A complete tennis player is a player that focuses on the off-court training just as much as their on-court technique, tactics and overall courtplay.
In this lesson we’re going to look at a program or plan that you can put into place for improving your overall conditioning (or that of your players), focusing on strength, footwork and fitness. The key here is to ensure that you incorporate these tennis conditioning plans and programs into the weekly training schedule – in saying that, for m0re advanced players tennis conditioning should be a daily habit.
Tennis Strength Training:
An effective strength training program should be incorporated into any player who has reached a level of physical maturity. The program should suit the needs of the player factoring in their age, their history, and their physical development.
A program that targets not only strength development but power, and muscular endurance is key. One often overlooked aspect is incorporating injury prevention exercises into the program – particularly for the shoulders, wrists, hips and back.
There’s a number of programs available to a player, however a great free resource is the USTA’s strength and conditioning program. They have a range of exercises that players can use, who are both on the road, or don’t have access to advanced strength training machinery.
Tennis Warm Up:
The tennis warm-up before each training session and match is a crucial component of a tennis conditioning program. Warm up should involve light cardio that transitions to faster paced sprints or short, sharp agility. A simple solution would be a 5 minute run (or utilising a skipping rope for a few minutes), combined with a few sprints depending on the age and physical development level of the player. Again the program that you put in place must be determined upon the player in question – flexibility is key.
A player’s reaction and sharp movement patterns should be tested during the warm-up as well as during normal training condition – basic footwork exercises are ideal.
A large proportion of your overall tennis conditioning program should involve on-court footwork. Not only will it develop both the Anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, helping a player become a more complete fit player, but it is training the backbone of a tennis player – the best movers on court are always the best players.
There are a number of great resources available for players who are looking to improve their footwork. The Bailey Method created by Dave Bailey is a footwork system that has been in place for a number of years now and has been used by some of the top players on both the ATP and WTA circuit. It looks at the 13 movement patterns used by the top players when they move and hit shots on court.
Here’s a video of a young Bailey Method protege.
Tennis Fitness – Aerobic & Anaerobic:
Both aerobic (exercise that involves the use of oxygen as fuel) and anaerobic/lactic acid system (short sharp exercise on the ATP-PC energy system) should be focused on in a tennis conditioning program.
The reason behind this is simple. A player will use both these energy systems when playing a match. They will have short-sharp bursts of energy during a point – and they will also play a match that lasts for some duration, causing them to naturally move into the aerobic energy system.
What this requires out of a tennis conditioning program is exercise that focuses on both short-sharp and fast-paced movements, for example on-court footwork drills and longer term fitness cardio training – such as a one hour run.
A great way to train both these systems is by focusing on footwork drills while on court and long endurance-based training while off-court. Another great method is to incorporate Fartlek into your tennis exercises and training.