Are you a tennis player looking for ways to improve your forehand? Or are you a coach looking for inspiration & tennis forehand drills that you can use in your training? Then this blog post is just right for you. The forehand is the most important baseline shot in tennis. If you manage to perfect your forehand, this shot can become a real weapon in your game.

1. Changes in the forehand from then to now

Over the course of time, the execution and therefore also the training of the forehand has changed considerably. Many years ago, the forehand was performed in a kind of pendulum motion. Today, the forehand technique is more complex than ever and there are many key positions that need to be trained on the way to the perfect forehand. As a result, tennis forehand drills must also be adapted to the requirements.

The racket material has also changed. While in the 1970s people still played with wooden rackets, carbon models now ensure a significantly faster game, which in turn places demands on your forehand training. World-class hitting speeds of 140 to 160 km/h are no longer a rarity. In the 1970s, the forehand underwent a true “revolution” thanks to players such as Björn Borg, who used the western grip for his forehand for the first time. This allowed him to play his forehand strokes with even more topspin, which posed considerable problems for other players. Nowadays, Raphael Nadal stands out in particular, who sometimes plays his forehands with up to 6000 revolutions per minute. You should also take this factor into account when practicing tennis forehands.

Today’s tennis forehand is also played more dynamically than ever before. Therefore, fitness drills that improve the release of the kinetic chain from bottom to top are also part of the training program.

2. Basic tips for forehand training

2.1 Learning the correct technique (technique acquisition)

The majority of tennis forehand drills should be based on technique acquisition training. In technique acquisition training, the technical movement sequence of the forehand is trained through constant repetition of the forehand strokes. Technique acquisition training is characterized by the fact that only one ball is played at a time, which is usually played by the coach with the hand or racket. The aim is to train and automate individual key positions in the forehand movement. This could be, for example, taking the racket back early, which is practiced repeatedly with individual strokes. The coach’s task here is to pay attention to these key positions and correct the movement if necessary.

2.2 Using the forehand in game situations (technique application)

In technique application training, the focus is on applying the forehand technique in a game situation. Forehand drills should be carried out that simulate certain game situations in which the forehand is used. An example of a drill could be as follows: The coach plays a ball to player 1 to the outside, player 1 should hit the ball cross court to player 2 who responds with a forehand longline in a closed stance position. The point is then played out.
Such and similar technique application drills train approaches for the most varied game situations on the forehand side and are thus memorized for the later match.

2.3 Tennis Fitness drills for the forehand

As already described in the introduction, the physical dynamics of the strokes have changed over time, especially in the basic forehand and backhand strokes. Nowadays, a top player needs good athleticism to be able to accelerate the ball powerfully. Therefore, fitness drills that are necessary for the key positions of the optimal forehand should be practiced. One example of this could be drills with the medicine ball that train turning and going low during the forehand movement. These drills can also be used to train the explosive release of the movement.

2.4 Common technical errors when performing forehand drills

Especially tennis beginners, children or adults, often make mistakes during forehand training that are difficult to correct later on. In all tennis drills for the forehand, you should pay attention to the following issues so that no incorrect automatisms are trained:

  • Correct grip position: Always make sure you have the correct grip position, adapted to your playing experience. A beginner should always start with the classic forehand grip, not a western grip. The western grip makes it more difficult to learn the forehand motion and only slows down the development process unnecessarily. Once you have mastered the basics, you can also try out a western grip.
  • Correct paths: When practicing tennis drills for the forehand, always pay attention to the correct paths. Always return to the bisecting line in your drills so that this important path becomes internalized. Never stop the forehand drills on the outside, but always return to the bisector.
  • Lunge movement: When practicing tennis with young children and learners, it is perfectly okay if the backwing on the forehand initially only goes down like a pendulum to the back. However, as soon as the players feel more confident and have acquired certain basics, this technique should be improved. The racket should always be taken back at head height or above head height in order to maximize the acceleration phase. I have found that many players find it very difficult to correct the “back down” movement later on, drills such as “behave like the ball” train the correct and early backswing motion.
  • Hitting positions: Here, too, you should consider the player’s stage of development. In my opinion, teaching beginners the lateral, open and half-open stroke position on the forehand is not the right approach. Players should first feel comfortable on the forehand, so leave the stroke position out of consideration for beginners. However, the stroke position plays an important role in perfecting the stroke later on. They should therefore be used and taken into account when practicing forehands with advanced players.

3. Tennis Forehand drills for children

With forehand drills for children, the focus is clearly on learning the movement through play. Stroke techniques such as the “big loop” or follow through still play a subordinate role here. The important thing is to train positioning in relation to the ball, a forward and upward movement and coordination skills.

3.1 Rolling the ball back

The coach rolls balls from the service line into the child’s forehand corner. The child should now stop the ball with the racket and return the ball to the coach with a forward stroke. The child then moves back to the starting position with sidesteps.

  • Variation I: The coach throws the ball with a slight bounce. The child should now stop the ball coming from above with the racket and then roll it back to the coach with a striking motion.
  • Variation II: Like Variation I, but now the ball is to be shot through or into a goal. Points can be awarded here.

Goal: Training the correct distance to the ball. Familiarization with the stroke motion. Ball control,  footwork

3.2 Catching and throwing the ball

The coach stands in front of the child and throws a ball to them. The ball should be caught with two hands. The child then runs to a marker and throws the ball back to the coach from the bottom to the top with the dominant hand. The coach should make sure that the ball is thrown over the side in a pendulum motion.

  • Variation: The coach throws the ball away from the child to the forehand side. The child should let the ball bounce and catch it with both hands (or even just one hand, depending on ability) and then throw the ball back again with a pendulum motion over the side.

Goal: coordination training, familiarization with the stroke movement

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3.3 Forehand drills with the cone

The child holds a small cone in their right hitting hand. The coach throws a ball to the forehand side. The ball should bounce and the child tries to catch the ball with the cone (preferably in the open hitting position). The child then moves back in sidesteps and continues to catch balls.

Variation: The coach not only throws to the side, but also forwards alternately. In this way, the child also learns to run forwards.

Goal: distance to the ball, coordination, footwork

3.4 Tennis Forehand drills with balloons

Balloons are an excellent aid when working with children as they fly very slowly.

Drills with the balloon can be very effective, especially for kids
Drills with the balloon can be very effective, especially for kids. (Scene from separated video: Tennis Singles Training: 160 Drills For Players & Coaches – available in our store)

The child’s task is to play the balloon from bottom to top with the dominant hand. They should always keep moving and reposition themselves in relation to the balloon.

  • Variation I: The coach takes turns with the child playing the balloon up with the open dominant hand.
  • Variation II: The coach drops a balloon from above. The child should run to the balloon and hit the balloon from the bottom back to the top front with the open dominant hand. The coach catches the balloon and starts again.

Goals: Anticipation training, stroke execution, repositioning, coordination

You can find a great selection of tennis drills with the balloon here.

3.5 Stopping the ball and playing on

These drills can be carried out with the coach or with each other, depending on the level of play. The game is played on a service court or mini-court:
The coach plays a ball to the child on the forehand. The child should stop the ball and then play it back to the coach with a forward and upward motion.

  • Variation I: The ball should be stopped and played on from the air.
  • Variation II: Stop the ball twice and pass it on.
  • Variation III: Stop the ball with the backhand side and play on with the forehand.

Goals: Distance to the ball, stroke movement, ball control, anticipation

3.6 Hop hit

One of the best perception drills for forehand and backhand. This drill is also suitable for adults. The coach feed balls to the child. Whenever the ball touches the ground, the child should shout “Hop” loudly. When the child hits the ball, they should shout “hit” loudly as soon as the ball hits the racket. The aim is to achieve as close a match as possible.

Goal: Perception, timing the hit

3.7 Behaving like the ball

With this drill we train the early backswing on the forehand side. The coach plays balls to the child on the forehand. The child should now behave like the ball. This means that immediately after the ball is hit, the racket head should be moved backwards and upwards, when the ball is getting low, the child should also lower their center of gravity and when the ball rises, the child should also perform the stroke movement by moving their center of gravity upwards.

4. Tennis Forehand drills for adult beginners

The tennis forehand drills for adult beginners differ primarily in terms of teaching the basics. Adults usually already have a certain level of basic coordination and are able to judge balls quite well. The focus here is therefore on positioning and teaching technique.

4.1 Positioning drill 1, 2 or 3

The coach plays a ball to the student’s forehand side and calls out a number between 1 and 3. If the coach calls out “2”, for example, the student should only hit the ball after the ball has bounced twice. With 1 once, with 3 three times. You will be surprised how difficult this drill is. The student must constantly reposition himself and must plan in advance when he is going to hit the ball.

Goal: anticipation, perception, footwork

4.2 Positioning drill “Drop it”

A great tennis forehand drill to train the distance to the ball and correct shot positioning.

The coach feeds 6 balls and holds up a ball at any point in the court. The student should now swing the racket back and stand in the position that he or she considers to be optimal for playing the ball. The coach then drops the ball and the shot is executed. The coach then quickly moves to a completely different position and holds up the next ball. The student should now reposition himself and hit the ball again. This is then repeated with all the other balls. You can also create a target zone.

Goals: Distance to the ball, shot positioning, early backswing

4.3 Backswing & upper body rotation drill “Catch it”

With the help of this forehand drill, players can learn to rotate their upper body at an early stage and include their left non-dominant arm in their shot preparation.

The coach plays a ball to the student’s forehand. The student should take the racket back and take his left arm to the side. The ball should now be caught with the left hand (the dominant arm is still bent to the side). The ball should then be dropped in exactly the same place, the ball should bounce and a forehand stroke should then be performed.

Goals: Anticipation, upper body rotation, integration of the left arm into the stroke pattern

4.4 Movement drills with the medicine ball

The medicine ball is a perfect tool for training the stroke pattern and key physical positions. The weight of the ball should be adapted to the student and should not be too light, but also not too heavy. My recommendation: children 500 g – 1 kg, adults: 1 kg – 2 kg.
The coach throws a medicine ball to the student. The student should catch the ball after a split step. After catching the ball, the upper body is rotated with 2 hands at head height and the player runs to a marked position.

The medicine ball is a great tool to learn the tennis forehand technique.
The medicine ball is a great tool to learn the tennis forehand technique.

Once at the marked position, the student should now simulate a striking movement with the medicine ball. The coach should pay close attention to the execution. The medicine ball should leave the student at the side of the body and the swing should also be performed by following the striking shoulder. Following the stroke movement (the medicine ball throw) to the coach, the student makes cross overs and sidesteps back to the center, where the coach then throws the next ball.

Goald: Performing the striking movement, footwork

4.5 Hitting drills on target

When the student can already execute the technique quite well, it is time to increase the demands. The aim should no longer be to hit the ball over the net with a technically correct stroke, but to play it at a given target. The coach plays 6 balls to the student into the forehand corner. The student should hit all the balls cross-court at one target.

  • Variation I: The student should try to play all the balls longline to the target.
  • Variation II: The student should play the balls cross and longline alternately.
  • Variation III: The student should play cross until a target area is hit and then do the same with the longline side.
  • Variation IV: Elevator game – the student receives plus and minus points, depending on where he has played – he goes up or down in the elevator.
  • Variation V: Save the score.

4.6 Cooperative forehand drills

Cooperative drills are an important part of the application of the forehand technique. Here, two players or players and the coach should perform forehand-specific tasks. The aim here is to play cooperatively, i.e. to play the ball as long as possible.

2 players play the ball cross as long as possible.

  • Variation I: 2 players play the ball longline for as long as possible.
  • Variation II: Player 1 stands in the forehand corner and plays alternately into the forehand corner of player 2 and into the middle. Player 2 should now always hit a forehand cross and a forehand from the middle.
  • Variation III: Player 1 plays a forehand longline from the backhand corner into the forehand corner of player 2.
  • Variation IV: The players are given 1 minute to play as many forehand cross shots as possible. For each mistake, a new ball is fed by the coach. The players should try to beat the number of hits in the following rounds.

4.7 Tennis Forehand drills on the tennis wall

The tennis wall can also be a great tool for automating your stroke movements. However, I always recommend having a coach supervise you.
The player plays forehand strokes against the wall for as long as possible.

  • Variation I: The player plays a longline and a cross ball against the wall. Only forehands may be played.
  • Variation II: The player only plays a forehand. The ball should bounce once on the first shot and then twice, then once again and so on.
  • Variation III: The player plays the ball against the wall, the next ball should be stopped and then played with the forehand against the wall. Stop and continue playing.
  • Variation IV: After every third forehand ball, the player moves up and plays a volley and then moves back again.

5. Tennis Forehand drills for adults and young advanced players

Now it becomes much more performance-oriented. We start with technically well-developed players, who should then perform more demanding tennis forehand drills. The focus is on speed, endurance, the proper use of the forehand, stroke power, tactical aspects and mental strength.

5.1 Intensive throwing drills

The aim here is to continue to execute the forehand technique precisely in stressful situations. The coach creates demanding drills that challenge the players and push them to their limits.

  • Drill 1: The coach throws forehand balls wide and short into the court. The player should try to run to all the balls and return after the stroke into the bisecting line.
  • Drill 2: The player starts at a cone in the middle of the court. The coach throws balls wide into the forehand corner, the student should run to these balls and move back to the cone. After a series of 5 to 6 balls, a short ball is fed, which the player should follow to the end and finish with a split step into the bisector at the net.
  • Drill 3: The coach rolls balls into the forehand corner, the student should try to let this ball roll through the legs, return via the middle and then play a fast ball running forward. Then return to the cone and start again.
  • Drill 4: The coach has a mixture of orange and yellow balls in the basket. He throws the balls into the forehand corner. Yellow balls should be played longline, orange balls cross.
    Variation: orange balls should be left out.
  • Drill 5: The coach stands at the net and plays fast balls from above in quick succession to the player’s forehand. The player should react with a split step and a short backswing and return every ball (stroke frequency).

5.2 Tennis forehand inside drills

Develop your forehand into a weapon that you can rely on at any time. In these forehand drills, we will try to use the forehand as often as possible to put the opponent under pressure.

  • Drill 1: The coach plays 10 balls to the student. Each ball must be played with the forehand. The coach must find a good mix of balls that can be reached by the student. Balls into the backhand corner are also possible. The student tries to shoot every ball into the backhand corner.
  • Drill 2: The coach stands in the forehand corner and plays every ball back into the middle of the court without pressure. The student should now try to apply pressure with the forehand while running around the backhand. At a signal from the coach, after approx. 5-6 balls, a final inside-out ball is to be played into the backhand corner.
  • Drill 3: The coach plays a series of 3 balls to the student: Ball 1 goes into the forehand corner. The student should play this ball with an open stance. The second ball comes into the middle of the court, here the student should run around and play forehand inside-out from a half-open position. The third ball is a short ball into the center of the court. Here the student should play the ball with a closed stance. The drill then starts again with ball 1.

5.3 Tactical forehand drills

Now it’s time to use the forehand tactically.

  • Drill 1: Two players play against each other or students against the coach. The student should serve and then try to use the forehand as often as possible. If he manages to do this three times during the rally, he gains an extra point. The other player naturally tries to avoid the player’s forehand.
  • Drill 2: Two players play points against each other. If one player manages to score a direct point with his forehand, the point counts double.
  • Drill 3: Two players play points against each other. The server tries to serve to the backhand. The other player tries to use his forehand with the return. If he scores with the forehand return, an extra point is awarded.
  • Drill 4: Two players play a backhand cross rally. If one player recognizes the opportunity to use his forehand, he must announce this loud. The forehand should then be played quickly over the longline side and the point is free.

5.4 Improving dynamics (floor drill)

In this drill, the coach should pay attention to the strong pretension and the release from the legs. The coach plays several forehand balls to the player. The student should now imagine moving from floor 2 to the basement by lowering the body very much and releasing the movement dynamically from this position with a stroke.

  • Variation: The coach calls out the floor that is to be played and the player should go correspondingly low, e.g. basement (very low), first floor (low).

5.5 Speed control

In this drill, the player should acquire the ability to differentiate between the stroke speed by means of scaling.

The coach plays several balls to the player’s forehand. The student should now hit the balls and assess for himself how hard he has hit them. 10 = hardest, 1 = slowest.

  • Variation I: The speed is called out by the coach.
  • Variation II: The scale only goes from 1 to 5. The student should now make 5 strokes and hit in ascending speed.
You can practice the acceleration of your stroke if you try to "feel" your stroke!
You can practice the acceleration of your stroke if you try to “feel” your stroke! (Scene from “Tennis Technique Training: Module: Forehand” available in our store)

5.6 Hitting drills for closed, open & semi-open striking position

When it comes to striking positions, opinions often differ. In the past, tennis was played almost exclusively  from a side hitting position but tennis has changed in this respect. In principle, it is recommended to have different stroke positions depending on the game situation.

Open stance:

Recommended for balls that go wide to the outside.
Advantage: More reach, faster recovery to the middle, impact point further in front of the body possible.

Lateral stance:

This is particularly recommended for movements into the court, e.g. attacking shot.
Advantages: Faster way forward

Half-open hitting position:

Particularly recommended for strokes when running around the backhand.
Advantages: Easier shift of center of gravity to the front.

Isolated drills of all stroke types with simple feeding by the coach

Drill 1: 4 forehand cross balls in an open position and a “finisher” half-open into the backhand corner of the court.

Drill 2: The student hits open forehand balls  and forehand inside-out in half-open stance until a short ball is played. This should be hit into the forehand corner. The drill ends with a volley at the net.

Drill 3: One player is the attacker and starts at the baseline. He should attack into the opponent’s forehand corner. The opponent tries to defend with an open hitting position. The point is played out.

5.7 Situational use of the forehand in baseline rallies

Here, the forehand plays a decisive role in a baseline rally.

Drill 1: 2 players play a forehand-cross duel. If the ball is shorter than the T-line, the player should attack longline and the point is free. Only the attacker can then score.

Drill 2: 2 players play a forehand cross duel. The player who first hits two balls over a marker in the middle of the service court may open forehand longline.

Drill 3: 2 players play forehand longline. One player must play from the backhand corner. This player may then open the point with a cross ball. However, the ball must be announced beforehand. The rally is played out.

Drill 4: 2 players play a forehand cross rally. One player may open the point. The point is opened with a high spin ball into the longline corner at the opponent’s backhand. The point is then free.

6. Aids to improve the forehand

The forehand can be improved with even more tools.

  • Topspin Pro: The TopspinPro is a great tool for optimizing and learning the forehand movement. I have already made videos with sample drills for this.
  • Video analysis: Record your forehand with a smartphone. Use different angles and focus on key positions and discuss it with your coach. In my experience, players understand stroke patterns much better when they can watch their shots themselves.
  • Ball machine: The ball machine is a great tool for further optimizing the stroke pattern. The big advantage: the coach can concentrate exclusively on the shot and can stand close to the student and directly address and improve technical errors.

7 Conclusion & outlook

The forehand is a complex shot. The aim of training should be to improve the player step by step. You should start with the basics, i.e. the correct execution of the technique. Pay particular attention to the key positions. You can then develop the player further and practise and automate more complex movement sequences and stroke situations. Use different balls from time to time, such as the slower stage 1 balls, even for adults. This often makes it much easier for the player to understand and implement stroke patterns. I hope my forehand tips and forehand drills can help you to develop your players or improve your own forehand. Have fun practicing!

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