With Wimbledon now in full flow, there’s sure to be plenty of aces (and double faults) flying around the court. And why wouldn’t there be? The best way to win points in a tennis match, without exerting too much energy running around, is with the serve.
But is yours up to scratch? To have an effective serve, you don’t just need to be accurate and ferocious. You need to have perfected the whole motion required to twist your shoulders, transfer power from your legs and arms, and throw your whole body behind your swing. This takes practice, and the right kinds of exercises in the gym to develop those key muscles to aid your ace-hitting abilities.
We recommend trying these to help you get started.
Single Leg Squats
Starting from the ground up, your legs provide the basis for your serve. They anchor you to court, and transfer power up into your arm. You’ll need strong leg muscles to provide you with that drive forward and the extra push of your toes as your jump to hit the serve down and across the net.
You’ll also need good balance and stability in your hips, which is where the single leg squat comes in. With a bench or chair behind you, bend your knees slightly, and raise one leg off the floor. Then sit down into the usual squat position, working that single leg on the floor as your bum moves back and your knees bends further.
Remember not to let your knee extend over your toe, as with a normal squat, and keep your chest up. Perform a set of between 8-12 squats on a single leg, and then repeat on the opposite one.
To perfect that powerful explosion as you move from a bent over position with the ball in your hand to a stretched out body ready to strike, you’ll need to grab a medicine ball and practice those overhead slams.
With the ball at waist height, bring it up right over your head, stretching up as tall as possible, pulling your stomach in. Then in one powerful move, push down with your hands and slam the ball as hard as you can in front of you – so hard that your feet may even leave the floor.
Crouch down and retrieve the ball in a fluid motion, returning to the overhead position. Repeat for 3 sets of 12 repetitions, and increase the medicine ball weight if you’d like to work your arms more.
To work on that twisting motion that gives a serve its superior edge, you’ll need to keep that medicine ball and practice a movement that involves rotating your body and throwing to the side. This will develop your flexibility and the power you’ll want out on the court.
Stand next to a wall (or a partner) with your hips side on (perpendicular), so you’re facing down the length of it. Hold a medicine ball down to your hips, with your arms extended, and rotate your torso away from the wall. Now swing your hips – and your arms – around in a powerful motion, hurling the ball into the side of the wall.
Be sure to keep your back flat, and your chest up. Catch the ball quickly with your hands, and rotate back away again, ready to repeat. Complete 8-12 reps on one side, before turning around and repeating on the opposite one.
Finally, a lot of the skill, pressure and stability in a tennis serve comes from your shoulders, so you’ll need to make sure that yours are up to the task. That means strengthening them at every opportunity, and a great way to do this is to think about the letters Y, T, W and L.
They can each be done standing, or lying over a physioball. A ‘Y’, as with the YMCA, involves you raising your arms over your head and gliding your shoulder blades down and out, opening up your chest. For the ’T’, you’ll need to do a similar movement, crunching you shoulder blades back and raising your arms up out to the side.
The ‘W’ requires you to bend your elbows to 90 degrees, and then glide your shoulder blades backward and downwards, before partially extending your arms to form a W shape. And finally, for the ‘L’ shape, you should point your elbows at 90 degrees up to the ceiling, shrugging your shoulders and then extending your arms out in front of you.
Hold each movement for 5 seconds, in a set of three. You can then increase the intensity and effort by holding for longer, adding more reps, or using light hand-held weights.
Want to try out your new serving skills? All members can book a tennis court with us here at Hale Country Club & Spa.