ETI 033 | Throwing vs. the Pendulum


Consider the elements in a strong and fluid overhand throw – and how the actions of the hand and elbow can be used or even copied in the modern forehand as well as certainly the serve.

Once when racquets were heavy and wooden, we could see (and still see now and then) a type of pendulum swing – back and forth with little whip or acceleration.  Interestingly McEnroe still uses such a forehand to truly devastating effect.

But the modern forehand is an entirely different concept – and the palm down elbow leading on the backswing, immediate reversal where where the elbow leads the palm on the forward swing looks identical to throwing.

Which do you favor?  Can you do both?  If so which do you use and when?

27 Comments

  • Shmuel Goldberg

    Reply Reply October 25, 2014

    Jim,
    I would not mix serve and forehand, though in both cases, to make the stroke ,good (!) players transfer the initial body rotation to the final racket-hand rotation about the wrist joint. However, the mechanics in each chain is different.

    In serves the rotation from the body to the wrist (the last and the most important for racket speed) passes via the arm rotation about the elbow joint. In forehand the rotation can pass from body rotation to arm rotation about the shoulder and then directly – to rotation about the wrist (Nadal, for example), without any involvement of the elbow.

    With all this said, I agree that in the forehand it might be useful for the player to concentrate on his elbow movement, not necessary bending, as the rest, which is flexibility in the wrist joint in the early stage of the stroke and rotation about the wrist joint in the last stage, will follow by themselves.

  • Patrick Leroux

    Reply Reply October 24, 2014

    Hi Jim, thanks again for the interesting video.
    Recently as I was teaching a class to a very good solid 40 year old lady, who’s forehand can be absolutely punishing, I started to practice and try more old school-pendulum forehands to try to deal in a more effective way with her heavy, deep, flat forehands. It did work wonders. I was actually visualizing Mc Enroe and his pendulum preparations. I felt that it was helping me getting the racket ready on time better and the simplicity of the swing made it easier to get those powerful flat forehands back to my student. My other regular elbow up-palm-of-the-hand-facing-down-tip-of-the-racket-pointing-forward-and-up-top-spin-modern forehand did not seem to do the job as well and as effectively(for the very simple reason that it takes more time to execute !!)….Against powerful flat deep forehands getting the racket back on time is crucial . The pendulum technique helped a lot there. I was just trying tbis for fun, it felt extremely simple and effective.
    Regarding the throwing motion concept, I was recently watching a video on youtube of a coach who teaches the slice serve to his students with a progression system which included learning how to swing their racket as if they were trying to skip rocks on a lake, then progressing up towards the final slice serve. I found the concept interesting.
    Take care Jim.

  • Jeffrey

    Reply Reply October 23, 2014

    Hi Jim:

    Excellent information. I have observed Federer hitting his forhand like this a thousand times. This is the first time that I have seen the technique specifically discussed.

  • Milan

    Reply Reply October 23, 2014

    Jim, as usual, you are right on with new innovative concepts that help us perfect our strokes.
    I always appreciate your pragmatic and valuable tennis pointers.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 23, 2014

      Milan – thanks, I appreciate the term “pragmatic”
      Jim

  • Donald McDonald

    Reply Reply October 23, 2014

    Mario is right as long as you really remember how you skip stones, you throw downward and convert it to a side arm throw.

  • walt

    Reply Reply October 23, 2014

    Jim – I’ve heard lots of explanations of the throwing motion, but I really like your focus on the elbow mechanics. A really simple and uncomplicated explanation that helped me get the right feel for my forehand. (You only mention the serve in passing, but this was also a great lesson for paying attention to the elbow positioning on the serve, too.) Thanks.

  • Mario

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Too much information.The modern forehand is nothing more than throwing someone out at first base by throwing side arm. For those of you who never played baseball , go down to the lake and try skimming some stones on the water. That’s all there is to it.

  • Donald McDonald

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Ben Hogan circa 1947 developed an essentially right-hand dominant golf swing which was lead by the elbow. I found an analysis of this which explained something that has bothered me since I read the first analysis of Andre Agassi’s swing. Slow motion photography revealed that Agassi’s wrist did not break even though Agassi said he hit the ball as hard as he could with the wrists. So obviously Agassi was deluded. Here is a paraphrase of the analysis changed to reflect a one-handed swing. At the start of the forward swing return your elbow to the rib cage, sliding the ribs out of the way. (This creates the leading elbow.) Then and only then drive your forearms forward and to the outside. (This creates the inside out swing path.) And then the analyst adds, feel free to swing the wrists into the ball just prior to contact. But if you are rotating your hips properly, you will be unable to break your wrists. I immediately tried it with both a tennis racquet and golf club. It was like getting out of jail and I could not break my wrists until way past where contact occurred.

  • Greg Pierce

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Hi Jim – I think I’m a little confused. I definitely understand the overall point of pendulum vs. throw. However, my understanding was that there were (more or less) 2 modern forehand strokes. The one you describe here is what I know as a double-bend forehand. The other one is hit w/ a much straighter arm, the ball is taken further from the body, and w/o the elbow prominently leading the stroke. I think Juan Del Potro would be a good example of this. Where I got confused is when you mentioned Roger F. as an example of a “throwing” forehand. Although I’m sure he can and does hit it that way, most of the clips I’ve seen show him w/ a relatively straight arm when hitting a forehand. Is this idea of the 2 modern forehands correct or am I missing something?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 23, 2014

      Greg – point well taken – yes on Del Potro and the straight arm – and yes Federer has a straight arm at impact – but his acceleration (I think) has a throwing style – but at the end of the day some (or even most of this) is still about nuance and getting the racquet head up to speed
      Jim

  • Michael Ashwell

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Thank you for your reply to my earlier query Jim.

    I have heard about the earlier contact and I thank you for re-enforcing that for me. I think that is what I am forgetting or overlooking and the racket face is closed or “down” somewhat when I strike the ball contact. Gradual grip change makes good sense too.

    I often feel it is something that should not be too hard to adjust to once one grasps what one is trying to do and the mechanics involved.

    Michael

  • kwok

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Jim,
    I have been playing my forehand , more or less like you describe here, with some success. I have never played baseball before and it is a little bit hard for me to imagine how it feels like to throw a baseball correctly. What really helps me though is I imagine my upper arm is the handle of a whip, my forearm and hand is the rest of the whip, the elbow would be where the whip meet the handle. That really helps me to use my elbow to lead the motion from start to the last moment when the hand takes over. The most important thing though, at least for me, is to have a totally relaxed ( or as relaxed as possible) forearm and grip. I may not have the biggest forehand in our club, but I can hit my forehand for hours without feeling tired and I’ve never got any stress on my arm, except when I was late to the hit. So I might say I am doing something right. Hopefully my story would help the people who never have thrown a baseball before.

    Kwok.

  • Bernard Mckey

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Dear JIM,

    Your video is excellent- and very true- I have been told my Forehand is copy of Niskhori as I grew up on Grass I it it flat so my arm is a straight arm and I turn my head use power of arms as i coil my body and my legs its lethal hitting winners all ends of the court I practice this 3 times a week- now I just learnt the Double Backhand last week-its a shorter swing -just needs more practice.

    I have the Pete Sampras stance in serving its came on very well-good coil in my back and bend in legs its only at progression stage still needs lots of improvement my toss is better but still needs improvement.

    your videos are great-i did a website recently on tennis coaching bernardmckey.com

    “You can hit two types of Forehand 1 Like me and Niskhori -hit across the body straight arm racket fully back and use your arms and legs to generate the power and direct your feet un direction you want to hit it-hit it on the rise is the key-if you want to hit top spin do the same but it hit low to high-you gives you more consistency-Federer does it slightly different -Murray does the Backhand across the body very effective I do the same on the double.

  • Per K

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Thanks Jim for another great mini-lesson!
    I think you could see this elbow leading “throwing motion” on the forehand already in the late 80´s and early 90´s, with players like Muster, Courier and certainly Berasategui (I miss those guys).
    In todays game no one does it more pronounced than Jack Sock. You may have to watch him in slow motion though, cause he´s got such a quick action.
    Per, Sweden

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 23, 2014

      Per – Jack Sock especially – amazing racquet head speed – a game changer
      Jim

  • Joe

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    That’s how I hit my forehand and I’m consistent with it.

  • Michael Ashwell

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Hi Jim

    Thanks again for a useful tip and insight. I’m going to put this to the test at my next playing session.

    I like your comparisons with the “old and new” and this raises a query from me as to the steps to take to switch to the modern forehand.

    I’ve watched many of your videos (and others) with regard to the semi-western grip and the changed swing path. However, not having been taught that way to start with, there is a certain difficulty in switching say from the continental straight to the semi-western and playing well with consistency.

    Quite often, for example, I fall into the trap of netting many balls simply because I try to stay with the SW grip, my swing becomes more horizontal rather than low to high etc..

    Do you have any advice for successfully making this transition rather than perhaps trying to achieve it in one relatively major step.

    With best regards

    Michael

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 22, 2014

      Michael – a great question and one that is asked and I see at our club all the time – the habits and memory from the continental (and I am and was one of those) truly interferes with the look and feel of the sw modern forehand – it will not be about breaking an old habit but creating a new one and perhaps in practice you move slowly to eastern then to low eastern and ultimately sw – why not upload something of your foeehand to me and let me take a look and perhaps have an idea – one thought is that the sw forehand contact is much more in front than the continental and it might be that you are making sw contact in the continental area
      does this make sense
      Jim

  • Slice-n-Dice

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Jim, this is by far the most insightful, and useful, bit of instruction I’ve seen from you yet. Thanks.
    Don

  • Jim Fox

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    I think you’re absolutely right, Jim, as usual. And I find it’s helpful to students to state explicitly what the elbow does on both the serve and on the modern forehand.. I find it helpful to tell them to bring the elbow up and forward before the hit on the “flat” serve, like an overhand throw, and to leave the elbow out to the side a bit for the spin serve, kind of like a 3/4 overhand throw. And on the forehand, as you say, I have them lead with the elbow on the backswing (with the palm down), and then lead with the elbow (and let the wrist lay back) on the forward swing. To me, this is a lot like the beginning of a sidearm throw. Of course, because we want to impart topspin, after the strike we bring the hitting thumbnail immediately up and touch the other shoulder. I find that all these motions really help loosen up the strokes and add power through racket speed.

    Jim Fox

  • Gordon

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Hi Jim, I’m a wily, fit 61 year old player now, but at the age of 35 and devoid of a backhand, I began experimenting – instead of just brushing my forehand, I started taking a great, spin-less swipe at the ball. An unreliable shot, in the net as often as over the baseline, but when it came off, I hit he ball with great power. Once described as a ‘sideways smash’ that shot soon became a liability so I regressed to my familiar groundstroke. These days though the backhand is my dominant shot, so I’ve been attempting to update that ailing forehand, and thanks to insightful videos such as yours I’ve realized that the ‘great swipe’ wasn’t a million miles away from today’s modern forehand. Maybe I’ll try the pendulum next! Keep up the great work. Gordon

  • Colin

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Jim — looks as if the racquet-butt leads to the hit, as well.

  • Tim R. Garvey

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Jim,
    !Muy beuno! Very good!
    Pendulum (old school swing) motion vs Modern (palm down) Elbow Lead motion. Got it!
    At age 68 (NTRP=4.0) I typically use the pendulum swing, BUT, I am ‘experimenting’ with the Modern-palm down motion, for the purpose of …? To generate more pace to get the ball off my racquet and past the opponent-quicker! – “when pace and power are appropriate.” (I play clay court doubles only.)

    Your simple, old school, images and metaphors are … EASY to grasp. Gracias!
    Tim G., South Carolina
    trg

  • Patrick Whitmarsh

    Reply Reply October 22, 2014

    Which one do you use and when? One needs the variations on the motion of the arm to have a complete game.This extends to all strokes. this is the best video and explanation(elegant) I have witnessed.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 22, 2014

      Patrick – I believe Federer and others use a version of the pendulum when returning serve in order to “absorb” pace and redirect the incoming ball – and they use the whip in rallies when trying to add more pace to the ball
      Jim

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