How do you train with your tennis ball machine?

dolphinsrus

Rookie
Can you guys tell me how do you train with your tennis ball machine? What type of drills do you practice or what routine do you follow? I want to maximize the benefits of training with a ball machine.

Thanks
 

Fuji

Legend
Volleys volleys volleys!

One of the best tools to practice overheads and volleys with.

-Fuji
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
Make a list of your weakest shots - set the machine up to feed those shots. Start SLOW, grooving good technique and slowly building up pace/angles, placement, etc. By slowly, I mean over weeks and months.

Now, don't hit too many of the same shot at one time - there is a point of diminishing return for too much repetition in a row, and also the risk of overuse injury. Find a good balance by cycling through shots. Work on several shots in one session and get the repetitions over weeks and months. Be patient. A ball machine is a tool, not a miracle worker.

Lastly, work with a coach, partner, or film yourself to make sure your technique is good. Many times we feel like we're doing one thing, when in reality, something entirely different can be happening.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Set the speed at random.
Set the target at random.
Now, go out and hit 100 shots CC and DTL.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
Set the speed at random.
Set the target at random.
Now, go out and hit 100 shots CC and DTL.
That's probably the worst thing you can do with a ball machine. They are best used with a solid plan to work on specific shots with repetition.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
While a ball machine can groove certain strokes, it's nothing like playing against a real live opponent.
Guess what, and you probably didn't know this....a live opponent doesn't feed you any balls...:shock::shock:
Read post 1 again.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
While a ball machine can groove certain strokes, it's nothing like playing against a real live opponent.
Guess what, and you probably didn't know this....a live opponent doesn't feed you any balls...:shock::shock:
Read post 1 again.
Exactly my point. A ball machine feeds balls - they do not simulate a live opponent well. You argued against your own post. Nice.
 

Chotobaka

Hall of Fame
Playmate used to have a number of drill videos available free on their site. They also produced a drill video for purchase. Worth checking out.
 

Fuji

Legend
This is what I do. I usually set the speed at fairly high speed, say 60-70 mph and try to volley them.

Harry
I usually start off slow and just focus on catching the ball out front, then slowly work up speed from there. You can work on a lot of cool volleys with a ball machine, that are especially useful for match play. Hitting pickup volleys is another option just so you can consistently hit shoelace volleys as a good way to practice a shot that literally no one will hit to you consistently in practice.

-Fuji
 

Crisp

Professional
Exactly my point. A ball machine feeds balls - they do not simulate a live opponent well. You argued against your own post. Nice.
I agree. I never use my ball machine to try to replicate an opponent cause it just doesn't work well, best to find shots you are weak at and spend time working on them.
 
You can do what Andre Agassi did as a kid.
Supermod the ball machine so that it shoots out the balls at 100mph at a rate of 3 balls per second.
Then stand at the net and volley them perfectly.
 

kolya

New User
Make a list of your weakest shots - set the machine up to feed those shots. Start SLOW, grooving good technique and slowly building up pace/angles, placement, etc. By slowly, I mean over weeks and months.

Now, don't hit too many of the same shot at one time - there is a point of diminishing return for too much repetition in a row, and also the risk of overuse injury. Find a good balance by cycling through shots. Work on several shots in one session and get the repetitions over weeks and months. Be patient. A ball machine is a tool, not a miracle worker.

Lastly, work with a coach, partner, or film yourself to make sure your technique is good. Many times we feel like we're doing one thing, when in reality, something entirely different can be happening.
I've recently bought a second-hand Lobster Elite 3, and have used it 4 times in the past 2 months (roughly 1.5 hours each time). I agree with much of what BMC9670 said, but haven't recorded a video of myself yet, and plan to do so.

My lefty forehand is my weakest shot, and I've practiced hundreds of repetitive forehands already (no arm pain just yet). I can't say that I've improved yet, but the other night in my comp in singles, I hit a perfect forehand shot down the line for a clean winner. After my shot, my first thought was, "So THIS is how it feels to hit a shot after you've practised it for hour and hours!". In the match, I also hit tons of balls into the net and over the baseline, but isn't it just awesome when all that practice comes off, even if it's only for one shot? ;)

In a 1.5 hour session with the machine, I might do something like this (bear in mind that what may be fast for me could be slow to you!):
  • Medium pace (50mph), 12-second feed to the middle of the court, where I can move my feet to hit either forehands or backhands.
  • Faster pace (55-60mph), 10-second feed to one corner (let's say just backhands)
  • Faster pace (55-60mph), 10-second feed to the other corner (let's say just forehands)
  • Repeat faster pace (55-60mph), 12-second feed to one corner, but I stand near the middle and have to do a shot on the run, then run back to the middle
  • Repeat faster pace (55-60mph), 12-second feed to the other corner, but I stand near the middle and have to do a shot on the run, then run back to the middle
I'm usually completely exhausted by now, so usually end with this:
  • Slow pace (40mph), 10-second feed to the middle of the court with short balls, where I can move my feet to hit either forehand or backhand approach shots, come to the net and hit a volley or two, then move back and repeat.
  • Medium pace (50mph), 10-second feed to the middle of the court, where I can move my feet to hit either forehand or backhand volleys.
It may not sound like much, but I've got around 65 Tretorn balls in the hopper, and before I know it the 1.5 hours are up! I've used the machine for practising overheads only once, and it was pretty awesome. I've not even tried the vertical or horizontal oscillations yet.

I've never really done any tennis training before buying this machine. All my techniques are self-taught and I know that they're quite poor. I suppose that one can spend an inordinate amount of time using a ball machine, but if the techniques are wrong, the time spent may not yeld much benefit. That's why I think BMC9670 makes an excellent point about recording a video of yourself for later review (preferably by another player or coach who can give you constructive criticism like, "No you idiot, that's not how you hit a forehand!"). :)
 

tylertadams

New User
Can you guys tell me how do you train with your tennis ball machine? What type of drills do you practice or what routine do you follow? I want to maximize the benefits of training with a ball machine.

Thanks
A starting point would be that you need to work on your weaknesses and improve your strengths. Have a plan on what you are going to work on that day before you get to the court.
 

beernutz

Hall of Fame
If you can get your ball machine mounted high enough you can practice service returns. I roll my ball machine to a local court so setting it up this way isn't a huge pita but it may not work as well for everyone. I wrote about and shot a short video of my setup in this thread.

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=408014

Like others have already said, I agree that the best way to use a ball machine is to groove shots. Set it up for example to throw lobs and practice hitting a couple hundred overheads. I used to have a weak overhead but through lots of ball machine practice and a little change in technique I've greatly improved that shot which greatly improved my doubles game.

Don't listen to Lee who doesn't own or regularly use a ball machine.
 
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