How Can You Improve Your Skill At Racquet Sports?

How can you improve your skill at racquet sports? Two of our forum members have put together some routines and ideas for you to try with any racquet sport and unlock that hidden potential. Learn more ...


TOPIC: How Can You Improve Your Skill At Racquet Sports?

The Question:

Racquet sports, such as tennis, squash, racquetball and badminton all require similar skills.

How can you improve your skill at racquet sports? How can you improve both the physical and mental aspects of the sport? Please be as detailed as possible.

What is a good weight training routine for racquet sports? Please list exercises, sets, reps, etc.

Bonus Question: Which racquet sport requires the most strength? Which racquet sport requires the most stamina?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

    Prizes:
      1st place - 75 in store credit.

To use your credit, e-mail Will @ will@bodybuilding.com for more info.


1st Place - PolPow53
How Can You Improve Your Skill At Racquet Sports?

With the spring fast approaching, it is once again time to get out those racquets! Whether this means days spent playing on a tennis team, or just enjoying some badminton in the park, we all would love to step our game up just a bit.

Racquet sports, such as tennis, squash, racquetball and badminton all require similar skills. Many people seem to be ignorant about the intricate aspects of the many racquet sports. The image of racquet sports being played only by those in country clubs does not do justice to the intense physical exertion and detailed skill required to succeed at this branch of sports.

badminton
Racquet Sports All Require Similar Skills.

The truth remains that the various racquet sports have transcended centuries, borders, and technology while remaining extremely popular.

If you are a prodigy, competitive player or just a weekend warrior, I will lead you to new ideas about the philosophy of racquet sport training, if you are looking to win that high school tennis tournament, or just looking to finally beat that annoying self-proclaimed racquetball star at your gym!


Improving Skill:
How can you improve your skill at racquet sports?

No matter how far technology leads us, no matter how advanced the athletes get, one thing will always remain true: Skill is the most important aspect of all racquet sports.

For years, racquet sport athletes had shaped their games through shear repetition of individual shots, returns, serves and practice games to polish the needed skill. If Joseph G. Sobek and Billie Jean King were able to succeed with that training, anyone can.

Joseph G. Sobek:
Joseph G. Sobek (1918 â€" 1998) was the inventor of racquetball, although he initially called it "paddle rackets." He developed the sport while working in a rubber manufacturing plant. Sobek was also a tennis pro.

Billie Jean King:
Billie Jean King dominated women's tennis for nearly two decades, retiring from professional play in 1984. In 1973 she played men's player Bobby Riggs, who had publicly proclaimed no woman could beat him (the previous year he had beaten Court). The stunt was dubbed "The Battle of the Sexes," and when King trounced Riggs she became a feminist icon.

This continues to remain true. Racquet sport athletes should set up a time to practice specific skills as the cornerstone of their program, as it is foolish to think that any kind of success can be achieved without a strong attention to detail and efforts to polish important racquet sport skills.

On the other hand a comprehensive and assertive approach must be used to develop skills. Many may be lost due to the "do it yourself" attitude that calls for them to simply play countless matches, never leaving their hubris enough to realize they need to train individual skills to really bring their game to the next level.

A sample racquet sport skill specific training routine may include a variety of shots ranging from serves, returns, volleys and various other specialty shots in many of the diverse racquet sports out there.

For Example:

  • Monday:

      10 minutes of serving to a partner, they return and then switch it up.
      5 minutes of practice hitting with a focus on backhand/forehand development.

  • Wednesday:

      20 minutes of special shot practice with a partner, make sure to focus on all of the intricate specialty shots involved in the specific racquet sport you are training for.

  • Friday:

      30 minutes working on specific weaknesses, either alone or with a partner. This can be used to really iron out specific wrinkles in the total package of the racquet sport athlete.

Now while this may be beneficial, real game situations should be simulated by actually playing the sport itself. With racquet sports it is relatively easy to set up a game, and it can be the perfect opportunity to cement those newly acquired skills from the practice sessions.

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Physical:
How can you improve the physical aspects of the sport?

The physical aspects of many racquet sports, especially the more famous tennis, have come to the limelight of the sporting world. The athletes, both male and female are coming into matches with more defined physiques, larger and stronger musculatures, and through this are taking the speed and power of the games to a whole new level, never imagined by the Victorian era pioneers of the racquet sport genre.

The training for racquet sports should be grouped into 3 separate but interconnected parts:

  1. Resistance Training: To put more power and speed into serves and shots and avoid injury.
  2. Quickness/Agility Training: To move quickly around the court.
  3. Endurance Training: To increase performance by avoiding fatigue during matches.

1. Resistance Training:

    Resistance training for tennis relies on a comprehensive but moderate approach. One must remember that for a racquet sport athlete, the gym is a place to improve one's game, not to build a chiseled body or to blast one's bench press max. However, with time and effort, gains in both physique development and strength increases will arrive.

    Racquet sports require full body movements, generally transferring power from the lower body through the trunk into the racquet, which is held in the hands. Hence a full-body training approach should be applied in this case.

    Examining an individual racquetball sport may give more clues as to how training must be calibrated; however, a general template can be used efficiently, especially by those completely new to training.

    The focus should be on total body development, but we have to pay special attention to certain key areas of the body.

    Core:

      The body's core is by far the most important area for a racquet sport athlete to key-in on.

      The racquet is propelled forward by the body's overall torque, which is of course created by the various muscles located in the abdominal region. Increasing the power and stability of this region can have great effects on health, posture, appearance, etc.

      It can also improve one's racquet sport performance rapidly, and avoiding many core area injuries that often plague racquet sport participants.

      Some good examples of abdominal exercises are found here.

    Legs:

      Legs are essential to almost any sport, in racquet sport they play a pivotal role in not only moving the athlete around the court in an efficient fashion, but they also provide the power surge needed to blast the racquet once racquet sport play becomes more competitive.

      Great leg exercises can be found here: Glutes, Quads, Hams.

    Shoulders/Rotator Cuffs:

      The racquet is directed by the unique human shoulder joint. Training this often-neglected area can provide great benefit in terms of improving performance and limiting injury.

      Strong shoulders are a key to providing the racquet with stability and control and transferring the power to the racquet, and unfortunately the rotator cuffs are often hurt during the process. Working out this area can effectively help prevent injury.

      Some great exercises can be found here:

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    Lower Arms:

      The final step in the journey of the body's power during an intense racquet sport shot is the actual lower arm holding the racquet, specifically referring to the muscles in the forearm and wrist. Improving this area is essential to a firm grip on the racquet and prevention of the dreaded condition known as "tennis elbow." Useful exercises.

    Other Areas:

      It is important to note that racquet sports require a full body movement in almost every action associated with the sports, therefore, nothing should be neglected. It is more importance to keep a balance than to really develop a certain part of the body. Rear delts, chest, biceps, triceps, back, calves, traps, etc, should all be worked in.

    Sample Program:

      NOTE: This program is not to get you huge, or give you beastly strength; it is meant to give you a nice general balanced approach to improving strength and explosiveness while keeping racquet sport specific skills in the forefront.

      Tuesday:

      print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Tuesday.

      Thursday:


      Click To Enlarge.
      Internal Rotation.

      Internal Rotation.

      WMV (638 KB)
      MPEG (1.42 MB)

      print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Thursday.

      Saturday:

        Repeat Tuesday

      While performing this remember that though the pace should be quick between sets, yet not to the point of making this a circuit training workout. Also, the recovery time is not that long between the workouts, they are however, designed to be quick and effective and to let the athlete concentrate on the sport.

      Once again, this program is not based to give amazing measurable gains, it is designed for those focused on improving their racquet sport performance, and too rapid of strength gains could have a negative impact on the coordination that the athlete has strive to build through previous skill training.

2. Agility:

    Agility should be approached by some classic yet effective methods. I personally would recommend jump rope of agility ladders. Readily available and easy to use, both can be perfect for the beginners and to the most advanced; the user will set his or her own tempo. The most important thing to remember is to push oneself to the limit each and every workout.

    ladder
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Agility Ladders.

    However, a lot of agility training is automatically built into the many racquet sports themselves, therefore, their activities should be brisk and to the point, I would recommend them as a warm-up type of activity prior to the weight training sessions 3 times a week.

Endurance:

    My view is that endurance is VERY important to the various racquet sport disciplines, yet I don't feel it should be a primary focus of your training. A great deal of cardiovascular work can be performed when actually playing the sport, or even during the aforementioned workouts.

    Yet if someone is out of shape, extra cardio can be added to get that person to a level at which they can use the others effectively, as well as for the general health benefit.


Mental:
How can you improve the mental aspects of the sport?

The rave in the sports psychology industry has been VISUALIZATION for some time now. Nowhere can this be better applied than in racquet sports. Many of these sports have objects flying around at amazing speeds, faster than 100 mph.

The intimidation caused by this is a real concern. Visualization of the match, the serve, the return, the finishing strike can all be very beneficial to creating a "zone" for that athlete to perform in. Not to mention the fact that a majority of racquet sports are individual, hence the lack of teammate support makes the personal mental state that much more important.

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Bonus Question:
Which racquet sport requires the most strength? Which racquet sport requires the most stamina?

Though I may be biased since I used to play lots of tennis in my younger years, I would have to say tennis for both. Tennis is well known for its chiseled physiques, strong explosive players, and ungodly speeds. Just listening to the grunts with each shot of a high level tennis match is enough to make one consider the force at which these athletes are playing.

The serves themselves go well over 100mph while the athletes need to demonstrate various other forms of athleticism such as high leaps and other amazing feats.

Tennis matches have also a strong reputation for their great lengths. While unevenly matched competitors can end a match in straight sets in less than an hour, other marquis tennis match-ups can send matches to the brink of insanity when it comes to length. It is not unusual for matches to last for hours, with the players being physically exhausted and almost passing out on the court.

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2nd Place - BLACKOUT426

How can you improve your skill at racquet sports? How can you improve both the physical and mental aspects of the sport? Please be as detailed as possible.

To improve your skill at ANY sport you must practice. There's no dodging it, practice makes perfect. You can lift all the weights in the world but if you don't practice, that strength won't be as useful as it should be.

One must get the basics of the sport, practice the fundamentals and go through the motions as if they were in an actual match. A competitor must also weight train and diet properly to further increase their skill at the sport. To practice your swing, a tennis workout such as this one can help get you started.

Enhancing the physical aspect of the sport comes through training. A player must become stronger, faster, more agile and have more endurance. In racquet sports, especially tennis, speed and agility play a key role when having to chase balls that can fly faster than 100 miles per hour.

Strength requirements of racquet sports aren't as demanding as other sports such as football, rugby or baseball, but endurance is definitely a big part of it. To work on endurance for racquet sports, the athlete can do sprints with change of direction implemented because your opponent is always trying to make you move around, rarely will the opponent hit the ball directly to you.

The mental aspect of the game comes from within the athlete. Factors such as overtraining, depression, tension and other emotions can affect an athlete's performance greatly. The best thing to prevent overtraining, which has been found to cause depression, confusion, fatigue, etc., is to make sure you allow time for your body to recover from your training, physically and mentally.

Most people who've been apart of any sports team, from elementary to the pros, have had one of those days where they find their dedication and motivation slipping. Rest is the key and taking a couple days off never hurt anyone, as long as it isn't needed every week.


Routine:
What is a good weight training routine for racquet sports? Please list exercises, sets, reps, etc.

Core:

    When you swing the racquet, you use your body to put as much force behind the swing as possible. This force comes from strong core muscles, abs and lower back, most importantly the obliques, which help when going across the body in a swinging motion.

    When swinging a racquet, you try to twist your body to add more power when your arms follow through and make contact. If you've ever tried to swing with a bat or racquet you'll notice if you don't twist the body you'll hit like a little girl. The stronger your abs are, the faster and more powerful you'll be able to swing the racquet, and the faster that ball goes the faster you can head home with the victory.

Cardio:

    For endurance, go light on running and instead try other activities such as biking or swimming. These activities are a nice change to just plain running and can improve your endurance greatly when done frequently.

    When using cardio for speed, sprints and interval running are perfect for improving your speed while on the playing court. Uphill sprints will also work your speed tremendously. The key is to run at your maximum speed for short distances. This stimulates the fast-twitch fibers, making you a speed demon on the court.

Grip:

    Your grip strength is key in a tennis game. The ability to hold the racket is crucial when you have to receive serves flying at unthinkable speeds. Your fingers and wrists need to be able to hold up or you'll find it difficult to play with the top dogs.

The Workout:

    Foot Speed/Plyometrics:

      In racquet sports the key is to get to the ball. If you move like you have rocks in your shoe, you won't be able to get to the ball and won't win the match. A variety of exercises can help with foot speed:

      • Hexagon Drill
      • Lateral Box Shuffle
      • Shuffling Between Cones
      • Tons Of Ladder Drills

Hexagon drill Hexagon drill
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Hexagon Drill.

Hexagon Drill Video

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MPEG Format (2.3 MB)

Lateral Box Shuffle Lateral Box Shuffle Lateral Box Shuffle
Click Image To Enlarge.
Lateral Box Shuffle.

Lateral Box Shuffle Video

Windows Media Player Format (171 KB)
MPEG Format (1.3 MB)

Shuffling Between Cones Video

Windows Media Player Format (51 KB)
Real Player Format (123 KB)
MPEG Format (487 KB)

    Upper Body:

    Lower Body:

      Your legs are the power plants on your body. Without strong legs you're not going to be able to put maximum force behind your swings. Implementing the following can help develop a strong lower body:


Click Image To Enlarge.
Split Squat.

    Split Squat Video Guide:
    Windows Media (196 KB)
    MPEG (436 KB)

    Core:

      Mentioned before, the core muscles play a huge role in twisting the body and putting heat on the ball. Glute-ham raises, hyper extensions, hanging crunches, Russian twists and many other exercises work the core muscles.

    Now To Throw It All Together:

      A workout regimen such as this one designed for a baseball player can suit someone who wishes to weight train for a racquet sport. It's a 3-day split, allowing the athlete to implement speed, endurance and fundamental days.


Bonus Question:
Which racquet sport requires the most strength? Which racquet sport requires the most stamina?

For strength, hands down I'd say tennis requires the most strength. The need to hit the ball as fast as possible, at the perfect angle and a considerable distance requires more strength than the other racquet sports. A tennis player must be strong and also have total body control when hitting the ball.

The racquet sport that requires the most stamina would be a close call between tennis and squash. They both require constant movement, running, swinging, running, swinging it goes on and on until the point is scored.

In squash the players are in a tighter space which may make it less strenuous than tennis. Personally having played tennis competitively before. I know that your legs are on fire as the games progress, when it comes to squash you're asking the wrong guy when it comes to personal experience.

RELATED POLL
Which Racquet Sport Requires The Most Strength?

Tennis.
Squash.
Raquetball.
Badminton.
Table Tennis.
Pong.