Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pushing, Pulling, Throwing

My earlier post, To Push, raises the question of the difference between pushing and pulling. I think that hitting a tennis ball, especially on the serve and the one-handed forehand, is a throwing motion. I think throwing motions are mostly pulling motions as opposed to pushing motions.

Getting your weight into a throw is definitely good advice, so perhaps I'm a bit harsh in my condemnation of getting your weight into a tennis forehand. But we don't lean on things we pull. If anything, we lean away from them, don't we? If I'm pulling a wagon to the north, I get to the north of the wagon, attach a rope or a chain, and pull to the north, away from the wagon to my south. That's the definition of pulling. To push it, I'd get behind it, to its south, and push on the wagon itself toward the north.

In thinking about this issue, I'm reminded of a category of baseball pitchers who essentially push the ball. Most baseball pitchers don't remotely push the ball. They throw the ball at speeds approaching 100 mph. They do this by pulling their pitching arm, hand, and ball toward home plate and the release point. One class of pitchers doesn't do that, though: the knuckleballers. Their motion is much more like a push. They don't rely on high ball speeds and spins. They rely on slow and erratic ball speeds and spins and paths to fool hitters.

I'm also reminded of golfers who generally pull with their left side if they are right handed. When I was younger all the golf instructions I heard were about how important the left hand was in pulling the golf club. It was even suggested that right-handed people should play golf left-handed so they could pull with their stronger side. My dad is left-handed but plays right-handed and has always been a very good ball striker. Maybe there was/is something to that age-old advice. I wonder if left-handed golfer Bubba Watson is right-handed. I know Phil Mickelson is right-handed.

Unfortunately for me, I'm not a strong puller. Maybe that's why I don't throw a ball very hard or hit a golf ball or a tennis ball very hard. In the weight room I'm much better at the pushing exercises than I am at the pulling exercises. Luckily my legs are pretty strong and we push with those even when we pull with our arms, so I'm not as bad as I might otherwise be. Thank goodness athletic moves start with a push of the legs against the ground or I'd hit the ball even slower than I do now! Yikes.

Anyway, as I told Alexandra in the comments on my To Push post, I think the best way to think about serves and one-handed shots in tennis is to try to throw the racquet through the ball. I think that's the way to maximize racquet speed.

1 comment:

Pulling rather than pushing said...

Maybe this is why Stosur is warming up(2min 21 secs)her FH with underarm throws
:)Great blog..I'm happy I found it :)Thanks