One of the most common errors I see that relates to movement, is the lack of an “athletic stance” in the vast majority of recreational players. There are other sports where being wide and low is critical; like you see with a defender in basketball, or a wrestler guarding against a takedown. In terms of movement, the athletic stance is every bit as important to success as the split-step that proceeds it. We’ll take a closer look in the pro player images that follow.
As we look at the image below featuring Grigor Dimitrov on the left and Roger Federer on the right, we notice how wide of a stance each player has coming out of their split-step. So the first key position you want to achieve is just like what you see with our pro players, your feet should be past shoulder width apart for a proper athletic stance. Having your feet in a wider position sets up the rest of the key technical checkpoints.
The advantages of a wide stance are better balance, a lower center of gravity, and better reaction time to your opponent’s shots. A good athletic stance will also see both legs bent, a bent leg position acts similarly to a loaded spring. It will allow you to push off your legs more efficiently which means you can get to the ball faster. A proper athletic stance means you’re more deadly on offense and defense.
Fast and Furious
So now that we have the proper width to our stance, we can talk about the other keys to the athletic stance in tennis. The first of which is that you should be on the balls of your feet and ready to explode in the direction of the ball. You can see this clearly with the image of Federer and Andy Murray which shows both players with their weight forward.
The second thing we see with both players is that their chest and shoulders are also leaning forward. Just remember that when you go into an athletic stance you don’t want your chest and shoulders leaning back. Wrestlers preparing to go in for an aggressive takedown, and basketball players guarding a player take a similar stance to what you see with both Federer and Murray. The same principles are in play, an explosive move to attack or defend.
Bend Your Knees
The last thing you’ll notice is the flex of the knees with both players. The number of degrees from the upper back of Roger to just behind his knee is 127, that number is 131 for Murray. A difference in their athletic stance of just 4 degrees. So if you’re struggling with your movement, remember the keys to the athletic stance and how it can help not only your defense, but your offense as well.
Keys to the Athletic Stance
- Your feet should be past shoulder width apart after you land from your split-step.
- End up on the balls of your feet.
- Get your chest and shoulders leaning forward.
- Have your knees flexed and ready for an explosive first step to the ball.