The serve is not a throwing motion and
how do I know this? Well just like you I’ve heard hundreds of times that the
serve is just like throwing a ball and that never sat right with me, because
when I grew up in Europe I never played baseball or American football and was
not particularly good at throwing and yet I have a very good serve.
And I wanted to find out if my intuition that was correct that the serve is not
like throwing a ball and I’ve done the research and there are biomechanical
differences between throwing an object and striking an object. And the first biomechanical difference
between a throw and a strike is that the elbow is positioned very differently on
a throw versus a serve. So what’s going to happen to the elbow on a throw
is that the elbow will start off very similar to the serve and pointing
backwards and now as I initiate the throw the elbow will first come to the
side and then will point forward before I release the ball. So the elbow will be
pointing towards the target prior to the ball release. The positioning of the elbow on the
serve is completely different from a throw. So you will never see the elbow
come forward before we strike the ball This will never happen on a real serve.
So what will happen instead is that we are going to toss the ball and that is
going to bring our non-dominant side in this case is gonna be my left side above
the dominant side. There’s gonna be a reversal of the shoulder positions and
therefore the elbow will in most cases be as slightly lower and you don’t see
this on a throwing action and now the next thing that happens, the elbow
will not come forward at the elbow will simply go up as we reverse the shoulder
position. So you will see that this the elbow will start going up towards the
sky as we initiate this cartwheeling motion. The elbow will be pointing
straight up towards the sky. And as the elbow is pointing up towards
the sky now we start to straighten the arm and we go into the contact. So if
we try to throw a ball in this fashion with the elbow is pointing up
towards the sky like this and we get extension in this fashion it would be
like throwing a ball at a ceiling and we have very little muscle memory in doing
so. Just try it out. Take a ball and try to throw it at a ceiling you will find
it very uncomfortable and it is very difficult to get any type of power doing
so. Another thing that’s different between a
throw and a strike is the timing of the upper body rotation. So the biggest
similarity between a throw and a serve is that it does involve upper body
rotation. I will add that this upper body rotation only takes place on on flat and
slice serves. So what will happen on a throw is that this upper body rotation it goes
much further before the ball gets released and it happens in this fashion.
So the throw starts right here and now we start rotating the shoulders and the
elbow will go to the side first and then will go forward which will bring the
dominant shoulder in front of the non-dominant shoulder and then the forearm will
start extending into the release like this. And you will never see the dominant
shoulder get ahead of the non-dominant shoulder on a real serve because this
would make the serve to arm dependent. So this will never take place on a serve.
The dominant shoulder getting ahead of the non-dominant shoulder. Now I’m
completely disconnected from the ball and I’m simply using my arm. This doesn’t
take place. What takes place instead is a delayed rotation where we’re basically
rotating into the contact on flat and slice serves. Something like this, so
we start off in a sideways position and now the racket drop is initiated and we
start going up towards the ball and now as we make contact the shoulder starts
to rotate and the dominant shoulder never gets ahead of the non-dominant
shoulder. They are parallel to each other and the dominant shoulder is above the
non-dominant shoulder. You will never be able to generate the
same type of power and speed with the throw compared to a strike with an
object and the reason is that the throw is very much dependent on the entire arm
and what happens on a throw is, there is a release of the wrist at the very end
you can see that the wrist releases like this to get additional power on the
throw and you do not want to do this on the serve. You’re basically using this
racquet to generate the power and you must give this racket stability. So you
don’t want to release into the contact like this but you want to have stability
here and if we can see this, that we have slight wrist extension at contact and
slight ulner deviation and it’s done to create stability at impact with the ball. There are several reasons why throwing
will not improve your serve and the first reason is that throwing completely
ignores the tossing side of your body. See the toss is one of the most
important things to develop at the recreational level and even at the
professional level the toss can be a challenge for some players. And when we
throw we’re simply are not using the non-dominant side of the body and you
therefore must always incorporate the non-dominant side into whatever serve
exercises you do. Another reason why throwing will not help you serve better because it ignores the correct biomechanics on the serve. And what
happens on a real serve is that we get into the C shape where we get on our
toes, we bend our knees, we get the tossing side of the body vertical to the
ground and get our chest up to towards the ball and this is only done on a real
serve. You would never put yourself in this type of position when you would
throw the ball and so by throwing you will not be able to develop these
biomechanics and you must do so on a real serve. Another reason why throwing will not
improve your serve is because it ignores the context of the ball. See recreational
players could do a really good job at executing dry serving exercises of all
kinds, but then as soon as if there’s a ball to be struck everything goes out
the window. The reason is mentally if we are
striking a tennis ball the racquet will do all kinds of things in order to make
clean contact. So recreational players will open the racket face too early and
they will slow down the racquet and all this is taking place because of the ball
that’s there to be struck. So in order to improve the serve as boring as
it sounds you must hit thousands of serves you must get a lot of repetition
so you lose some of these anxieties that you have when it comes to striking the
ball. The more you serve the less likely you are going to open the racquet face up
too early and do all these common mistakes that happen to recreational
players and throwing will not get that done only real serves will.

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Dennis Veasley

37 thoughts on “The Serve Is Not A Throwing Motion”

  1. Sir ok throwing is not serving. But a scientific studies published by ITF (my memory) found that there is a strong relationship between how long an athlete throws an object and his potential serve velocity. As a tennis instructor I have checked this with my pupils . The longer the throw the fast is serve. I'm very interested in your opinion. Thanks, Pietro from Italy

  2. I guarantee you if you take a group of professional baseball pitchers who have never played tennis and have them try a tennis serve, they will do better than a bunch of professional basketball players who have never played tennis and then try to serve. Why? Because the baseball pitchers KNOW how to throw, and throwing is SIMILAR (not exactly) to serving.

  3. Great detailed analysis. Imo, whether or not the two are similar is a matter of semantics to a large extent — how you define "similar" or "like". There are enough gross physical movements in common – general back of head forward (or up) arm movement, weight transfer, some body rotation, etc, to make many people say the two are similar. But for you, as an expert in identifying the detailed differences between the two, you see them as dissimilar.

    Having said that, I do believe it is important to know these differences, as it adds to our overall knowledge of serve bio-mechanics, which enables us to develop better technique.

  4. From my experience as recreational player, throwing serve is very effective when it comes to waiters serve motion. But not for good pronation serve. Like the concept of striking the ball rather than throwing. With all these arm action, pronation, wrist use, serve has become most complicated action in tennis. But your version makes sense to me and easier to make small adjustments while serving.

  5. Nick, I love all your previous video but I just couldn't bring myself to agree to this one.

    Yes you could be technically correct that the serving motion is not exactly identical to a throw. However, in my mind, serving is for all intents and purposes throwing your index finger knuckle upward to the sky and allowing the racquet to pivot around the wrist to strike forward. That concept promotes a natural shoulder over shoulder formation as well as loose wrist at contact. It works fantastically well for me and my son as a mental image.
    Your points on elbow and shoulders are also doubious because the sky is the "throwing" target when serving, not the opponent. You might need to compare the motion of serving to one of throwing a ball to the sky.
    Thanks for your effort anyway.

  6. This is incorrect. You're comparing apples and oranges. You have to compare throwing upwards towards the sky, with a tennis serve.

  7. Hi Nick, I am not discrediting your findings or your opinion on this matter, but I know from my personal experience in teaching people who have never served before that having them throw balls from the service line to the baseline in a upwards trajectory definitely enhances their chance of understanding how to serve correctly. The cartwheel effect is 100% accurate and the best way to describe the shoulder over shoulder displacement in generating racket speed and a consistent serve motion. Thanks for always sharing your ideas, experience and insights. Don

  8. Regardless people agree or disagree with the title statement. I, personally don't like using throwing baseball motion example when explaining serve motion, why? Simply because it is totally different sport that I am not familiar with, does it mean I have to learn game of baseball before engaging in tennis?

  9. i think the title is too misleading a description. similar to what others said, the serve motion is basically throwing the racq upwards but ending with accelerating the racq head.
    throwing: forearm pronation at 25sec
    edit: at 25sec mark of the pro pitcher, his elbow is barely ahead of his body, and his wrist/forearm is pronating, not flexing. perhaps your throw is different nick?

  10. Timestamp 1:25 shows how an young american football player translate throw into serve (notice that his serve is using the throwing motion and it looks like a pancake serve, it is is very slow and has no spin, Also noticed that the contact point has to be very low and a lot in front of the server, their wrist move in a very fast, twitching manner, the ball just spray everywhere. There are a lot differences, maybe intuitive tennis can chip in and explain? 🙂

  11. Different they are but I found the analogy always helps the kids that stop in the 'scratch the back' position instead of having a fluid swing. They generally have a more fluid throw so they just get the idea a bit more to not stop I've found..It doesn't help the kids that can't throw though

  12. A thoughtful analysis of the different motions, serve vs. throwing, Nick. Thanks!
    I think your analysis is well documented in the slow motion comparisons of the two motions. Nevertheless, I find that when I do some shadow throwing motions, especially when my service rhythm starts to break down, this helps. I think the reason is that there is one commonality between throwing and serving: the dominant arm has to remain rather relaxed (though focused). At least in my case, a few shadow throws tends to counter my periods of "concrete arm". Of course, when doing this, I'm not thinking about the mechanics of either motion; I'm just getting looser and, I suppose, just shaking my dominant arm might have the same effect.

  13. Very good video and I thought the same.But it seems that for many people "serving is a throwing motion" is a kind of mantra.All the best.

  14. TI disagree,hrowing helps serving big time, Americans, Australians all have great serves from baseball, Cricket sports as kids. All good throwers are good servers ….Serving is an upward throw. baseball pitching is a downward throw but if you watch outfielders in cricket and baseball you will see a more tilt of there shoulders as they throw a longer distance….i played pro baseball, can serve over 200km …similar rotations of the shoulder and chest then pronation massively when throwing a ball, much more than serving even……

  15. As it turns out, the serve is actually more like a javelin throw as opposed to a baseball throw; pronation of the Tennis racquet is analogous to the release of the javelin. Even the grips and release angles are essentially identical.

  16. Nice video Nick! Is it possible for you to make a video on Inside out/Inside In footwork and weight transfer/distribution, Placement, when and where to hit?It is one of the biggest factors for success in Men tennis. Thanks

  17. Serve is a throw upwards, at 75-80 degree to the horizon. Try throwing a ball (or even a raquet if you not afraid to ruin it) on the other side of the court with as high trajectory as you can. You wil get the perfect serve motion.

  18. I think the throw is a good 'rough guide' to the serve principle but agree, ceases to be useful after the elbow moves upward whereupon a throwing technique no longer correctly applies, you're right there is a subtle difference. Great advice, thank you Nick. Gordon

  19. I agree with the statement, "The serve is not a throwing motion".
    However, I think the only problem I have with your reasoning is that you are cherry picking differences between the throw and the serve, when there are also similarities that you could actually learn from. The focus of the drill is much more important than the drill itself. Focus on differences and you learn nothing, focus on similarities and maybe there is something you can take away.

    Further, I do agree that the only way to actually improve the serve is by serving. Throwing is simply a tool to help the student learn certain principles of movement, and should not be used as the main way to learn to serve.

  20. I feel that it is a throwing motion of the racquet. The contact point of the ball in a serve is the release point of pitching a baseball. Most instructors say it is similar to pitching a baseball , not exactly as pitching it. It is similar and i feel a good premise for teaching the serve. Seems to have worked for a lot of players.

  21. 95% of rec players are social doubles players. You don't need a serve in doubles until you reach the 5.0 level. Meanwhile, just put the ball into play, pretty much the way a tennis coach like Gigi Fernandez feeds balls to her students: from the waist flip the ball up in front of you about 6 inches high and swing volley it into play. That said, IF you play highschool or college tennis then play close attention to what this guy has to say, because you need a serve in singles above 4.0 NTRP. In rec doubles you need just three strokes, the lob, the volley, and the overhead, that's it. Everything else you just shove back over like McEnroe. That's why rec doubles is so much fun. It's easy if you can just stop trying to hit big groundies and serves like a pro.

  22. Teaching throwing the racket like a ball helps the student correlate how the relaxation suppose to work, then just adding elbow path, pronation, tennis mechanics and etc. into it.

  23. Yes 100% i agree with you , it has nothing to do with throwing motion , completely different muscles used , different motion, you are a great coach .

  24. You Europeans are smart cookies and I guess you are also the world's best players. Good analysis and insights.

  25. I show folks how to turn the serve into a throwing motion. A more powerful way to hit a serve:

  26. The serve is a throwing motion like that of an OUTFIELDER not that of a pitcher or infielder. In this video at the 6:08 mark the front shoulder is higher than the back shoulder (the Power Position on a serve). At the 6:27 mark the elbow has come up and his other arm is tucked into his chest (like the tossing arm tuck position). The motion will be completed with a shoulder-over-shoulder rotation just like that in any good serve. Note that the ball has to be thrown up and out like that of a tennis racket prior to making contact.

  27. Be glad that you didn't play baseball throwing like that you would have had Tommy John surgery at age 12. Lol. But decent video problem is your explanation of a proper serve is actually the proper mechanics for a good throw as well.

  28. It would be better to serve a volleyball than to throw a ball for the correct arm motion, as the ball is not held in the hand. In both volleyball and tennis the ball is struck not released.

  29. The serve is a throwing motion , only your throwing up instead of horizontal with the ground , you should have threw the ball up instead of horizontal to get a better comparison , the racket is a lot heavier than a ball 57 grams vs 300 grams so 6x heavier , your central nervous system will account for this using different muscle groups , find a ball that weighs 300 grams and throw it , the difference will be similar , i can serve at 120 mph without much training because i can throw an american football over 50 yards .
    If you have a good throwing arm you will have a fast serve .
    If the serve is not a throwing motion then what is it ? it can only be a Push if its not a throw, and the serve is definitely not a pushing motion .

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