Tips to rotate upper body to initiate forehand stroke

Curious

Hall of Fame
#1
No matter how much I try to read, watch, study, focus on this unfortunately I mainly use my arm to start the stroke. If I deliberately try to do it, I either end up mistiming or cannot hit the ball cleanly at all. Need some useful tips before giving up.
 
#6
Then I assume something like semi-open stance footwork is the idea.

I'm going to assume you're familiar with the general idea: step out to the side with the back foot, plant it and drive off of it, and swing through using the full kinetic chain -- leg drive, hips, core, shoulders, and loose arm coming through last? (If not, please say so.)

Lots of people "get the idea," but have trouble actualizing it. If that's you, do this.

Take a leather belt to the court with you. Wrap the buckle end around the hand once or so to get the remaining strap to roughly racquet length. Get someone to feed you some nice, slow, incoming balls by hand.

Try to swing the belt so that it snaps out and smacks the incoming ball at full extension.

When you try it leading with the arm, you'll find that it just flops out there like a wet noodle. No extension, no snap.

But when you use the lag-and-snap methodology like you're (hopefully) doing in your shadow swings, it'll extend out to the side and slap into the ball with force. At a bare minimum, you almost HAVE TO lead the swing by turning the core and leading with the shoulder ahead of the arm. For most people, it only takes a couple trial and error swings before it clicks.

That's almost precisely the same swing you want. If you can whip a ball with a belt, you can whip it with a racquet.
 
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Curious

Hall of Fame
#7
Then I assume something like semi-open stance footwork is the idea.

I'm going to assume you're familiar with the general idea: step out to the side with the back foot, plant it and dive off of it, and swing through using the full kinetic chain -- leg drive, hips, core, shoulders, and loose arm coming through last? (If not, please say so.)

Lots of people "get the idea," but have trouble actualizing it. If that's you, do this.

Take a leather belt to the court with you. Wrap the buckle end around the hand once or so to get the remaining strap to roughly racquet length. Get someone to feed you some nice, slow, incoming balls by hand.

Try to swing the belt so that it snaps out and smacks the incoming ball at full extension.

When you try it leading with the arm, you'll find that it just flops out there like a wet noodle. No extension, no snap.


But when you use the lag-and-snap methodology like you're (hopefully) doing in your shadow swings, it'll extend out to the side and slap into the ball with force. At a bare minimum, you almost HAVE TO lead the swing by turning the core and leading with the shoulder ahead of the arm. For most people, it only takes a couple trial and error swings before it clicks.

That's almost precisely the same swing you want. If you can whip a ball with a belt, you can whip it with a racquet.
Thanks for that, it's quite interesting and worth trying. As I said I know how to do it and can do it on shadow swings but when the ball factor comes in, I stuff up, meaning I can't time it.
 
#10
No matter how much I try to read, watch, study, focus on this unfortunately I mainly use my arm to start the stroke. If I deliberately try to do it, I either end up mistiming or cannot hit the ball cleanly at all. Need some useful tips before giving up.
I bet your holding the racquet to tight and you have the inclination try and hit the ball due to being too fast coming into contact.
The slower you go into contact the better your chance of gripping the ball.if you can't grip the ball you will not be able to use the large muscles group well.
The idea is to grip the ball through squaring up then rotate whilst the ball is stuck on the strings and ball is sent off by the hip, spine and shoulder,the hands should be dead quiet.
You must do this very slowly to feel the big muscles working then increase the thrust of the rotation when you have that feeling when you want more power.

Overall the hands are there for control to hold ball and the body is for power. Most people swing at the ball and the hand is used for power.

Here is some great quotes on why your using your arm -

"Power is achieved in tennis through accelerating the racquet, so the key, then, is to develop the ability to relax the hands while simultaneously swinging the racquet head very quickly. This can be accomplished by using the body’s kinetic chain to generate racquet head speed while still keeping the hands relaxed"

"capture the quiet of the hands during the turn. Many players jerk the hands up quickly, or stiffen the arms and throw the hands down below the hips. But truly, as the ball is moving to your forehand side, the best players do not make a commitment at this point with their hands; they appear quiet if not dead. The commitment to high or low, to topspin or backspin occurs much later in the course of the stroke".


"Ultimately, one of the best measures of skill and one of the most important facets of improvement is the ability to relax the hands while hitting strokes. If a player perceives any significant effort or tension in the hands while hitting any stroke, no matter how hard the player is swinging, then something is wrong. Perhaps something is wrong with the stroke, or perhaps the stroke is fine but the player is too tense"
 

Curious

Hall of Fame
#11
I bet your holding the racquet to tight and you have the inclination try and hit the ball due to being too fast coming into contact.
The slower you go into contact the better your chance of gripping the ball.if you can't grip the ball you will not be able to use the large muscles group well.
The idea is to grip the ball through squaring up then rotate whilst the ball is stuck on the strings and ball is sent off by the hip, spine and shoulder,the hands should be dead quiet.
You must do this very slowly to feel the big muscles working then increase the thrust of the rotation when you have that feeling when you want more power.

Overall the hands are there for control to hold ball and the body is for power. Most people swing at the ball and the hand is used for power.

Here is some great quotes on why your using your arm -

"Power is achieved in tennis through accelerating the racquet, so the key, then, is to develop the ability to relax the hands while simultaneously swinging the racquet head very quickly. This can be accomplished by using the body’s kinetic chain to generate racquet head speed while still keeping the hands relaxed"

"capture the quiet of the hands during the turn. Many players jerk the hands up quickly, or stiffen the arms and throw the hands down below the hips. But truly, as the ball is moving to your forehand side, the best players do not make a commitment at this point with their hands; they appear quiet if not dead. The commitment to high or low, to topspin or backspin occurs much later in the course of the stroke".


"Ultimately, one of the best measures of skill and one of the most important facets of improvement is the ability to relax the hands while hitting strokes. If a player perceives any significant effort or tension in the hands while hitting any stroke, no matter how hard the player is swinging, then something is wrong. Perhaps something is wrong with the stroke, or perhaps the stroke is fine but the player is too tense"
Do you mind leaving my thread alone? You have become famous enough in your grab, absorbe thread! No, just kidding. I agree mostly except the part 'grabbing the ball and acting on it when it is stuck on strings'.
 
#13
Do you mind leaving my thread alone? You have become famous enough in your grab, absorbe thread! No, just kidding. I agree mostly except the part 'grabbing the ball and acting on it when it is stuck on strings'.
All good chief, You don't act on on the ball when it's on the strings, the ball is kept on the strings due to the initial push and turn.
 

Curious

Hall of Fame
#14
To start the rotation it can be as simple as using your left hand to help move the racquet back, this forces you to rotate your shoulders
I understand and do that but somehow I still do the forward swing mainly using my arm muscles I think worrying that I cant time it well and hit cleanly if I drive with hip and torso rotation
 
#15
I understand and do that but somehow I still do the forward swing mainly using my arm muscles I think worrying that I cant time it well and hit cleanly if I drive with hip and torso rotation
I was in the same boat about a month ago actually, and Im still transitioning. I would take my racquet back, coil my core, but then never uncoil it and just use my arm. Mentally in my head I just tell myself to keep my whole upper body loose, and only focus on creating lag by turning my body first and letting the racquet pull foreward
 
#17
What I did as a kid was eating an imaginary <insert your favourite chocolate bar here> off my shoulder. Worked to add rotation to my forehand and backhand.
 
#19
Off your hitting shoulder or the other one?:)
Left shoulder if you are right handed. However this still allows you to arm the ball since you are currently starting the stroke by arming the ball. The coach kyril drill forces you to rotate the shoulder and hips because your arm is locked to your body.
 

Dragy

Professional
#20
I either end up mistiming or cannot hit the ball cleanly at all. Need some useful tips before giving up.
This sounds as if you are trying in cooperative rallies/drills/points play? I'd suggest you build up the timing from very simle situations. Drop feeds, basket feeds... Get the 'lock and roll' concept and use it consequently in shadow swings - drop feeds - easy feeds - easy rally. First focus - clean contact without arming, adjust to "let it happen", let the racquet fly through the ball from the lag. Then move to racquet face control while producing all the speed same way (body uncoil) and to more realistic/variable incoming balls. Once getting to full speed rally concentrate on timing above other, and revise it on regular basis, revisiting slow-paced rallies.

It just may be not rational to try and change your stroke "in fight". Apply conditions where you can fully concentrate on one thing, ingrain it and take further to use with other things you already have - ball anticipation, footwork, low-to-high swing, etc.
 

Curious

Hall of Fame
#21
This sounds as if you are trying in cooperative rallies/drills/points play? I'd suggest you build up the timing from very simle situations. Drop feeds, basket feeds... Get the 'lock and roll' concept and use it consequently in shadow swings - drop feeds - easy feeds - easy rally. First focus - clean contact without arming, adjust to "let it happen", let the racquet fly through the ball from the lag. Then move to racquet face control while producing all the speed same way (body uncoil) and to more realistic/variable incoming balls. Once getting to full speed rally concentrate on timing above other, and revise it on regular basis, revisiting slow-paced rallies.

It just may be not rational to try and change your stroke "in fight". Apply conditions where you can fully concentrate on one thing, ingrain it and take further to use with other things you already have - ball anticipation, footwork, low-to-high swing, etc.
I like the idea of starting slowly building up from easy self fed balls, thanks.
 

Dragy

Professional
#22
I like the idea of starting slowly building up from easy self fed balls, thanks.
I'm maybe too picky to your words, but better say something silly than keep shut up and possibly make you miss a detail... I believe you should start with easy fed balls, but not slowly - use free full range (forward part) motions, swing for the fences (but not with extreme effort, just not trying to limit the speed). If use self feeds, you still need time to comfortably setup and smoothly uncoil.
 
#23
No matter how much I try to read, watch, study, focus on this unfortunately I mainly use my arm to start the stroke. If I deliberately try to do it, I either end up mistiming or cannot hit the ball cleanly at all. Need some useful tips before giving up.
When I watch pro FHs ... I see the arm and hand move exactly with forward shoulder turn. The arm and hand do not lag ... the racquet does. I think others disagree with this ... and if anyone has player video which proves this wrong ... I will quit saying it ... probably. :p

So this is the way I look at the fh. The arm and hand are just an extension (relaxed as possible) of the shoulder. I imagine it as hitting the ball with my shoulder. You can't hit with your shoulder without shoulder turn ... both back and forward. Bigger shoulder turn ... bigger hitting.

Useful advice or just making up sh*t? Readers should use their own judgement. :cool:

Curious ... I struggle with fh timing ... and not with bh. I just find the fh a harder stroke to time... at least for me. Part of it is the more modern technique ... but I had more trouble on the fh wing long before. I played my first set in 8-9 months yesterday ... and the bh was like I never took time off. FH ... let's just say some ugly occurences happened near my baseline.
 

Nellie

Hall of Fame
#24
Have you tried this drill before?
I do something similar in which I hit a few practice strokes while holding a towel or ball between my elbow and side to force my elbow to stay tucked during the stroke. I especially like to do this in mini-tennis at the net.

I also hit a few practice stokes with a two handed forehand. As a rightie, I hit some forehands while also holding the racquet handle with my left thumb and index finger to force torso movement (by limiting the right arm) while allowing my wrists to be free to brush up the back of the ball.
 
#25
When I watch pro FHs ... I see the arm and hand move exactly with forward shoulder turn. The arm and hand do not lag ... the racquet does. I think others disagree with this ... and if anyone has player video which proves this wrong ... I will quit saying it ... probably. :p

So this is the way I look at the fh. The arm and hand are just an extension (relaxed as possible) of the shoulder. I imagine it as hitting the ball with my shoulder. You can't hit with your shoulder without shoulder turn ... both back and forward. Bigger shoulder turn ... bigger hitting.

Useful advice or just making up sh*t? Readers should use their own judgement. :cool:

Curious ... I struggle with fh timing ... and not with bh. I just find the fh a harder stroke to time... at least for me. Part of it is the more modern technique ... but I had more trouble on the fh wing long before. I played my first set in 8-9 months yesterday ... and the bh was like I never took time off. FH ... let's just say some ugly occurences happened near my baseline.
I think using shoulders to turn (load) and rotate forward (unload) are a great visualization to avoid arming the ball. Pointing the front shoulder toward the contact area regardless of feet location (semi-open, open, neutral or closed) is a great aid in getting rotation into the stroke.

when you rotate that front shoulder back, try to get a little knee bend and load some weight into your back leg too. As you rotate forward, legs will push and lift driving the shoulders forward.

To keep it simple though, try to rotate the shoulders back and load weight into legs with a bit of knee bend as the starting point.
 
#26
This is a footwork issue. The only person I've seen talk about footwork in depth is Jeff Salzenstein. I've had two ex-pro coaches in my time and a doubles partner who played ATG but none talked about footwork techniques like JS. It's might be worth watching his free YouTube or pay for 12mth full access and learn some footwork transitions. Else watch lots of slow mo matches with Top 4 if you can get their footwork patterns down pat.
 
#27
This is a footwork issue. The only person I've seen talk about footwork in depth is Jeff Salzenstein. I've had two ex-pro coaches in my time and a doubles partner who played ATG but none talked about footwork techniques like JS. It's might be worth watching his free YouTube or pay for 12mth full access and learn some footwork transitions. Else watch lots of slow mo matches with Top 4 if you can get their footwork patterns down pat.
Footwork is a small part of what his problem is, he could probably improve his footwork but what he needs to work on is his body rotation.
 
#28
No matter how much I try to read, watch, study, focus on this unfortunately I mainly use my arm to start the stroke. If I deliberately try to do it, I either end up mistiming or cannot hit the ball cleanly at all. Need some useful tips before giving up.
Do you feel the inertia of the racquet as you begin the forward movement? Is the butt leading? Are your shoulders fully turned at the start and are you facing the net at impact? Is your arm free of tension? If you can say yes to all, I wouldn't be overly concerned.

Mishits and timing issues are often the result of not seeing the ball through impact or too long a backswing.
 
#29
I think using shoulders to turn (load) and rotate forward (unload) are a great visualization to avoid arming the ball. Pointing the front shoulder toward the contact area regardless of feet location (semi-open, open, neutral or closed) is a great aid in getting rotation into the stroke.

when you rotate that front shoulder back, try to get a little knee bend and load some weight into your back leg too. As you rotate forward, legs will push and lift driving the shoulders forward.

To keep it simple though, try to rotate the shoulders back and load weight into legs with a bit of knee bend as the starting point.
For me ... if I do two things ... most of my timing issues go away:
1) racquet up early
2) do not abbreviate shoulder turn

It's just lazy habits that can creep back in.

I hit semi open fh ... so your cue is pretty much how I look at it. If my shoulder line at backswing is pointing toward back fence ... that is a good checkpoint. Maybe on a max fh ... you push shoulder turn a bit more.

"Pointing the front shoulder toward the contact area regardless of feet location (semi-open, open, neutral or closed) is a great aid in getting rotation into the stroke. "

Are you talking just prep here, or final shoulder turn (line)? I measure shoulder turn relative to hips ... so shoulders line on a neutral or closed stance would be past your semi open shoulder line. ???
 
#30
Do you feel the inertia of the racquet as you begin the forward movement? Is the butt leading? Are your shoulders fully turned at the start and are you facing the net at impact? Is your arm free of tension? If you can say yes to all, I wouldn't be overly concerned.

Mishits and timing issues are often the result of not seeing the ball through impact or too long a backswing.
"Mishits and timing issues are often the result of not seeing the ball through impact or too long a backswing."

Or new no line progressive transition glasses. :eek:
 
#33
OP I think you already have the answer. You said you deliberately do it and you mistime it. That's the way to learn it. Keep doing it and missing, eventually you'll get the timing right.
 
#35
You are not arming the ball. I think you've developed a tennis neurosis. Laugh.

You could improve the synchronization of your off-arm pull-in/initial shoulder rotation....with your hitting arm, meaning you could try getting the off arm pull-in from its swing while you're still taking the racquet hand down/back. The hitting arm/hand looks just a bit too ready to go when the pull-in/initial UB rotation starts. Let the ESR upper arm rotation feel like it's happening just a split second too late. Then you'll feel the shoulder pulling the hitting arm...more. Just something to experiment with.
 
#36
In the beginning I would keep the body rotation very subtle. If you can't coordinate the timing yet, going too drastic with the body rotation can throw off your contact point and racquet angle, as a result your directional control might be affected as well. In my opinion, I think moderate amounts of body rotation are actually a byproduct of swinging in a very relaxed fashion. The way how I view stroke mechanics is that it's actually the acceleration of the racquet that pulls your arm and body around. If you swing fast and relaxed enough, the weight of the racquet actually feels like its dragging your arm and pulling your body around.
 

Curious

Hall of Fame
#38
In the beginning I would keep the body rotation very subtle. If you can't coordinate the timing yet, going too drastic with the body rotation can throw off your contact point and racquet angle, as a result your directional control might be affected as well. In my opinion, I think moderate amounts of body rotation are actually a byproduct of swinging in a very relaxed fashion. The way how I view stroke mechanics is that it's actually the acceleration of the racquet that pulls your arm and body around. If you swing fast and relaxed enough, the weight of the racquet actually feels like its dragging your arm and pulling your body around.
I like the point that if your timing is not very good maybe you shouldn't focus a lot on upper body rotation. The rest of the post, I did not quite understand.
 
#39
I like the point that if your timing is not very good maybe you shouldn't focus a lot on upper body rotation. The rest of the post, I did not quite understand.
I was referring more to the body rotation during the swing. Just realized that your issue is for the beginning of the swing. The best way to achieve that is through conscious practice. If you start in open stance (toes pointing towards the net), then you need to move your feet to a semi-open stance (feet ~45 degrees to the net), turn your torso slightly so that your chest is facing the side, with your hitting arm moving back. That's typically how a forehand is prepared.
 
#40
No matter how much I try to read, watch, study, focus on this unfortunately I mainly use my arm to start the stroke. If I deliberately try to do it, I either end up mistiming or cannot hit the ball cleanly at all. Need some useful tips before giving up.
Keep your strokes smooth and let your racket do most of the work.
 

Fintft

Hall of Fame
#41
Keep your strokes smooth and let your racket do most of the work.
I was referring more to the body rotation during the swing. Just realized that your issue is for the beginning of the swing. The best way to achieve that is through conscious practice. If you start in open stance (toes pointing towards the net), then you need to move your feet to a semi-open stance (feet ~45 degrees to the net), turn your torso slightly so that your chest is facing the side, with your hitting arm moving back. That's typically how a forehand is prepared.
I was thinking at something similar for the OP among these lines here:

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/distance-to-ball-on-forehand.585693/#post-11060508
 

Fintft

Hall of Fame
#42
You are not arming the ball. I think you've developed a tennis neurosis. Laugh.

You could improve the synchronization of your off-arm pull-in/initial shoulder rotation....with your hitting arm, meaning you could try getting the off arm pull-in from its swing while you're still taking the racquet hand down/back. The hitting arm/hand looks just a bit too ready to go when the pull-in/initial UB rotation starts. Let the ESR upper arm rotation feel like it's happening just a split second too late. Then you'll feel the shoulder pulling the hitting arm...more. Just something to experiment with.

I just saw the OP's vid and on top of the point you make, I think that he could also:
a) Split step (that could help him with his prep)
b) Keep the left hand more on the racket as he takes it back with both hands
c) Initiate the FW swing more from the hips and make sure that he STEPS into the court with his right foot (not his left) when he finishes the FH.

I would pay attention especially to the last bit, b/c I think I only saw you once lifting your right foot after you hit one FH (on most shots you lift your left instead?).
How did you use your whole kinetic chain then? You most probably didn't push on your back right foot, started moving your hip if you didn't finish stepping into the court ever with your right foot....
 
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#44
Not read all the replies, so some of this may have already been suggested ...

Thanks for that, it's quite interesting and worth trying. As I said I know how to do it and can do it on shadow swings but when the ball factor comes in, I stuff up, meaning I can't time it.
If you are having timing issues, just execute your unit turn early -- don't wait for the bounce. Start a unit turn AS or before the ball crosses the net and complete a full turn before the ball has crossed the back service line. Leave your left hand on the racket for a while -- to complete that full turn (see the Kevin G vid below). This way the right arm will not take over too early.

Now Macci might say that you don't want an early racket prep. At least he did some years back. He indicated that rhythm was important. Don't know if he still regards early racket prep as a myth. But, if you have timing issues, my take is to execute an early unit turn. If you execute as Kevin G does below, you can still have a very good rhythm for the rest of stroke -- and the timing will be much easier.


If, as you say, you can do this with shadow swings, but not with a live ball, then go with a progression. Start off with the shadow swings and then do it with very easy feeds (or self feeds). Progress to feed from a moderate distance and then to feeds from across the net. Work you way up to a feed from the opposite baseline, making sure that you execute an early unit turn and find the proper timing for the rest of your stroke.
 
#45
Not read all the replies, so some of this may have already been suggested ...



If you are having timing issues, just execute your unit turn early -- don't wait for the bounce. Start a unit turn AS or before the ball crosses the net and complete a full turn before the ball has crossed the back service line. Leave your left hand on the racket for a while -- to complete that full turn (see the Kevin G vid below). This way the right arm will not take over too early.

Now Macci might say that you don't want an early racket prep. At least he did some years back. He indicated that rhythm was important. Don't know if he still regards early racket prep as a myth. But, if you have timing issues, my take is to execute an early unit turn. If you execute as Kevin G does below, you can still have a very good rhythm for the rest of stroke -- and the timing will be much easier.


If, as you say, you can do this with shadow swings, but not with a live ball, then go with a progression. Start off with the shadow swings and then do it with very easy feeds (or self feeds). Progress to feed from a moderate distance and then to feeds from across the net. Work you way up to a feed from the opposite baseline, making sure that you execute an early unit turn and find the proper timing for the rest of your stroke.
Edit: Isn't this like going back to "get racquet back early", i.e. get shoulder turn early. Different arm position for modern loop/drop ... but shoulder turn early.

I like this. My comment on get your racquet up early is to generic. I like the idea of waiting for bounce with unit turn having already taken place. At a minimum, even if you change that later post timing issues ... has to be be a good way to work through them.

I think Goffin is a good pro to watch. I was about to say on the run he gets the racquet up and unit turns when he reaches the ball. Actually ... he takes a lot of steps with unit turn.

 
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#46
Edit: Isn't this like going back to "get racquet back early", i.e. get shoulder turn early. Different arm position for modern loop/drop ... but shoulder turn early.

I like this. My comment on get your racquet up early is to generic. I like the idea of waiting for bounce with unit turn having already taken place. At a minimum, even if you change that later post timing issues ... has to be be a good way to work through them.

I think Goffin is a good pro to watch. I was about to say on the run he gets the racquet up and unit turns when he reaches the ball. Actually ... he takes a lot of steps with unit turn.

Agreed. I'd go with "unit turn early" rather than "racquet back early". Like the way that Goffin has his racquet up in a prepared position early -- even up when he is staking several steps to get to the ball. But he doesn't leave the left hand on the racquet a long as Kevin G does. The latter might be a bit better for the OP and other mere mortals.

Back perspective of Fed hitting FHs is revealing. Preps racquet pretty early. Unit turn before the ball gets to NML. Doesn't wait for the bounce (unless the ball bounces very early/short -- in the service box).

 
#47
Agreed. I'd go with "unit turn early" rather than "racquet back early". Like the way that Goffin has his racquet up in a prepared position early -- even up when he is staking several steps to get to the ball. But he doesn't leave the left hand on the racquet a long as Kevin G does. The latter might be a bit better for the OP and other mere mortals.

Back perspective of Fed hitting FHs is revealing. Preps racquet pretty early. Unit turn before the ball gets to NML. Doesn't wait for the bounce (unless the ball bounces very early/short -- in the service box).


Judging by the number of fh timing posts compared to bh timing posts, it appears us mortals have more trouble on the fh wing.
 
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LeeD

Bionic Poster
#48
Maybe try really coiling the upper body, the trunk, so it can only unwind into your forehand shot. In other words, turn shoulder's more than sideways.
 

Curious

Hall of Fame
#50
I'd go with "unit turn early" rather than "racquet back early". Like the way that Goffin has his racquet up in a prepared position early
I agree this is the best advice for good timing. I have noticed that I am always a bit slow in the very first movement of unit turn. When I watch pros I see they react immediately as the opponent hits the ball.
 
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