This week, we're focusing on exercises that will improve your volleys. Check back each morning for a new way to strengthen the muscles used to put away points at the net.
One can argue that what made such players as John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker so successful at the net was their instincts for the game and fearless mentalities, attributes that are tough to teach. But it didn’t hurt that they also had great hands, quick feet, powerful legs and the ability to react with precision, all of which can be improved on and off the court.
When breaking down the approach to the net and the volley, a few key steps will help make your net game more effective. Once you recognize the right time to approach the net, you need to prepare for the next volley by making a split-step and readying your body to react to the ball off your opponent’s strings. This requires balance and leg strength (wide base of support, outside-of-shoulder width, and a good semi-squat position) to decelerate your body while maintaining adequate upper-body posture (head, eyes and chest up, back straight).
Once you have processed where the ball is going, you need to be able to place your body in the optimal position to execute the volley. This requires strong, explosive legs, and trained eyes to accomplish this with precision. Upon ball contact, proper foot placement and knee bend are essential. If the ball is low, you must have the leg strength to be able to bend at the knees and hips, not the lower back, to get your hand under the ball while keeping the racquet head up.
Additionally, strength in the shoulder, forearm and wrist are crucial for racquet control and ball placement. This includes manipulating your hands and racquet to perform a drop volley, or having the strength to block back a ball coming at a blazing pace. In either case, you have to be solid through the upper body to hit a winning volley. The exercises demonstrated here will help prepare you to be able to perform optimally at the critical points in a volley.
1. VOLLEY LUNGE
This exercise strengthens the entire lower body while challenging balance and core stability.
Start: Stand with your feet together, chest up and core activated. If bodyweight lunges are too easy, hold dumbbells at your sides.
Movement: Step forward with your left foot across the midline of your body, as if you are stepping to volley a ball. Keep your core activated and maintain upper-body posture throughout the movement.
Finish: After lowering your body to the desired depth (roughly 90 degrees in both knees at the bottom of the lunge) push through your right leg and return back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps