Effortless Forehand POWER: Modern Forehand Leg Drive (Step 2)

by | Mar 23, 2019 | Technique | 0 comments

How can you generate effortless power on your forehand?

Well, try walking on your hands for a whole day.

It would feel hard and your body weight would start feeling super heavy pretty quickly right?

But you can stand and walk around on your feet all day.

Your forehand is exactly the same.

If you’re only using your arms to generate force to hit the ball, you’ll feel tight, you’ll get tired quickly, and your forehand won’t be effortless.

You need to learn how to use your stronger muscle, your legs, and hips correctly to start feeling that smooth, effortless feeling on your forehand.

And that’s what we’ll talk about today. Let’s go. 

Intro To Leg Drive

In the modern forehand, your kinetic chain starts from the ground up.

Your acceleration forward should start from a simultaneous leg drive and hip rotation forward.

The muscles you’ll be activating include your gastrocnemius, soleus, quadriceps, gluteals, and hip rotators to drive your lower body and hip rotation.

Now I know that’s almost impossible to remember on the court.

That’s why I made a free downloadable cheat sheet just for you. If you want to take this lesson onto the court, click the link below to get instant access.

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Now let’s take a closer look.

What exactly does your lower body do in your forehand?

Well, if all you’re hitting is slow, floating balls, I would tell you to load and explode forward.

But in reality, tennis is way more complex than that.

There’s only one universal truth.

The Role Of The Lower Body

Introducing The Conflict/Building Antagonist

The main thing you need to focus on is to ‘shift your body weight forward through the ball’.

You need a mild grip, either Eastern or Semi-Western at most and you need to step into a neutral stance.

Because you can use the forward momentum of your body to generate force.

This is by and large the best way to hit the ball.

Or is it?…

You’ve probably heard this coaching tip because it’s one of the first things a lot of coaches will teach you.

But what if I said it isn’t necessary and in fact it’s impossible to do at the highest level?

Afterall, how does Nadal blast winners virtually falling backward?

Well, here’s how one of the world’s leading experts in tennis biomechanics explains it.

According, Bruce Elliott, there are 2 main ways to teach tennis.

There’s the way I just explained, ‘neutral stance, Eastern grip, and shifting forward through the ball.’

But there’s also another, completely different way to hit the ball.

And it can all be explained on the clay courts of Spain.

The Case For Angular Momentum

Generally, the Spaniards teach tennis using what’s call the angular approach.

They emphasize generating power through immense body rotation.

Using an open stance and some version of the Semi-Western or Western grips, players are hitting without the forward weight shift of their body.

Instead, you’re usually pivoting off your back foot and internally rotating your shoulder hard.

Is there some unknown advantage to this?

And how can you even generate force just by spinning around?

Using An Example

Well, I got this excellent example from a science channel called Vsauce.

Imagine yourself spinning around and swinging a ball in your hand.

Now, this ball seems like it’s traveling in a circular path. Its momentum is circular right?…

No. The ball’s velocity at any given moment is straight. And you can see this by letting go of the ball.

It doesn’t curve away.

The ball only travels in this circular path because your hand is constantly resisting the ball’s momentum, changing the direction of its velocity.

And this is the same reason why if you’re driving in your car and you make a sharp turn, you feel like an invisible force is throwing you to the side.

If there was no seat belt or resistance blocking you, you would be in a straight forward line in whatever direction you driving

Why This Matters

So why does this matter?

Well, the only thing that matters is the amount of forward force your racquet head has when your strings make contact with the ball.

You can produce this force by moving forward with your entire body or you can simply spin around for racquet head speed.

If you let the racquet go on contact, it would travel straight forward.

In the modern game of tennis, especially at higher levels, the pros hit in some version of the open stance on most of their forehand shots.

Coincidence? I think NOT.

First, they don’t have the time to set up and shift through the ball

And second, because rotating lets players produce more power and topspin at the same time.

Which I will make a future video about. So make sure to subscribe.

Now, this spinning force starts from your hip rotation.

When you load, the unloading starts from the frictional force you create with the ground.

As you uncoil your hips, you’re essentially sliding your shoes against the ground. This creates a frictional force that rotates your entire body toward the ball.

Full Circle

Now, here’s a disclaimer. There’s a difference between dissecting biomechanics and what the pros do, and how you should develop your game.

Learning to shift your weight through the ball is great for developing a great foundation for your forehand. 

And this is something we use in our course Weak To Winning Forehands, but eventually, you need to evolve into using more body rotation as you advance your game.

Leg Drive

Now along with your hips, something incredible happens when you push against the Earth.

And according to Newton’s third law of motion, when you do this, the Earth will push you back with equal force.

This is known as ground reaction force.

And all this force will allow your hips to uncoil more explosively toward the ball.

How To (With Athletic Height)

There’s one critical thing you need to do with your legs to unlock your full kinetic chain from the ground up.

And according to Pat Dougherty, this key is also the missing link that separates the up and coming juniors or the club players from the pros.

And that is the athletic foundation.

Dougherty explains this concept with the Formula 1 race car.

The Formula-1 has specific qualities that make it faster than any other vehicle in a closed track.

The wide wheelbase, extremely low center of gravity, and strong frame allows it to make sharp turns at high speeds without rolling over.

The fastest cars have the tightest suspensions and the most powerful engines.

I guess showing Fast and Furious might not be the most accurate when it comes to explaining science – but you get the point!

In the case of unlocking this explosive power in your lower body on your forehand, there are 2 specific things you need to focus on.

First, your feet should be about 1.5 to 3 shoulder widths apart.

This will let you use more muscles to stay low without putting stress on your knees.

And second, you should be about 6 inches to 1 foot from your standing height.

Dougherty calls this the athletic height.

By staying low and moving on the balls of your feet, you’ll automatically be loaded to push the ground when you set up.

This mixture of a wide base and an athletic height will create the tight suspension of a race car in your lower body that you need to start exploding up through your shots.

Now there’s still one big problem. Even if you applied this.

You probably struggle to coordinate your upper body and lower body when you hit the ball.

And as a result, you lack power or feel tense on contact.

And that takes us to the next video – your body rotation…

If you want to take instructions straight out onto the court, download our free cheatsheet in the description.

Until next time, go out and train hard.

See you in the next lesson!