Masterclass 2 – Reduce Back Stress

How to reduce the stress on your back and combat any back pain you may experience when serving

The most common causes of stress on your back when serving are often one of 2 things.

1 – The ball toss. Most club players have what is probably best described as a varied ball toss. What this means is that on occasions the ball can be in rather an awkward position to hit. Do you ever find yourself falling sideways or even backwards when serving instead of being still and balanced or going forwards? Rather than leave the ball to drop and starting the service action again if the ball is not in the correct position, players will contort themselves into some incredible positions to enable them to still hit the ball and carry out the serve. It is this bad ball placement which causes the loss of balance and can also cause players to put undue strain onto their backs.
The optimum place for the ball toss is for the ball to be thrown up and struck at full stretch above the players head and out in front of the body. It should be hit either directly in front of the player’s body at 12 o’clock or slightly off to their dominant side so at 1 o’clock on a clock face for a right hander or between 12 o’clock and 11 o’clock for a left hander. If you were to throw the ball up for a serve and then not hit it, the ball should land in front of the baseline between 12 and 1 on the floor. (For a right hander.)

2 good practices to improve the quality and consistency of a ball toss are:

  1. Serve stood still with your legs crossed one over the other so you cannot move. If you are still able to serve comfortably without losing your balance then your ball toss is probably not too bad. If you find this first exercise difficult then try practicing your full service action but rather than hitting the ball, try to throw the ball up and then see if you can catch it again in the same hand.
  2. Start off by going through the motion of a serve but with a very low ball toss, (don’t try and hit the ball, just catch it again in the same hand.) Always ensure that the ball is thrown up in front of you and that you can catch it without moving your feet. As you start to gain confidence with this, increase the height of your ball toss gradually so it starts to increase towards its full height. Once you are happy that you can throw the ball to its full height required for the serve, and still catch it again without moving your feet then you will have improved the quality of your ball placement and should be able to hit a more confident, balanced and comfortable serve.

2 – The second thing is a much simpler thing one to explain but far harder for a player to master, and that is simply to relax and not try to force power onto the serve. Like any aspiring golfers out there, tennis is a game where your best shots come when you are most relaxed. How many of you have hit an incredible return off a serve which you have just called ‘out’?

Try to pause before a serve, compose yourself, think about where in the service box you want the serve to go (this is important even if you are a beginner!) ensure your grip on the racket is relaxed then inhale as you start the service action and be sure to exhale before you strike the ball. If you can master this then you will be able to generate more power for less effort and will therefore put less strain on your body.

Finally the last thing to remember is that placement of the serve is far more effective than power, so practice serving accurately to different areas of the service box rather than trying to blast down aces.