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Training For The High Backhand Volley: Keep It Specific

By Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CSCS

Making off-court training specific to on-court movements are very important when training the tennis athlete. In this example the tennis athlete on court is performing a high backhand volley stroke. This stroke is rather common in recreational tennis, especially doubles play. Due to the position of the arm (above shoulder height), this position is weaker than when the arm and hand are below shoulder height. If this range of motion is not trained appropriately off-court, repeating this movement during tennis practice or competition may result in shoulder and arm related issues. Notice in photo 1 the sequence photos of the high backhand volley performed by Juan Martin Del Potro. It is important to note the position of the racket in relation to the shoulder and how this position changes from the backswing through contact and even during follow-through. To improve the strength and stability through the shoulder, elbow and even wrist joint, the exercise shown in photo 2 (start) and photo 3 (finish) using the cable pulley machine highlights how well this exercise simulates the tennis stroke described in photo 1. Remember that this type of exercise is an auxiliary exercise that is implemented in addition to the core compound lifts that

focus on the larger muscle groups.

Dr. Kovacs is a performance physiologist where he combines research and education to improve tennis-specific performance. He oversees the sport science area for the United States Tennis Association. He can be reached at

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