I just love working out with the ball machine. Other than humming, “Whoosh, whoosh” as it shoots balls at me, it’s silent. It never makes questionable “in” or “out” calls. Unlike some partners I’ve played with, it never complains with a tactful, “Don’t worry about making a heroic shot — just put the ball in play.” And the ball machine isn’t even capable of giving me a tense smile that says, “I’m not having fun here, but I don’t want you to keep falling apart, so I’m going to act as normal as possible and maybe things will be all right.” Thus in many respects, it’s the ideal tennis partner.
Tennis Ball Machine Benefit #1: Shot Practice
I try to hit with the machine about once a week. More often than that, and my forearm gets sore — you can go through 500 balls in an hour without even realizing it, so you need to make sure you vary your shots and take breaks to pick up balls and drink water. It’s best to the ball machine use soon after a lesson, when you want to practice a new shot you’ve been working on, like a backhand down the line, or maybe a slice drop shot. Remembering of course that only “perfect practice makes perfect,” it’s critical to use good technique when you hit with the ball machine — otherwise you’re just cementing bad habits.
Tennis Ball Machine Benefit #2: Build Concentration
I like to set up the machine for forehands first, then backhands. I vary the speed and/or height, and I practice volleys as well as groundstrokes. I build concentration by trying to hit a certain number of balls, say 10, to a certain spot. This is a lot harder than it seems!
Tennis Ball Machine Benefit #3: Cardio Exercise
Another benefit of ball machine practice is that it provides a good cardio workout. I put on a heart rate monitor this week and was surprised to see my heart rate jump up above 150 quite easily. For me this was great, as it was a better workout than doubles tennis, which is what I usually play, and lots more fun than what I’d have to do in the gym to raise my heart rate to a similar level. You can learn more about the workout benefits of ball machines and tennis generally from the Livestrong Foundation.
I really enjoy practicing this way — in fact, today is not the first time I’ve blogged about my love of the tennis ball machine. It not only gives me a good workout, but benefits my self-confidence while improving my skills. I’ve looked online for videos of ball machine drills I might try, but so far I haven’t turned up any good ones to post here.
Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of videos about tennis ball machines on the Internet, but it’s hard to cull out the good ones. Most are marketing promos for buying a ball machine, or for working with a tennis professional, or they’re just some goofball’s idea of having fun on a tennis court with a camera and then uploading the result to YouTube. This clip, which has nothing to do with the sport of tennis but everything to do with ball machines, is so ridiculous I had to share it with you:
My recommendation is that unless you’re going for a game show record, use the ball machine for its intended purpose: burn some calories, and work on your game. You just might build enough confidence in your new shot to use it in your next match.