The kinetic chain: Only as strong as its weakest link
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines kinetic energy as "energy associated with motion."
People playing tennis at any level, from beginner to the most advanced, all share a common thread: the kinetic chain of energy. In fact, virtually every physical act performed is a result of kinetic energy.
Regarding tennis, there's really no one correct technique to hit any tennis shot, because the body is capable of putting the arm, hand and racquet in the correct position with the correct velocity to hit the ball.
But, due to the timing and flow of energy, body movements determine the coordination and timing that can either contribute to injury or make for a well-executed shot.
This is where the kinetic chain in tennis comes into play. Think of your body as a system of chain links, starting with energy pushing up from your feet (link No. 1), traveling through your calves (2), knees (3), and thighs (4).
It then goes through your hips (5), core (6), on to the shoulder (6), elbow (7), wrist (8), and hand (9), finally getting to the racquet. Think about it. There are at least nine successive energy links that are responsible for moving your energy to the end of your racquet.
As the energy is transferred up the chain, the best results are determined by how well each link moves energy and power to the next, building on the one before it, to ultimately propel the racquet.
So, how can we achieve the best results now that the kinetic chain is identified and understood? The answer: Learning proper timing of all the links to maximize the energy transfer, generate racquet speed and prevent injury.
If your strokes aren't quite the level you'd like them to be, or you're experiencing pain or discomfort while hitting, it's likely due to a "break" in the chain causing timing to be off.
The best all-round, efficient way to fix the "break" is to take a lesson with a qualified teaching pro. He or she can look at and analyze your current stroke technique and see what needs to be fixed, adjusted or improved upon.
Two very big benefits with improving technique are less risk for injury and better performance.
Here's to hoping your kinetic chain of energy has no weak link!
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides custom-hybrid racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. email@example.com