How to increase tennis serve speed is a subject of interest for club players around the world. The issue of tennis serve speed is primarily a factor of proper tennis technique using the kinetic chain on the tennis serve.
Most tennis players want to find ways to increase tennis serve speed, because when we watch the pros on TV we are amazed by the remarkable power and accuracy of their tennis serves.
The pros in tennis hit their serves in such a effortless and easy manner that they dispel many of the common tennis myths about how tennis serve speed is generated.
Andy Roddick, Isner and Ivo Karlovic are just a few of the extraordinary examples of pro tennis players that have overwhelming racket head speed on the serve with seemingly little effort.
A lot of players attempt to increase tennis serve speed in the wrong ways, by either muscling the tennis serve or by using unorthodox techniques in hopes to generate the power on the tennis serve.
The majority of club players realize that that tennis serve speed comes from proper technique rather than pure muscle power, but not that many tennis players can develop the correct serve technique.
By watching the best tennis servers in the world, we can subconsciously understand that tennis serve speed is a matter of utilizing the proper tennis serve technique rather than a magic “swing” or by using pure “arm speed.”
The Realities of Generating Tennis Serve Speed
When we think of great servers, we often think of the fastest servers. While tennis serve speed is not the only barometer for serve greatness, it is a major factor that makes a serve difficult to return.
Obviously, the less time your opponent has to return your serve, the better your chances are of winning the point outright. You can hit more aces and service winners. You will also find yourself getting a lot of opportunities to put away short returns or volleying away floating sitters. To increase your tennis serve speed, the most important thing to look at is your technique.
You may think that you are hitting the ball very hard already because you feel like you are putting a lot of effort whenever you hit a serve. But somehow, the ball doesn’t threaten your opponent. You should better assess what you are doing incorrectly or insufficiently in order to correct any errors in technique.
Increasing Tennis Serve Speed through Proper Technique
The first thing to look at is your toss. If you are going to hit a fast, flat serve, your toss should be forward and a little to the right if you are right handed. However, do not hit it too far forward or to the right that it makes you chase after the ball. On the other hand, if you don’t toss forward enough, your forward momentum will be inhibited.
Tosses above the head are for kick and twist serves, not flat serves. Aside from the position, you should also assess the height of your toss. If you toss too low, you will not be at full extension at contact. If you toss too high, you will have to wait a long time for it to drop to hitting height, thereby stalling your motion.
Dissecting the Tennis Serve Stances
Next, ask yourself: are you hitting from the proper stance? If you are turned too much that your back is facing the net as you start your motion, you might be inhibiting your body from uncoiling and transferring weight forward into the shot. John McEnroe used this technique and he could get away with it because he was quite flexible.
Besides, although he could serve hard, he was really more known for accuracy and consistency. On the other hand, if you are too forward on your stance, you can transfer weight into the shot, but you cannot take full advantage of the kinetic chain involved in the production of a powerful serve.
Utilizing the Forces of Coiling & Uncoiling to Generate Tennis Serve Power
Another thing to look at is how you coil your trunk and shoulders. Ideally, you should be coiled enough that you are showing your back to your opponent. However, not everyone has this much flexibility.
The main point is that you should coil as much as you can comfortably coil. Going beyond your limits can only result in injuries, although these limits can be increased by stretching and flexibility exercises.
How is your knee bend? All great servers have considerable knee bends at the trophy pose phase of their service motions. A deep knee bend allows you to push harder off the ground and launch up more into the shot. This will provide greater leverage, which is another key to increasing tennis serve speed.
You will notice that among the fastest serving pros, many of them are tall or above average in height because they have greater leverage. Height is not something that can be taught but proper technique will allow you to maximize the kind of serve speed capable with your physical build.
How do you take your racket back?
You should take it back in a way that feels comfortable for you. You can use an abbreviated motion like Andy Roddick or a more classical wind up like Pete Sampras. You can also use something in between. One thing to note is the position of the elbow on the take back. Current men’s number one Novak Djokovic used to take his racket back with his elbow really low which resulted in a hitch in his motion.
On the other hand, Rafael Nadal used to have his elbow up really high on the take back. This allowed him to build more racket head speed later in the swing but it compromised his accuracy. A very long and elaborate swing is difficult to time and the gain in speed is usually not worth the trade off in consistency.
Roddick’s secret to hitting fast serves is to simply have a fast motion. This is why he looks jerky and ungraceful. But he is actually just moving too fast for the eye to fully appreciate.
You might not be blessed with the ability to move as quickly so you are better off doing other things to increase your tennis serve speed. One such way is to keep the arm loose and relaxed so that the muscles can help make the arm function as a whip.
The Role of the Kinetic Chain in Tennis Serve Speed
Great serves rely on the proper movement of the body through the so-called kinetic chain. This is a series of motions that start from the ground all the way up to the racket. The knees bend and the feet push off the ground. The legs extend and launch the body up into the air. The hips uncoil, followed by the trunk and shoulders.
The hitting shoulder which started below the opposite shoulder starts to go over it and bring the upper body face on to the net. The racket is taken up, back and down as the hitting arm first points the elbow backward, externally rotates and then points the elbow upward.
The wrist cocks back. The elbow then extends, with the wrist and racket trailing. At contact, everything is fully extended. The wrist and forearm pronate through the ball. Body weight is transferred forward into the shot.
There are many things in the motion that can result in hitches along this chain. If your hips aren’t uncoiling and you are remaining sideways as you hit the ball, then you will be relying only on your upper body and arm to produce speed on your serve.
If you take the racket head back before you toss the ball, it might help your consistency and control but you will break the continuity of the motion making it tough to build maximum racket head speed at contact.
Improving the Tennis Serve Follow through
The last part of the swing is the follow through. Like any other stroke, if you don’t follow through completely, you will lose power and control. To guarantee a higher tennis serve speed, you should extend forward first and then bring the racket head down on the opposite side of the body as you land inside the court.
To improve your technique, practice the serve as much as you can. Many instructors recommend that you hit at least 100 practice serves a day.
Off Court Body Strengthening to Help Tennis Serve Speed
Increasing tennis serve speed is also dependent on your physical strength. All muscle groups are involved in hitting a powerful serve. The legs must be powerful enough to launch upward to the ball. Weight training and plyometric/jumping exercises are used for this. The core muscles are also greatly involved in the serve.
The coiling and uncoiling motion requires abdominal, oblique and lower back strength so be sure to do the appropriate exercises for these areas. These include crunches, oblique crunches, medicine ball twists, back extensions (good mornings) and Superman exercises.
The shoulders need to be strengthened with overhead presses and lateral raises. The rotator cuff is also crucial for the serve.
These are strengthened by using light weights and doing internal and external rotations. For the arm, the triceps extensions and bicep curls are useful. For the forearm, wrist curls, wrist circles and pronations can help make whipping the racket head faster through the ball. Aside from strength, flexibility is important for the serve.
You should focus on stretching the trunk with twists, lower back stretches (touching the toes), abdominal stretches (back bends and side bends). The shoulders, triceps and wrists should also be stretched.
Theory on Using Different Rackets to Improve Tennis Serve Speed
The racket that you use can also be a factor in increasing your tennis serve speed. Heavier, stiffer and bigger rackets provide more power. But for the serve, since you are going to generate all of the speed all by yourself, you should use a racket that is also easy for you to swing.
Usually, this is a lightweight racket. But lighter rackets also don’t plow through the ball as much. The best option would then have to be a reasonably weighted but headlight racket.
Remember, though, that the serve isn’t the only shot you will be hitting with this racket. So take all other factors into consideration before you make any changes in the kind of equipment you use. String tension also affects ball speed. Lower tensions pump out more power and higher tensions are more useful for better control.
Visualization & Practice
The last tip for increasing your tennis serve speed is to mentally visualize being able to hit blazing serves. Visualization and positive reinforcement can go a long way to help you improve your serve. With practice, you will have more confidence and develop a more aggressive mindset to really go for big serves during your matches.
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