Do not jump on your serve! Instead
accelerate your serve properly and allow the feet to get off the ground by
themself. If we look at high-level serves and see how the feet are leaving
the ground it’s clear to see that it’s not an active leg drive or a jump. Number
one, the feet will slowly roll off the ground. Now if you try to jump and try to
perform this kind of delayed rolling of the feet you will not be able to do it.
If you actively jump the feet will kind of violently spring off the ground and
they will not roll towards the tip of the foot and on most serves it’s usually the
side of the front foot that will last leave the ground. If you try to perform a
jump in this fashion it would be absolutely impossible to do so. And number two, high-level servers will most of the time have the back foot come
off the ground first. Now you can try this at home, try to violently jump
while leaving one foot on the ground you will find this impossible to do. When
we jump both feet will simultaneously lift off the ground. On a tennis serve
however and the majority of players will have the back foot lift off the ground
first and this is a clear indicator that there are other forces propelling the
feet off the ground and that it’s not an active jump. And there are two ways to perform a jump. You can do it from a stationary position or you can do it on the run where you
would jump off of one foot or two feet. So let’s just take a stationary jump as
an example. So what should happen is we have to load the body by bending the
torso down a little bit and now we’re gonna draw some power from extending the
torso upwards and we’re also going to push down on the ground. It looks
something like this. Now on the tennis serve we’re in the exact opposite
position what I call the reverse C. We’re going to get on our toes, we’re
gonna bend our knees, we’re gonna bend our torso backwards. Now if you try to
jump from this position you would get absolutely no power. You can try this out
at home, get into the trophy position with your knees bent, get on your toes,
bend your back slightly backwards and I’ll try to jump upwards you will get
absolutely no power from this type of jump. On a tennis serve however, we can
very effortlessly leave the ground from this exact position and the body
mechanics that are making us leave the ground have nothing to do with the legs.
So if we get into this trophy position now we see that the non-dominant
shoulder is above the dominant shoulder and now we have to bend our back
slightly backwards, get on our toes, bend our knees and now if you accelerate
to serve and reverse this shoulder position this is gonna help us get off
the ground and this is the primary reason why the back foot gets off the ground
first. So this is what it looks like. I’m gonna accelerate upwards and you can see
how effortlessly I can get off the ground while if I do it without the
actual service motion I have a very difficult time leaping up in the air. If you’re actively driving your legs or
trying to jump on your serve this will cause major problems to your technique
and there are several reasons why. Reason number one is the timing. So what it’s
supposed to happen is when we drop the racket we are at the same time
initiating the leg drive. Now if you try to do this it would be impossible to
time. You have to remember the racket drop is occurring in milliseconds. The
serve starts to accelerate really fast. So if you try to jump at the exact
moment when the racket is dropping you would either do it too early or you
would do it too late and the timing would be absolutely impossible, but what
you see from the high-level servers is their timing of the legs is always the
same. If you watch carefully when the racket is in the trophy position you see
the weight is on the front foot and then with the tip of the racket is pointing
straight down this is the moment of liftoff and you can check any high level
players, they’re all the same the body starts to lift off the ground when the
tip of the racket is pointing towards the ground. Another problem that you will
find on your serve if you’re actively trying to jump is that tiredness will
set in. If you’re actively jumping in long matches let’s say you playing for
three hours eventually your legs are going to get tired and your serve is
gonna get weaker if indeed you are jumping on your serve. But what you’ll
see from the best servers of all time their serve
does not get worse it actually gets better as the match goes on. One example
is the Isner Mahut match. These guys were so dead they had blisters all over
their feet they could barely move however, they kept serving aces until the
very end of the 11-hour match. And finally what you’re gonna find
impossible to do is transfer the weight from the back foot onto the front foot. I
have so many students that come to me and they try to get the weight shifted
from the back foot onto the front foot and that you simply cannot do it and the
reason why they cannot do it is that it’s simply impossible to get the weight
from the back foot to the front foot. And what we have to do is put this in the
context of the service motion. So here’s what’s gonna happen on the serve. So
we’re gonna have a different rhythm depending on the player.
So let’s just go straight into the trophy phase. So what’s gonna happen in a
trophy phase we are gonna have the weight already shifted onto the front foot. The
majority of the weight will be on the front foot because what happens next is
as the racquet drops down we already discussed that when the tip of the racquet
pointing down the feet are already off the ground. So what happens from here to
here is happening in milliseconds. This time span is so short so if you try to
get from the back foot onto the front foot in this time frame
you will not be able to leave the ground in time and you will perform the lifting
off the ground too late. In addition to that the only way you will be able to
load the back foot and then jump on to the front foot is if you threw the ball
behind the baseline. So this is the only way you could do that. If you throw the
ball behind you can load back here and then land on the front foot and what you
will find is that you will never end up inside the baseline. So what should
happen instead you have to throw the ball inside the court regardless of what
the serve you’re attempting and then naturally as you are leaning towards the
ball the weight will shift more towards the front foot. So throughout the service
rhythm the weight will be on the back foot for a brief moment in time and this
is going to depend on the player. Every player is going to have a little bit of
a different rhythm so let’s just take my rhythm as an example so what’s gonna
happen on my serve I’m going to go on the front foot and then indeed I’m gonna
go on the back foot but this is happening way before the acceleration
phase. This is the rocking motion so what happens on my serve and many serves are
very similar to this is that when the weight shifts on to the front foot the
toss is initiated the racket starts to go up. Now this is the same for the
pinpoint stance or the platform stance. As the racket goes up pinpointers will start bringing the foot up to the front foot and platform players will
have the feet in the same position. So what happens next is I already tossed
the ball it’s going to be in front. Now even if I try to load the back foot I
will not be able to do it if I throw the ball in front. See I can try to. I can throw the ball in front of the baseline and try to load the back foot. This is
impossible to do. Naturally, as I toss the ball inside the court the weight will
shift onto the front foot because I’m going to adjust my body according to the
ball. And this is why so many players struggle with loading the back foot. They
try really hard but if they throw the ball in front they find an absolutely
impossible load the back foot. So what they end I’m doing is throwing the ball
behind the baseline and the problem with that is you’re gonna have a very
difficult time getting the ball into the box if you’re throwing it behind the baseline. The trajectory will not work well for you. So the theory
that the power comes from the back foot and is then transferred onto the front
foot is false because as we know the serve accelerates in the racket drop.
This is when the serve starts going really fast, this is where we unload and
we simply cannot hold the weight onto the back foot in this position of the
serve. This would not work out for several reasons, the timing would be
impossible and also if we throw the ball in front we would not be able to lean
forward if the weight was on the back foot in this position of the serve. And here’s how you can effortlessly have
your feet leave the ground. Number one, you have to toss the ball in front. So
when we toss the ball in front we’re simply going to lean forward towards the
ball that’s in front of the baseline. And
number two you have to get on your toes. I see many recreational players who are
kind of flat-footed and when you’re flat-footed your body will not leave the
ground. So you have to get on your toes which will not only help you leap off
the ground but also it’s gonna help you get that reverse C shape and get into
more of a backward bend with the body in addition to that you also want to bend
your knees a little bit. So if you do those two things if you accelerate the
serve properly and you will be able to leave the ground quite effortlessly.
Something like this. It is not important how high you get off the ground but
rather that you get off the ground. See different players will have different
athletic capabilities. Some players will get off the ground a lot more than
others. However, the greatest server of all-time on the WTA Tour Serena Williams
she has a very small amount of lift-off. Even if you leave the ground just a
little bit this will still help your serve tremendously and this is possible
at any age. Some of my students are in their 70s and they’re still able to get
off the ground on their serve. So if you don’t have your thoughts on the legs, if
you execute all the fundamentals correctly, if you accelerate your serve
properly you will be able to leave the ground without ever being conscious of
it.

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Dennis Veasley

19 thoughts on “The Passive Leg Drive | How to Correctly Use Your Legs on the Serve?”

  1. I remember roddick once said that power for serve should come from legs, but if legs are passive it contradicts his statement. Instead of getting power from both foot why not press front foot on ground and will get equal opposite reaction and racket will automatically sling shot towards the ball without any arm effort.

  2. I watched another channel talking about the platform stance and the pin point stance, i myself have been using pin point all my life. They were talking about the benefits of the platform stance can use the back leg to drive up to the ball ( well the pin point stance also do that with ease but mostly on the front foot) and out of curiosity I gave it a try, I couldn't really get the back leg to drive much at all. Like you said, once the the racket is going up to the ball, all the body weight has to be shifting to the front, using the back foot to drive up? I tried but I couldn't get my body into a forward motion. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the platform stance of course, but talking about drive up with the back foot when your body weight is already shift to the front? I don't get it. Maybe I didn't spent much time trying it out.

  3. Roddicks serve power comes from exploding off the ground actively. I think this depends on your height. If you are shorter, you will benefit from jumping up. If you are tall, it’s not necessary. So I disagree with your hypothesis.

  4. I think the adage that 'the real power is in the legs' or '90% of serve power comes from the legs' is a gross exaggeration. People love to say it but it's been shown you can take the legs out of it altogether by serving on your knees and still get about 90% of your max serve speed with good upper body and arm movement. This is a good video b/c it dispels the other myth about actively jumping up.

  5. Very informative Nick I remember I used to jump high while serving and it didn't work. I got tired quick and then I changed back to my usual comfortable passive jump. Great coaching. Thanks for all your help.

  6. Another insightful video that clears the confusion about the leg drive for people that did not figure it out for themselves. This 10 minutes video is worth months of lessons with the local pro. Thank you.

  7. I am a big fan of this video. So many good points made here! 👍👍

    However, and that is a big however, I would love to see a person “leave the ground without using the legs”. You yourself say, “bend the knees” meaning the legs are an active part of the serve leading to the feet leaving the ground.

    Here is a short proposal. Perhaps the reason a person leaves the ground on the serve is much like you say, and people intuitively learn to bend the knees and get on the toes in order the increase the ground action necessary to drive the rotation that swings the racquet above the head. The natural consequence is that the server is airborne at contact, not because the legs are “passive” but because the it is a natural consequence of good technique.

    Also, you talk about back extension, but not lateral flexion. The serve has roughly equal parts of both, and they will also contribute to a “launch” into the ball.

    I think the idea that the feet at “passive” is not bad, but unfortunately can mislead people to think the energy comes from the upper body instead and will lead to injury. I prefer to demonstrate the arm as passive and driven by the body. This is why, as coaches we need to be precise with our words, and I appreciate that among us you are one of the best!

  8. Excellent video 🌸✌️😎 I would just suggest adding more slow-mo on the demonstrations so we can see the movement better.

  9. Thank you(!), Nick, for setting the record straight on this constantly misunderstood issue. I think a consequence of the correct understanding of the leg action is that only a small part of the power of the serve is due to the leg action.

  10. Brilliant video, Nick! As always, your in depth analysis and demonstration is priceless. No better teacher to illustrate these critical fine points! Thanks for sharing your wisdom…

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