Welcome to the Superfit Tennis Blog


Warning: Regular reading of and participation in this blog may give you an unfair advantage by significantly improving your  Physical Conditioning and Mental Strength for Tennis. (This is especially true if you are participating in a Superfittennis Program)  

Short Cone Wide Cone drill

 

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At what age should my junior tennis playing child start a fitness program?

 

“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.

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When To Train

 

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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Coco T drill and close cones coordination drills

 

If a player is extremely fast, it is important to work on foot coordination drills. Oftentimes fast players actually get too close to the ball (over run it)

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

 

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???

 

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!

 

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?

 

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

 

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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Fitness for Tennis Will Gives You a Mental Advantage

 

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!!!

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