The forehand is one of the most weaponized shots in tennis. It is very often used to dominate an opponent following an aggressive serve.
They use them as the cornerstone of their games, building points from their powerful first strike and then proceeding to dominate from the baseline.
So, what exactly is it that sets their forehands apart from the rest?
Well, they are able to generate a lot of power and spin, allowing them to unlock the ‘heavy’ forehand.
Now, the heavy forehand may have been something you have heard of before, but never really understood how to produce.
If this is the case, you’ve come to the right place!
Hitting a heavy forehand is not something that is just reserved for the tennis elites, you too can access even more power and extreme topspin to add a new weapon to your armory!
What do we mean by a ‘heavy’ forehand exactly?
It refers to a ball with a lot of weight to it, meaning there is a lot of force and kinetic energy behind the shot. It is the sort of shot that almost pushes your racket back as you receive it.
It is typically hit with a lot of pace and heavy topspin, so it really kicks up off the court and can be a real nightmare to deal with!
It also builds a lot of margin for error into your forehand, thanks to the greater net clearance and sipping topspin.
So, let’s delve deeper into how you can add the heavy forehand to your game!
Why Add More Topspin to Your Game?
One of the fundamental elements of adding more weight to your forehand is adding more topspin.
Not only does this build in more safety to your forehand, but it also gets the ball violently dipping inside the court and kicking up at your opponent.
The reason why this is so effective is that it takes the ball out of your opponent’s strike zone and gets them hitting the ball more at shoulder height and above, rather than at a comfortable waist height.
When this is combined with a powerful strike, it really adds a lot of potency to your game and makes softening up your opponent a whole lot easier.
Hitting the ball with more topspin overall also gives you more control, meaning you can place the ball more easily and get it dipping inside the court more quickly.
This means you can aim for smaller targets and hit with acute angles, safe in the knowledge that your ball will dip inside the lines at the last second.
This in turn allows you to play with more confidence and you will be able to dictate play a lot more easily with your new heavy, Rafa-like forehand!
How to Hit the Heavy Forehand
Now, we have explained why it is important to add more topspin to your forehand, but hitting the heavy forehand requires more than just pure revolutions on the ball.
You also need to generate more power if you want to hit a heavy forehand. It is the combination of power and spin in equal measure that makes for a truly monstrous forehand!
Having the ability to generate a lot of both power and spin on your forehand also gives you a lot of versatility, since you can hit a lot of angles and get the ball dipping at your opponent’s feet, as well as flatten the ball out and rush your opponent when the time is right.
With that being said, here are some of our top tips for hitting a heavier forehand!
Get Your Body Behind the Ball
One of the most fundamental but often overlooked steps in hitting a heavier forehand is actually getting your body behind the ball.
This may sound like an obvious point, but it is impossible to hit the ball at your maximum power and spin when you are stretching or off balance.
This means that getting into position in plenty of time, getting your body behind the ball and setting up correctly is incredibly important if you want to add more weight to your forehand.
In order to do this, you need to complete your unit turn (turning your legs, hips, shoulders and racket) before the ball has bounced, allow yourself enough space to take a full swing at the ball and wait for the ball to drop to a comfortable hitting height (usually between waist and chest height).
All of these steps allow you to transfer as much weight and energy through your body and into the ball as efficiently as possible, meaning you will be able to maximise your power generation on contact.
Therefore, getting your body into a nice, coiled up power position will allow you to unleash all of your force on to the ball and strike a much heavier forehand!
Racket Back, Early Set Up
Once you have got your body behind the ball, it is important to actually get your racket back nice and early so you have plenty of time and space to take a full swing at the ball.
If you don’t get your racket back early enough, you will find yourself rushing your backswing and using up too much momentum and energy before you actually strike the ball.
This wastes your power generation and means less pace will go into hitting your forehand, meaning you will hit a slower, less heavy shot.
On the other hand, if you can prepare your body early and get your racket back behind you, in line with your unit turn, this will make life a lot easier when you come to uncoiling your body and striking the ball.
So, as you turn your shoulders, be sure to use your not hitting hand to force your racket back behind your body and have your racket upright in your power position well before the ball bounces.
This will give you plenty of time to complete a full swing and hit the ball with as much power as possible. Think Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro or Radek Stepanek.
Racket Under the Ball
Another often underlooked element of hitting a heavy forehand is actually getting your racket underneath the ball.
This is so often not considered when trying to add more weight to the forehand, but it is absolutely essential!
The reason for this is that having a steep racket path angle as you brush up and strike the ball will generate monster levels of topspin and get the ball rearing up at your opponent!
However, in order to do this on every shot, you’ll need to be on your toes so you can get to the ball early, bend your knees and drop your racket well under the ball before you drive up and hit it.
Drive with the Legs
Of course, if you want to add more power to your forehand, you’ll need to use your legs!
These are the largest and strongest muscles in the body and need to be incorporated into every shot for maximum spin and power, especially the heavy forehand!
So, whilst you are setting up to hit your forehand, be sure to bend your knees, load up your hips and drive through the ball by firing your dominant side hip forward.
This will force the rest of your body to follow suit and will add a lot of easy power to your forehand.
Again, this is essential to ensuring you generate as much power as possible and are using your body efficiently.
You also want to think about pushing through the ground with your feet, so you are moving up and forwards into your shot.
If this is timed well with your racket and hips coming through, you will be hitting a very heavy forehand in no time!
Accelerate Through the Ball
As we have mentioned, adding more power through the use of your body is fundamental to adding weight to your forehand.
However, there is more than just brute force needed when adding heft to your shots. You also need to generate more topspin, as we have previously alluded to.
In order to do this, you need to stay relaxed and think about using your racket as a windscreen wiper to brush up the back of the ball and generate lots of topspin.
This means that as you drive with your legs and swing your racket towards the ball, you’ll need to keep a loose wrist and relaxed hand so you can whip your racket through the shot with as much racket head speed as possible.
This is where the game is really won or lost when trying to add more weight to your forehand.
It’s no good having all this additional power, but not being able to translate it into more speed and spin on the ball!
So, as you accelerate through the ball, remember to set your wrist back, aim to hit from the bottom to the top of the ball and get your racket really brushing the back of the ball with as much spin as possible.
So, we have discussed the mechanics behind what you can physically do to hit the heavy forehand, but what else can you do to improve your power and spin?
Strings and Tension
Adjusting your strings and tension can lead to a few easy wins here.
Firstly, using a racket with an open string pattern of 16×19 or less will give you more chance of generating as much spin as possible.
Aside from that, loosening off your strings by a few pounds to add more power (if that’s what you’re lacking), or tightening them up to add more control and spin can be a real help when you’re looking to maximise the weight of your shots.
Also, even adding some lead tape to the head of your racket can make it more head heavy and travel through the ball with more force.
Keep Up Your Intensity
On the mental side of things, it is important to stay consistent with your effort and intensity when you are looking to hit the ball heavier.
Whilst it is important to stay loose and relaxed as you hit the ball, it is equally important to work hard, be light on your feet and stay alert whilst reading the game in order to get into the best positions possible to hit your new heavy forehand.
After all, there’s little point having a new weapon of a forehand if you can’t get to any balls and use it!
So, be sure to look for opportunities to run around your backhand and hit the forehand, open up the court and look to pounce on any short balls you can so you can exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and dominate play!
Overall, adding more weight to your forehand is a great way to transform your game and become a more aggressive baseline player.
There are a few fundamental tips that you can implement when hitting a heavier forehand, such as preparing early, getting your racket back, using your body to generate power and accelerating quickly through contact as you strike the ball.
These are all incredibly important if you want to hit a heavier forehand, meaning with more power and topspin.
What’s more, it is always important to stay mentally sharp, look for opportunities to use your forehand as much as possible and stay on your toes to get into the best position possible.
With that being said, have a go at implementing these steps into your forehand and let us know how you get on!