It’s that time of year again, yes you guessed it- The Australian Open! We’ve all been looking forward to the energy and excitement of the crowd as another athlete takes a win, wishing we could immerse ourselves in the world of professional tennis. Well why can’t we? Let’s have a look at the dynamic sport of tennis and provide insight into the physical requirements of the sport and some great exercises that could be beneficial for any level of tennis player.
First and foremost, if you or your clients want to be better at tennis…play tennis, nothing can train you better for the sport than the sport itself. However, tennis is one of those unique sports that combine nearly all components of fitness including power, agility, speed, flexibility, reaction time, balance, coordination, cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. From an energy systems perspective, it uses extensive elements from the ATP-CP System, Lactic System and Aerobic Systems.
Rather than a few resistance exercises, it’s better to provide concepts of training for each component of fitness and you can build around them.
Tennis uses elements of power in the serving motion and overhead smashes, as well as many the other movements that require high levels of acceleration and quick bursts. To train for power for tennis, here are some fundamental power and plyometric exercises:
- Power cleans
- Box jumps
Lateral plyometric jumps
One of the main components of fitness for tennis is agility and speed. When delivering exercises using this component it’s best to remain 360 degrees in your approach, as the sport requires full court coverage and the ability to move the body in all planes of movement. Here are some good drills to help improve your agility:
- Ladder drills
- Cone drills
- Powerband running
Having a good range of movement is vital for tennis. A great way to improve your flexibility, along with breathing technique, is to do yoga. IF that’s not your think, then you can always set time aside pre and post training to work on your flexibility, additionally dedicate 2-3 stretching sessions per week into your routine, with the emphasis on stretching all of your muscles.
4. Coordination and reaction time
With tennis, hand eye coordination is required when hitting the ball. Your body must read the incoming shot and position itself to strike with power. Coordination also gives you the ability to hit the tennis ball in a precise position on the tennis racket.
This can be incorporated into agility drills with the use of balls and visual and auditory cues that the athlete/client has to react to. Alternatively, just playing tennis will help you to improve these skills.
The use of instability tools such as bosu balls, dura disks and one leg resistance as well as agility work will not only improve balance, but it will also work to prevent injury to lower body limbs, crucial for the sport.
When you think of the average length of a tennis point, it’s a great idea to adapt your cardiovascular training accordingly. Some good drills include doing interval bursts of 10-20 seconds of high intensity, and 10-20 seconds of rest, this will prepare the clients energy systems to the requirements of the sport. The challenging part is maintaining it for 3-5 hours on a tennis court at 35 + degrees.
7. Muscular endurance
Playing tennis is perhaps the best way to train specifically for this component of fitness. However, if you or your athlete/client is maintaining a balanced resistance training regime and is working to a long term plan, that incorporates all the previous elements discussed, they will be on the path to being fit and ready for the sport.
The rest is up to you or your athlete. Get out there and play, and when you’re not playing work on improving the above 7 elements of your game.