Tip of the Week Archive

   Everyday that I teach, it becomes more and more apparent to me how important relaxation
is to tennis. Relaxation of the muscles during a stroke are vital to releasing the potential of
each shot.
   When hitting groundstrokes, the bending of the legs creates tension because the muscles
are contracting. During the actual swing the legs release that tension and the muscles are
lengthening which places the muscle in a relaxed state.
   The arms similarly are contracting and releasing during all tennis strokes. The finish of a
swing might create muscles that are contracted but this is a result of the force of a swing.
   How to use this information to improve your tennis is what I’ll explain next.
Try to implement a pattern of bending the legs slightly and then straightening the legs during
a forehand, backhand and serve. Most players will naturally bend their legs and use them so
you should have someone watch you hit to see if you really are using the legs.
   Secondly, try to exhale during the execution of the stroke. Many pros and other players even
grunt loudly as a result of their voracious swings. This is a sign of exhaling the air from the
lungs. You don’t have to grunt as you hit but you should breathe out. One method I like to
use is to say words out loud as you swing. Saying “yesssss� during the contact
insures that air is being released. Holding one’s breath during a tennis stroke makes
the muscles tight and is sometimes referred to as “choking�.
   Another method I use to help with relaxation during a swing is to feel loose with my arms
during the back swing and forward swing but to squeeze my grip right at impact with the ball.
After squeezing the grip on contact I will release that tension again on the finish. In this
method the body is relaxed except for the wrist on that’s only for a short time during
   The last thing to watch to see if you are relaxed when hitting is to check out your follow
through. You’ll see the pros forehands and backhands will wrap their arms over and
around their shoulders. This long finish is a result of relaxing the arms after the contact, and
allowing the arms to slow and stop their movement by themselves. Try touching your racquet
head to your back on your groundstrokes. I might take some doing but it will show you how to
lengthen your swings to relax your arms.
   To make this long tip short, try to be more relaxed and tension free as you hit tennis balls.
You could end up with more topspin, more depth, and more power.

Doug Hofer, USPTA      November 17, 2004