After watching a lot of PSA matches of late and then going in to coach amateur players, one massive disconnect that I am noticing a lot and that is becoming more and more evident is the lack of bend in the knees amateur players use. If you watch a pro match take a moment to notice and look at what is happening in the lower half of the body. It is phenomenal how much they use their knees and legs to contribute to the shot. Amateurs tend to be very limited with the amount of softening of the knees that they use and this contributes to a lot of limitations within their games. If you are going to watch someone, at the moment for me Joel Makin is one of the best in the world at this and I believe part of his recent success is due to how low he gets in his shots.
Below are some of the key benefits of getting low in your shot and using the lower half of your body more effectively:
This is a little chicken and egg. Meaning, do you need to get better spacing in order to get low in your shot or do you get good at getting lower and the spacing improves? I think the connection is quite close. They work together. When your mindset is wanting to get lower and use your knees better you will start to give the ball more space in order to maximize this movement. Lack of spacing on the ball is such a common fault for amateurs and when you crowd the ball you have to then make lots of compromises in your swing to attempt to get the ball where you want it to go. When your spacing is good and you are reaching for the ball slightly so your arm locks out at impact, this makes the swing completely free and a lot more consistent in the shot. This spacing combined with softening the knees at the right time is a powerful way to improve a lot of your consistency and accuracy.
Transfer of weight through the shot
When you are bending well and at the right time you will be able to transfer your weight through the shot more effectively. When done well this really starts to give your shot a lot more bite and substance. You need to look to practice WHEN to soften your knees and this should be linked into your heel striking the floor. If you are able to feel the contact with the heel on the floor and then relax for a split second this allows the body to just slightly soften. Getting low too early can be quite damaging and puts a lot of hard work in your legs. When you soften at the right time your transfer of weight into the shot will be at its maximum. This is such a lovely feeling to get in your game and can make your really efficient while improving the pace and power of your shots at the same time.
Improves your drops
Getting really low when playing your drop shots really helps cut down the errors. If you are able to get your hips low as well as to crease at the hips so your head goes forward and gets low you are now a lot more on the level of the top of the tin. When you feel low and at the same level as the height of the tin you now do not have to force the ball downwards and run the risk of hitting the tin. The angle of the ball off the strings is less severe and you will quickly find that mistakes will be reduced by this lower position you are in. When you feel your errors are reducing on your drops you will look to play them more and now can be a really effective weapon you may not have been maximizing before due to the increased confidence.
Recovery out the shot
When you start to get your timing of bending your knees and then executing the shot, your recovery will be closely linked to this also. Being able to use your lunge and softening of the knees as part of your recovery will make you a lot more efficient in your movement and put you back on the T quicker to formulate more attacking opportunities for yourself. When you are slightly lower your legs are now like a coiled spring ready to release the energy. When you have got low as well as dragged the back foot this is a lovely position to now recoil back out, linked with your follow-through, back to the T. Again this may take some time to develop the feeling and naturalness of the movement but if you observe the pros they are doing this on each and every shot that they can.
In summary, try and see how much lower you can start to get in your shots. The benefits listed above should be motivation to introduce this into your game. Bear in mind this may be really difficult and energy-draining at first but like any skill, it will take time to be honed and developed. It may be wise to incorporate some form of strength training on the legs in the gym in order to get them strong and ready for these new deep positions you will be getting into.
Want to master your movement but not sure where to start?
Check out this helpful series where Jesse teaches you everything you need to know to become an efficient mover on court.Watch now