Unveiling the Secret Sauce of World-Class Racquet Sport Athletes: Mastering the Art of Movement
In the world of racquet sports, what sets apart the good from the great? While superior hand-eye coordination, lightning-quick hands, and amazing touch are crucial, one often overlooked aspect is the mastery of movement. Beyond consistency, mental toughness, and tactical genius, the world-class athletes are exceptional "movers."
When we decide to learn a new racquet sport, we get the basic gear – shoes and racquet and feel we are ready to go. We then sign up for private or group lessons, join hitting clinics and some house leagues. We obsess with our strokes and hitting technique to improve our chances of getting the ball or birdie where we want it to go. Without our legs to get to the ball, space ourselves properly, maintain good balance and get to the ball in a timely manner, you cannot execute proper technique and thus the chance of you keeping the rally going diminishes. Obsessing about your stroke or ball contact is a waste of time if the legs do not do the “leg work”!
The fastest way to improve your game without spending extra time on the court, money on clinics and lessons is to improve your ability to MOVE. That means to set up for your first shot/contact and recover quickly to be ready and set up for the next incoming shot. Wash and rinse on repeat until the rally ends. Easier said than done.
Speed, agility, flexibility to maintain balance are all essential ingredients to provide you with the opportunity to hit a stroke well. What does that look like? What is our body, specifically our legs, doing when playing racquet sports?
Your body needs to be able to stay balanced while it negotiates, creates, and controls multiple forces simultaneously:
- Work against ground reaction forces (I.e. gravity) which means accelerating body off the ground using your legs to initiate movement by either jumping or running and decelerating body to stop or slow down
- Create linear force to control speed which means the sprinting and slowing down around the court
- Create rotational forces in your body, required to change direction, set up upper body to hit and follow through when still, sliding or on the run
Focus your attention on the lower half of one player in each following YT clip. You will notice universal characteristics such as wide ready position, explosive first steps, flexibility and phenomenal balance and recovery.
Body movement occurs in 3 different planes: frontal, sagittal and coronal planes.
Our body is an incredible piece of machinery powered by a smart computer, our brain. The body is the hardware, the brain is the software. The skeleton is designed to move through all three planes of movement with each joint possessing the ability to produce certain ranges of motion. The fascia and muscular systems are designed to maximize the skeletal movement as it has been designed. The brain sends signals down the nerves to our muscles which controls skeletal movement based on what is available to be used. It chooses the path of least resistance and effort to complete a movement.
Why is this important to performance?
If you have pain or stiffness in your joints or muscles, you create compensatory movements. The brain involuntarily problem solves around the restriction and creates movement in any way to achieve the desired movement. Therefore, your movements are compromised and are now playing at less-than-optimal levels.
Have you been stretching a lot and just cannot seem to make any permanent improvements? Do you get regular massage treatments but the muscle tension returns? Do you have stiff back or leg joints? If you answer yes to any of these questions, your game is suffering from lack of speed and recovery from the last shot.
Our clinicians take a wholistic, biomechanical approach to assessing movement. Book an appointment now with our physiotherapists, athletic therapists or chiropractor to improve your explosive power, speed and flexibility to gain a competitive advantage!
Written by: Cecilia Chan, Registered Physiotherapist