Formula 1 cars vs. tennis players
Sep 18, 2023
While you would never think that a car and a tennis player would have much in common, comparing powerhouse vehicles and powerhouse athletes can be somewhat revealing.
The structural design of any vehicle can tell the story of its function and its effects on performance. Consider a Formula 1 race car: beneath a Formula 1 car's streamlined exterior lies a sturdy frame, held together by tight suspension for surgical precision and handling. Can this be applied to your athletic foundation as a tennis player?
At SETS Consulting, we like our analogies. Why? They are easy for those who like comparison and visualization. To that end, here are six helpful commonalities between Formula 1 cars and tennis players.
#1: A Wide Wheel Base vs. a Wide Footwork Stance
A race car's center of gravity is only inches above the track. The width of the wheelbase is also wide. A tennis player’s optimal footwork base is one point five to three shoulder widths apart. Together, the wide base and low center of gravity allow the car and player to perform turns at high speeds and still achieve maximum stability and downforce to prevent losing traction and balance.
#2: Minimal Ground Clearance vs. Knees Bent/Hips Low to the Ground
Low drag and aerodynamics are the names of the game. When you are down in the athletic foundation position, you establish your "athletic height." Your athletic height should measure six inches to one foot below your normal standing height. You achieve this low-to-the-ground position by bending your knees to lower your hips while maintaining an upright back posture. Formula 1 cars are just 37 inches high, keeping a low center of gravity and profile.
#3: Sturdy Frame vs. Strong, Upright Back Posture
Weak posture in a player’s body, similar to the inefficient design in a race car, poorly manages the flow of power production and leads to strokes and vehicles that easily breakdown. In addition, the risk of injury or damage increases dramatically when you misuse and maintain a weak posture. Formula 1 cars are made of super strong and light carbon fiber chassis. Players need to rely on greater strength in their back muscles, chest, and abdomen. These muscle groups will provide enhanced core stability for more controlled power.
#4: Tight Suspension vs. Intense Muscular Reinforcement of Foundation
From a movement perspective, intensely-reinforced back posture works like a tight suspension in a Formula 1 car: it allows you to generate quick reactions and sharp changes of direction while resisting the forces of inertia that slow you down. Big muscles require big strength and stability.
#5: Super-Charged Engine vs. Powerful Lower Body Muscles
The legs are the primary power source of movement, acting like the high-powered engine of the Formula 1 car. Explosive "quick twitch" muscles generate immediate acceleration and movement. Top players have well-developed legs and thighs for this reason. This gives you an indication of how important lower body strength is to a tennis athlete's performance. Your quadriceps and gluteus muscles must be in great shape to perform low to the ground like a Formula 1 car.
#6: Speed Shift Transmission vs. Multi-Directional, Quick Footwork Patterns
The athletic foundation, first step reaction technique, quick stride acceleration footwork, change of direction techniques, etc. are basically the same maneuvers in most sports - it’s more than just how powerful a car is. Ultimately, it’s about how quickly the car can shift up and down into gears to maximize the power and utilize the handling to its advantage. The strongest players don’t always win. The players that do win are the ones that are able to fully control their power at the right place, right time, and in a fraction of a second. Shifting gears on the court or on the race track requires knowledge of what the machine is capable of and what is required.
Kyle LaCroix is a USPTA Master Professional, the highest rating achievable by a tennis professional. His experience as a top teaching pro includes The Oaks in Boca Raton, Saddlebrook Resort in the Tampa area, and the prestigious Philadelphia Cricket Club. Kyle currently runs SETS Consulting which provides educational curriculums for tennis coaches and their staff. Top Photo: Lukas Raich (CC BY-SA 4.0). Second Photo: Ramiz Haider / Pexels