Tennis Spin & Power – 3 Drills For A Relaxed Grip Tension With Swing Path Intention

Just received an email from John out of Sacramento, CA, a new All Lessons Package student.

John wrote about his level of fitness which is simply off the charts.

One of the potential risks of being in really great shape is that you might instinctively or even purposely “muscle up” on some or all of your shots.

Remember, the key to producing spin and power comes from how fast you can swing your racket – racket head speed.

If you have too much “squeeze” on the racket handle, if you’re too strong prior to contact, you end up actually slowing down the racket.

A slower racket speed produces less spin.

John mentioned in his email that this tighter grip was a problem at times and that he was making an effort to find that relaxed grip that still had swing path intention.

I wrote back and told John I was flat out stealing that term swing path intention because it is a major part of the relaxed grip formula.

When I recommend to you that you relax your grip tension, I’m not suggesting that the swing then become just a flippy floppy and an out of control slappy swing path.

You still want to make sure your swing path has a definite sense of purpose – swing speed with a very specific swing path direction.

For me, it’s mostly about knowing where I want the swing path to finish.  If I focus on relaxing my grip tension along with how fast do I want this swing to be and and where I want it to finish, good things usually happen.

Here are 3 drills to help you develop that feeling of a relaxed grip tension that has swing path intention.

Let’s take your forehand groundstroke as an example.

  • At home: Without a ball or a stationary ball practice aid, get into your ready position posture (as if you’re on the baseline and you don’t know whether you’re about to get a forehand or a backhand from your opponent).
    • As you’re looking forward, focus on the tension in your hands.
    • Squeeze tightly with both hands for 3 seconds so you know what too tight of a grip tension is.
    • Then relax both hands to where someone could pull the racket head and the racket would get pulled out of your hands.  This is the relaxed grip tension you want in that ready position posture.
    • With this relaxed grip tension, turn your shoulders as if your opponent just hit their shot to your forehand side.  When you complete your shoulder turn, make sure you still have that same relaxed grip tension where someone  could pull your racket out of your hands.
    • Now take a step forward and swing the racket at a medium speed all the way out to your finish position.  Hold that finish position for 3 seconds and feel what grip tension you have.  It should be relaxed.
    • Continue this swing sequence of facing forward, turning the shoulders to get into your pre-swing set up position, and develop 3 different swing speeds with the same relaxed grip tension that have the exact same finish position.  The 3 speeds would be slow, medium, and fast.  When you play your matches, you want to be able to control these 3 different swing speeds.
    • 5 minutes a day and you’ll be on the tour soon…
  • On the court #1: Replicate this same drill as at home with someone underhand feeding you balls.  The underhand feed takes away the issues of timing and spacing so you can really focus on a specific grip tension, swing speed, and finish position.  Don’t concern yourself with shot direction and if the balls are going in or not, for now just tinker with being able to maintain more relaxed grip tension with swing path (and speed) intention.
    • Another 5 minutes a day, and when you do go out on the tour, don’t forget that I get 20% of your prize money…
  • On the court #2: Same drill as On the court #1, but this time have someone (or a ball machine) feed you balls from the other side of the net so that timing and spacing are now part of your setup, and then go through the same tinkering of feeling your grip staying relaxed as you go through a very specific swing path that takes you out to your finish position.
    • As you can see, these drills are a progression from no ball to a very slow ball to a ball that requires timing and spacing.  Make sure you do these 3 drills in this sequence.
    • Another 5 minutes a day for a total of 15 minutes a day, and I’m telling ya, I’ll be happy to carry your bags when we arrive at Wimbledon.
  • One more tip – watch this video and imagine how the grip is relaxed and how there is a very specific intentional swing path…

So, first things first, get up out of that chair, get a racket, and do drill #1 for 5 minutes right now…

Any comments and/or feedback is always welcome, wanted, and frankly, needed.  Right below in the Comments area, let er rip.

Thanks in advance.


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  1. Jim Kane says

    A great tip for me Brent. Recently, I have been working on a few things in regards to my swing path. I may have had a bit of a hitch in my back swing and I believe a relaxed grip allows the arm to continue the swing without a hitch/stoppage. I continue to work on my forehand stroke and I am aware of my trouble spots- like starting out with a relaxed low tension feel and then finding myself tightening up. Your tip will surely help.
    I am all for low tension…seems like the low tension grip is conducive to the “double bend”- especially in regards to the wrist. It allows the butt end of the racquet to easily proceed to the ball.

    • Tony says

      This tip is extremely important (and its feel), but as good as it is, its only about 60% of the whole deal. The remaining 40% is as important as the 60% and one can not go without the other or you crash…

  2. Andreas W Boettcher says

    Absolutely right Brent!!! I see this quite often with my pupils and the give away is their gripband sliding all over the place creating gaps on the handle of the racket. I encourage the usage of the `non dominant` hand at the neck of the racket and link it to the unit turn. If the body turns towards the right then the lefthand should be pushing the racket to the right and then vice versa, the lefthand would have to pull the racket towards the left if the ball comes to that side of the body.This,of course, would be the opposite for a leftie. It helped me to keep my hands relaxed….especially for the return of serve!! My timing on the volleys improved incredibly.
    Hope this can help others and I always enjoy reading about what other avid players have to say about this great sport.

  3. Tony says

    Yes Brent you are criticaly correct with the idea, but at that easy of your hitting your hand shoul have been way more relaxed at the ‘End’ of the sving, your hand and racket should have pronaunced loop indicating full relaxed hand at that point which is crucial for maximum timing effect. Godd example of what I mean can be seen in video of Federer hitting at your speed and doing what I observed. If you care to look to confirm it’s called Federer practicing Cincinati and part 2 wich shows game condition, but just in warm up sense…

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