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One Simple Athleticism Hack

While playing tennis, tilt your torso. It sounds simple, and it is, but this minor adjustment will drastically improve your balance, movement, and stroke production.

Tilting your torso improves your play in a few critical ways.

1. Tilting Makes You Hit Up

Novak Djokovic tilting his hips, and dipping his front shoulder, preparing to strike a backhand.

The biggest, most fundamental reason that tilting your torso supercharges your game is that, on both the forehand and the backhand, tilting naturally prepares your body to swing on a slight upward diagonal. I cannot over-state how critical this is for ground-stroke consistency. Though the “low-to-high” property of the swing is certainly exaggerated in modern coaching, the existence of a slight upward vector is still critical for fault tolerance. Without it, unless you strike the ball perfectly, you’ll hit the net.

The arm cannot create the up vector by itself. Well, it can, but the swing gets a whole lot slower. In order to take your normal, efficient, rotationally powered swing, but have that swing go slightly up, you must tilt as you prepare. Tilting will add an up vector to your swing, and it will also transpose your internal shoulder rotation to create a topspin imparting motion, rather than just a flat slap. This is true on all groundstrokes struck below your shoulders, but it is especially true on lower balls.

2. Tilting Helps You Adjust Your Contact

Here’s an example of Jannik Sinner playing a forehand with a contact height below his knees.

Jannik Sinner tilts his torso aggressively in order to comfortably play a low forehand.

By tilting his torso to get the racket down, instead of just lowering his hand by itself, Jannik maintains his elbow space and is able to recruit the same rotational kinetic chain he always does, even though the ball is at his knees.

So often, coaches teach their players to “bend their knees” while playing low balls, and this is good advice that does improve the player’s chance of success, but it is missing the critical second piece of the equation – tilt your torso; hinge at the hips.

3. Tilting Helps You Move

Tilting doesn’t just help your groundstrokes, it also helps you move. When the hip-torso angle is slightly bent, the glutes can fire to forcibly straighten it, propelling you across the court. The tilt also engages the glutes in any static movement, drastically improving balance.

When you practice your split step, practice landing with a slight tilt. It should feel natural – not only do the glutes help you move and balance, but they help absorb and transfer the force of your landings as well. Start your receiving process by getting into an athletic ready position with a tilt, and when the ball comes, it will be extremely natural to maintain or adjust that tilt as you prepare for your shot.

4. Tilting Encourages Forefoot Balance

Lastly, tilting your torso shifts your balance point forward. Tennis works best when played from the balls of your feet, not from your heels, and when you tilt your torso, you shift into this forefoot balance.

When you adopt this balance shift, you encourage yourself to hit with positive balancetransferring your weight forward through your shots as you execute them.

Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic transferring their weight forward during their groundstrokes.

In the image above, you’ll see both Djokovic and Sinner deload their back foot as they swing – it comes off the ground, because their weight has been transferred forward during the swing process. This is the most effective way to strike a tennis ball, so you want to do it whenever possible.

It may not seem like much, but adding even a 10-15 degree tilt to your posture, as opposed to standing straight up, will transform your entire tennis game. You’ll move better, you’ll be more balanced as you hit, and critically, your groundstrokes will naturally gain more net clearance. Make tilting a habit, and you’ll be amazed at the difference.

2 Comments

  1. Phil
    June 28, 2024

    This is such a great tip. When I do this, which is not as often as I should, it works like a charm, allowing me to hit shots literally at the level of my shoe laces with wicked top spin!

    Reply
    1. Johnny (FTF)
      June 28, 2024

      Phenomenal! That’s exactly the goal.

      Reply

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