The backhand shot is usually a stroke that is practiced much less than the forehand, and as a result becomes a weakness.
Professional tennis players make sure to practice tennis backhand exercises to work on their weaknesses so they can amplify their strengths. A good forehand shot is not complete if it isn’t backed by a solid backhand stroke.
The backhand is traditionally the weaker side for many players. At the club level, a lot of players have great forehands but close to non-existent backhands. There are players who only know how to slice their backhands.
Why You Need to Practice Tennis Backhand Exercises
Even the two most dominant professional players of the last 6 years, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have forehands which are more potent than their backhands. Today they have both been passed in the rankings by Novak Djokovic who is equally strong from both sides.
His present advantage over his two rivals is that he doesn’t need to run around one side or the other to control the rallies. He therefore gives up less ground.
On the women’s tour, there are a lot of players who are stronger from the backhand than the forehand, including current number one Caroline Wozniacki and reigning French Open champion Li Na. Most players who are stronger from the backhand use two hands on their stroke.
However, there are some players who use one-handed backhands but are still very strong from this side. Developing a strong backhand is now just as important as any other shot in the game. Tennis backhand exercises help in this regard.
Tennis Backhand Exercises: Fitness and Strengthening
Like all shots in tennis, the backhand requires physical strength, power and proper technique. These three things are all interrelated and interdependent.
Strength allows a player to develop a faster swing in order to hit with greater power. At the same time, the best strokes are generally the most effortless and efficient.
The proper technique achieves this but it is easier to learn if you have built up a base level of physical strength and power. The first set of tennis backhand exercises are done with this requirement in mind. These strength-building exercises are done in the gym using free weights, machines or resistance cords.
- Reverse fly – this is an exercise that can be done while lying prone on a bench or, for stronger people, while standing up. If you do this standing up, you should bend knees slightly and bend your torso forward while keeping the abdominal muscles tight for support. With a dumbbell in each hand, lift up and out to your side and back down.
- Wide grip seated row – this tennis backhand exercise makes use of a cable machine. Grip the bar near the ends and pull on it as you would on a regular seated row.
- Close grip push ups – these are push ups done with the hands close together.
- Inverted row – this exercise makes use of a low bar and is like a pull up except that your body is diagonal with your feet supported by the ground.
- Cable backhand exercise – this is a very specific tennis backhand exercise that makes use of a cable machine. You stand with your dominant side away from the machine and pull the cable as you twist your body as if hitting a backhand. You can use one hand or two hands depending on the type of backhand that you use.
- Wrist abduction and adduction – hold a dumbbell and move your wrist as if you were hammering a nail.
- Forearm pronation and supination – hold a dumbbell bar at one end. You can choose to put a light weight at the other end. With your arm bent at the elbow and your forearm horizontal, simply turn your forearm back and forth, pronating and supinating it. Do this exercise for both arms, not just your dominant arm.
- Grips or ball squeezes
Tennis Backhand Exercises: Lower Body Strengthening
Lower body exercises like squats, lunges and calf raises are also useful as tennis backhand exercises, though they are not specific for developing this stroke. As with the other basic shots in tennis, the legs are greatly involved in the stroke mechanics of the backhand.
After building strength, you can do plyometric exercises to help develop muscular power. Some of these exercises can be considered as tennis backhand exercises.
Sideward medicine ball throws – throw the medicine ball forward from your non-dominant side to simulate the motion of hitting a backhand.
- Box jumps – jump up upon a bench about foot high and back down. Do this repeatedly.
- Jumping squats – this is similar to a basic squat except that you jump up as high as possible. Be sure to absorb your weight properly as you land by bending your knees.
- Jumping lunges – perform a move similar to a basic lunge except that you leap forward instead of merely stepping forward.
- Four ring jumps – set four adjacent rings on four corners of an imaginary square on the ground. Jump from one ring to the next in a clockwise manner and then in a counter-clockwise manner.
Tennis Backhand Exercises for Flexibility
Aside from strengthening exercises, flexibility exercises are just as vital in developing a stronger backhand. The wrists, arms, shoulders and trunk should all be stretched properly. The trunk should be stretched with twists as well as bends.
Your body should get used to the proper coiling and uncoiling movement that is required on the backhand side. For many people, this is a less natural movement than the coiling and uncoiling on the forehand side. This is one reason why many players are weaker from this side.
Tennis Backhand Exercises on Footwork and Movement
Sometimes, the weakness on the backhand side is not due to bad stroke mechanics but rather poor movement over to that side. Footwork exercises can be done to improve this. A very simple drill is to do side skipping moves back and forth along the baseline.
You can do a shadow swing at each corner or you can hit a ball that is fed to you. To isolate the backhand, begin at the centre of the baseline and have your coach feed balls over at your backhand corner.
You move over to hit the ball and then recover back to the centre of the baseline after every hit. This means that you have to repeatedly move over to the backhand to hit every ball.
Tennis Backhand Exercises for Improving Backhand Technique
If technique is the problem you are better off planning a hitting session of tennis backhand exercises. Before you start this, it is advisable that you warm up properly first by doing a few minutes of backhand shadow swings.
Keep your feet moving and try to loosen up your muscles. Do arm circles and trunk twists as well.
Ball Feeding Tennis Backhand Exercises
The best of the tennis backhand exercises is also the simplest. You are simply fed the ball over and over to this side and you try to hit as many backhands as you can. Try to hit both cross court and down the line. Try to hit various trajectories and spins if you already know how or use this opportunity to learn and improve your technique in hitting the different types of spins on the backhand side.
Alternatively, you can simply rally the ball exclusively with your backhand. Your hitting partner should aim every shot to your backhand. Practice hitting down the line and cross court. One of the most important shots today on the pro tour is the backhand down the line off the cross court.
This is a difficult shot to hit because you are trying to go over the high part of the net and through a shorter distance. Try this shot as well because it can be very useful against a player who likes to run around his backhand.
Tennis Backhand Exercises for Mental Toughness
Frequently, the problem is not technical or physical but mental. Some players are simply not confident with their backhands as they are with their forehands. To get over this, train yourself to believe in your backhand.
Get your mind to visualize hitting clean, beautifully-struck backhand winners. See yourself hitting with great variety, precision and power. Imagine getting attacked on this side by an aggressive opponent as you come up with a passing shot.
With constant practice, you will find yourself gaining more and more confidence with this shot. You will then be on your way to developing a game that is truly solid from all angles and you will be that much more difficult to beat.
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