Many tennis players have risen and fallen over the years by the sheer might of their backhand. The backhand plays a crucial role in a player’s transition into a complete package with an all court game. However, even the greatest of them all, have lost matches because of their backhand stroke.
While this may come down to how good your opponent is at exploiting your weaknesses, there are some ways to strengthen your backhand and add another piece to your armor. Practicing the exercises outlined in this piece, over time, will result in the player possessing an improved shot.
The backhand struggle is real
The backhand shot is usually a stroke that is practiced much less than the forehand, and as a result becomes a weakness. Professional tennis players make sure to practice tennis backhand exercises to work on their weaknesses so they can amplify their strengths. A good forehand shot is not complete if it isn’t backed by a solid backhand stroke.
At the club level, a lot of players have great forehands but close to non-existent backhands. There are players who only know how to slice their backhands because they feel that the forehand is more natural and free flowing.
What can you do about it?
Like all shots in tennis, the backhand requires physical strength, power, and proper technique. These three things are all interrelated and interdependent. Strength allows a player to develop a faster swing in order to hit with greater power. At the same time, the best strokes are generally the most effortless and efficient.
The proper technique achieves this but it is easier to learn if you have built up a base level of physical strength and power. These strength-building exercises are done in the gym using free weights, machines or resistance cords.
#1 – Reverse Fly
Lie prone (stomach down) on a bench, and allow your arms to hang down on each side. The dumbbells should be positioned on the floor near your hands so that all you have to do is reach down and grab them to begin the exercise. Keeping your elbows only slightly bent, lift the dumbbells up and out to the side until they’re roughly level with the bench. Hold for a quick second and smoothly lower them back down.
This exercise will target your rear deltoids, a key muscle group responsible for putting the power behind your backhand stroke. If you do this standing up, you should bend knees slightly and bend your torso forward while keeping the abdominal muscles tight for support.
#2 – Seated Row
This exercise targets nearly all of the muscles in your back, with a particular emphasis on your rhomboids (the muscles that extend from your spine to your shoulder blades), latissimus dorsi (the large muscles that surround your ribcage on the back side) and your rear deltoid (shoulder) muscles, all of which need to be at peak strength to execute a heavy backhand. Be sure to grip the bar near the very ends, shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and pull the bar toward you, with your hands staying level with your chest area.
#3 – Close grip push ups
These are modified forms of traditional push ups done with the hands close together. It’s worth trying to form a “diamond” with the thumb and forefinger of each hand, for the best intended results.
#4 – Inverted row
This exercise makes use of a low bar and is like a pull up except that your body is diagonal with your feet supported by the ground. This helps to build up resistance in the muscles and reduces the risk of injury.
An inverted row works all of your pull muscles: your back, biceps, traps, and all the stabilizer muscles in between. If you’ve been doing just pushups and bench presses, you need to start doing equal work with your back to stay in balance and away from injury.
#5 – Grip squeeze
Squeeze a hand gripper and hold it in a closed position for as long as you can. Not only is this exercise great for boosting your general grip strength, but it will also make a noticeable difference in the amount of control you’re able to maintain with your backhand strokes.
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