Difference Between Forehand & Backhand Stroke

Tennis player

In a tennis, when people talk about their forehand and backhand strokes, they are usually referring to their groundstrokes. These are the main strokes used during baseline rallies. The main difference between the strokes is visible, while other differences are more subtle and are related to your style of play. Some of the other differences that are not as obvious or noticeable are how you hold your racket, how you stand when preparing to hit the ball and the muscles used when executing the strokes.

Ball Contact

The most noticeable difference between the forehand and backhand groundstroke is the side of the body where you make contact with the ball. With forehand groundstrokes, the ball is struck off to the player's dominant side. For example, if you are right-hand dominant, you contact the ball off to the right side of your body when hitting a forehand. If you are left-hand dominant, you contact the ball off to the left side of your body. With backhand groundstrokes, you contact the ball on the side of your body opposite that of the forehand.

Forehand Grip

Although professional tennis players use a variety of grips to hit their forehand groundstrokes, the basic Eastern grip is recommended for beginners by renown tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. Bollettieri refers to this grip as the classic forehand grip and one that offers flexibility for different styles of play and versatility for all surfaces. Also called the "shake hands" grip, the Eastern forehand grip places the palm of your dominant hand directly behind the shaft of the racket for added support.

Backhand Grips

Tennis players use either a one-handed or two-handed grip when hitting backhand groundstrokes. Bollettieri recommends using the Eastern backhand grip for a one-handed backhand stroke. This grip is a quarter turn from the Eastern forehand grip. It places the palm of your hand directly on top of the shaft and provides the player with the most stability when using one hand.

The most common two-handed backhand grip is a continental grip with your dominant hand and an Eastern forehand grip with your nondominant hand. Your dominant hand is positioned toward the butt cap and your hand holds the handle in between the Eastern forehand and Eastern backhand grip positions. Your non-dominant holds the handle above your dominant hand with an Eastern forehand grip.

Stance Differences

Your level and style of play influence how you stand when you hit the ball. Coach Bollettieri recommends that you start playing tennis with a neutral stance on the forehand and two-handed backhand groundstrokes. A neutral stance is when you turn your hips and shoulders diagonally toward the net as you prepare to hit the ball. Your feet are staggered and are also on a diagonal line with the net. Although a closed stance is not recommended, players sometimes use it to hit a one-handed backhand groundstroke from a stationary position. This is where you turn your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the net. Your feet are staggered pointing directly to the side.

Different Muscles are Used

Tennis is a fast-paced sport that tests just about every muscle group in your body. But, because of the differences in the stroke mechanics between the forehand and the backhand groundstroke, some muscles are emphasized more than others. According to strength and conditioning coach, Matt Weik, the forehand groundstroke places more emphasis on the pectorals, anterior deltoids and biceps. The backhand groundstroke places more emphasis on the triceps and the muscles located behind your shoulder, the posterior and middle deltoids, rhomboids and middle trapezius.