The stereotype of “throwing like a girl” comes from the fact that many females do not learn how to pronate their wrist and forearm to create the throwing motion necessary for passing a football, pitching a baseball or serving a tennis ball. Trying to incorporate this motion into a serve before you develop a correct throwing motion can be risky, leading to wrist, shoulder and elbow injuries. Practicing a few pronation drills will help you improve your serve and prevent injury.
Pronation is the outward turn of the forearm, wrist and hand at the end of a throw or serve, similar to giving someone a high-five. Put your palm by your ear with your thumb pointing at your shoulder, then raise your arm and turn your palm outward until your thumb points away from you and down and you see the back of your hand. Women can create this movement for sports as efficiently as men with the proper practice.
The first step in practicing the throwing motion, complete with pronation, is to practice throwing balls. Practice throwing balls into the service box to an imaginary opponent’s forehand and backhand. Stand in the singles and doubles positions, just as you would during a match. Start with the ball by your ear and your thumb pointing at your shoulder, then throw the ball upward, with your thumb finishing by pointing at the ground. Start at the service line to practice this motion more easily, reducing stress on your arm. Work your way back to the baseline as you get the hang of it.
Take an old racket or rackets and go into your backyard or other grassy area and practice throwing rackets with a Continental grip. Place your hand on the string bed and slide it down the grip to find a “shake hands” grip, or one that you would use to hold a hammer. Start with the racket on your shoulder and toss the racket, finishing with your thumb pointing toward the ground. Toss the racket upward -- gravity will bring it down. If you are wearing a wristwatch, you should be able to see the back of your hand and wrist and tell what time it is when you are done throwing. Practice tossing rackets from the baseline of a tennis court into the opposite service court if you won’t damage the court surface.
Stand in front of the fence close enough to touch the fence to the racket and hold your racket with a Continental grip. Put the racket on your shoulder, then straighten your arm without pronating, tapping the fence with the thin edge of the racket. After several tries, perform this motion with pronation, finishing by turning the racket outward and tapping the fence with the front of the racket. Start with the racket on your shoulder, toss a ball in the air as high as you can reach with your racket and try to catch the ball against the fence with the racket, trapping it against the fence and holding it there.
The tennis industry has been trying to dispel the myth of pronation providing power on serves for decades. Pronation does not provide power on a serve, but it lets your arm decelerate after the serve with less stress. If you don’t pronate, you won’t release all of the power you’ve generated with your legs, hips and trunks, but pronation itself contributes little power to the serve. Trying to get power relying on your arm and wrist, instead of your legs, hips and core, can lead to serious wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.