What’s the secret to speed for the tennis forehand? Seriously…how do pros swing so dang fast?
You may be surprised to find out that it isn’t how fast, strong, or tall you are.
Instead, you can use physics to get tons of speed in your forehand.
It comes down to two principles:
1. Centripetal Force
2. Parametric Acceleration
I know what you’re thinking, “Ugh. This seems really complicated.”
But don’t worry, I will break it down in a super easy way that anyone can do.
Watch the video now to learn how to “snap the cap” and start ripping it past your partners today!
What's Covered: How to lag and release the racket to get max speed.
Tennis Pros Featured:
Instructors Featured: Clay Ballard
Video Duration: 14:21
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Hi guys, I’ve got a quick question for you today.
Do you feel like you tend to push the racket through contact? Do you feel like you’re not getting that explosive power with all the pros getting?
Well if that sounds like you, in today’s video I have an awesome drill for you that you’re probably not going to hear anywhere else.
That’s because most pros simply don’t understand how centripetal force works to release the racket.
Sounds complicated, it’s super easy, and we’re going to go over that in the “Snap the Cap” video so we can start ripping the ball.
Let’s go ahead and get started.
All right, so I recently got a question from a member of the website, and we were talking about how to use the bottom two fingers to create leverage in the stroke.
I go over this in our system, we really talk about how the lever happens from the bottom of the racket and that’s what allows the racket to snap on through.
The member had a question, said, “You know, I think you’re underplaying the role of the index finger.”
With the proper grip, we have our index finger kind of hooked out on the racket and the common idea there, because we have our fingers spread out is to think that as we’re going to get this racket to kick up through contact and get topspin on the ball, do the windshield wiper release, that we really need to use this index finger.
That’s actually going to slow down your potential speed.
If we use that index finger to turn the racket what we’re doing is we’re creating a lever, a shorter lever, up here on the handle instead of using the full distance of the lever at the boom of the racket.
Now in today’s video I’m going to talk about how you can really get this racket to snap through using this lever and why that makes sense.
So first let me explain to you how this should happen properly, and then we’re actually going to break that down from a science standpoint, and talk about how that actually creates more speed.
So first let’s go over the proper motion.
So let’s imagine I’m going to hit a forehand to the other side of the court here, and as I’m coming forward, as my body starts to rotate open, my racket is naturally going to lag behind, and I created an angle here with my wrist.
You can see the butt cap is facing forward, and I haven’t released this at all. So if you look at my wrist, you’ll see that there’s what’s called extension.
If I have my wrist flat, or neutral like this, if I bend my knuckles back toward my elbow, that would be extension, if I bend my palm toward my elbow, that would be what’s called flexion.
So when we’re loading the racket up, as we’re getting into the lag position, we’re basically in full extension and that racket is lagging back behind.
Now when we release this racket, two things are going to be happening. Number one, we’re going to be turning this butt cap back in towards center.
That’s actually going to allow the racket to release forward as we’re coming into the release.
So the racket will be fully releasing here after contact, but I’m actually taking this butt cap and my pinkie finger, and turning that racket in toward the center of my body and turning the racket down at the same time, to release the racket.
So those two things are happening. I’m turning the racket in and down, so where you’re going to see the pressure is, I went ahead and took my grip and I painted it a little black piece where my pinkie is going to be.
So I went ahead and took my forehand grip here, and you’ll see that my pinkie is going to be resting at the bottom where the racket tapers.
Now that taper is there for a reason, that gives your racket, or your pinkie a kind of a hook to leverage on as you’re releasing that racket, and that racket is now going to snap up and through as you release the racket.
That’s why you’ll see all the pros going from a lag position, wrist is fully loaded, to a release position, just after contact where the racket is completely neutral.
Now you’ll see my wrist is nice and flat, and the racket has kicked from a downward position to an upward position, as it releases to allow it to get topspin.
To kind of recap on this, as we’re getting into lag, I start to rotate my body forward, my racket is lagging behind, my wrist is extended back, my knuckles are extended back toward my elbow.
Then from there, my racket is going to kick up and forward as I come all the way through the release as I go past contact that’s where my racket’s going to be fully released, my wrist is flat, and you’ll see the butt cap of the racket is now turned back in to toward the center of my body.
So let’s go ahead and talk about why this matters, how this creates speed, and why every single pro that you see on the ATP tour is doing exactly this when they’re hitting the forehand.
All right, so from a scientific standpoint there’s two things that are going to happen here.
One of these is centripetal force, and the other one is what’s called parametric acceleration.
Now those are complicated terms, scientific terms, we really don’t need to know what those mean, I’m going to break this down very, very simple for you.
But you’ll see right away, you can even try these things out, you’ll see how this helps to create massive amounts of acceleration.
When we’re doing this, if you’re pushing through, I’m not talking about adding like five or six miles an hour to your forehand, I’m talking about adding 20 or 30 miles an hour to your forehand.
This is what really creates a lot of the speed in the stroke, and this is what allows that racket to pop through contact.
Again, like I said, you’re going to see every single pro on tour doing this when you break down their swing in slow motion.
We’ll go over that in our drills later on here in just a second.
So first let’s talk about centripetal force. Basically all that means is, we’re going to use this in an example of rotation.
I have a tennis ball stuck in an old sock here, and as I’m rotating this around, my hand’s going to be making a circle, and the ball, the tennis ball at the end of the sock, is going to be making a larger circle.
Now if I want to turn my hand back in towards center, so let’s imagine in this circle there’s a center of the circle that my hand’s rotating around, and that’s also the center of this bigger circle.
If I wanted to accelerate this, I could turn my hand back in towards center, toward the center of that circle, and that’s going to allow this to speed up.
So I’m going from a bigger circle with my hand, to a smaller circle and I’m going back in towards center.
So you’ll see my hand actually slows downs, it decelerates, and moves back in towards the center of that circle, that tightens everything up and that what’s called centripetal force.
So by my hand moving back in toward the center, it actually makes everything on the outside accelerate outward.
So when something turns in towards center, whatever it’s attached to it, it’s going to accelerate with centrifugal force, which means going away from it.
So really, really complicated, but basically just realize that if I’m making a circle here, if I tighten up my hand, and decelerate my hand, and make a smaller circle, this tennis ball is going to accelerate as I’m doing that.
So I’m going from a big circle with my hand, to a small tighter circle, because I’m moving toward center and that really creates a lot of whipping coming through here.
Now another example that may be even more intuitive, is let’s imagine that we’re driving a car.
As I’m driving my car, I have about a 20-foot rope behind me, and there’s a skateboarder that’s skating behind me.
So I’m driving about 60 miles an hour down the road, and making a big gentle turn.
At the same time that skateboarder is going to be trailing right behind me, also going 60 miles an hour.
Now imagine for a second, he’s already moving pretty fast, so I’d say he’s pretty nervous at this point, but if we took a really sharp turn, so let’s imagine the road made a really sharp turn to the left, and I kept going 60 miles an hour, and I just cranked the steering wheel.
Well two things are going to happen, well A, I’m going to be thrown to the side of the car because of all my momentum slinging me outwards.
Then that skateboarder that’s at the back, that’s at the end of that 20-foot rope, if I keep that 60 miles an hour up and I turn really, really hard, now he’s going to be sling-shot way out.
That’s what’s called parametric acceleration.
As I turn into a tighter curve, again, back towards center, imagine there’s a point there and I’m turning back toward it, that skateboarder is going to be flung way out, and he’s going to accelerate way more than 60 miles an hour, and really, really speed up.
Now the same thing happens in your tennis stroke.
I’m going to show you exactly how that works again, and we’ll go ahead and do some drills so that you can take advantage of that acceleration, and really get a lot of pop, really start ripping those forehands just like your favorite players.
All right, so now let’s actually put this to use, let’s speed up that forehand.
So we’re going to use that exact same example as the car, except now we’re going to use this in relationship to the tennis racket.
So I’m going to go ahead and take my forehand grip, and as I’m starting to swing forward, the racket, again as I mentioned in some lag videos, lag and snap videos in the training series, the system we have on the website, the TNT system.
As we start to rotate our body forward, the momentum of the racket is going to naturally lag behind. You can see here how my wrist is loaded again, just like we talked about.
Let’s imagine that the butt cap, the black piece of your racket here at the tip is now that car, and now at the very tip of my racket, that’s your skateboarder that was trailing behind your car.
As I’m starting to swing forward on this very gentle arc, that skateboarder’s going to be trailing right along behind me.
My racket’s moving 60 miles an hour, the butt cap’s moving 60 miles an hour, it’s actually going to be a lot slower than that, but the skateboarder’s also going to be moving 60 miles an hour.
Now as I’m getting ready to release this racket, and the release happens after contact, the release is starting through contact, and finishing after contact about right here.
This is when my wrist is going to be completely neutral. Notice what happens with the butt cap with all the top pros.
What they’re going to be doing is actually taking that pinkie, and that little black piece that I drew on the handle there, and they’re going to be turning it down toward the ground, so that’s going to get the upward motion, as I’m lagging the racket tip is going to be below the hand.
As I’m releasing it’s going to be above the handle, so the racket tip is actually kicking up this direction to get topspin, and that happens by me taking that butt cap and turning it down toward the ground.
At the same time I’m turning it back toward the center of my body to get a lot of snap through there.
So I can imagine that I’m taking this butt cap and just turning it down this way. If you took a grip on the end of this, and just pulled it back towards center, you can see how that would really accelerate the racket on through there.
Now if I’m just pushing the racket through, you won’t see any pros doing this, and just pushing the racket through like this, well I’m not really getting any lag, I’m not getting any snap, I’m just forcing the ball through there.
A lot of times when people have a really tight grip with their index finger and thumb, they’re just pushing that ball through, or the racket through.
You can see this doesn’t create a lot of speed, whereas if I get that racket butt cap to really snap back toward the center of my body, just like the car, just like the skateboarder.
That’s going to allow that to kick on out, that skateboarder shoots on out and your racket tip is now going to be accelerating way faster than you could ever move your hand.
So if we do this in full speed, you can see how that really whips it through there and that’s what you’re going to see with all your top players.
Now let’s break this down in some actual drills so that you can do this in a shot, you can practice this in your living room to really ingrain this motion.
All right, so the first thing we’re going to do here, as we load up I’m going to go ahead, you can use whichever type of stance you want here, I’m going to use open stance.
As we start forward, we have this lag position.
Again, knuckles back toward the elbow, tip of the racket below the handle of the racket, that’s my lag position.
As I’m doing this, my body is rotating open, remember that’s where it originally caused the racket to lag is my hand started to move forward.
Now as I’m getting ready to release this, I’m going to pair this position up full lag, with the position of full release.
So right after contact you’ll see from my elbow to my arm, to the tip of the racket is going to be almost a straight line.
That racket is releasing this way. You’re going to see this in all the top pros again as I mentioned.
Now the wrist is going to be flat, and my racket is going to be angled forward kind of up and to the right as I would up on the windshield wiper motion.
So if we can imagine here’s the bottom of the windshield, I’m kind of up toward the driver’s side of the windshield if I’m looking into a car right here.
My racket is going to be angled kind of toward the back right corner of the court, but the main thing there is to realize that I’ve gotten rid of all that angle by turning the butt cap from here back in toward the center of my body.
As I come to a complete full finish, now I’m going to allow the racket, let’s go this way, I’m going to allow the racket to come all the way around.
It’s going to be by my, my hand’s going to be by my left shoulder, just below my left shoulder.
The strings are going to be slightly down towards the ground, and you’ll see how my wrist is nice and flat.
Now I think a lot of times when I mention this turning back in, people mistake that with pushing back in.
So when I push the racket back in, that’s taking my index finger and thumb again, and trying to push this forward.
We never push the racket forward like this, that’s me pushing on this part of the racket, and you’ll see that my wrist starts to bow like that, and I get flexion.
I don’t want to get flexion, that’s a flipping of the racket, that’s not really very fast and that’s changing the angle of racket face very, very drastically.
So that can really lead to some errant shots, and I think a lot of times when I talk about snapping the racket, that’s what people visualize and immediately they think, well that’s going to be inconsistent.
But when we turn the butt cap back in towards center, notice what the racket strings do.
As I start to lag, and I come through contact, my strings are facing in the general direction of where I want to hit.
As this racket turns on through, the strings are always facing in that direction all the way across and into my finish.
So you see here, they’re still facing in the general direction of where I’m going to go.
If I turn perpendicular to the camera, notice how that creates a straight motion like that, just as if I was doing, if I was sitting in another video that we did in the system.
I’m sitting in the bay of a car, here’s the windshield in front of me, and I would be coming up and tracing that entire windshield so the racket face is actually very, very consistent.
So practice these three positions, lag, full release, on around to the finish.
Do that about 100 repetitions and pause and make sure you have these correct.
Once you’ve done that correct, then I want to go ahead and do the full motion, I want you to focus on really turning that butt cap in toward the center of your body, and you can see how that’s going to snap the racket on through there.
Once you’ve done 100 of those, now take it to the court.
Start out really slow, have all your focus on this taper at the bottom of the racket, and turning that down in the end as you’re coming through contact.
Your speed, your spin is going to go off the charts.
You’re going to start ripping some shots, getting a lot of pace on them, and they’re going to be diving down in the court because that racket is going to be kicking up and forward so much harder than what you guys are used to if you’ve been trying to push the racket through.
So work on those drills, keep up the hard work, good luck to you guys, and I’ll see you all soon.