Kinetic chain breakage/ Why is it so important?

The kinetic chain begins with generating the force from the ground up, from the strongest sources of energy (legs and trunk). The energy flows through the body from the legs to hips, torso, shoulders, arms and wrist to generate the high velocity stroke. If one of the elements of the chain are not used properly, the chain is broken and that puts very large pressure on the surrounding segments.

IN SIMPLE WORDS – the impact (hitting) is a consequence of the previous connected movements starting from ground up, using the WHOLE body.
Kinetic chain breakage can happen because of the muscle weakness, muscle inflexibility, joint injury, poor technique and mechanics of the strokes and for me a very important – misunderstanding and not having enough knowledge of the optimum tennis stroke production.

Why is this so important?

  1. Understanding how your body creates energy is crucial for any player at any level. Understanding how the energy is transferred through the body into the stroke makes tennis a much simple game.
  2. Saving yourself from injuries using the proper source of energy and using your muscles and joints just enough to play the game efficiently saving your body of the overuse.
  3. Understanding the chain helps you understand your tennis, so the errors in mechanics and technique can be corrected faster and easier

Serve breakage

1. As the serve motion begins from the leg drive, if the leg muscles are weak a player will try to skip generating the power from the legs up, using mostly the trunk and shoulder rotation ending up excessive using the arm muscles.

2. The back leg gives upward and forward push while the front provides a stability for the body to create efficient rotation forward, so if the player is not using leg muscles, he is loosing both elements of the efficient serve. If the player is not using a back leg drive, he will be not using properly the back hip rotation which leads to the lacking of back shoulder rotation (power to pull the racquet through the ball).

3. Uncoordinated feet position leads to the chain breakage as the player is in the open stance before the stroke having the hips almost parallel facing the net. In this case he will not be having knees flexed (bent), therefore not using legs nor hips to create powerful rotation, using only shoulder and arm power. Repetitive overloading of the muscles and ligaments of the back of the shoulder lead to decreased shoulder internal rotation and to chronic soreness in the shoulder, shoulder blade and elbow.
Forehand breakage

1. Most of the rotation and power is generated from the proper foot position and stance. Lacking in back leg drive which initiates the back hip rotation can be the most common breakage of the chain. This can happen because of the uncoordinated back foot and leg position. This error can limit the drive and break a chain. Last step before the shot (usually the front foot) should create a wide and stable base so the hips could push through as a very short step limits the complete hip rotation.

2. If the back leg is not strongly pushing against the ground, hips cannot rotate from back to the front and weak hip muscles can not push the right side of the body strong enough.

3. If shoulder rotation is very poor and weak, a player will depend on the forearm to accelerate the racquet, as the arm should follow the shoulder rotation. This type of breakage could lead to a set of serious injuries.
Backhand breakage

1. In the one handed backhand the most common breakage is because the body is lacking the trunk rotation. Trunk rotation will only happen if the non dominant side of the one handed backhand stroke initiates it.

2. In one handed backhand a weak front shoulder muscles can lead to a breakage. In both ways (trunk rotation and front shoulder problem), a player starts relying on the wrist and elbow muscles to create acceleration of the racquet which will lead to the tennis elbow injury.

3. In the two handed backhand, the non dominant side is similar to the forehand as it acts as the forehand with the non dominant arm. So, the weak points would be same as a forehand – uncoordinated feet position, no leg drive, weak hip rotation muscles (see the photo).

4. Dominant side is a stability element of the stroke, as the body is relying on the stable front foot position enabling the non dominant side to push through trunk rotation. Weak trunk rotation muscles could lead to the breakage of the chain when follow through and weak front shoulder external rotation when taking the racquet to the take back.

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