Is angular momentum more powerful than liner momentum in forehand?

New Daddy

Rookie
I understand that the modern forehand relies more on the angular power of the torso than the linear momentum as used to be in the past.

But my personal experience tells me -- I'm about 3.5 -- that I feel I can transfer power more easily and in greater volume through a linear swing motion.

Despite my personal observation, is angular momentum biomechanically superior to linear momentum in forehand? Or is it the byproduct of shortening preparation and reacting to faster balls?
 

esgee48

G.O.A.T.
I think you are discussing the amount of pace/spin one can get from an open stance FH vs. a neutral stance FH. The answer depends on the shape/type of FH you are trying to hit; and whether you are in position to hit it with plenty of preparation. Pros will hit both types and IMO, can hit as hard in both cases. If they're not in position, they will hit with an open stance so they can recover more quickly. They both rely on the same leg/hip/shoulder/arm drive. The initiation is different and I would not say one is more efficient than the other. If they really want to HAMMER the ball, it's normally from a neutral stance.
 

onehandbh

G.O.A.T.
There is always usually use of angular momentum. Our torsos, joints, and limbs allow movement in a somewhat circular path. Maybe on a volley directly in front of you, you might have more of a "linear push" type stroke. Or if you use that same "bunt/punch" type motion on your groundstrokes with minimal swing.

It's just a matter of which and how much of your body you are incorporating. Less torso load/rotation? That probably means you are using your shoulders and arms more.
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
If you're goal is to understand a modern pro fh then the links below seem pretty clear to me. It's a rotational motion of the core and allowing the racquet to whip into the ball. Note that the edge of the racquet cuts through the path of the incoming ball. That's where all of the spin comes from. If you swung like this but swung the face of the racquet straight into the path of the ball you would put it into a low earth orbit.

- Federer super slow motion on one big fh
- Federer fh from the side - didn't listen to the commentary
- Djokovic fh from the side
- Murray fh from the side

OTOH, at 3.5 and a ways above, a linear swing where you can make good, solid contact with a simple motion that's easy to time with the incoming ball should get a lot of balls over the net and can work great.

Getting it over the net is the best weapon there is.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
To answer your question the meaning of "powerful" has to be defined? Tennis usage is not clear, not physics and cannot be measured or understood. I always prefer ball speed or racket head speed because I get a clear idea of what is meant and velocity is something that can be measured. And also to answer, both the linear and rotational techniques would have to be understood.

I never get farther than "powerful".

I don't know the percentages of linear and rotational strokes that are used in WTA and ATP tennis but I'd say that their strokes use largely rotational techniques.

In my opinion, the interesting part of the issue is how the stretch shorten cycles (SSC) are being employed for the linear and rotational techniques. You can observe the SSCs being set up in videos as 'lag' or 'loading', but you can't see the muscle SSCs directly in videos - you have to infer that they are occurring.

To understand this issue take videos of your stroke technique and compare it to a high level stroke. Try to identify the SSCs.

Jim McLennan video.
 
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Lance L

Semi-Pro
When I came back to tennis three years ago, I started rebuilding my game, certainly my fh. It used to look like a McEnroe style fh, and I've rebuilt it using Federer as a model.
Without question the Federer style of fh is superior. It took a long time to get it, for it to become natural.
Lots more topspin, more power.
A more compact swing that allows me to handle more incoming pace. I hadn't expected this, or thought I needed it, but as I've moved up in levels I've found it really important.
The ATP style fh is applicable and beneficial to the rec player. I think you should keep working on it steadily and slowly.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
I understand that the modern forehand relies more on the angular power of the torso than the linear momentum as used to be in the past.

But my personal experience tells me -- I'm about 3.5 -- that I feel I can transfer power more easily and in greater volume through a linear swing motion.

Despite my personal observation, is angular momentum biomechanically superior to linear momentum in forehand? Or is it the byproduct of shortening preparation and reacting to faster balls?

Angular momentum can generate more racquet head speed than linear momentum. In the case of a forehand, the momentum is generated by both upper body rotation and rotation of the arm working simultaneously.
 
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angular momentum is more powerful, however linear momentum is easier to direct into the ball. Rotation can lead to pulling off the ball and thus weak or bad contact.

thus correctly using angular momentum takes better skill and Timing but if you can do it it leads to better results.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
I understand that the modern forehand relies more on the angular power of the torso than the linear momentum as used to be in the past.

But my personal experience tells me -- I'm about 3.5 -- that I feel I can transfer power more easily and in greater volume through a linear swing motion.

Despite my personal observation, is angular momentum biomechanically superior to linear momentum in forehand? Or is it the byproduct of shortening preparation and reacting to faster balls?

Angular creates linear. Watch a discus thrower...that's what today's forehand is all about...
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Doesn't matter, you have to use the stroke that works for YOUR body, mind, and skill level.
If you're a 3.5, you should not be hitting like Rafa Nadal.
If you're a 3.5, you should have been hitting like Vitus Gerulitis and now evolving towards a longer, more angular stroke for attaining 4.0.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I think age becomes a factor in all this. To develop angular momentum really requires a strong flexible core and loose live arm. Aging brings about changes that affect those things. Joints lose flexibility, core conditioning falters, timing and vision lessen. In those settings a more linear path can actually be as powerful and more reproducible for the aging player.

I watch the juniors practice at our club and I'm amazed at the amount of shoulder turn and whip they can generate with core rotation. I just can't twist my core that quickly anymore (without losing a disc somehwere along the way).

So while I love the angular rotations of the modern game, i can see in myself where that will eventually be limited. On the bright side< I think trying to maintain an angular modern forehand and 2HBH has kept my core in pretty good shape, so there's that advantage to useing the strokes.
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
I think age becomes a factor in all this. To develop angular momentum really requires a strong flexible core and loose live arm. Aging brings about changes that affect those things. Joints lose flexibility, core conditioning falters, timing and vision lessen. In those settings a more linear path can actually be as powerful and more reproducible for the aging player.

I watch the juniors practice at our club and I'm amazed at the amount of shoulder turn and whip they can generate with core rotation. I just can't twist my core that quickly anymore (without losing a disc somehwere along the way).

So while I love the angular rotations of the modern game, i can see in myself where that will eventually be limited. On the bright side< I think trying to maintain an angular modern forehand and 2HBH has kept my core in pretty good shape, so there's that advantage to useing the strokes.
I'm going to disagree with the general thesis of this post. A properly hit modern forehand is actually very efficient and very easy on the body to produce. With an amazingly small amount of core rotation and separation angle between your hips and shoulders you can hit the ball pretty hard. You don't need to have any special amount of flexibility to do it.

Yes, if you want to be cranking out 80 mph fhs with 3500 rpms of rotation you're going to have to take a pretty healthy cut at the ball. But (I think) what you should be studying are pros when they are warming up, not 16 year old juniors ripping it. Look at how easy and relaxed the pro motion is, but they're hitting a very solid, crisp ball with good spin. Get into the load position, do a small, gentle turn into the ball, keep your arm relaxed, and then allow momentum to just carry the racquet through the contact zone. Easier said than done, but it's the key.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I'm going to disagree with the general thesis of this post. A properly hit modern forehand is actually very efficient and very easy on the body to produce. With an amazingly small amount of core rotation and separation angle between your hips and shoulders you can hit the ball pretty hard. You don't need to have any special amount of flexibility to do it.

Yes, if you want to be cranking out 80 mph fhs with 3500 rpms of rotation you're going to have to take a pretty healthy cut at the ball. But (I think) what you should be studying are pros when they are warming up, not 16 year old juniors ripping it. Look at how easy and relaxed the pro motion is, but they're hitting a very solid, crisp ball with good spin. Get into the load position, do a small, gentle turn into the ball, keep your arm relaxed, and then allow momentum to just carry the racquet through the contact zone. Easier said than done, but it's the key.

It's that separation between hips and shoulders that is so hard to reproduce as you age. You might think it requires little flexibility but I disagree.
Similar to the golf swing. The pros make it look easy but they have a tremendouse range of flexibility between their hips and shoulders that winds up the swing. We all lose that growing older (or never had it to begin with lol).

I certainly think you can hit like the pros warming up while getting older. But you can also generate that kind of pace from a linear stroke. But to hit that short ball like the pros do in match, requires a different level of core rotation and separation between shoulder turn and hip turn that I will never have (and likely didn't have after age 14).

What I'm really trying to say is that at a certain age an angular based stroke is similar in pace to a linear stroke as you lose alot of the flexibilty that allows the young folks to generate such big power. At a young age, with modern rackets, there is no doubt that you get easy power from angular stroke mechanics.

We have a 75 year old ranked in the top 3 for men's singles at our club. He still has great flexibility in his strokes. but he's an anomaly. He has to travel all over North America just to find matches in his age category. The rest of the 5.5 crew he hung out with can no longer play, are dead, or have dropped to such low levels they don't offer any competition for him. We all think we are going to be that guy when we are 20. Few realize that its a 1/100 chance or worse.
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
Dartagnan64, I think we're going to have agree to disagree, but let me give it one more shot.

One of the big differences between modern, rotational strokes and the old school linear strokes is the amount of whip you get out of the racquet. If you keep your arm relaxed, smoothly turn into ball, and allow the racquet to lag behind your hand, then when your shoulders have nearly completed the turn into the ball conservation of angular momentum kicks in and the racquet whips forward. 5263, another poster here whose into MTM, talks about pulling across. That mental picture never helped me much (in fact it messes me up), but it is basically what happening. The pulling across with the bicep, or a side arm throwing feeling (this is more of what I go for), is where you get a whole bunch of really easy rhs into the ball. The pull also is what helps complete the shoulder turn and allows the racquet to come forward. However when I'm hitting I don't think about that. I'm just going for the smooth turn and then that side arm throw feeling. When I feel my body is really still right before contact and my racquet is whipping forward I know I've done it right. BTW, I don't think there's much stretch shortening here.

Linear strokes can do the same type of thing, but not to the same degree. Not even close really. And it's also harder to get the spin because linear strokes are more about swinging the racquet face into the ball as opposed to swinging the racquet's edge across the path of the ball. With a linear stroke you can hit a very nice, crisp shot to be sure. You can get some good pace on the ball. But you are going to work a lot harder to get the same pace on the ball as a rotational stroke using the same energy. And I don't see how you'll ever get the same level of spin.

If you're young and super flexible then great. You can tag those huge shots. No doubt that the extra flexibility really helps. But you don't need it to tap into the benefits of a modern fh.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
If you keep your arm relaxed, smoothly turn into ball, and allow the racquet to lag behind your hand, then when your shoulders have nearly completed the turn into the ball conservation of angular momentum kicks in and the racquet whips forward. 5263, another poster here whose into MTM, talks about pulling across. That mental picture never helped me much (in fact it messes me up), but it is basically what happening. The pulling across with the bicep, or a side arm throwing feeling (this is more of what I go for), is where you get a whole bunch of really easy rhs into the ball. The pull also is what helps complete the shoulder turn and allows the racquet to come forward. However when I'm hitting I don't think about that.

No doubt that the extra flexibility really helps. But you don't need it to tap into the benefits of a modern fh.
Funny how that bold part above works isn't it. I guess certain terms just create different images for some people. Maybe we can get on court some day and fool around with aspects of this.
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
Funny how that bold part above works isn't it. I guess certain terms just create different images for some people. Maybe we can get on court some day and fool around with aspects of this.
When you talk about this stuff analytically you can understand what's happening, but when you play you need to focus on the feel that creates the correct technique. The pulling across thing tends to make me pull off the ball too early. I end up pulling the racquet in. When I think about throwing the racquet across the ball it just feel much more natural to me and when I look at the video of myself I see the correct motion.
 

boramiNYC

Hall of Fame
Both are needed to produce a superior fh. However, the rotation that comes from the core as someone mentioned above, is higher in hierarchy of kinetic chain. In other words, big rotation with little linear push is superior to big linear push with little rotation. It's important to remember both are needed and try to improve the better balance of them in coordinating the whole kinetic chain.

Flexibility and mobility are important issues in trying to improve the kinetic chain, but those are lost when they are not used. Unless you have debilitating limitation in mobility of some joints, trying to use more of the under-used joint is better for both effectiveness of stroke and staying healthier. If you know you are not flexible in some joints, that cannot be a reason not to use it. Use it more and improve flexibility if you want to age in a healthy manner and play better.
 

JohnYandell

Hall of Fame
Angular, linear, yeh, yeh, yeh.
There is scientific understanding or it's lack... and there are swing shapes. In my opinion it's a mistake to think about momentum in developing strokes. Though, yes it exists. What matters is deciding on and matching key positions in great technical strokes. That will make momentum work for you automatically.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
When you talk about this stuff analytically you can understand what's happening, but when you play you need to focus on the feel that creates the correct technique. The pulling across thing tends to make me pull off the ball too early. I end up pulling the racquet in. When I think about throwing the racquet across the ball it just feel much more natural to me and when I look at the video of myself I see the correct motion.
absolutely and I'm not saying you are wrong at all. I just think it would be fun to get on court to talk and feel aspects of what we are discussing. There are so many avenues to explore as we shape our shots. Throwing the racket across the ball is a totally legit way of describing it. I just see how we pull when we throw a racket, but as you share, that part is not obvious to everyone. Are you in LA or the Bay?
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
absolutely and I'm not saying you are wrong at all. I just think it would be fun to get on court to talk and feel aspects of what we are discussing. There are so many avenues to explore as we shape our shots. Throwing the racket across the ball is a totally legit way of describing it. I just see how we pull when we throw a racket, but as you share, that part is not obvious to everyone. Are you in LA or the Bay?
I didn't take it that way at all. It's fun to discuss this stuff on both levels - analytical and feel.

I'm in San Diego. Love to hit and talk tennis with you some time.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Angular, linear, yeh, yeh, yeh.
There is scientific understanding or it's lack... and there are swing shapes. In my opinion it's a mistake to think about momentum in developing strokes. Though, yes it exists. What matters is deciding on and matching key positions in great technical strokes. That will make momentum work for you automatically.

I agree. Even though the discus example was good, the discus guys make many turns before throwing the ball on a tangent. It is difficult to apply the same to a turn of less than one circle and meeting the ball solidly.
 

JohnYandell

Hall of Fame
It's interesting to understand but if you are thinking about which type of momentum you are trying to generate while hitting a tennis ball and wondering if you are---that's not a recipe for realizing your potential...
 

NuBas

Legend
My simple answer:

Linear, more horizontal travel will give you power for a flatter forehand. It will clear the net and feel heavy for your opponents.

Angular, blend of horizontal and vertical travel will give you forward spin. It will clear higher over net and bounce higher. Like flat shots, it also has pace but allows for less errors since spin will force the ball downward into the court more so you will have more consistency in all conditions and against variety of players. If conditions are windy, topspin will help you keep ball in play.

When your level of play improves you will appreciate spin more. You can still drive through the ball in a more linear fashion but you can also add angle to create topspin so that it is best of both worlds. Power and Consistency.

 

5263

G.O.A.T.
I didn't take it that way at all. It's fun to discuss this stuff on both levels - analytical and feel.

I'm in San Diego. Love to hit and talk tennis with you some time.
Ah San Diego....a place I love, but rarely make it to.....
 

pfrischmann

Professional
Although I think there is a certain amount of both in an open stance or neutral, I'd say anytime you can increase linear momentum, you are more likely to get your body behind your shot which will increase power and ultimately the weight of your ball. I look at an open stance as a neutral ball and a neutral stance as a way to step into a shot. If someone hits me a short ball, I am more likely to step in and clobber it with a semi-open to neutral stance.

I remember Brad Gilbert once saying rec players should not hit with an open stance. If I remember correctly he said the open stance came out of necessity on the tour because the game had gotten so fast but it was harder to generate power and maintain your balance. As rec players do not face nearly the same pace and have more time to prepare, the open stance isn't needed.

I hit with both FWIW...
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
My simple answer:

Linear, more horizontal travel will give you power for a flatter forehand. It will clear the net and feel heavy for your opponents.

Angular, blend of horizontal and vertical travel will give you forward spin. It will clear higher over net and bounce higher. Like flat shots, it also has pace but allows for less errors since spin will force the ball downward into the court more so you will have more consistency in all conditions and against variety of players. If conditions are windy, topspin will help you keep ball in play.

When your level of play improves you will appreciate spin more. You can still drive through the ball in a more linear fashion but you can also add angle to create topspin so that it is best of both worlds. Power and Consistency.


One of the heaviest forehands in all of ATP is hit by Rafa Nadal, a high arcing, very spinny ball with medium speed.
Fernando Gonzalez was once known as having the strongest forehand in tennis, at least for a few year's, and he hit with lots of spin, medium fast pace.
Berdyk hit's flatter than most, a very fast ball, and hit's a lot of winners. Krygios hit's a heavy spin fast ball, for a lot of winners.
Maybe there's more than one way to skin a cat?
 

Curiosity

Professional
The marvelous thing about a ball in sports is this, that it allows, on contact, instant conversion of the angular momentum, and implement contact-point velocity....into linear acceleration of the ball. The theory (putting spin aside) is that the ball allows exactly one small contact point. The implement's energy/momentum is transferred, but not its angular acceleration. Consider the centrifugal force. Almost every sports implement is used combining linear and angular acceleration. The tennis forehand, for example does impart linear momentum at first, then angular, then possibly more linear for boost if that's your technique, then contact. I think of the importance of the initial pull out, and of extension in JY's teaching of the forehand.

As for understanding the details, it's impossible to learn something until you almost know it already. Therefore video study and good on-court coaching allow the acquisition of the appropriate motions without technical understanding. (I think of Ash-Smith's advice in this regard.) Way points, key positions, and key images can lead us to work out subliminally, through trial and error, self-organization between interpolation points, how to get from A to B to the Ball. Or so it seems. RKelley's "feel" and JY's "key positions" are the goals. I think technical comprehension of how racket head velocity is built up (or pissed away) is useful on the way to Feel.

There was a time I sought technical understanding of sexual arousal, the means and the physiology of it. It informed my practices. Yet, I never ever think about that these days, certainly not during "matches." The brain just takes care subliminally to translate goals into actions. I think it should be the same in tennis: There is no reason to think when you already know how to do, know it by feel. If the "knowledge" hasn't been converted to "feel" and "key positions" by the learner, a failure has occurred. Somebody didn't give the player the message.

A famous Zen proverb says "self-consiousness spoils performance." I think that is a truth valid across many activities. That is why expert musicians still rehearse extensively and tennis pros practice daily. It permits reflexive unselfconscious performance during the match. No?
 

Curiosity

Professional
I think a good short answer to the question, as to whether linear or angular momentum is more powerful, is that the question is irrelevant. Taking the forehand for our example, a combination of linear and angular momentum (or acceleration moves) is inevitable. It is impossible to hit with only one or the other. The key is to use each to its best advantage.

To be specific: When you initiate forehand forward motion, you combine angular motion (the racket head pivoting back, inward) with linear motion, the pull-out. The pull-out, a brief linear acceleration, potentiates the angular acceleration of the subsequent swing (the racket head is already in motion in the direction of the angular swing, so that the rate of angular acceleration and its maximum...can be greater). The greater the outward motion of the pull-out across the path of the ball, and the farther back in the swing it takes place, the greater the total arc of the racket can be still powered by the same relatively brief travel of the hitting hand, and the and more useful extension becomes.

At contact the total racket head velocity, the resultant of pull-out, UB-powered acceleration of the hitting upper arm, arcing swing layered on top of continuing UB rotation, ISR layered onto the total velocity into the hit... is what matters. There is no such thing as 100% pure linear or angular acceleration in tennis ground strokes and serves, only approximations and the adjustment of balances, mixes.

I think many players underestimate the problem of dissipating velocity through hitches and stalled (non-smooth) transitions. It also seems many players underestimate the importance of a basically sound power forehand...which is needed since a major topspin component is going to be added into the hit. Big topspin through ISR (or your choice of angle) is only needed and valuable if it is layered on a powerful basic form. (Excepting the moonball and lob use of spin...)

It really is remarkable how similar the forehands of the top pros are. Their footwork and speed vary. The idiosyncratic variations in takeback and follow through vary, but from first forward motion through contact little is varied. Or so it appears to me. Why reinvent what happens in that interval? Why treat it as in anyway excessive?
 

rkelley

Hall of Fame
Which direction is the "sidearm throw" to?
I'm throwing the edge of the racquet across the ball's path. The angle of that path is dependent on a bunch of things like how high I want the ball to go over the net, hitting on the rise our fall, and where I am in the court. You male your best estimate and go for it.
 
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