Specific tennis fitness tests that take into account technical efficiency, have been validated scientifically (part 1) and could be considered ‘gold standards’. But these tests are exclusively reserved for players in well-structured centres because of the detailed methodology necessary for successful execution.
For years, national federations have used the multistage fitness test (or 20m shuttle run test) to evaluate aerobic fitness due to its practical implementation and ease of use. However, though it involves change-of-direction (COD) movements, it’s still a continuous incremental test and does not represent the intermittent characteristics of tennis play.
A tennis match is characterized by intermittent exercise, alternating short (4–10 second) bouts of high intensity and short (10–20 second) recovery bouts, interrupted by several periods of longer duration rest (60–90 seconds). The running activities of players encompass high accelerations and decelerations but low velocities reflecting the intermittent play involved in tennis, which does not allow high velocities to be reached (Hoppe et al, 2014).
During the specific prep phase, as we’ve mentioned in previous sections, there is a greater emphasis on tennis play/practice - especially when compared with the general prep phase. Because of this, in my opinion, the need for conditioning work (in the traditional sense) is not as important - players, in effect, are getting a lot of their conditioning through tennis. Studies (Fernandez-Fernandez et al 2016, Kilit and Arslan 2018) are reaffirming this trend. See the ‘Learn More’ section for links to both studies.
By this point, I think we’re beyond prescribing tennis players to run long and slow (at least I hope we are). If you want to understand why this is the case, I urge you to read through this post, as I outline how the energy systems work and interact with one another.
Yet we still need players to be able to endure tough points, tight sets and long matches. No question about it. So how do we do this?
In last week’s post, we introduced the main physical training components that tennis players likely should focus on during the off-season. To get the best out of this week’s article, I suggest reviewing part 1 of this series first.
In this post, I’d like to tackle a couple key points. First, I’ll outline what a typical training week in the off-season might look like and how the overall cycle takes shape. Next, I’ll take a stab at commenting on the interplay and subsequent management of on-court and off-court training loads. Lastly, I will then offer some feedback - in other words, why it's my belief that training the various qualities outlined in last week’s article shouldn’t stop once the off-season cycle ends.
This is a 2-part post. In today's article, we’ll take a brief look at the most important physical qualities a player should focus on during the off-season and how to best train them. Part 2 will then focus on the application - how a microcycle might be organized, how it fits into the overall training cycle and the interplay between on and off court training.
Last week I presented in front of the BTV (Bavarian Tennis Verband) - it’s one of the biggest associations in Germany and many of the top junior tennis coaches were in attendance. The topic - how we can use off-court training strategies to accelerate on-court development. I had 3 young junior players helping me during the practical component - going through a series of jumps, bounds, throws, bodyweight exercises and so on. They were 12-13 years old and apparently, some of the best young talents in the country (I never met them previously and had never seen them play or train).
This week I’ll be traveling to London UK to take part in the Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) course (aka an excruciating experience on your hips...or so I've been told). The FRC course - created by Dr. Andreo Spina, owner and founder of Functional Anatomy Seminars - is a system of mobility training rooted in scientific research. I’ve always integrated mobility & flexibility work with my athletes and have a pretty good understanding regarding its underlying mechanisms but why not learn from someone who has devoted their life’s work to improving mobility, joint function and athletic performance. And...he’s worked with a number of pro athletes, including world no. 4 Milos Raonic (see video below).
There’s no question the shoulder takes a beating in tennis. I mean, players use it on every shot. Whether that’s to create lots of torque to hit a big forehand or to stabilize the shoulder when punching a volley...the shoulder has many functions and roles. But perhaps the biggest toll on the shoulder occurs in a movement you wouldn’t normally consider...the deceleration phase (aka the follow-through phase) of the serve. This is the moment after impact where the posterior muscles of the shoulder act in an eccentric manner to essentially stop the head of the humerus from being dislodged from the glenoid fossa (aka think arm dislocating from shoulder...that wouldn’t be fun). Ellenbecker & Kovacs (2008) call the deceleration phase “the most violent of the tennis serve”. That’s a pretty big statement, and probably something that needs to be considered in the training of the tennis shoulder. But why exactly is this phase of the serve so critical? What type of strength is necessary? And what kind of exercises can tennis players incorporate into their program to optimize the serve keep the shoulder healthy? We’ll explore all of these points in this article, so read on.
Not so long ago, a tennis coach I worked alongside asked why I don’t prescribe long runs with our players. You know, to get them into shape. My response at the time was that we need to prioritize their strength, power and explosive abilities. He then asked why I didn’t do long runs with them during pre-season? I didn’t want to get into the details at the time but there were 2 reasons. First, there is no real ‘pre-season’ in tennis, particularly not in junior tennis. And second, long distance running can do more harm to a tennis player than good.
You still see it all the time though. Coaches making their players run. Especially when they want to punish a player for bad behaviour or failing to accomplish a drill. They think, why not kill two birds with one stone? Teach the kid a lesson AND get them in shape. Boy is that not the furthest thing from the truth. Many coaches also still believe that running long distance will build an aerobic base but the type of aerobic qualities that are enhanced during long-distance running, are not the qualities we need for tennis - or any explosive type sport. In this article, we’ll outline the basic physiology of tennis, why you shouldn’t run (there are more reasons then, it’s a waste of time) and what you should do instead.
A few weeks back I wrote an article about strength training for tennis. More specifically, I wrote that physical training for tennis should stop focusing on “fancy drills” that may appear useful on the outside. Among other qualities (not the focus of this article), physical training for tennis should include a properly planned and executed strength training protocol. In this post, I’m going to outline the mechanical demands of tennis - this will hopefully provide a better understanding as to why strength training is important for tennis. And a brief application of strength training will be linked to each tennis demand to provide further context.