Prehabilitation means regular flexibility and strength training.
In the first article on the kick serve, I presented the technical reference points (Click Here) for developing the motion. The second article covered drill progressions for all the variations. (Click Here.) Then in the third article we discussed the various controversies regarding teaching and hitting the kick and detailed 5 common errors I see in trying to develop the motion. (Click Here.)
Now in this final article, I want to present the last critical component in my system. This what I call my prehabilitation program, something I use with my students everyday at my academy. Prehabilitation has two parts: flexibility training and strength training.
In my opinion a dual training program of this type is critical for keeping the back and shoulders healthy and strong for high performance players - or any player - who wants to develop the kick as part of the offensive repertoire of a complete server.
So this article presents over 20 exercises drawn from a wide range of disciplines and training methodologies synthesized into a original training program that I believe will produce awesome results for any player.
I truly believe that we have become so conservative and cautious in teaching the kick serve that our players are often disadvantaged technically and tactically when they get to the world-stage. American players often don't develop sufficient serving heaviness and/or angled placements. At the highest levels of competition, these seemingly subtle technical and tactical differences can separate a top 100 player from top 10.
The kick serve adds subtle strategic advantages that can make a competitive difference.
I remain cautiously optimistic that with more sport science study, the myth of the dangerous kick serve will be debunked, and American coaches will start teaching this serve to our young future champions. So let's get into the nitty-gritty of the prehabilitation program I have created for my students.
The prehabilitation exercises increase both flexibility and strength in the critical areas of the body for the kick. Some do both simultaneously. They are part of a larger, full-body stretching and workout program that my students regularly perform--something I recommend for all competitive players.
I like to see my students stretching working on these exercises daily--but a minimum of 3 times a week. Every player and coach can integrate them how they see fit in their own training. But as a starting point I’d recommend picking 10 exercises and doing one set of multiple reps. Then over time, increase the number of exercises, the number of sets, and the number repetitions.
I believe that the students in my kick serve system are on the road to learning world-class kick serves, but more importantly, the stretching and strengthening part of the system is the insurance policy to protect them from any potential injury. Sometimes injuries are unavoidable, especially out on the rigorous junior or professional circuit. But my players tend to be more resilient because of the extra attention we pay to prehabilitation rather than rehabilitation; they recover faster from injuries and have fewer missed tournaments. I hope you get a chance to experiment with incorporating some of what I have presented into your own training regimes, and let me know what you think.
Note: Special thanks to my wife Kimberleigh Weiss-Lewit, and my student Hannah Shteyn for their great help in doing the demonstrations!
Flexibility and Strengthening Exercises
Upward Facing Dog
This yoga stretch opens up rib cage and increases the flexibility of back. Also increases core strength.
This is another yoga core strengthener.
This yoga exercise stretches the back stretch and opens the shoulders.
This is a pilates exercise that strengthens the lower back and the abdominals.
The stretch opens the chest and stretches the back.
Ball crunches strengthen the abdominals.
The Advanced Bridge gives an even deeper stretch of the chest and the back.
This is a pilates core strengthener.
The Full Wheel
The full wheel is a complete back and shoulder stretch.
Medicine Ball Overhead Throws
This pullover movement strengthen the arms, chest, and core. A great exercise to build explosiveness in upper body.
Forward Bend to Plow
Another yoga exercise that stretches the spine and opens the back.
Medicine Ball Tosses
Medicine ball tosses evelop explosiveness in the arms and core for groundstrokes and serve.
This a yoga shoulder stretch.
Medicine Ball Rotation
This exercise develops core strength and stability.
Beginner Back Stretch
Use this to stretch the back before or after serving.
This exercise trengthens the upper back muscles which decelerate the arm in the serve motion.
Beginner Chest and Arm Stretch
This is a great basic exercise to stretch the chest and arms.
Lifting the Trophy
An important exercise that strengthens the shoulders.
This stretch increases the range of motion of the buttscratch--the key position in developing the kick.
Rotator Cuff Internal/External Rotation
This combination exercise strengthens rotator cuff, a commonly injured area in the shoulder.
Beach Ball Stretch
This stretch is a great way to prepare the back and shoulders for serving.
This stretches the arms and upper back. Sampras could touch his elbows together!
Dumbbell Triceps Extension
This strengthens the triceps and to a lesser extent the shoulder, thereby reinforcing proper kick serve technique.
Manual Buttscratch Stretch/ Resistance Exercise
This increases the range of motion in the shoulder to create a deeper buttscratch. Can also be transformed into a strengthening exercise for the triceps by resisting against the upward snap.
Chris Lewit is the director of the Chris Lewit Tennis Academy, with locations in the New York City area. He has coached numerous nationally and internationally ranked junior players, including several current top American players. After playing #1 singles for Cornell University, Chris competed on the ITF and USTA pro satellite and futures tours. He is a member of both the USPTA and PTR, and a graduate of the USTA High Performance Coaching program. In addition, Chris has traveled internationally to study the game with some of the world's top coaches. This article was adapted from his forthcoming book, The Tennis Technique Bible, one of several current publication projects.
Click Here to learn more about Chris's teaching system, his book projects, and his teaching academy.
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