The trophy pose or position is a simple yet effective technique you can use to develop and improve your serve. If you’re just getting started with learning how to serve you may want to check out our article on the tennis serve stance before you read this article.
Ensuring you start with the correct serve stance will help set you up for a more effective trophy pose and therefore serve.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Why it’s called the trophy pose?
- The importance of the trophy pose
- The different parts of the trophy pose
- Your head and the trophy pose
- Achieving consistent timing
- Establishing rhythm
- Trophy pose examples
Why is it Called The Trophy Pose?
Tennis trophies commonly make use of a player hitting a serve which is where the trophy pose gets its name. Here are a few pictures of tennis trophies if you’re not familiar:
Now that you’ve seen what a tennis trophy looks like, hopefully, it will serve as a simple, yet convenient, reminder for how you’ll want to position your body when hitting a serve.
The Importance of the Trophy Pose
As you can imagine, there’s a good reason why the trophy pose is so important to the tennis serve, and it’s all about preparation.
More specifically, the trophy pose is what helps you prepare and position your body to accelerate the racquet through your swing motion, and it’s this acceleration that enables you to generate power and topspin necessary for an effective serve.
One analogy that might be useful is that the trophy pose is kind of like pulling a slingshot or rubber band all the way back before you release it. There’s a bunch of stored energy in the pose that is ready to be released through the swing.
Ultimately, the trophy pose serves as the foundation for any type of serve you’re hitting: flat, slice, or kick.
The Different Parts of the Trophy Pose
To help simplify the trophy pose, we can break it into four essential parts or movements.
However, before we get started, I’d like to point out that each of these four parts of the trophy pose happens simultaneously. I’ve just broken them out into four sections to more easily describe each movement, which we’ll then link together to complete the pose.
With that in mind, I’d recommend you practice each movement, and then you can work towards combining the motions as you read through the rest of the article.
The first step to achieve the trophy pose is the backswing.
First, make sure you position your body in the appropriate serve stance with your hands in the ready position. Next, drop both hands down at the same time and let your dominant hand (the one that’s holding your racquet) swing down and back like a pendulum behind you.
You’ll then want to continue the backward motion with your racquet upward and behind your head, until your bicep is roughly parallel with the court and your forearm is approximately at a 90-degree angle with your bicep.
As you perform your backswing with your dominant hand, you’ll want to allow your opposite hand that’s holding the ball to swing forward and up towards the sky so that you can toss the ball upwards.
Your toss is crucial for an effective serve so we’ve expanded on the topic in our article on perfecting your toss – check it out for more details on getting this exactly right.
Helpful Tip: To ensure the timing of your backswing and toss is in sync many players find the mantra “down together, up together” particularly useful. With your feet in the correct stance and your hands in starting position, you’ll want to bring both hands down together and then both hands up together as you complete your backswing and toss. Give it a try.
Next, you’ll want to add in the knee bend which should happen simultaneously with your dominant hand’s backswing and your opposite hand tossing the ball.
By the time you complete your backswing and extend your arm for the toss, your knees should be fully bent. In other words, your lower body and upper body should finish their motion at the same time.
The amount that you bend your knees will vary quite a bit from player to player. Just remember that a significant share of the power on your serve comes from your legs, so make sure they’re fully engaged and bent enough so that you can take full advantage of the energy from your legs.
The weight transfer is another movement that helps set your body up for maximum acceleration and power, but before you add in the weight transfer make sure you feel comfortable with the three parts we’ve discussed so far: the backswing, toss, and knee bend.
The easiest way to begin the weight transfer is to start with your weight slightly forward on your front foot. Then with your hands in the ready position, you can slowly rock your weight towards your back foot.
As this happens, you’ll want to let your hands down together and begin to bend your knees so that you start to bring your weight forward towards the court. Then bring your hands up together and complete backswing, toss and knee bend all at the same time.
Your weight should be moving forward and into the court, as you complete your backswing, toss, knee bend and weight transfer, and you should find yourself in the trophy position.
Your Head & The Trophy Pose
While it’s natural to look up towards the sky when you toss the ball with the trophy pose, I wanted to touch on two key reasons why keeping your head up is essential:
- The first and more obvious reason to keep your head up is so that you can make eye contact with the ball. If you’re not looking up or you drop your head to look where you’re hitting instead of looking at the ball, then you significantly increase the likelihood of a mishit.
- The second and less apparent reason to keep your head up is that when you drop your head, your shoulders tend to collapse which causes you to lose proper form which subsequently causes players to hit the ball into the net.
The second one tends to creep up on players, and it can be hard to detect by yourself – even a subtle drop of the head can produce a fault. To avoid running into this issue make sure you’re deliberate about keeping your head up all the way through contact with the tennis ball.
Achieving Consistent Timing
Timing is crucial with the trophy pose, and there are a few tips you can use to help make sure your motion is on point.
- Down together, up together: the trophy pose begins with you releasing and dropping your hands from the ready position and then bringing your dominant hand behind you to complete your backswing and your opposite arm in front of you and up for your toss. As you go through these motions, it can be helpful to think of your hands coming down together and up together through these motions to keep things well timed.
- Keeping your upper and lower body in sync: once you’ve mastered the backswing and toss it’s merely a matter of adding in the knee bend. You should complete your upper body movement at the same time you finish your lower body knee bend.
While it takes some time to develop rhythm through your trophy pose, there’s one tip, in particular, that will help ensure you produce a smooth replicable pattern of movement and that’s to relax your body through the motion.
When trying to connect the different movements for the trophy pose it’s somewhat natural to want to tense up your body to better control your flow, but tense muscles will work against you when serving.
Remember the rubber band reference from earlier?
The trophy pose is the equivalent of stretching a rubber band. When you release the rubber band it goes flying, and you want your body to achieve a similar elastic effect, but that can only happen if your body is relaxed and your muscles allowed to move freely.
Doing so will allow you to achieve maximum acceleration and racquet head speed when you’re hitting your serve for improved power and spin.
Helpful tip: a simple, yet effective way to relax your body before serving is to add in a ball bounce before you serve. Bouncin the ball will provide you with a moment to think about relaxing your muscles and release or shake out any tension in your muscles before you begin to move your body into your trophy pose.
Trophy Pose Examples
To show you how fundamental the trophy pose is to your serve, let’s take a look at a few examples from some of the top professional players on tour. On the left, Elina Svitolina and on the right Kevin Anderson both showing off their trophy pose and at the time of writing this article, both ranked number 5 in the world.
Many players find it challenging at first as they learn to control their body through the trophy pose. Don’t get discouraged. It’s natural for it to take time before you start feeling comfortable. With a little practice and some patience, you’ll have the trophy pose mastered in no time at all.
Have questions or want to share your thoughts about the trophy pose? We’d love to hear your comments in the section below!
Serve EssentialsA step-by-step course to develop and improve your serve
- Part 1: Technique
A step-by-step guide to building your serve from the ground up.
- Part 2: Fundamentals
Learn the core principles that are common among all great servers.
- Part 3: Drills
Practice essential drills to help bring your serve to life with ease.