Strength & Conditioning
Tennis is a game with physical demands that are unlike those of any other sport. The nature of the game, with its multiple variables — match length, point duration, court surfaces, shot selection, strategy and weather — all contribute to the physical nature of the game. As strength and conditioning coaches, our goal is to design training programs that will reduce the risk of injury while maximizing the athleticism and tennis performance of our players. While it is now generally accepted that prior to the age of 14, sports performance training should be generalized and focused on developing overall athleticism, once an athlete reaches his mid teens, training should be more sport specific, taking into account the multiple variables inherent in the game.
Tennis requires multiples bursts of short acceleration, repeated 100’s of times throughout the course of a practice session or match. Match length may vary from less than one hour to possibly four hours or more in a five set match. Point duration varies depending on court surface, level of play and different styles of play. In order to be successful, a player must be well trained both aerobically and anaerobically to not only perform well during the point, but to recover adequately between points and during changeovers.
Speed & Agility
Speed and agility are essential for success at all levels of tennis. The variability of every shot in tennis — velocity, different type of spin and placement on the court — require a player to have fast reaction times and an explosive first step speed. A player must have the ability to move well in multiple directions. Not only must a player be able to accelerate to get to a position on the court, the player must be able to decelerate under control to be stable in order to execute a return and recover for the next shot.
Full body strength is required not only for the execution of powerful strokes and efficient movement on the court, but for injury prevention as well. A great deal of emphasis is now being placed on core and joint stability as this is protective for ligaments, tendons and overall joint integrity, as well as allowing for full, controlled range of motion in the joint.
Mobility & Flexibility
Perhaps the biggest trend recently in physical training at the highest levels of tennis is the emphasis on mobility and flexibility. The nature of tennis tends to lead to muscle imbalances which decreases joint range of motion, altered biomechanical movement patterns, decreased force production and an increased risk of injury. Walk into any gym at an ATP/WTA event and you will witness the top players in the world not “pumping iron,” but rather foam rolling, band stretching and using a variety of different types of equipment to restore and maintain joint mobility.
The game of tennis has been rapidly changing over recent years. The physical nature of the game is constantly increasing. Trends in sports performance training are constantly evolving as well. The well-informed strength and conditioning coach will take these new trends into account in designing the most safe and effective training programs to optimally help his players perform and meet these increasing physical demands.