Why is forehand more powerful than backhand?

#1
The speed records for forehand shots are faster than for backhand shots. Why is that?

I am interested in this from a biomechanical viewpoint. I know golf but only played basic tennis when I was young (long ago :) ). I never learnt the two handed backhand, it was not as popular then, either.

When tennis players play recreational golf, they often play left handed. Wilander and Lendl, for example. I assume they make use of their tennis backhand stroke movements.

Grabbing with two hands, like in a two handed backhand should make you able to deliver much speed. And maybe also driving the leading arm with the body, like in a golf swing. The arm holding the racket will be in closer proximity to the body in a backhand than a forehand. Comparing to golf that ought to give it good power from the body core.

In the golf swing, it can be hypothesized that the leading arm conveys energy from the body core, and the trailing arm adds arm swinging power.

(The serve can naturally be discussed here, too.)
 
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#2
it's the length of the lever that determines the speed, so the power potential is bigger on the 1hbh than the 2hbh.... and I think for the 1hbh pros, the max speed are probably fairly close between the fh and the bh....Gasquet's biggest bh is faster than his biggest fh..
 
#3
Yes, maybe the question makes a false assumption that fh is more powerful.

I know too little about tennis, but I would appreciate to discuss the biomechanics and its consequences.

But in general, in tennis games, don't you often see the players playing the opponents backhand side, since it is weaker?

Possibly the fh can have a larger radius/length of lever.
 
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#4
Off the top of my head, I'd say that the forehand has the benefits of a large swing radius with only one arm on the racquet, but it also has typically stronger muscle groups to generate racquet acceleration in a relatively short time span. The pectoral muscles seem to be generally stronger than the opposing muscles in the upper back, so that allows for a stronger forward push of the racquet to drive a forehand compared with a one-handed backhand.

But I think the catch there is about how much time we have to set up the stroke. If I have ample time, I can knock the cover off the ball with my one-handed backhand, but I usually need an extra little fraction of a second to set it up and take a full swing compared with my forehand. My shoulder and upper back can't force a backhand stroke on short notice in the same way that my chest can with my forehand. Shoulder rotation may also compound the power of the forehand more that the one-handed backhand where the shoulders typically remain more "sideways" through the stroke.

The two-handed backhand seems to have greater torque available because the racquet is more or less anchored out on the end of a triangle (formed by the two arms and the line through the shoulders). When the shoulders are turned forward to execute the swing, that turns the base of that triangle, so it's just about impossible for the racquet to be left behind when that happens.

While the two-hander has a lot of leverage in its favor, it also has two arms attached to the grip of the racquet. That seems to reduce the radius of the swing compared with a one-handed stroke and those two arms can restrict the speed of the racquet if they don't work well together. When the grip pressure is too firm or the back (top) hand doesn't release over the front (bottom) hand through contact, that can prevent the racquet from accelerating very much. If I deliberately extend my trailing arm through contact, that facilitates a better strike for my two-hander. It more or less enables my top hand to "roll over" my bottom hand and allow the racquet head to release forward with better velocity.

If a fast ball flies into my backhand side and I don't have time to set up my one-hander, the two-hander is sometimes my bail out shot. Its greater torque - not greater speed - allows me to quickly set the racquet to that side and turn my shoulders forward in a compact move that can at least fight off that incoming hot shot and keep the ball in play.
 
#7
(Sorry, the quote button may fail on my phone.)
In reply to sureshs.

I haven't any wide base for statistics. Wilander and Lendl just came to mind. What I would like to isolate would be top level tennis players with close to perfect mechanics for both fh and bh, that achieved this level of tennis before starting to play golf. (And preferably also playing the 2hb.)

I am not even sure Mats and Ivan started golf late in their tennis careers, but I believe that could be true.

Here one must also remember how unusual left handed golf really is among golfers in general. (Especially on the highest level.)
 
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heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
#8
I wonder if some put righty but drive lefty. I heard Mardy Fish is the best golfer of the tennis world. Seems to swing lefty.


(Sorry, the quote button may fail on my phone.)
In reply to sureshs.

I haven't any wide base for statistics. Wilander and Lendl just came to mind. What I would like to isolate would be top level tennis players with close to perfect mechanics for both fh and bh, that achieved this level of tennis before starting to play golf. (And preferably also playing the 2hb.)

I am not even sure Mats and Ivan started golf late in their tennis careers, but I believe that could be true.

Here one must also remember how unusual left handed golf really is among golfers in general. (Especially on the highest level.)
 
#9
so does Courier... golf left handed..

reason is simple... they already hit 2hbh, so the golf swing is basically hitting a 2hbh on a really low ball.
 
#11
Off the top of my head, I'd say that the forehand has the benefits of a large swing radius with only one arm on the racquet, but it also has typically stronger muscle groups to generate racquet acceleration in a relatively short time span. The pectoral muscles seem to be generally stronger than the opposing muscles in the upper back, so that allows for a stronger forward push of the racquet to drive a forehand compared with a one-handed backhand.

But I think the catch there is about how much time we have to set up the stroke. If I have ample time, I can knock the cover off the ball with my one-handed backhand, but I usually need an extra little fraction of a second to set it up and take a full swing compared with my forehand. My shoulder and upper back can't force a backhand stroke on short notice in the same way that my chest can with my forehand. Shoulder rotation may also compound the power of the forehand more that the one-handed backhand where the shoulders typically remain more "sideways" through the stroke.

The two-handed backhand seems to have greater torque available because the racquet is more or less anchored out on the end of a triangle (formed by the two arms and the line through the shoulders). When the shoulders are turned forward to execute the swing, that turns the base of that triangle, so it's just about impossible for the racquet to be left behind when that happens.

While the two-hander has a lot of leverage in its favor, it also has two arms attached to the grip of the racquet. That seems to reduce the radius of the swing compared with a one-handed stroke and those two arms can restrict the speed of the racquet if they don't work well together. When the grip pressure is too firm or the back (top) hand doesn't release over the front (bottom) hand through contact, that can prevent the racquet from accelerating very much. If I deliberately extend my trailing arm through contact, that facilitates a better strike for my two-hander. It more or less enables my top hand to "roll over" my bottom hand and allow the racquet head to release forward with better velocity.

If a fast ball flies into my backhand side and I don't have time to set up my one-hander, the two-hander is sometimes my bail out shot. Its greater torque - not greater speed - allows me to quickly set the racquet to that side and turn my shoulders forward in a compact move that can at least fight off that incoming hot shot and keep the ball in play.
Good response Fuzz ... wanted to say Fuzzy. I liked all your response, and I have actually been thinking about this question myself. Since I have been posting a lot about it lately, I would like to say the forearm/racquet angle (lag) of the FH is greater than the BH ... but then, we have had pros beating the hockey out of FHs long before there were "flips", etc.

I think you may have just nailed it with:

"but it also has typically stronger muscle groups to generate racquet acceleration in a relatively short time span. The pectoral muscles seem to be generally stronger than the opposing muscles in the upper back, so that allows for a stronger forward push of the racquet to drive a forehand compared with a one-handed backhand."

Might be as simple as that. Chest + forward arm movement beats Back + backwards arm movement. Wow ... too simple ... there goes a lot of debate. :)

I hear what you are saying 1hbh vs 2hbh. This is how I would say for my BHs ... noting still relatively early (18 months) with the 2hbh:
1) I haven't hit one 2hbh as hard as my best 1hbh flat down the line, provided I had time to get into a fully closed stance
2) Everything else, any topspin shot, for sure cross court ... I already hit the 2hbh with a bit more pace.

Obviously that begs the question ... why wasn't the flat 1hbh crosscourt also more pace. Don't really have an answer for that one.

I haven't looked at the stats ... but my guess is 95% + of pros hit their FHs with more pace than their BHs. I certainly can't think of any 2hbh players that hit that wing faster. Sure there are ... just not coming to my mind. Somebody will have to explain Wawrinka's 1hbh ... because in the upper echelon of rarefied air of top 10 pro tennis players where margins are tiny, his 1hbh is off the charts.
 
#12
In my opinion, I think the main reason why forehands tend to be more powerful backhands, is that there's more weight transfer possible with a forehand. A lot players tend to "jump" into their forehands and wind their whole body into it. Its more difficult to do that on a backhand. Wawrinka occasionally does it on his backhand, but its not something he can do all the time.
 
#13
In my opinion, I think the main reason why forehands tend to be more powerful backhands, is that there's more weight transfer possible with a forehand. A lot players tend to "jump" into their forehands and wind their whole body into it. Its more difficult to do that on a backhand. Wawrinka occasionally does it on his backhand, but its not something he can do all the time.
Due to the different nature of the two games, maybe the sweet spot of a tennis racket must be bigger than that of a golf club?? If a golfer jumped into the shot it would not be accurate. I saw a photo of Tiger Woods' 8-iron, it was worn in a very small spot only.

There are interesting differences. If you hit golf balls with only one arm, f.ex. It may feel more fluent to use your right. But with practice you will hit further with your left, which would correspond to a backhand. But in tennis the fh is stronger! (Using terminology for a right hander.)
 
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C

Chadillac

Guest
#14
My backhand is more powerful than my forehand! Less moving parts to get synchronize.
Speed of light vs speed of sound, stop braggin already :)

Does the op use a 1h or 2h, i skimmed over thread and still cant figure it out
 
#16
My avg FH is somewhat bigger/faster than than my avg BH. However, my biggest BHs are faster w/more spin than my biggest FHs.

I believe that we see something similar with pro players. FHs, on average, tend to be bigger than BHs. However, the biggest BHs seem to be just about as powerful as the biggest FHs. Some pretty big one-handed BHs have been hit by Gasquet, Wawrinka, Federer, Kohlschreiber, (Fernando) Gonzalez and Almagro. Pretty big 2-handers hit by Nalbandian, Nadal, Safin, Del Potro, (Dustin) Brown and others.

That is news to me. Is is really true about most players other than those too?
Left-handed tennis player here (altho' I can hit a pretty decent righty serve and a passable righty forehand). I'm not really a golfer but putting and swinging a golf club feels much more natural right-handed. Same thing for baseball (or cricket) batting = right-handed.
 
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Chadillac

Guest
#17
It is a general question, 1hb 2hb both considered.
The best gauge on backhands is to throw a frisbee (1h and 2h). With one hand you sling more and release in front, while the 2h has more power later. Focus on where the frisbee is most powerful upon release, thats roughly your contact pt. Just let it fly, not play golf :)
 
#18
The best gauge on backhands is to throw a frisbee (1h and 2h). With one hand you sling more and release in front, while the 2h has more power later. Focus on where the frisbee is most powerful upon release, thats roughly your contact pt. Just let it fly, not play golf :)
I enjoy comparing tennis and golf. I think the differences may help understand the mechanics.

In tennis you must prepare quickly for the shot. You must strike the ball. Tennis players are often more muscular. Nowadays golfers go to gym, but some tall skinny youngsters can drive a golf ball far. In golf there is time to swing and use core momentum.
 
A

Attila_the_gorilla

Guest
#19
It's because in the forehand your open stance frees your rotation and allows for higher swing speeds as a result, without affecting your leverage.
But on the backhand if you want to hit open stance for rotation, you lose a lot of backswing/leverage.
I'd guess a closed or neutral stance forehand has about the same swing speed potential as a one handed backhand.
 
#21
I enjoy comparing tennis and golf. I think the differences may help understand the mechanics.

In tennis you must prepare quickly for the shot. You must strike the ball. Tennis players are often more muscular. Nowadays golfers go to gym, but some tall skinny youngsters can drive a golf ball far. In golf there is time to swing and use core momentum.
"I enjoy comparing tennis and golf. I think the differences may help understand the mechanics."

I agree ... but the most important comparison is the late release IMO.

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...r-nunchuk-to-iron-byron.576149/#post-10758215

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...ble-pendulums-and-old-style-slingshot.577856/
 
#23
"I enjoy comparing tennis and golf. I think the differences may help understand the mechanics."

I agree ... but the most important comparison is the late release IMO.

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...r-nunchuk-to-iron-byron.576149/#post-10758215

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...ble-pendulums-and-old-style-slingshot.577856/
That's true. Late release is definitely important to golf ball speed according to most "analysts".

With wrist action I here mean both active movement by forearm muscle and also passive racket/club movement as a reaction to body and arm movement.

The double pendulum and late release in your link definitely exist in both tennis and golf.

I just asked in this thread if the double pendulum/wrist movement has become more emphasized in tennis instruction during the last 10-20 years?
https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...over-time-and-if-so-why.578352/#post-10819086

Maybe the double pendulum is most important in golf where time is not a limiting factor. In tennis your preparation time for the stroke is limited. One extreme is volley shots where there is very little or no wrist movement.
 
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#24
It's actually more like a trebuchet than a double pendulum.

The golf swing has a lot of differences from the tennis swing and shouldn't really be compared much. You are swinging a longer lever at stationary ground target and the only shot you are going for distance in golf is the drive. Every other shot is for precision.

In tennis, you have a moving ball, a moving human and string-ball interactions to work with in the context of not hitting the ball as far as you can. So you have different needs. A tennis swing must hit the ball with speed but also in a plane that imparts enough topspin to bring down the ball and with enough precision to hit in the direction needed.

If you hit a FH with a laid back wrist the racket can be held more loosely yet still provide firm contact the limits racket deflection. The loose grip loosens tension in the arm allowing a more fluid fast swing which will secondarily improve RHS. So you end up with a fast swing, a firm contact point and an ability then to impart spin with the strings. Actively flexing the wrist or slapping at the ball with a late wrist flick will require a firmer grip (negatively affecting the fluid arm motion) and will provide less precision as timing will affect direction more than a lead back wrist impact. It also makes it harder to impart topspin as the slap of wrist release will be biomechanically flatter.

If you follow most pro's FH, the wrist remains laid back before, through and after contact. That is far more similar to hitting wedge shots in golf where spin and precision are more valued.

In the end I think the power of the FH in today's game comes from the long lever provided by the large shoulder turns of the pros. This incidentally is also likely the biggest reason today's pro golfers are launching balls. Their flexibility and shoulder turns are unbelievable compared to most hackers. The wrist action adds to distance in golf, but the wrist is more silent in tennis (at least the forehand).
 
#25
It is all about levers and physics. Two handed backhands generate the least RHS of any groundstroke because the racquet cannot get enough separation from the body because of the second hand. RHS is not why players use a 2HBH. One handed back hand players actually hit with similar pace as the forehand, for a similar reason.
 
#26
It's actually more like a trebuchet than a double pendulum.

The golf swing has a lot of differences from the tennis swing and shouldn't really be compared much. You are swinging a longer lever at stationary ground target and the only shot you are going for distance in golf is the drive. Every other shot is for precision.

In tennis, you have a moving ball, a moving human and string-ball interactions to work with in the context of not hitting the ball as far as you can. So you have different needs. A tennis swing must hit the ball with speed but also in a plane that imparts enough topspin to bring down the ball and with enough precision to hit in the direction needed.

If you hit a FH with a laid back wrist the racket can be held more loosely yet still provide firm contact the limits racket deflection. The loose grip loosens tension in the arm allowing a more fluid fast swing which will secondarily improve RHS. So you end up with a fast swing, a firm contact point and an ability then to impart spin with the strings. Actively flexing the wrist or slapping at the ball with a late wrist flick will require a firmer grip (negatively affecting the fluid arm motion) and will provide less precision as timing will affect direction more than a lead back wrist impact. It also makes it harder to impart topspin as the slap of wrist release will be biomechanically flatter.

If you follow most pro's FH, the wrist remains laid back before, through and after contact. That is far more similar to hitting wedge shots in golf where spin and precision are more valued.

In the end I think the power of the FH in today's game comes from the long lever provided by the large shoulder turns of the pros. This incidentally is also likely the biggest reason today's pro golfers are launching balls. Their flexibility and shoulder turns are unbelievable compared to most hackers. The wrist action adds to distance in golf, but the wrist is more silent in tennis (at least the forehand).
Edit: I missed your "relaxed grip leads to relaxed arm and more rhs". Yes ... I really notice that in 2hbh. Still, everything being equal, seems like a passive relaxed wrist release by contact would be more RHS. I suspect the only players that get back towards neutral on some FHs are mainly Eastern grips. You see it on some Fed FHs.

"If you follow most pro's FH, the wrist remains laid back before, through and after contact."

That reminds me of a question I was going to create as a thread for, still might. But here is the question:

Let's say I hit a Eastern grip. I hit a flat drive at waist height ... no WW, no topspin. I hit with a relaxed grip ... which lays back at the start of the flip (or not... question valid for WTA FH), and I maintain that wrist angle into contact. Did the relaxed wrist grip buy me anything in that swing? I didn't have any forearm/racquet angle release ... because no WW and no release of laid back wrist to neutral wrist by contact. Maybe on that swing, a relaxed wrist serves it's purpose of me laying back the wrist to contact wrist position on the forward swing, but the relaxed wrist has nothing to do with pace (again... just for that flat swing in my hypothetical).

"You are swinging a longer lever at stationary ground target and the only shot you are going for distance in golf is the drive."

I will give you a slight twist on that. I got to marshal a hole in a US Open once. I was standing behind a par 3 ... say 180 yards. If I was hitting into a 180 yard par 3, I would be hitting a 4 iron or a 7 wood. Most of the pros pulled out mid-irons, and the ball landed like gap wedges. The distance they could hit gave them a much higher flight ... quite humbling and disturbing to watch that from the back of the green.

I thought that trebuchet was a giant double pendulum ... except overhead pitch rather than underarm pitch. :)
 
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#27
It's actually more like a trebuchet than a double pendulum.

The golf swing has a lot of differences from the tennis swing and shouldn't really be compared much. You are swinging a longer lever at stationary ground target and the only shot you are going for distance in golf is the drive. Every other shot is for precision.

In tennis, you have a moving ball, a moving human and string-ball interactions to work with in the context of not hitting the ball as far as you can. So you have different needs. A tennis swing must hit the ball with speed but also in a plane that imparts enough topspin to bring down the ball and with enough precision to hit in the direction needed.

If you hit a FH with a laid back wrist the racket can be held more loosely yet still provide firm contact the limits racket deflection. The loose grip loosens tension in the arm allowing a more fluid fast swing which will secondarily improve RHS. So you end up with a fast swing, a firm contact point and an ability then to impart spin with the strings. Actively flexing the wrist or slapping at the ball with a late wrist flick will require a firmer grip (negatively affecting the fluid arm motion) and will provide less precision as timing will affect direction more than a lead back wrist impact. It also makes it harder to impart topspin as the slap of wrist release will be biomechanically flatter.

If you follow most pro's FH, the wrist remains laid back before, through and after contact. That is far more similar to hitting wedge shots in golf where spin and precision are more valued.

In the end I think the power of the FH in today's game comes from the long lever provided by the large shoulder turns of the pros. This incidentally is also likely the biggest reason today's pro golfers are launching balls. Their flexibility and shoulder turns are unbelievable compared to most hackers. The wrist action adds to distance in golf, but the wrist is more silent in tennis (at least the forehand).
Edit: I missed your "relaxed grip leads to relaxed arm and more rhs". Yes ... I really notice that in 2hbh. Still, everything being equal, seems like a passive relaxed wrist release by contact would be more RHS. I suspect the only players that get back towards neutral on some FHs are mainly Eastern grips. You see it on some Fed FHs.

"If you follow most pro's FH, the wrist remains laid back before, through and after contact."

That reminds me of a question I was going to create as a thread for, still might. But here is the question:

Let's say I hit a Eastern grip. I hit a flat drive at waist height ... no WW, no topspin. I hit with a relaxed grip ... which lays back at the start of the flip (or not... question valid for WTA FH), and I maintain that wrist angle into contact. Did the relaxed wrist grip buy me anything in that swing? I didn't have any forearm/racquet angle release ... because no WW and no release of laid back wrist to neutral wrist by contact. Maybe on that swing, a relaxed wrist serves it's purpose of me laying back the wrist to contact wrist position on the forward swing, but the relaxed wrist has nothing to do with pace (again... just for that flat swing in my hypothetical).

"You are swinging a longer lever at stationary ground target and the only shot you are going for distance in golf is the drive."

I will give you a slight twist on that. I got to marshal a hole in a US Open once. I was standing behind a par 3 ... say 180 yards. If I was hitting into a 180 yard par 3, I would be hitting a 4 iron or a 7 wood. Most of the pros pulled out mid-irons, and the ball landed like gap wedges. The distance they could hit gave them a much higher flight ... quite humbling and disturbing to watch that from the back of the green.

I thought that trebuchet was a giant double pendulum ... except overhead pitch rather than underarm pitch. :)
As I then understand, significant addition to racket speed does not come from the wrist. They impact the ball with wrist still laid back. That was interesting to learn.

One can ask if that is a consequence of the game developing the grip from Continental towards E, SW, W grips due to higher ball bounces and more topspin?

- The players have given up some wrist mobility by using grips more towards SW?

I would also like to ask, then: Where is the rhs then generated, in a forehand? (Isn't rhs the abbreviation you use for racket head speed?) Which joints? Shoulder joint pendulum (not axial rotation)? Elbow? Shoulder/torso rotation?

Since I just wrote a text on sports movements and included trebuchets, I put the link here.
I just see the double pendulum, trebuchets, slings, flails, two lever systems and the related, as different manifestations of the same basic phenomenon. In that text I called it "pendulum acceleration".
http://www.yorabbit.info/creating_speed/#Trebuchet
(The domain is http://creatingspeed.com )
 
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#28
I think the RHS really comes from uncoiling the torso (similar to golf) and shoulder flinging a loose arm at the ball, The elbow and wrist are relatively passive passengers, contracting muscles only enough to direct the racket at the ball. The wrist stays laid back largely because of inertial forces of the racket lag affecting a loose arm.
 
#29
I think the RHS really comes from uncoiling the torso (similar to golf) and shoulder flinging a loose arm at the ball, The elbow and wrist are relatively passive passengers, contracting muscles only enough to direct the racket at the ball. The wrist stays laid back largely because of inertial forces of the racket lag affecting a loose arm.
That is an interesting theory. I can hit the back fence when throwing the ball from baseline. When i do this left-handed, i cannot even clear the net. The question is: how am i supposed to hit a good backhand?
 

zalive

Hall of Fame
#30
Did they measure some of these?

Gasquet doesn't seem to have problem with BH power. He hits from closed stance and uses full body turn from weight transfer. You need both to have some real power from your OHBH.

it's the length of the lever that determines the speed, so the power potential is bigger on the 1hbh than the 2hbh.... and I think for the 1hbh pros, the max speed are probably fairly close between the fh and the bh....Gasquet's biggest bh is faster than his biggest fh..
Length of swing path also.
 
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#31
it's the length of the lever that determines the speed, so the power potential is bigger on the 1hbh than the 2hbh.... and I think for the 1hbh pros, the max speed are probably fairly close between the fh and the bh....Gasquet's biggest bh is faster than his biggest fh..
yes for 2HBH the Levers are shorter than for one hander because you have both Hands on the racket and basically you only can use the Rotation of the Body.

however I also think the one handers power is lower than FH because the muscles that horizontally adduct and IR are stronger than the muscles who horizontally abduct and ER.

For a test just compare the weight you can lift with a Butterfly machine with the weight you can lift with a reverse Butterfly machine. the former is much higher because the pecs and front shoulder muscles are much bigger than the rear shoulder muscles.

the actual leverage of the 1HBH might even be slightly better than the FH but the muscles used at that movement to move that Lever is probably a lot weaker than the FH (and even than the two hander which uses strong muscles but at a worse Lever).
 
#32
yes for 2HBH the Levers are shorter than for one hander because you have both Hands on the racket and basically you only can use the Rotation of the Body.

however I also think the one handers power is lower than FH because the muscles that horizontally adduct and IR are stronger than the muscles who horizontally abduct and ER.

For a test just compare the weight you can lift with a Butterfly machine with the weight you can lift with a reverse Butterfly machine. the former is much higher because the pecs and front shoulder muscles are much bigger than the rear shoulder muscles.

the actual leverage of the 1HBH might even be slightly better than the FH but the muscles used at that movement to move that Lever is probably a lot weaker than the FH (and even than the two hander which uses strong muscles but at a worse Lever).
You are right in the sense that a 2HBH player can "muscle" the ball back, and even some might say she has to. A 1HBH player has to strike the ball. Big difference.
 
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