If you’re immersed in the US Tennis, an aspiring player or just envious of the lean shape the pros are in, maybe it’s time to borrow some of the champs’ training techniques to improve your game.
You can see just from watching the pros on the court that short sprints and high-intensity intervals are at the core of every tennis set. Getting your game up to that level of talent is a matter of practicing one part technique and two parts conditioning. It’s mandatory.
As with many sports the best kind of training is to emulate what you will do during game play. For tennis, this means drills. Below are a few suggestions to get you going.
Picking Up Balls
Place balls at four points along a sideline. Run from the baseline and pick up the ball, returning it to the baseline. Start at the furthest ball so that the impact and short stops increase as you get back to the start. Then, return the balls, sprinting to replace them one at a time.
Set up a start and end line. Why not half the length of the court. Sprint the length at full speed and lightly jog back, sprinting full speed again once back at the line. You should set a timer to three minutes and repeat this circuit continuously until the bell, ensuring that you keep your heart rate up and sprint when required.
In tennis you’re rarely moving in a simple straight line, and will need to be ready to turn on a hair pin.
Using a similar setup as the previous drill, place a marker midway between the start and end. From the baseline you’ll sprint and at the midway marker you will stop and sprint running backwards to the baseline. Then you’ll run at full speed to the end line and jog slowly back. Enjoy the slow jog, this is close as a rest as you’ll get for the next three minutes.
But Is Cardio Enough?
Not surprisingly, tennis elbow, tendon strains and rotator cuff injuries are commonplace among aspiring tennis champs. The physical training you do is as vital in injury prevention as it is in improving your conditioning, strength and endurance.
The rotator cuff muscle is comprised of four different muscles in total. This injury is most likely to occur when the joints are not prepared for performance or the rotator cuff has not been primed sufficiently during training sessions.
Frail isn’t the word, but when muscles as small as these suffer repetitive strain they’ll be easily injured if you are not prepared. To make sure you are prepared, for developing your shoulder strength and endurance cable work and free weights are your best bet. This is because you essentially need to maintain optimum dexterity and allow for a free range of movement while strengthening your muscles. Think about it: the wooden movements of a bodybuilder wouldn’t be much use when nimbly dashing around the court.
✓ Stand side on to the cable attachment and adjust the height so that it is aligned with your lower torso. Once the cable has been grasped; your arm should be bent at the elbow joint, creating a 90-degree angle. Keep your elbows by your side throughout this exercise to maximise the full benefits.
✓ As you exhale your breath, rotate your shoulder inwards and pull the cable towards you. Continue to do so until your arm has come completely across your torso. Ensure that you are keeping your arm at a 90-degree angle throughout and all the movement/momentum is being created by the shoulder joint and not the rest of your body. Alternatively, this exercise can be performed using resistance bands, dumbbells and holding a weight plate in both hands.
Further to this, you might try the following resistance training exercises to develop your strength:
✓ Lateral raises
✓ Front raises
✓ Arnold presses
For your core:
✓ Medicine ball twist
✓ Front and side planks
✓ Roman chair lifts
The players in the pros didn’t get that size by sitting around or bodybuilding. If you’re going to hit the weights rack you need to keep it light and up the reps. Bodybuilding is a relative term and tennis players build their strength to meet their requirements. No part of the game calls for the same muscle as a rugby player, but that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have the strength. The difference is that all the superfluous muscle of a mass muscle gainer would be cumbersome and unnecessary.