To hit a big serve in tennis, you must have perfect technique. This is something that you must practice constantly.
However, practicing the perfect serving technique should be complimented by strength and power training workouts in order to get your muscles and joints in better condition for hitting lots of hard serves.
This will help protect your body from injuries and make your motion more bio-mechanically efficient. Muscle strength is not enough to develop a powerful serve because strength is merely the ability or capacity to lift a certain weight.
In order to have a fast motion, the muscles have to be trained such that weights can be lifted quickly while still maintaining proper form.
This ability to lift a weight quickly is called power, which is the component of strength that is more useful for producing big serves.
A total tennis fitness program must therefore include tennis serve exercises that promote the development of muscular power.
The service motion in tennis involves almost all the major muscle groups from the ground up. The ideal motion makes use of a kinetic chain that is a series of motions starting from the feet up to the legs, hips, trunk, shoulders, arm, forearm, wrist and finally the racket, which is considered an extension of the hand.
Tennis Serve Exercises to Develop the Critical Muscle Groups
Tennis serve exercises should help in developing all the muscle groups along this kinetic chain. Starting from the top going down, the following are some valuable exercises for the serve.
Beginning with the wrists, exercises include grips, dumbbell wrist curls and pronations. A tennis ball or a stress ball can be used in the place of proper grips. Dumbbell curls should make use of just light weights and performed in 3 sets of 15 reps each.
Tennis Serve Exercises #1: Pronation and Supination Exercises
Pronation/supination exercises make use of a racket made heavier with a head cover or a dumbbell with a light weight attached at only one end. With your palm facing up, grab the handle of the racket or the free end of the dumbbell with the heavy end away from your thumb. Do pronation and supination movements back and forth.
Tennis Serve Exercises #2: Shoulder and Arm Exercises
Tennis serve exercises for the arm include bicep curls and tricep extensions for basic strength. There are many ways to perform the tricep extension but for the serve, it is best to do this with the elbow pointing upward as you extend and lift the dumbbell up in the air.
For the shoulder, overhead presses and lateral raises are done, while internal rotations and external rotations specifically target the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is one of the most vulnerable yet important shoulder muscle groups used in tennis.
For the chest, bench presses and push ups are the best exercises. Machine presses and cable pulls can be used as alternative exercises. Like other exercises, 3 sets of 15 reps are usually recommended.
Tennis Serve Exercises #3: Resistance Bands
Aside from free weights, strength can be increased by using machines, like the cable machine. Resistance bands are also useful and are recommended as alternatives to free weights. Working out with free weights can also be done on a stability ball instead of an ordinary bench.
The advantage of the stability ball is that it more actively engages the core muscles and develops balance. To really benefit from a workout program, it is said that you have to change up your routine every so often to keep your muscles from getting too comfortable with a particular exercise. If you allow this to happen, your progress will stagnate.
Tennis Serve Exercises #4: Throwing Exercises
After having worked out the upper body for strength, you can now do exercises for power. To add power, medicine ball throwing exercises are done. Overhead throws are best for mimicking the motion of the serve.
Side throws are also done and are helpful for developing powerful ground strokes aside from the serve. Use only a light medicine ball at first before moving to heavier balls as you gain more strength and power. Using a heavy ball right away will only lead to injury.
Tennis Serve Exercises #5: Core Strengthening for the Serve
There are actually no specific tennis serve exercises for the core muscle group which includes the abdominals, obliques and lower back because exercises for this area are useful for all tennis strokes including the serve.
These exercises include crunches, oblique crunches, standing medicine ball (or Russian) twists, front raises (or good mornings) and the Superman exercise for the lower back.
One particular core exercise for facilitating development of power is the plank exercise which develops balance and stability. To keep the kinetic chain smooth, the stabilizing muscles of the legs, hips and core should be engaged as well.
Tennis Serve Exercises #6: Lower Body Training
For the hips and legs, basic strength is built up by doing squats, calf raises and knee extensions. Basic squats can be alternated with machine leg presses, split squats and lunges. 3 sets of 12-15 reps are usually performed.
Afterward, to add power, squat jumps can be done. This tennis serve exercise is performed just like a squat but instead of simply straightening up to stand, you jump up high and land on bent knees, and then jump up again immediately. 3 sets of 8 reps are usually good for this exercise.
Once again, like the core exercises, these aren’t really specific for the serve. But since the serve is the one shot that always requires you to launch yourself upward these leg power exercises can be considered to be most useful for the serve.
Tennis Serve Exercise #7: Barbell Weight Lifting Exercises
When you are sufficiently fit and strong enough, you can add even more difficult tennis serve exercises to increase power. The power clean is a barbell power lifting exercise. Hold a barbell in front of you then bend at the knees as you lift the barbell upward to your chest, shifting your grip so that you support the bar upward.
The clean and press is just like the power clean but adds an overhead press of the bar after you bring it to your chest. The explosive upward lifting movement of both exercises makes great use of the legs as well as the arms. The abdominals should also be engaged throughout to provide stability. Proper form should be maintained despite the quickness of the movements in order to prevent injuries. 5 sets of 5 reps should be performed.
Tennis Serve Exercises #8: Flexibility
Tennis serve exercises should not just be all about strength and power but also about flexibility. Therefore, stretching exercises are also just as important. Do dynamic stretching exercises before lifting weights.
Specific stretches that benefit the serve include stretches for the wrists with wrist circles, the arms and shoulders with arm circles and the core muscles with trunk twists. For the lower back, toe touching exercises can be performed. The legs and calves should also be properly warmed up with high knee steps, high kicks, rear kicks and ankle raises.
Tennis Serve Exercises #9: Mental Visualization Exercises
Mental exercises with visualization techniques should also be done to improve the serve. There are some players who can serve very well in practice and obviously do all the right exercises for increasing the power of the serve. But once they get on the court, their technique falls apart. The serve, more than any other shot, is a confidence shot.
If you are confident, you can serve well and the rest of your game can follow. But if you aren’t confident, chances are that your serve will suffer and bring down the rest of your game along with it.
You must learn to love your serve. Visualize hitting the corners with great speed. See yourself hitting extremely heavily spinning serves that curve far away from your opponent or curve into his body and jam his return. If that is too unrealistic, then just keep imagining the best serves you hit in practice and see yourself hitting these serves time and time again in your matches.
Unlike all other shots in tennis, the serve is entirely all up to you. If you know deep inside that you have done all you can to make it as good as possible, you will be giving yourself the greatest chance to play to the best of your abilities.
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