Welcome to the Superfit Tennis Blog
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.
Tennis is an extremely physically demanding sport. Therefore, you need to prepare for it by incorporating an effective fitness program for tennis into your total tennis training. One oftentimes-confusing question is “What time of day should you do this?” There are (4) schools of thought for this. Let us examine each of them.
The 1st school of thought is to work out early in the morning before playing. Working out prior to playing may make the player slightly fatigued for their playing session. This is not a bad thing. Here’s why: Since it is commonplace for players to be fatigued during tough matches, learning to push yourself while being a bit tired simulates this match play situation.
The 2nd school of thought is to workout after playing. Working out after playing can be tough both physically and mentally, but doing so can help the body become well adjusted to fatigued conditions that occur during match and tournament play.
The 3rd school of thought is to sandwich your workout between your morning and evening tennis sessions. You will tend to be a bit fatigued for the workout, as well as the 2nd tennis session of the day. Again, pushing the body and becoming adjusted to these slightly fatigued conditions can be quite helpful for those long tough matches. Sandwiching your workouts will afford you the opportunity to play tennis in a fresh and slightly fatigued state on the same day.
The 4th school of thought is that it just does not matter. Although we would tend to agree with this 4th school of thought, the time to play and perform fitness training for tennis should be a decision made by the player and coaches. We train some players first thing in the morning, and we train others between tennis training sessions. We also train clients after all of the tennis is finished for the day. In all cases the players have greatly improved, thus our hands-on conclusion that the time of day you decide to do your physical conditioning for tennis doesn’t affect the results. The decision should be based on the confidence a player has in a certain daily routine. Lastly, the decision may be based on the player’s daily school, work, and tennis schedule.
When you choose to do your fitness training for tennis or play tennis is up to you. Perhaps the most important things to remember when doing this amount of physical activity are proper fueling/nutritional habits and sleep. You must make certain to get a good night of sleep prior to taking part in a long day of strenuous physical activity. Although individuals vary in the amount of sleep they need, it is usually necessary to get approximately 8 hours of sleep at night. You should also pay careful attention to your nutritional habits and be certain to get enough complex carbohydrates and protein throughout the day. No matter when you choose to train (tennis and physical), it is absolutely crucial to eat a meal high in complex carbohydrates as soon as you are done with your workout. This will help to replenish your muscle glycogen stores, which are necessary for energy and optimal performance. If you absolutely do not have time to eat after playing tennis or doing your fitness training for tennis, then a high complex carbohydrate containing sports drink should be consumed. We suggest that all of our clients to have a premixed complex carbohydrate drink , and bring it to the courts, or wherever their workouts take place. As soon as they are done, they simply drink it on the way to the car. It may also be a good idea to consume a carbohydrate containing sports beverage such as Gatorade™ or Endurox during the tennis or workout session.
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
In general, most people would agree that speed or distance over time is an important component to tennis court coverage. What many people do not agree on is whether or not an athlete can be trained to achieve great speed. It is definitely true that some athletes are naturally faster and stronger than others because of the length of their limbs, muscle attachments, and amount of white/fast-twitch muscle fiber they possess. I can testify to the fact that on many occasions I have both witnessed and strength coaches have told me about situations of untrained athletes being faster or stronger than trained athletes. While it is true that not all players have the genetic makeup to become Olympic caliber speedsters, with proper training all players can and will significantly improve their own speed and strength capabilities. Now, it is time to focus on the two most basic elements of tennis speed.
In this article, the two general components of speed (distance over time) that will be looked at are stride length and stride frequency. Stride length is the distance covered in one stride while running. In order to increase the length of a stride, maximum force during sprints must be increased. Stride length can be increased through resistance training such as weight training, sled or tire pulling, running uphill, running with weighted vests, plyometrics, elastic cord resisted runs, running with chutes, harness/cord resistance etc. Stride frequency is the number of steps taken over a specific distance or time. In order to improve stride frequency, sprint assisted training such as running downhill or cords that pull the athlete may be used.
When performing drills for stride length and stride frequency it is of utmost importance to make certain that proper running form is not sacrificed. During stride length training, stride frequency must be kept at normal levels and during stride frequency training; stride length must be kept at normal levels. Therefore, the fitness for tennis coach should make sure that the overspeed devices or resistances used are not too great or too heavy for the athlete.
Please note that for this article we have only placed our focus on getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This absolute measure of tennis speed is only one basic element of getting to tennis balls faster. There are many aspects of court coverage that must be looked at when developing a fitness program for tennis. Along with raw speed, some tennis footwork court coverage necessities are reaction, agility, anaerobic conditioning, first step explosiveness, balance, and flexibility. All of those aforementioned tennis footwork elements should be focused upon and enhanced for a physical conditioning program for tennis program to be most effective.
No better way than to get an introduction from Dr. Robert S. Weinberg. He was one of my favorite graduate school professors and has more Sports Psychology credentials than 99.9% of all others on the planet. He is also a heck of a tennis player and author of a timeless sports psychology for tennis book entitled “The Mental Advantage: Developing Your Psychological Skills in Tennis. Even though this book was from 1987, it is excellent and I would highly recommend it for those wanting a mental edge for tennis.
Former top 100 ATP player Jeffrey Salzenstein is simply taking tennis movement and technique to a whole different level than most people are used to. This is the real deal! He shows you technique for the run through forehand while keeping good balance. No more stepping and stopping. As an aside, Jeffrey looks pretty darn good as a righty. Must have been all of the non-dominant side forehands he hit as practice for his 2-handed backhand. He is really a lefty!!!
“My child is too young to be involved with a weight lifting program! This is one of the most commonly heard objectives of parents who want to improve their junior tennis playing child’s fitness for tennis level, but have extreme hesitations about the safety of weight training. Lifting weights for the purpose of injury prevention and/or performance enhancement is relatively new to the junior tennis world. In the past, even professional players were told that lifting weights could cause them to become too bulky to hit tennis balls correctly or move around the court efficiently. Today, most (if not all) professional players take part in a fitness program for tennis. Junior tennis players would find great benefit if they also participated in a fitness program for tennis. Most junior tennis coaches and players would concur that choosing correct exercises , utilizing proper form, performing higher repetitions (8-20 repetition) range, and being unter the supervision of a certified and experienced strength and conditioning specialist who understands the needs of junior tennis players can significantly inprove their on court performance and actually prevent injury. Although this weight training for adults is now widely accepted, it is still not widely accepted as an activity that is safe for pre-adolescent children to participate in.
It is now my intention to completely destroy the myth that ”children should not lift weights.” If I had a nickel for every time I have heard a parent say that their child is too young or too small to lift weights, I would be quite wealthy. Parents oftentimes explain their position by claiming that weightlifting will injure the growth plates and therefore stunt their child’s growth. Yes, it is true that if a child participates in low-repetition/high intensity weight training they are likely to get injured and/or cause problems with their growth plates. On that note, it is important to remember that unsupervised low repetition/high repetition training is not tennis specific and it is not even recommended for adults to participate in that type of conditioning program.
I must admit that several years ago even the experts believed that strength training for children was unsafe and ineffective, but there has been a definite paradigm switch during the late 1990′s. Since that time, several controlled research studies have shown the positive effects and safety of weight lifting for children. The major organizations involved with the “Children Lifting Weights’ movement include reputable organizations such as: The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has an official stance that participation in a properly supervised weight training program can actually reduce the risk of overuse injuries in youth sports because the weight training helps the child’s muscles and tendons become more resilient and proficient. This simply means that the childs musculoskeletal system becomes better suited to handle the sporting activity that they are participating in. In June of 2001, The American Academy of Pediatrics did an extensive literature review on Strength Training for children and adolescents (Vol. 107, NO. 6, Pg. 1470-14772). From this review, it was concluded that weight training/strength and conditioning is a safe and effective activity as long as it is properly supervised by a professional and credible fitness trainer and it adheres to training specificity in order to meet the particular demands of the sports that they are participating in.
In December 1996, the extremely reputable National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) put out an official position paper on youth training. The NSCA organization publishes two journals on strength and conditioning and is considered the governing body of strength and conditioning. It is the current position of the NSCA that a properly designed and supervised conditioning program is:
1. Safe for children
2. Can increase the strength of children
3. Can help to enhance motor skills and sports performance of children
4. Can help to prevent injuries in youth sports and recreational activities
5. Can help to improve the psychosocial well-being of children
6. Can enhance the overall health of children
I hope that this serves to enlighten and open up the minds of those who are worried about having their junior tennis playing children participate in a properly designed and supervised strength and conditioning for tennis program. In my particular strength and conditioning programs with tennis playing children, weights are seldomly used because they are usually not specific to the goals we want to accomplish. In my world, the usual tennis specific conditioning program for a child would consist of medicine ball training, bodyweight training (different types of lunges, pullups, pushups, and abdominal/core exercises), and speed/quickness/agility/ and anaerobic endurance training.
The age I would have a player begin depends on their maturity level. Some 8 year olds are mature enough to begin a conditioning program, while some 13 year olds are not mature enough to begin a fitness program for tennis. The child must be capable and willing to listen and do only what the strength and conditioning for tennis coach tells them to do.
One would be absolutely silly to stay away from doing a proper fitness training for tennis program that at least focused on elements necessary for preventing injuries, increasing tennis speed, tennis footwork, and tennis agility.