How To Use The Ground Force For More Powerful Groundstrokes

Feb 19

You’ve probably heard the expression “using the ground” or perhaps “drawing power from the ground” to get more power in your strokes – but what does that exactly mean?

While you may intellectually understand the concept, you might not really know how that feels.

Here’s how a simple weighing scale can help you develop that feel and consequently develop more powerful strokes.

Why The Weighing Scale Works In Teaching You Ground Force

If you want to get power from the ground, you first must send some into it. It’s the action/reaction principle.

Just to clarify – the ground doesn’t send you power, of course.

It’s just that your muscles respond to contraction (while your knees are bending) and respond with force in the opposite direction when you’re extending your legs again.

generate power from ground in tennis

By “sending the force” downward – which you can see on the weighing scale – you can generate more upward force.

The trick is to find that proper impulse and feel because if you just “bend your knees”, you will probably stay in that position too long and the muscle then loses the elastic response.

For those wanting to go deeper into this topic, it’s about eccentric muscle contraction, followed by concentric muscle contraction. You can also research plyometrics and stretch shortening cycle for better understanding of this process.

So, keeping it simple, it’s important to know that our leg muscles have a certain elastic response – they act like a spring – but only if we time the downward movement and the upward movement (force) correctly.

The weighing scale helps you figure out first how to create the downward force.

In my experience, most adults struggle with this as they cannot spike the scale past their total weight or they just barely cross it.

If you are unable to create downward force, then the muscle cannot respond with the upward force; hence, you are not efficient in creating power in your body and consequently your strokes.

By learning to create downward force which you can now see in the weighing scale, you will also receive upward force from your muscle once you time the downward and upward movement correctly.

How do you know when it’s correct? You feel it. 😉

You simply feel that, with a certain timing and certain level of tension in your muscles, you get the most upward force. With repetition, you can groove it in your muscle memory and eventually use it unconsciously.

What you may find is that you can exert more downward force with one leg than with the other one.

This can also apply to strokes – you may see that in the neutral backhand stance you can create more downward force with your front foot than doing it with the other front foot on the forehand.

What is often also true is that the stroke that gives you problems is the one where you create less downward force.

Once you improve this critical – but so often overlooked – part of your stroke, your overall stroke will improve without any technical corrections of your arms.

Let me know in the comments if this applies to you once you test your forehand and backhand in neutral and open stance on the weighing scale.

This principle works for groundstrokes in closed/neutral and open stance (forehand and backhand) and can also be applied to serves.

When it comes to volleys, we use our feet more to stabilize and calm down the body movement. While there is still an element of this principle present, it’s a very small one, so I don’t really recommend using the scale for working on your volleys.

How To Practice

If you’re practicing at home, you can stay in each stance (neutral or open) for about a minute or two and keep swinging the racquet while focusing on “spiking” the scale. The digital scale also works well as it shows you the maximum force/weight you exerted.

Then switch the stance and repeat for a minute or two.

If you do this regularly every day, you should feel a significant change in a week’s time on how to “draw more power” from the ground and how to channel it through your body to the racquet and the ball.

arms and legs in tennis

Focus on leg work and keep your arms more passive

If you’re using the scale on the court, do about 10 repetitions/swings on the scale and then hit 10 balls while trying to replicate the same process. Repeat 3-5 times.

Quick tip: Make your arms more passive and don’t hit the ball hard with your arm.

Let the lower part of your body work more and make the upper part of your body more relaxed.

Focus on pushing into the ground and timing upward movement correctly (you’ll feel when it’s right) and see how fast the ball will fly off your racquet without doing much with your arms.

While you may experience an immediate effect even in a matter of minutes, stick with these exercises for a while so that they become more automatic and unconscious.

Leave a Comment:

(46) comments

Oscar February 19, 2015

Tomaz, you are something else. How do you come up with these ideas. To me it makes perfect sense but unlike you I’m not able to put it in words or describe them. Thank you. Young players definitely need to look into this concept.

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    Tomaz February 19, 2015

    Thanks, Oscar! It takes a lot of frustration to start looking for something more practical… Then trial and error. 😉

    Reply
    Chris February 19, 2015

    Thank you Tomaz for all your works!! Much appreciated. -Chris

    Reply
Bakthan Savarirayan February 19, 2015

Excellent concept that was never explained before. I plan to put this in practice right away.
Thanks

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Anthony February 19, 2015

Thanks Tomaz. Your teachings are very effective. I play differently now with much ease.

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Larry Praissman February 19, 2015

A coincident- I have been working on this exact thing, but without the scale, for last few months. I am successful in practice and in the beginning of matches but when the scoreboard get close I lose it and start stiff arming. Once that happens it is tough to get back to the groove because you can’t force it, it has to happen naturally. But this is tennis, no? Even the top pros feel the scoreboard pressure sometimes

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    Tomaz February 19, 2015

    Hi Larry,

    You you “lose” the grounding feel because you want to control the shots more and you do that (unconsciously) by using your arm more. You may push the ball more or steer it and stop accelerating the arm with the body.

    The end result though is that you may feel more control you actually don’t have any more control – in fact your timing gets worse, you don’t hit the ball cleanly any more and that makes you hold the racquet even tighter and exert even more “control”.

    Yes, the pros feel the pressure too and we can detect some slight “pushing” of the ball, or being much more cautious – but that rarely helps them win if their opponent is not experiencing the same problems.

    The key is to retain your approach to hitting balls with the whole body from the ground up – but just give yourself more margin for error.

    Play higher, more away from the net and with more topspin. That way you will retain good rhythm, good power and retain good level of play.

    Reply
saull February 19, 2015

Wonderfull !
As always 🙂

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jo robinson February 19, 2015

Fantastic instruction! Your website name “Feel tennis” is perfect for the way you teach and as a coach myself I have enjoyed all your tips because they are simple and work!

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Vaughan Ebrahim February 19, 2015

Tomas,
More and more tennis coaches are starting to understand how the body works and how it must be the basis of teaching their students how to play, but you take it a step further by continually showing us how to help others feel “experience” authentic movement.

Your use of the scales to help experience ground reaction force shows your ability to find different and effective ways to help others.

Your video of Federer with the racket masked out to show his hand action is another example of your genius in highlighting simple truths.

As a coach who understands a little of how the body works I use a lot of the methods from your website to bring my understanding to life in the players I coach.
Thank you and please don’t stop now.
Vaughan Ebrahim
LTA Level 4 coach
GI Cert. Applied Functional Science

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    Tomaz February 19, 2015

    Much appreciated, Vaughan. Stay in touch and please share your experiences and ideas in your future comments.

    Reply
macus February 19, 2015

gold dust as per Tomaz

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Marinho February 19, 2015

Hi Tomaz,
Just a question:
Please what is the caméra that are you using for the video?
Thank you.
Eddy

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    Tomaz February 19, 2015

    Hey Eddy,

    It’s the Panasonic HDC-SD900 model.

    Reply
ken February 19, 2015

What are the pound range you can expect. I heard that Nastase used to exert around 400 pounds with his right leg on his one handed backhand. I don’t know if that is folklore or truth. One of the reasons I am asking the question is I am worried if the bathroom scale will handle the weight and also if this could brake a normal scale.
Good idea on the protocol. thanks.

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    Tomaz February 19, 2015

    Interesting question, Ken. I push the scale typically to around 120-130 kg and I weigh around 80 kg.

    400 pounds is close to 200 kg but it might be possible if your contact with the ground is short.

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Bob Cooper February 19, 2015

Great stuff, Tomaz! Also, for anyone who hasn’t tried it, I consider your Serve Unlocked course the best serve instruction I have ever seen, and I’ve been playing Tennis for over 30 years.

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    Tomaz February 19, 2015

    Thanks, Ken. Will update the serve course this year with some fresh information for 2.0 version.

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John McGinty February 19, 2015

Thank you again for your insight and generosity as always. I’ve been concentrating lately on my feet with a push off but not with the downward force as you have described. I’ve noticed however that body pivot really starts with the feet pivoting as well. It helps me to get my weight going forward early. Perhaps that is part of the weighted push off you speaking of here? Also that “neutral arm” you recommend is so important. Wished I could do it consistently.

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vic d'obrenan February 19, 2015

I can hardly wait to try this. Thank you very much. I will let you know how I do.

Cheers

Vic

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Howard Elliot February 19, 2015

Tomaz, you’re simply the best at making so many tennis things understandable to amateur tennis players like myself. However I have one major (I don’t think I’m alone in this) problem I simply cannot solve.

What might I do to keep me from looking up too early before completing a stoke.
All the best and continued health and success, you deserve it.

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    Tomaz February 20, 2015

    Thanks for the kind feedback, Howard.

    What worked for me personally when it comes to keeping the eye on the ball and not looking up is noticing the difference in the quality of my shot.

    If I keep my eyes down, I hit the ball better, meaning with more power and control whereas if I look up I hit the ball poorly and it lands short.

    That’s what convinced me to stay longer down with my eyes even though my mind kept nagging me about “making sure that I see where I hit” or “making sure I see opponent early enough and where he is moving”, etc.

    The mind’s “chatter” won’t go away for quite a while but you need to overcome it by noticing the benefits of seeing the ball well.

    Reply
      Ken February 22, 2015

      Thank you again Tomaz, great idea – even better that it is an Ikea scale; not much cost there…

      Super idea for teaching folks how to ‘get power from ground’…!

      I’ve also been working hard both on ‘watching the ball’ longer (to quiet the body/allow racquet head to come through swing path) and have found this to be an effective tool (the eye coach):

      http://howtoplaytennis.net/learnmore/

      Of course, you cannot ‘see’ the ball – so some of what is sold here is a little misleading; but relaxing to let arm come through without looking up early + scale for reinforcing ground = a strong foundational stroke concept.

      Reply
        Tomaz February 23, 2015

        Yes, it’s important to keep looking where the ball is (and was) even if you don’t consciously see it. Your eyes and brain may still register the ball there and help you with timing.

        Reply
Marcelo February 19, 2015

Thank you again, Tomaz!! This article tests, the feel with the machine (the scale), because in general, we know this tennis concept but we can´t substantiate it.
Another benefit of bend the knees is to download the center of gravity, it is provide more control.
Always is a pleasure to read and watch your articles.
Best regards.

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Christina February 19, 2015

This is genius. I’m going to go try this right now! I do have one question though. My pro is telling me to have relaxed arm or grip when i’m hitting so it’s less “arm-y” of a shot rather than pushing forward (he actually gesticulates it, he doesn’t really use words). I think my FH can sometimes look more like a shallow arc of a swing as opposed to the racket pushing out forward.

Anyway is this a related concept? Ultimately if I find myself trying to use too much arm on a shot, isn’t it because I’m not using my legs? Just wondering!

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    Tomaz February 20, 2015

    Yes, Christina, it is related. If our legs don’t transfer the energy up through the body, the arm has to do all the work. And you can feel it as it’s not effortless.

    See the last tip I shared in this post and the last image of Michael where I made it more visual about focusing more on active legs and keeping arms more passive.

    The arms also come into play when you want to control too much so there’s also a mental side to look into…

    Reply
Greg February 19, 2015

Another gem Tomaz, thx. The timing is perfect as I/m working on pushing more off of the ground when hitting my 1hbh. Beat my scale by a wide wide margin!

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Aine February 19, 2015

Hello again Tomaz:

Wonderful tip[..
All my pro keeps repeating is “off the back leg”
Now I have something sop much better to focus on..

Pragmatic,precise Tomaz…does it again..

Thanks,
Aine

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siby February 20, 2015

HY ,

Wanted to make sure same thing on backhand..mine is two handed so closed stance only with right foot. ( I am righty)

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    Tomaz February 20, 2015

    Yes, same principle on the backhand! Closed or open stance, just push off with the loading foot and see what happens on the scale.

    Reply
Ali February 21, 2015

Hi Tomaz
Great point! I also like the point you made in reply to one of the comments that if you don’t load the leg, stiffness shows in the arm.
Which leg do you load in semi-open FH? Could you also do video to demonstrate the same concept for 1 handed BH? Many thanks!

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    Tomaz February 21, 2015

    Hi Ali,

    I am not sure what you mean by semi-open FH – like feet at 45 degrees? In that stance it can be each leg, depending on the situation. Do what’s more comfortable.

    The one-handed backhand is exactly the same, so is two-handed. Perhaps you’d like to see it just to be “certain”? 😉

    Just look at any video of Federer or Wawrinka and you’ll see how they rise up through the shot.

    You’ve seen the shot many times but perhaps you can now pay more attention to the pushing foot…

    Reply
      Ali February 23, 2015

      Thank you Tomaz. Yes, I meant hitting a FH in semi-open stance – exactly the way you described it. I had heard before that on FH, you always load the back foot, but what you say makes a lot more sense; which leg to load really depends on the situation. Also, i always get a better feel when I have a mechanistic understanding; so thanks a lot for the link to Stretch-Shorten Cycle biomechanics! As always, great video and discussion!!

      Reply
Dilip February 23, 2015

Thank you, for the great tip Tomaz as you always do. I hit a lot (actually too much) with open stance and usually “spike the scale” (as you say) with the back foot pretty nice, no problem there. Lately I got feedback to hit more (if time permits) with a close stance, and when I am in close stance I am still pushing the ground much more with my back leg and not with my front foot (as you say). Any tips for close stance on how to push down with front leg, ending with front leg straight (in my case the front leg is still bent at end, as I am pushing down with my back leg)? Thank you.

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    Tomaz February 23, 2015

    Hi Dilip,

    Try racking back and forth and pushing off front foot when the weight gets on it. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve and those will be in the Effortless Forehand course.

    Reply
Doug February 24, 2015

Tomaz,

I have tried this and it adds so much effortless power I can’t believe it! Thanks for a great tip!

On the serve for a right hander, should I push off my left foot to achieve a similar result?

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    Tomaz February 25, 2015

    Thanks for letting us know, Doug. On the serve, you do push of from both legs but yes, the left foot (for righthander) works more.

    Reply
Theo February 25, 2015

Hi thank you so much for this video! It is indeed genius!

Just one question: Should I be applying force on the scale (and ground) with my heel or forefoot? Or is the weight distributed evenly throughout my foot?

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    Tomaz February 25, 2015

    Good question, Theo. The weight goes first through the heel and then onto the balls of the feet. That’s how we naturally walk too.

    Reply
Rei March 11, 2015

Hi Tomaz,
I have read many of your tips and your ability to approach a tennis technique issue with such an easy and intuitive way strikes me again and again. You are one of the kind!.
However, I have not seen anything from you talking about backhands and more specifically about two handed backhands. I am a 45 years old player that started to play a few years ago so skills that are only picked if you start really young are out of the scope for me. I have observed that most players that go to the same courts I play every weekend struggle with their backhands. I myself could say that I can sustain a forehand exchange with crosscourt and down-the-line strokes but in most cases I am unable to return the third consecutive shot to my backhand side if I hit a 2hbh with topspin. Such weakness makes me back down to a backhand slice when the proper shot should be a more aggressive 2hbh shot (in my case because I hit a 2hbh). Every time I step in the court I focus more than anything else in finding a rhythm and feeling the strokes but I struggle so much on my backhand side. If in the future you could tell how you go about teaching the backhand to your students or anything related it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your great work!!

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    Tomaz March 13, 2015

    Thank you, Rei. I’ll share more about the backhand but in the mean time just check whether you see the ball as well on the backhand side as you do on the forehand side…

    Reply
      Rei March 17, 2015

      Hi Tomaz,
      Thanks for your hint. My sight could certainly be an issue as I have notice on other circumstances of daily life that it is not what it used to be.

      Reply
Arthur Quinby April 24, 2015

WORKING WITH THE SCALE! IT’S GOOD. I CAN FEEL THE DIFFERENCE. CAN I USE IT FOR MY SERVE AND VOLLEYS?

THANKS

Q

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    Tomaz April 24, 2015

    You can push off well for the serve, Q, but not that much effect on the volleys except perhaps helping you become more aware of the balance.

    Reply
wawrinka March 11, 2016

You are an absolute genius. I don’t know how u keep coming up with these VERY intuitive ways of explaining concepts from footwork, coiling uncoiling, to simultaneously busting myths or, fixing misinterpretations we as students have, whether our fault or our instructors. I love your approach of cutting through all the bullshit, and getting right to the deep yet intuitive concepts.

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