Welcome to the Superfit Tennis Blog
Why do you think that Manny Diaz has had an amazing record as Men’s Head Tennis Coach at the University of Georgia for the past 20+ seasons. Why do so many top players want to go there? Well, there are many reasons, but one thing is for sure…HIS SUCCESS IS DEFINITELY NO ACCIDENT. Since this video was posted on youtube, perhaps all of the coaches who still have their players run for many miles can learn from this video. This is how you do it!!! Repeated short agility is the name of the game if you actually want to be able to get to the ball and build tennis specific endurance. If anyone wants to debate me on this topic, I will be glad to do so. I just don’t want to be too scientific and long-winded here.
I guess that after I bashed this video they decided to take it down!
The video shows the Director of the International Performance Institute doing fitness for tennis at the tennis academy with Maria Shishkina who is one of the top junior prospects in the world. She has potential to become a junior tennis and perhaps a professional superstar. I need to emphasize that it is crucial for strength and conditioning professionals to focus on injury prevention first. Parents truly must be aware and they are really the ones who must use common sense and look out for the welfare of their junior tennis playing children.
Standing on top of a stability ball may look really cool and look great in a tennis academy advertisement, but are you aware how unsafe it truly is? You get the same benefits and do excellent balance training without putting people at risk of a potentially catastrophic and career ending injury by having the player stand on a bosu ball(1/2 stability ball), balance discs, or a balance board? One must be extra cautious when doing physical training for tennis with a junior tennis player because their growth plates are not yet closed. There is just no excuse for this type of negligence in the fitness profession! Notice that during the video the junior tennis phenom comes very close to smashing her head into a brick wall while chasing a soccer ball that goes over hear head… Holy cow!!! That had potential catestrophic consequences written all over it. It does not matter what credentials and degrees a strength coach has, they must be able to use some common sense when working with junior tennis players or. Should a fitness for tennis coach have kids do fast feet drills in a fire pit? Perhaps the fitness for tennis coache should do some reaction drills with an alligator’s mouth? or……standing on top of a stability ball!!!
When most people think of Rafael Nadal, they think of his explosive first step and incredible agility=(ability to quickly change directions with balance). Yes, Rafa has incredible first step explosion and agility. In this video you will notice another element of Rafa’s movement that separates his footwork for tennis from most other players. This video shows him grooving his strokes and hitting most balls towards the center of the court. Notice his feet. He is continually in motion as if he were doing a little dance. Now, notice that being in motion allows him to easily create space between him and the ball. Nadal is seemingly relaxed, never rushed, and never gets too close to the ball. Even when moving away from the ball he is able to lean into his shots! How often do you get too crowded to the ball?
Until recently, I did not realize how much of a positive effect a fitness program for tennis had on one’s ability to have the endurance and focus that is necessary to get the most out of their technical training. Several players, parents, and coaches informed me of this benefit. When one participates in a fitness program for tennis everything appears to snowballs in a positive manner. Besides the obvious increased fitness for tennis, everyone becomes quite pleased about the improved technical results coming from the players increased focus, physical capability, and less need for breaks during technical training sessions.
Improve Endurance? No!
Improve Power? No!
Improve Agility? No!
Improve Speed? No!
Improve Quickness/Footwork? No!
Before you write a bunch of f-bombs about me and my blog, let me explain to you that all of the aforementioned focal points of performance enhcncement are very importent for one’s game improvement, but “Injury Prevention Training” must be the #1 priority and is absolutely the most impotant tennis success factor. Keep in mind that one should do injury prevention training aka “Prehabilitation” in order to prevent injuries and at the very least help one recover much quicker from an injury. Yes, strengthening ones bones, tendons, and other connective tissue will keep away those nagging injuries.
Off the top of my head, the following are the most common areas of the body that can get injured while playing tennis:
(I wrote the above list quickly, and am sure to have left a few areas out!)
Just make sure that while you are improving your fitness, you are also focusing on keeping your body healthy throughout the year.
Please note that since there are really no built-in off weeks from competition in tennis, it is important that several strategic “off periods” are included in ones yearly schedule. These off periods are an excellent time for doing game improvement skill training as well as strength and conditioning for tennis.
In our last blog post, we established that the most important reason for participating in training is to prevent injuries. Perhaps the second most important reason for training is the mental strength benefits you obtain. When a player improves their speed, quickness, agility, and endurance there are some definate psychological advantages for the player and disadvantages for their opponents. Advantages for the physically improved player include the ability to retrieve more balls and recuperate quicker between long matches and points. When a player is able to recuperate better and feel fresher throughout long matches they are able to concentrate better througout the match and they do not have to feel a sense of urgency. When players are not tired, they can think better and do not need to go for desperate shots in a feeble attempt to end points quickly. That usually equates to going for winners when one in in a defensive position. That for broke end the points as quick as possible strategy rarely works and usually equates to a quicker loss. When a player is able to run faster and chase down more balls during a match they may actually shrink the court for the other player. When a player plays against an excellent retriever, they oftentimes play out of their comfort zone and feel as if they have to hit balls closer to the lines. This usually leads to self-destruction!
Bottom line…………………..There are many advantages for you and disadvantages to your opponent when you are able to run down balls and feel fresher. It is not just about how good your strokes are!!!
Why would someone need to do strength and conditioning in order to get in good tennis condition? Isn’t playing and practicing for tennis supposed to be the best way to get in shape for and fit for tennis? That may seem quite logical at first glance. Unfortunately, even players who train 5+ hours a day without doing other tennis specific physical conditioning may be in extremely poor match playing condition. I am aware that this seems strange, but players who only practice and play tennis are in no way improving their physical fitness for tennis. Will all types of off court physical training help my tennis?
After being extremely tired, overpowered, and or not able to effectively run down balls, players oftentimes come to the harsh conclusion that their fitness levels are just not allowing them to advance to the next level. At that point of realization, a tennis player can choose to take several different paths. Some will lead them to extreme success and others will cause little or no improvement, or possible injury. Here we are going to look at three different training scenarios and their potential to either help or hinder performance.
A player may choose to run 3-5 miles/3-5x a week in an effort to gain more endurance and become more fit. By doing this, the player may believe that they will have more stamina and a greater ability to endure long matches. The reality of what players are actually doing is harsh. Running these long distances will train players to move slower. How is this so? Well, all exercise physiologists and certified strength and conditioning specialists are well aware of the S.A.I.D. Principle. S.A.I.D. is the acronym for specific adaptions to imposed demands. All fine and good, but what the heck am I saying??? Simply stated, it means that you should train as you would play. Running 3-5 miles at a continuous pace, in a straight line, with no rest will train the legs to move slowly and the heart to beat at a continuous tempo. A tennis match consists of many points that seldom last for more than 25 seconds and have a rest period of 25 seconds between points and 90 seconds during changeovers. Therefore, doing repeated interval runs of 100-400 yard distances with repeated agility work of (10-40 seconds) would be the best approach for the necessities of tennis. (anaerobic endurance, speed, heart rate spikes)
A player heads to the weight room and begins doing several machine exercises in an attempt to somehow magically hit the tennis ball harder and handle pace better. Although machines may have some place in a beginning strength program, they will not translate into the type of functional strength necessary for tennis. Unfortunately, machines dictate a players range and motion of movements. Unlike machines, tennis strokes use many different muscles in various planes of movement. A better idea for gaining functional strength for tennis is the usage of free weights and medicine balls, which will allow the user to utilize their own particular range of motion and several muscle groups that are specific to tennis during an exercise.
I know so many players who read about their favorite tennis professional and then over zealously attempted to copy an exact routine. The player does this with the intention of getting into shape quickly. Unfortunately, they are usually not anywhere close to the fitness levels of Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. Therefore, copying one’s favorite players routine can at best lead to muscle staleness and at worst can lead to burnout or injury. One should begin a program at their own pace. Preferably, they would want a customized or semi-customized program created for them after taking a fitness for tennis test. Training should be tennis specific, specific to the players playing style, and specific to the players needs.
During this video, Dr. Patrick Cohn does an ALMOST PERFECT job of explaining why “Trying To Be Too Perfect” can negatively affect one’s tennis. He explains that setting expectations too high can lead to frustration. Also, when one tries and expects to always hit perfect stroke, frustration is inevitable. For the perfectionist, focus is usually set too much on stroke technique instead of strategy and just “letting go” and playing the game.
Listen to the advice Dr. Cohn gives about not expecting to hit perfect strokes and making any errors during the match. If you are one of those people who expects to be perfect during matchplay then look at the video shown below. The video shows some of the best players of all time hitting some of the worst shots of all time. Not only did these guys miss, but they hit some embarrassingly bad shots. Guess what? Even with those misses, they are the best of all time! If you expect perfection, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.
No player if perfect video sportspsychologytennis.com Patrick cohn