If you want more power, then I’m going to give it to you. Most of the time when trying to hit the ball harder or achieve more power in tennis, we end up doing things that take power away. It’s a frustrating cycle, but not one that is impossible to break. Keeping a few things in mind, you can hit the ball harder, faster and better immediately.
First, we have to define power to give us some perspective on how we can get more of it. At its simplest, power is really just force. Anyone that has ever taken a physics class knows that force is equal to mass multiplied by acceleration. What that means for us is that the only way to achieve greater power is to either increase the amount of mass going into the ball, or to accelerate through the ball faster.
Putting more mass into your shots is merely a matter of using good technique to maximize the body weight going into the ball. All too often, the shots we take are performed with only our arms and not our bodies. Using your body to hit the ball will give you a great deal more power. Here are a few things you can do to use more body mass:
Use your hips to hit the ball
By using your hips to hit the ball, you know you have as much of your body mass going forward into the ball as possible. A few ways to think about this is, for example on the forehand, is to start with your left shoulder pointed toward the ball and finish with your right shoulder pointed at the ball after your stroke is finished. When executed properly, your back leg should also come around to bring you back into the ready position faster, thus reducing recovery time.
Hit at your waist
The ball is most comfortable to hit around your waist. A good example of this is to watch baseball players. You rarely see a baseball player try to hit a ball by their shoulders or by their ankles. Hitting at waist level gives you the best weight transfer and thus more power.
Stay low and come up as you hit
By staying low before the shot and coming up as you hit the ball, you are effectively pushing off of the ground to get more mass into the ball. I call this “The Swimming Pool Principle.” If you are in a swimming pool, it will always be easier to swim to the other side if you push off of one side of the pool. In tennis, the ground is that wall we use to push off of.
Here are a few things you can do to improve acceleration:
►Hit the ball in front of your body: You should remember to hit even with your front shoulder or in front of your body (depending on where you are on court and how you are positioned). When hitting even with your body or behind your body, your power is dissipated. To get the best weight transfer, contact should be made in front. A good example of this is a boxer’s punch. A straight punch that makes contact too early will not have the force that it would have had it the arm had time to extend and achieve maximum acceleration.
►Stay loose: On a scale from one to five (with five being as tight as you can grip the racket) you should be holding your grip around two. Your body should also be loose in order to respond to your situation on-court. When you stay loose, your body can react quicker and accelerate faster. Staying relaxed and loose is a key to getting that extra power everyone wants.
Power is not some magical thing that requires hours upon hours of practice to increase. Making a few small changes can make the difference in your game so that you can put away points like you know you can. Play hard and have fun.
Miguel Cervantes III
Miguel Cervantes III teaches at Carefree Racquet Club and privately outdoors. Miguel specializes in teaching beginners, training juniors and coaching doubles. He may be reached by e-mail at UnderstandingTennis@gmail.com.