Welcome to the Superfit Tennis Blog
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!!!
Why do so many tennis coaches and parents of players say the following: “You need to go out there and give 100%? At first glance, that appears like the logical thing to ask of a player. Unfortunately, that is not sound advice because when a player actually does try to give a 100% effort level the muscles and mind tend to tighten up. That is not conducive to optimal performance on the tennis court.
It is fine for a player to care about playing well and try hard. With that being said, it is also crucial for the player to be in a relaxed flowing state while playing. It is important to care, be determined, and be intense as long as the muscles and mind are not tense. This mental and physical tightness does not allow a player to get into a flow state. Continue Reading Why You Shouldn’t Give 100% Effort »
In this video Torando Ali Black and I demonstrate how reaction, agility(balanced change of direction), and quickness (fast feet adjustments) can be easily practiced. Try doing this for several sets of 20 seconds of movement followed by 20 seconds of rest. Doing so will significantly improve one’s anaerobic endurance. BEWARE: Tornado makes this drill look easy but it is actually not so easy. The player is required to react and change directions quickly and not get too close to the cones.
In general, a fitness program for tennis needs to place focus upon several specific elements. Every tennis player needs a good first step, good recovery and change of direction to the ball and good physical recovery in between points with the capability of being able to last through long matches and tournaments. All tennis players should also focus on keeping their core strong (lower back and abdominal muscles) and take part in an injury prevention for tennis program which focuses upon strengthening the tendons and ligaments surrounding the wrist, elbows, shoulders, lower back, hips, knees, and ankles. Yes, all of the aforementioned can and should be part of a specific and regularly implemented group or personalized fitness program for tennis.
Oftentimes, players want individualized attention because participating in a customized for their needs fitness program for tennis, focus can be placed on their specific strengths, weaknesses, and capability. By doing so, results can be obtained quickly. Prior to starting an individualized fitness programfor tennis, players should definately take part in an age specific fitness for tennis testing protocol. Results from the testing can quickly determine their individual strengths and weaknesses and the fitness coach can use the results asa guiding tool for creating a fitness program. Anaerobic endurance, lower and upper-body power, quickness, multi-directional agility, core strength, speed and muscular imbalances should be the focal points of the tennis specific testing.
Once a players strengths and weakenesses are determined, those weaknesseses need to become the focal point of their fitness for tennis program. The players age and style of play will also play a major part in what their physical needs for tennis are.
Unfortunately, Tornado Ali Black makes this drill look much easier than it really is. She is simply in a relaxed intense focus state. This drill serves a few tennis specific purposes. Notice how the drill initially places focus on the explosive first crossover step. Next, I cue her in to the dropshot cone by saying go and pointing to the cone. She must react and move through the stroke without ever getting too close to the cone. Then we work on closing in on the volley, gettin back for the overhead and then closing back in for the volley. This is meant to be an explosive drill. Each set should last between 20 and no more than 40 seconds. Short rest periods of 20 seconds will place more focus on building anaerobic endurance, while longer 90 second rest periods will place more focus on building explosiveness. Note: You really can’t work on both explosiveness and anaerobic endurance during the same workout. Therefore, focus on what is most needed for the athlete.