Learning a New Stroke after Months Off

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
All speculation -

I have noticed after injuries and not playing tennis for, say 90 days, that there might be an advantage for learning a new stroke. ? But - if true - the advantage is very brief and would be lost quickly by going back to your old stroke.

This applies when you have studied, say, a new forehand or backhand technique and have a very clear and simple picture of what you want to do. For example, say that you do not rotate your uppermost body enough, you see that pros do it and completely believe it. For a short time when starting back, I believe that the old stroke has not yet been called up and you can do the new stroke more easily.

I believe that I have experienced this a few times, but it just lasts for only one or two tennis practice secessions. I also believe that once any sub-motion of your old stroke sequence occurs - then the old stroke will take over. So it probably works better during the first sub-motions of the stroke. You probably should avoid playing when trying to replace an old stroke after 2 or 3 months off - because your old stroke will come back as soon as you begin to use it. Playing works against learning a new stroke.

There have been other interesting threads on learning a new stroke without a long time off. links?

If you start back trying to learn a specific new stroke and think that your new stroke is different and feels good, be sure to immediately take a high speed video of it. This seems important because you can lose it quickly and maybe the video would show you why. Avoid playing.

I am looking for a come back plan that does not involve doubles or ball machines because of Covid risks.

Any similar experience on learning a new stroke after a long time off, please post.
 
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tennisbike

Professional
Yes, I think you are on to something.

There seems to be more than one or two things that happens when one returns to hitting after a break. There is excitement, there is anticipation.. there is newness to al things on the court. I remember when I was hitting basically just one time a week, I was so looking forward to getting to the court to hit. Now .. if I was able to not get straight back to what I was doing then some magic sometimes happens. This is what I sometimes do.

Often I would be finished with some additional tweak on the racket, or it could be a new-to-me racket, or a new string I was trying out. I start real slow. Slow like super super slow, like after the regular 3 court runs, I picked up from Brad Gilbert's Winning Ugly warm up routine, we would be just passing balls to each other.

First, I was trying FEEL the racket, feel the string.. how little I had to do something, how does the ball feel.. When I focus on FEELING, I was not focusing on hitting. So motion is slow, like posting almost. Sometimes we would do double bounce volley, by catching the ball first, before bouncing it back to the other side of the net. Feel the racket face, feel the sweet spot.. connect with my arm/racket.

Then make a step back at a time until about on the service line. Slow strokes still, let the ball bounce first and direct bak, like half volley. Direct the ball back to about service line or shorter than that. Still focus on the feel, the touch. Gradually transition to a more complete stroke. Focus on sending the ball away, almost like ping pong half-volley, bounce-hit. Forehand and backhand.

Slowly, only when you feel completely comfortable then make a step back.

I found that if I was able to really stay in the moment, and just focusing on feeling the ball, the strokes without worrying about depth and pace.. by the time, perhaps almost an hour, I would be able to hit out, reaching pretty much the level I was able to reach.

Thanks for remind us what we are looking forward to.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
You know I suffer too with "high level serve", "high speed video", "internal shoulder rotation", "ISR" and many other terms that I am also tired of typing. And I apologize to the regular readers and posters. But there are a lot of other readers that have not been posting and reading for years. And the terms are clear and unambiguous. Often the posters have just recently joined the forum.

................................... For a moment there I thought you were testing out a new posting technique, but I guess the sub-motion of the old key stroke sequence kicked in. :)
You probably have that spot on - my mind and fingers do just drag up and start typing those same words...........................
 
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Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
I stopped playing in December and only hit with a ball machine twice about February. I don't want to miss my opportunity again this time.
 

E46luver

Professional
i can 100% proof to this. i had injury and took many months off. when i came back i had forgotten good and bad habits. its a golden opportunty to reset your strokes with lessons. the window is small before muscle memory takes over
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
No wall at our club.

A guy at the ball machine said that he thought self-feeding had some advantages. But only mentioned 'developing all power' as the advantage. Does anyone have any thoughts about self-feeding balls?

Any opinions on the value of shadow swinging one or two parts of the stroke?
 
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E46luver

Professional
i will raise you one more. you want to reprogram, then dont even use a ball or racket. seriously. during COVID i fixed my ball toss by NOT EVEN USING A BALL. this is how strong the muscle memory is. as soon as ball, and racket, old toss. trying to hit ball. i spent full week just toss no ball. then toss ball, NO racket. then toss ball and hold racket. THEN i tried hitting ball. after weeeks of reps shadow. i have NEW HABIT with locked out arm in ball toss and vertical arm trophy. break to smallest possible movement or habit never breaks
 

Mountain Ghost

Professional
Everyone's home "Swing Space" ... should have a 4' x 5' mirror on the wall ... so that they can see EXACTLY what they are doing during slow motion ... AND full -speed ... "shadow" swing sessions.

You can also put a webcam just in front of the mirror (at upper chest level) ... and then you're all set for private online lessons.

Another thing that really helps ... even if you don't hit or shadow swing ... is to write down specific aspects of the stroke you are trying to emulate ... and then look at that paper a number of times throughout the day ... especially at night when you're going to bed ... and in the morning when you wake up. You'd be amazed how much better you will be able to physically "do it" ... if you have practiced mindfully visualizing it ... on a regular basis.

~ MG
 

RogueFLIP

Professional
Warning: Heavy sarcasm below:

Chas you're in luck!

You want to learn a new stroke, you say?

Who needs a Forehand?


Videos included!


Donut tennis! Not what you think!



Here's a link where Oserver talks your long winded, technical language. Citations & links to anatomy books included!



Learn a new serve! 360 degrees!



I believe Oserver is in the same age demographic as you, so if he can do it, you can do it.



I'm actually surprised I haven't seen you comment in any of his threads, tbh. His citations, videos, anatomy, physics. It'd be good to hear your unique perspective on his ideas.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
I looked over Donut Tennis and found myself not looking at videos and once again trying to interpret what I think is a simplified word description of a 3D tennis stroke - and then with no stroke specifics. I had not been able to understand primarily word descriptions of tennis strokes and don't try much anymore.

I tend to post on video interpretations. And especially object to word descritions that I see to be wrong based on high speed videos.

Besides the OP topic is Learning a New Stroke after Months Off

I believe that there may be only a day or two of rare opportunity when starting back.....
 
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DanEvansfan1

New User
Whenever I am trying to change my technique- in any sport I play. I rely almost completely on shadow swings and filming to make sure I am drilling the correct change. For me, it is the only way to override my muscle memory, although I am not sure if it works so well for others. When practicing I will repeat the new 'correct' motion I am trying to ingrain without a ball for an hour or so, before hitting balls for 10 minutes or so.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
Whenever I am trying to change my technique- in any sport I play. I rely almost completely on shadow swings and filming to make sure I am drilling the correct change. For me, it is the only way to override my muscle memory, although I am not sure if it works so well for others. When practicing I will repeat the new 'correct' motion I am trying to ingrain without a ball for an hour or so, before hitting balls for 10 minutes or so.
I'll try that! Thanks.
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
No the entry point of learning a new skill doesn't matter(outside of, perhaps, your age but not a break).

You have to overwhelm the old movement with a large amount of repetitions creating a new muscle memory/thickening the myelin sheath.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
No the entry point of learning a new skill doesn't matter(outside of, perhaps, your age but not a break).

You have to overwhelm the old movement with a large amount of repetitions creating a new muscle memory/thickening the myelin sheath.
I'd be interested in references on that issue.

I learned a new motion with 1-2 repetitions once. When that happened the rule to 'do 10,000 repetitions' was no longer believable for me. But mostly, I fail to learn a new sub-motion because I don't know the technique well enough or know it and can't get past the 'muscle memory'. Some sub motions are very simple changes, such as accelerate with uppermost body turn and not with the shoulder joint. Why is that hard to change? A few times I have noticed, when coming back after 3 months off, that I can follow what I know to do with less interference from the old mind baggage.

This example is what is so interesting about learning strokes for me.

Learning in 1-2 reps. I performed my version of what Djokovic was doing with separation after watching him carefully for a long time. That was a forehand stroke where I added trunk twisting & uppermost body turn and delayed my shoulder joint motion.

Not learning in > 1000 reps. Ironically, for the one hand backhand, I have a hard time getting my uppermost body to accelerate first as I know it should. I have done the sub-motion now and then, but can't change my backhand and keep the shoulder joint quiet - my old habit won't go away.

There was a popular interesting thread here where a poster had proposed a stroke learning process. He said to stop doing your regular stroke when trying to learn a new one and he had a number of repetitions and time frame. He was experimenting and had a write up. If anyone remembers that thread or poster, please post. Instructors would have a difficult time telling their students to quit their old forehand for three months and work on a new forehand.

I believe that the poster was ADS.
 
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heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
I learned a new motion with 1-2 repetitions once. When that happened the rule to 'do 10,000 repetitions' was no longer believable for me. But mostly, I fail to learn a new sub-motion because I don't know the technique well enough or know it and can't get past the 'muscle memory'.
For example, one can learn the "pat the dog" technique very quickly with a few shadow swings bu getting to the point where you're unconsciously competent is going to take a lot of reps. How many exactly varies but once that new muscle memory is built it's there without thinking about it and can be used spontaneously in game play.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
One thing I’ve learned is that my strokes become grooved to certain racquet specs.

If I change my specs, it forces me into a different technique. For example, I pay close attention to my racquet’s MgR/I. If I modify the MgR/I value on my racquet from neutral (i.e., requiring zero wrist torque through contact zone) to sub-neutral (requiring positive wrist torque), my technique must change substantially just to be able to control the racquetface and direct the ball to my target.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
One thing I’ve learned is that my strokes become grooved to certain racquet specs.

If I change my specs, it forces me into a different technique. For example, I pay close attention to my racquet’s MgR/I. If I modify the MgR/I value on my racquet from neutral (i.e., requiring zero wrist torque through contact zone) to sub-neutral (requiring positive wrist torque), my technique must change substantially just to be able to control the racquetface and direct the ball to my target.
The ATP players seem to have much the same basic biomechanics for a few identifiable techniques. I can observe technique issues if I can see them in videos. But I can't observe down to wrist torque variations in video observations and don't trust myself or others for wrist information. I am uncertain about wrist muscle forces.

I believe that racket features are important but have not gotten to those finer effects yet.

When you impact the ball for a ground stroke drive is your racket face closed, say, about 5-10 degrees?
 
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heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
One thing I’ve learned is that my strokes become grooved to certain racquet specs.

If I change my specs, it forces me into a different technique. For example, I pay close attention to my racquet’s MgR/I. If I modify the MgR/I value on my racquet from neutral (i.e., requiring zero wrist torque through contact zone) to sub-neutral (requiring positive wrist torque), my technique must change substantially just to be able to control the racquetface and direct the ball to my target.
c'mon, say it, WRIST SNAP :)
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
The ATP players seem to have much the same basic biomechanics for a few identifiable techniques. But I can't observe down to wrist torque variations in video observations and don't use myself or others for wrist information. I can observe technique issues if I can see them in videos. I am uncertain about wrist muscle forces.

I believe that racket features are important but have not gotten to those finer effects yet.

When you impact the ball for a ground stroke drive is your racket face closed, say, about 5-10 degrees?
I’m not talking about how closed the racquetface is at contact, as that’s just a function of the desired launch angle and spin level.

I’m talking about how a forehand stroke behaves as a double pendulum from the top of the high backswing until some point just before contact. During this part of the swing, the racquet’s angular acceleration is mostly a function of its weight distribution. The player must then add torque about the wrist axis (in the horizontal plane) to control the racquetface. How much torque you need to apply depends on the racquet specs. It’s possible to tune the racquet to a zero torque condition, so that the wrist can simply relax through the hitting zone. You can also tune it so that the racquet naturally lags against the wrist’s backstop. In any case, certain techniques are easier or harder to implement depending on the racquet’s inherent angular acceleration about the wrist axis, which is a function of MgR/I of the racquet.
 

Chas Tennis

G.O.A.T.
I’m not talking about how closed the racquetface is at contact, as that’s just a function of the desired launch angle and spin level.

I’m talking about how a forehand stroke behaves as a double pendulum from the top of the high backswing until some point just before contact. During this part of the swing, the racquet’s angular acceleration is mostly a function of its weight distribution. The player must then add torque about the wrist axis (in the horizontal plane) to control the racquetface. How much torque you need to apply depends on the racquet specs. It’s possible to tune the racquet to a zero torque condition, so that the wrist can simply relax through the hitting zone. You can also tune it so that the racquet naturally lags against the wrist’s backstop. In any case, certain techniques are easier or harder to implement depending on the racquet’s inherent angular acceleration about the wrist axis, which is a function of MgR/I of the racquet.
I use ATP players in videos as models for the strokes. Do you have a reference link explaining the weighting of the racket head and its effect on the wrist for the ATP forehands or backhands? This may be done by the pros but is any of it communicated? Or theory?
 
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