The serve is a key offensive weapon in a tennis match. Professional players practice long hours throwing, bending and driving into their serves. They experiment with grips and work on spins. They aim to perfect each step – ball toss, launch, wrist snap – to deliver the perfect serve. There are also different serving techniques, which include the flat, slice, spin and kick serves. Among the dozens of serving exercises are drills to build strength, speed, accuracy and balance.
Use a lumber axe or a sledgehammer to build strength and speed in your upper back, shoulder girdle and chest. Get a sledgehammer that equates to about the handle length and mass of your racket. Find a knee-high surface, such as a tractor tire or log, to strike. Stand before the striking surface. Draw the sledgehammer over your head. Allow the hammer’s weight to pull your arms back so you feel the stretch in your upper back and shoulders. Swing it down on the striking surface with as much force as you can muster. Use your entire body to achieve a whip-like motion. The strike should trigger a stretch reflex contraction. Lying on the ground and tossing a medicine ball to a partner will also strengthen your overhead motion for a serve.
Replace your tennis racket with a badminton racket to practice the sequential movement of a serve. Accelerate the speed of your serve with the lighter racket. Perform 10 repetitions of a shadow serve with the badminton racket. Aim to achieve maximum speed. Switch to a tennis racket and do a second set of 10 repetitions. Alternate the racket with each additional set until you’ve completed 10 sets and a total of 100 repetitions.
Rotator Cuff Strengthening
Although the rotator cuff, or the muscles located between your shoulder blades and the head of your upper arm, is used in all tennis strokes, it works at a particularly high intensity throughout the serve. Exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff can prevent shoulder instability, which will negatively impact your serve. Lie flat on your side on a table or platform. Place a small cushion or pillow between your gesture arm and your body. Keep the elbow of your gesture arm bent and pinned to your side. Raise and rotate your arm so it forms a 90-degree angle and points to the ceiling. Lower and repeat the rotation. Remove the cushion and lie flat and face down on the table. Allow your arm to hang to the floor. Stick your thumb out and raise your arm until it is parallel to the platform. Lower your arm slowly and repeat the exercise.
Perform a toss-and-release drill. Focus on using your fingertips to generate fluid motion. Hold the ball in your throwing hand. Visualize your fingers as a water fountain that will gush gently at the height of your arm extension. Lift your throwing arm. Release the ball when your arm is fully extended. Avoid curling your hands or fingers when you toss the ball. If you curl your fingers, the toss may end up behind your head. Keep your gaze locked on the ball and head up.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.