Shoulder/upper arm pain from ISR/pronation


Hi, after reading a lot in this forum, I started incorporating ESR/ISR into my serve and forehand. I'm probably 3.0. In the forehand it's ok, but my timing is really off and I just need to practice more and also really leading with the elbow (i.e. ESR) causes my racquet face to open up sometimes so I really gotta work on that.

However, on the serve, again also timing problems, but almost every serve, I get pain in my shoulder and upper arm. I'm wondering if this is just normal getting used to pain since my arm never moved much in these ways before. But I'm also concerned my technique maybe at fault? The biggest issue could be how much my elbow is raised compared to the line of my shoulders, i.e. perhaps on some serves I'm risking shoulder impingement. On the other hand if I don't consciously focus on trying to raise the elbow, then I'm always in danger of dropping my elbow and relying most on shoulder power which obviously inefficient.

So is this kind of pain normal at the start?
Absolutely not. Stop whatever you're doing and find a coach to teach you to serve properly. Your shoulder will thank you.


Hall of Fame
When I was trying to learn to serve, I had shoulder issues, was risking shoulder impingement. I took it easy for a couple weeks and felt better, and my serve improved because I learned from sources and footage that I had a bad angle on my shoulder.

You'd best take a break and re-evaluate before doin any permanent damage or you might end up with a worse serve.


Hall of Fame
You should not feel pain. STOP.

Once your shoulder feels normal again, you need someone to show you how to serve, using the proper grips (not SW or E) and motion.

Be careful with the fh too. Trying to hit a modern fh with poor technique can mess up your shoulder too.


Hall of Fame
I'm not sure what you're doing on the FH. "Leading with the elbow" seems awkward. How much ISR is used is dependent upon the degree of elbow bend and grip. With a Sw grip and more or less straight arm, there is not much ISR.

On the serve, I agree with the others. You are likley doing something desperately wrong if you are feeling pain.

I would say start from the service line, shorten up your grip so that you're holding the very top of the grip and hit balls gently to get the feel of the movement. Take an abbreviated swing and practice getting your shoulders tilted, the racquet in full drop, then swinging up at the ball.

On your full swing, the idea is for your arm and wrist to feel very loose. You don't want to fell like you're muscling the ball.

Chas Tennis

Any pain, stop playing and experimenting with your strokes.

Here is the Ellenbecker video that discusses some shoulder issues.

I believe that serving with ISR is never forced and could cause injury if practiced incorrectly. Here are some known issues. With forceful and rapid ISR the small external shoulder rotator cuff muscles have to be conditioned to keep the ball of the humerus in place and to stop the arm rotation in the follow through. See recommended shoulder conditioning exercises. Easy, light exercises.

There are also the important safety issues related to technique such as the shoulder high orientation for the serve to minimize impingement risk. Just one very bad motion can cause injury.

1) Jim McLennan short video on the rotator cuff, impingement and serving

2) Todd Ellenbecker video on shoulder anatomy, impingement, and serving. At about minute 8 he describes the same issue as McLennan but in more detail.

If you are concerned because you are having pain, how can you determine that the technique that you use is OK? You have to study and know the proper technique and verify that you are doing it with high speed video or find a well qualified instructor. Keep in mind that the more rapid motions during the serve cannot be seen by eye or even 60 fps video so an instructor who uses HSV is a plus.


Hall of Fame
Stop playing and let your shoulder rest. This is the danger of the self taught route (learning bad form and causing injury). This is also why im very wary of internet coaching esp. on the serve. Even though advice may be technically correct, it may not be appropriate for beginners for obvious reasons to you now.


Hall of Fame
It's also really hard to describe a complex motion. Demonstrating it live is much easier and clearer.