Exercises to connect the Lower to the Upper part of the body

Theses notes are part of the course “Basic principles of movement analyses and how to build up new patterns of movements. ” - Fysiofit Sportcentrum - Sint Niklaas Nov 2003/March 2004

In tennis as in most of ball sports it is necessary to push from the Lower to reach with the upper.

The legs are connected to the hips (coxo-femoral joints). Any movement of the leg will take the hip to move. This level implies a high level of differentiation.

If the hip moves the leg will probably move as well. We will start from the latter.

The main goal is to show how the initiation from the center of the body takes the upper (shoulder blades, arms and hands) to move.

Very often coaches give indications or corrections pointing the shoulder/arm action. This approach risks that the center of the body has no chance to support the movement of the Upper.

Let see some examples:

Initiation from the Lower to develop fundamental aspects of FH in open stand.

The starting position is kneeling in order to clarify the initiation from the hips.

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  1. Starting position in “all four”
  2. The right knee turns out. The player must not step. The movement of the knee brings the hip to rotate.
  3. The player turns the left foot to the left pivoting on the left knee. It brings the left hip to internal rotation.
  4. Both movements take the player to the ready position to strike the ball. The shoulder/arm position is the consequence of connecting the movement initiated from the Lower that travels all the way through to the Upper.

Going to standing position

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The movement is in spiral (three dimensional) from low y high level in space and forward in to go through the ball.

Initiation from the Lower to develop the fundamental aspects of BH in open stand.

The starting position is kneeling in order to clarify the initiation from the hips.

As you can see the movement of the Lower and hips is similar to the one of BH

Going to standing position

The attention is placed in the strength obtain via the kinetic chain supported by breath (inhale in opening and exhale in closing movements)

Exploring the Upper.

Apart of the connection with the Lower the Upper has his own language. This refers to the connection scapula-arm-hand (scapulo-humeral rhythm)

It is important to do exercises where de initiation of the arm movement starts from the scapula.

Practice from Enrique Pisani about arm rotation supported by the scapula

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  1. Lying on the back the player lifts one arm (pointing the ceiling) with the palm of the hand facing the middle line of the body.
  2. Reach higher with the hand while turning it in pronation and check if the scapula moves. The turn must occur during the whole movement and not at the beginning or at the end.
  3. Reach still higher, then it will be clear the scapular engagement.
  4. To keep on reaching higher it is needed to engage the hips. At this point the movement could be started from the hips (hip-scapula-hand) or from the hand (hand-scapula-hips) or from the scapula.

Connecting with service movement

The ground exercises

This movement (service) starts from hips rotation and the further engagement on the scapulo-arm rhythm.

Following a developmental approach the player starts lying on the floor.

The goal of lying on the floor is to get rid of the anti-gravitatory muscles (muscles whose action keeps us in upright position) in order to facilitate body awareness. Especially of those muscles that are more difficult to feel.

This exercise clarifies the influence of hips rotation in the tennis service movement. The primary direction is forward and the secondary one is upwards.

The movement travels from hips to scapula to arm to hand.

There is a diagonal in the body, which goes from the left hip to the right shoulder. This diagonal lengthens in the first part of the movement (opening phase) and shortens in the second part (closing phase)

The strength is generated because of the participation of the hips to go to the scapula and the precision comes from the distal part (elbow, wrist and hand) in coordination with eyes and mouth.


Opening phase (hips in external rotation to the right.


Initiating from hips.


Closing phase - The pronation of the forearm is initiated in the scapula.

From kneeling to standing

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In these 3 pictures can be observed how the diagonal (now from the left foot to the right shoulder) through the left hip to the left shoulder is formed.

It is fundamental to remark that during the movement to go from kneeling to standing the priority direction is backwards.

In the next 2 pictures can be observed the spiral action for hitting the ball and the shoulder blade gliding on the ribs.

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