‘Physical Conditioning for Tennis’

When To Train

September 21st, 2018

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.

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Why Did Legendary University of Georgia Coach Manny Diaz Do This?

September 20th, 2018

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.

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Benefits Versus Safety???

September 20th, 2018

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!!!

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Rafa Shows How to Create Space the Right Way!

September 19th, 2018

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?

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Strange benefit of doing fitness?

September 19th, 2018

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.

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Top Reason to do Strength and Conditioning for Tennis

September 18th, 2018

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:

ankle

hamstring

knee   

hip flexor

groin

lower back

stomach

shoulders

wrists

(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.

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Nice Medicine Ball Lunge Form

September 17th, 2018

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Won’t Playing Tennis Get Me In Shape For Tennis?

September 17th, 2018

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.

Example 1:

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)

Example 2:

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.

Example 3:

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.

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Tennis Speed

September 16th, 2018

 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.   

 

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J.S. Breaking Down Technique of the Run Through Forehand

September 15th, 2018

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!!!

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