what I'm saying as because everyone was too busy with what they will say as usual.
Anyway, 'aha' moments are generally individual experiences. I'm happy to be the odd one.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I have been thinking about why backhand volley is more difficult, feels weak, less natural etc. Why can't I keep doing it for more than 4-5 shots against the wall although I can keep going for 20-30 shots on the forehand side?
I think I know why now. When I started making sure I use an extended arm, the problem went away! Mostly, I mean.
Then I wondered how it helped. I think it might be an anatomical fact. With the bent arm you tend to rotate the shoulder, with a straight arm you raise the shoulder during the swing. Weak external rotator muscles vs large deltoid muscle at work.
The relative weakness of the muscles involved in your BH volley should not cause you to be inconsistent [unless you're getting tired]; it may cause you to have less power but if you can only go 5 shots against the wall vs 30 on the FH side, that tells me something else is causing you to miss: poor footwork, off-center contact, taking your eye off of the ball, trying to do too much, etc.

Only in your last post did you mention eliminating elbow and wrist: yes, that's a huge contributor to inconsistency. The more you can use your larger, more stable muscles [core, shoulder, legs] and the less you use the smaller, less stable ones [elbow, wrist, fingers], the less variability you'll have.


The most extreme example is to turn and step into your volley without swinging your racquet at all; all force is generated by your body momentum. If you practice this a bit, it will inform you of the extreme and you can back off and start adding some arm. Your consistency problems should be greatly reduced.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
You guys are really good at derailing a thread. It was very simple: I focused on keeping the elbow straight on backhand volley relying more on shoulder and eliminating elbow and wrist and that made a huge difference and I postulated an anatomical reasoning for it. But no one tried to understand what I'm saying as because everyone was too busy with what they will say as usual.
Anyway, 'aha' moments are generally individual experiences. I'm happy to be the odd one.
BTW: I think it might be a mistake to dogmatically keep your arm straight as a way of eliminating the elbow and wrist. You can eliminate those factors without keeping a straight elbow. For me, a straight elbow would be too awkward and too slow. The only time I'd have a straight elbow is if I was reaching; if it was within my reach, I'd have a bend in my elbow.
 

Curious

Legend
The relative weakness of the muscles involved in your BH volley should not cause you to be inconsistent [unless you're getting tired]; it may cause you to have less power but if you can only go 5 shots against the wall vs 30 on the FH side, that tells me something else is causing you to miss: poor footwork, off-center contact, taking your eye off of the ball, trying to do too much, etc.

Only in your last post did you mention eliminating elbow and wrist: yes, that's a huge contributor to inconsistency. The more you can use your larger, more stable muscles [core, shoulder, legs] and the less you use the smaller, less stable ones [elbow, wrist, fingers], the less variability you'll have.


The most extreme example is to turn and step into your volley without swinging your racquet at all; all force is generated by your body momentum. If you practice this a bit, it will inform you of the extreme and you can back off and start adding some arm. Your consistency problems should be greatly reduced.
Do you mind describing what your arm but only your arm does after you turn and until contact? How exactly do you move your racket to the ball? What does your arm do? Forget about the footwork for a second for God's sake!
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
Interesting. I always thought it was the other way around just like the case on groundstrokes. I would like to hear from others also, which side they are weaker on volleys.
Bh is way easier. Fh for me seems to be tougher. Also when I played high school tennis, 2 things were vogue:

1. Playing the net
2. Hitting hard at anyone dumb enough to take the net

Since the balls were a fair target you had to have a great bh volley because it was the one shot that could protect the family jewels
 

FiReFTW

Legend
Imo these are the 3 most crucial poimts on BH volley that if you dont do the BH volley will feel weak, fragile, racquet unstable and will spray around possibly:

1.Extended arm at contact
2.Contact point infront of your body
3.Extended off hand behind ur body stretching ur chest
 

Shroud

G.O.A.T.
So, if you were to volley against the wall you would be able to keep going longer on the backhand than the forehand side?
Probably but i couldnt really go a long time on the wall with either. Wall is not IMHO optimim for volleys because volleys are mostly cross court. To do one side you basically have to hit dtl volleys and well thats not very real to me. Said another way its rare when the ideal volley is straight ahead. Usually its crosscourt or inside out to win the point
 

Curious

Legend
Turning one's shoulder for the FH volley isn't as natural a motion which, combined with the natural position of the racquet (further back), leads to problematic FH volleys.
I think turning shoulders is natural on both sides. There is no need for much shoulder turn on forehand volley because the hitting arm is just there already but on the backhand side you need to turn the shoulder much more to bring the racket and hitting arm all the way from right to left. This is a little contradictory to your opinion ''because of lack of time on volleys, backhand volley is easier than forehand volley compared to groundstrokes''. Having said that there is another factor here. In the ideal volley ready position one of my coaches used to ask me to hold the racket angled to the left like how Federer and Dimitrov do in the picture, instead of the straight forward and up like the guy in the other picture. He said, it is naturally easier to move the racket to the forehand side, the backhand side is the weaker/slower side and therefore the racket should be angled more towards the backhand to compensate this. I'm not sure how you hold the racket in your ready position but if you tend to do it the way Fed does, it may give you a little advantage to move the racket faster to hit a volley. This may also support your view that it's easier to hit backhand volleys when under pressure due to lack of time to get ready.

 
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heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
Assuming you're using a conti-type grip, instead of worrying about the shoulder focus not taking the racquet back too far and the shoulder will take care of itself. With volleys less is more and always keep the feet moving even when practicing on the wall.

Fully sideways works great for volleys as you transition to net.

Typical volleys to the bh side are indeed easier until someone starts firing shots at your dominant hip, belly & unmentionables, then the bh volley is quite tricky.

How much of a shoulder turn do you think you do after ready position for backhand and forehand volleys? Say the overall movement of your right shoulder in each? I'm asking because it looks like the opposite of what you're saying. I mean, on forehand volley you just open up the right shoulder slightly and you're set up, on backhand though it travels all the way from the right to a position pointing towards the net or even further to the left. No?
 
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It's true that BH volley seems to have more "shoulder turn". But key here to understand is that there's zero rotation within the torso on volleys, unlike groundstrokes! Volley is a linear bunt move whereas groundstrokes are rotational, meaning also zero rotational unit turn on volleys! Shoulder turn on volleys is 100% from change of stance, i.e footwork. And in this sense both sides have to do similar amount of footwork to "rotate shoulders".
 
Assuming you're using a conti-type grip, instead of worrying about the shoulder focus not taking the racquet back too far and the shoulder will take car of itself. With volleys less is more and always keep the feet moving even when practicing on the wall.

Fully sideways works great for volleys as you transition to net.

Typical volleys to the bh side are indeed easier until someone starts firing shots at your dominant hip, belly & unmentionables, then the bh volley is quite tricky.
yes good point about conti grip used for both sides and posible reason why forehand volley with conti may feel uncomfortable for some.

As for bodyshots it is much easier to just block it with a backhand volley than to move away to hit with a forehand.
 

MisterP

Hall of Fame
You guys are really good at derailing a thread. It was very simple: I focused on keeping the elbow straight on backhand volley relying more on shoulder and eliminating elbow and wrist and that made a huge difference and I postulated an anatomical reasoning for it. But no one tried to understand what I'm saying as because everyone was too busy with what they will say as usual.
Anyway, 'aha' moments are generally individual experiences. I'm happy to be the odd one.
We are talking about the volley, part of which is your weird ass volley technique and all the things that are related to it. Relax. There is good discussion here.
 
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