Do your groundstrokes need polish? Do your volleys lack finesse? How about adding spin and power to your serve? Now is the time for tennis training.
Clearly, court time should be given top priority in the program design, but incorporating resistance and cardiovascular training into an overall tennis-training program will take a player's game up a notch. Sports specificity takes into account training protocols that closely resemble the sport involved.
Tennis requires endurance, speed, fast reaction time, overhead strength, core body strength, strong arms and legs and flexibility. Getting ready for the upcoming season will require movement patterns to maximize overall output on the court.
Not only will sports specificity training improve a player's tennis game, but will also help ward off injuries. Due to the imbalances caused by this dominant-side sport, training can be designed to correct imbalances that over time reduce injuries and produce an overall stronger game.
Faster surfaces and serves coupled with stronger groundstrokes are making for today's quick-action tennis, but players are beginning to pay the price. Hip problems have dramatically increased on the ATP tour. "Hip problems are a result of the game's particular physical demands. Players today generate a lot of power, but they also stress the hip with the open-stance forehand and the extreme rotation of the serve. They have to move faster and stop and change directions more than ever. Whether you're a weekend warrior or a pro, Verstegen emphasizes that the hip muscles need to be strengthened to prevent injury."
As a tennis player, make on-court time a priority, but reap the benefits of an injury-free, lean and healthy body that is strong and able to handle the demands of a lengthy tennis match. Many of today's ATP pros have improved their game with training that goes beyond court time. From Andre Agassi to Pete Sampras, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport, sport specificity tennis training rewarded these players with tournament trophies.
Tennis Training Tips: For endurance, speed and fast reaction time
- Cardio For Endurance. Get outdoors as much as possible to simulate outdoor climate conditions for play. Biking, rollerblading, fast walking and swimming provide excellent choices for endurance activities while going easy on your joints.
Try to keep running to a minimum. The body is already subjected to a great deal of pounding during tennis practice, drills and games. When inclement weather forces a trainee indoors, head for the Stairmaster, elliptical or treadmill. Set the treadmill to an incline position for a tough endurance workout.
- Cardio For Speed. Save your running for this portion of the training program. Sprints and interval running are unbeatable choices to improve your speed on the court. Want to really test your speed? Try sprinting uphill - a favorite training tip from Andre Agassi. Fast-action shuffle steps, performed side to side and on the diagonal simulate steps used during actual matches.
- Fast Reaction Time. Local tennis clubs are big on clinic drills in a new and fun form of cardio, "Cardio Tennis." Fast-action drills will have you moving the entire drill to music. Improve your volley and burn lots of calories at the same time. Medicine ball tosses with your trainer or tennis partner also help eye/hand coordination and reaction time.
- Cardio For Endurance, Speed and Fast Reaction Time. Book a long weekend at a tennis camp. You'll learn skills during intensive drill clinics that will test and improve all aspects of your game. Take a group. You'll go in as individual players and leave camp as a cohesive team, forming bonds with your partners.
Tennis Training Tips: For resistance training
- Weight Lifting For Power. No doubt about it. If you want a stronger serve, groundstroke, volley or overhead smash, create a stronger physique. But, training for tennis is very specific. Strength is necessary for power, but you must find the balance between the right amounts of muscle mass for power, without bulkiness that slows down court speed.
Remember years ago, Andre Agassi was transformed from a skinny teenager to an adult male with mass? Agassi walked onto the court that season with too much bulk. He lost speed and his game declined. Over time, Agassi found the balance of mass and leanness that made him a champion with many tennis titles added to his name.
Exercises For Legs:
- Dumbbell walking lunges
- Side lunges
- Leg Press (wide stance and one-legged)
- Hip adductor and abductor
- Standing calf raises (one legged)
- Seated calf raises
Exercises For Arms:
- Cable biceps curls
- Hammer curls
- Alternating Dumbbell curls with supination
- Overhead triceps extensions
- Dumbbell Kick-backs
- Barbell wrist curls
Exercises For Chest and Back:
- Dumbbell Bench Press (flat and incline)
- Cable or Dumbbell flyes
- Lat pull-downs
- One-arm Dumbbell rows
- T-bar rows
Exercises For Shoulders and Rotator Cuff:
- Dumbbell shoulder presses (No rotation if any shoulder impingement problems exist)
- Lateral raises
- Cable front raises
- Bent-over laterals
- Supscapular rotation (shoulder horns work well)
- L laterals (lying with DB, standing with cables)
Exercises For Abdominals:
- Swiss ball crunches
- Hanging leg raises (with and without side rotation)
- Rope crunches
Remember, agility and speed need to be balanced with mass gains. The goal is strength without bulk. Higher rep ranges (12-25), coupled with lighter weights will be key.
The higher rep ranges, (20-25), moderate (15-20) and low rep ranges (12-15), for tennis specific training should be alternated to help minimize injuries and allow for adequate recovery.
The physical and psychological strain of lifting heavy weights session after session too often manifests in injuries that sideline a tennis player. Tennis elbow, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff and calf tears are all injuries that can be reduced in frequency when proper form, training protocol and rest are implemented in an overall tennis-training program.
Careful planning of intensive drills on the courts should be balanced with lighter training sessions when hitting the irons. Overtraining leaves the body depleted and at high risk for injury. Avoid this at all costs!
- Weight Lifting For Grip Strength. Grip strength is critical to a tennis game. From the ability to hold the racket when receiving a blistering serve to a firm wrist to punch a winning volley; grip strength is a critical element for success.
- Weightlifting To Speed Metabolism. A fit and lean body is crucial for speed and agility on the court. Take your body fat down the easy way by weightlifting. Resistance training gives your metabolism a boost, even long after you've left the gym.
- Weightlifting To Correct Imbalances. Imbalances are part of the game. Only one hand holds the racket and players tend to have a dominant side for pushing off of a leg. One-arm and leg weight lifting movements will allow you to concentrate on lagging body parts and correct the imbalance.
Tennis also requires a full range of motion to execute proper technique for all court shots. Gentle stretching after a proper warm-up and as a cool down when you finish your training and/or tennis match will help maintain or improve range of motion.
Yoga, the popularity of which has grown to such proportions that classes are now standard in most gyms, provides an excellent addition to a comprehensive tennis-training program. From increasing range of motion and flexibility to improving mental focus, (a key element of success on the court) yoga will keep players agile and playing long into their senior years.
Remember, before playing, stretching or training, a proper warm-up is needed. A brisk 5-20 minute walk will prepare a tennis player properly for training. Healthy, young and fit players can use the 5-minute guideline. Older players should use the longer recommended warm-up period.
Ready to play? Don't forget your big water bottle that will keep you hydrated throughout your training session or tennis match.
Enjoy the season. I hope to see you all on the courts soon!