Welcome to High-Performance Specialization (HPS)! HPS is an extension of HPP (internal link) - so for those that have worked through HPP and incorporated the training items, this program will acts be a natural progression. For those that are new to Mattpoint Online Training programs, I strongly encourage you to go through HPP first - it lays the foundation for the content that will be presented in this resource.

This 12 Section Guide

Similar to HPP, HPS has 12 sections that detail the various training components - from plyometric progressions, to change-of-direction/agility training and specific strength & power exercises.

Beyond that, HPS will expand your current understanding on a variety of topics, including more in-depth sport science foundational knowledge, a step-by-step approach to the planning process in tennis, the relationship between stress & rest and more.  

This resource is packed with information the elite tennis coach, physical prep coach, support staff or the eager tennis player (or parent) will greatly benefit from as it takes the foundations of sport science - along with the latest research - and puts it into a practical resource.

Who is HPS for?

1. Tennis and Physical Preparation Coaches

This program is primarily intended for tennis coaches and physical preparation coaches. In some settings, tennis coaches don’t have the luxury of having a physical preparation coach work with their players. This is largely due to financial constraints. Unless you’re part of a large tennis academy (or a federation setting) it’s often difficult for physical preparation coaches to get enough working hours in tennis - which steers them into other sports and disciplines.

Because of this, I truly believe that both HPP and HPP (along with the countless blog articles I’ve posted on Mattspoint) are a tremendous gateway for coaches to learn about basic sport science topics and to begin implementing training items on their own.

On the other hand, if you are a physical preparation coach for a tennis academy, school or federation, then this program will likely benefit you from both a practical and continuing education standpoint. I myself am always learning from other coaches - whether it’s within the tennis community or elsewhere. This is the beauty of the web today - it’s a tremendous platform to share knowledge and expertise.

Last note here - if you fall into one of these 2 conditions, you’ll be in charge of leading the program (or parts of the program) with your players. And in all likelihood, it’ll be done with junior players - either those that are aiming to develop into elite national/international calibre players or those who are already at that level (but need to improve their physical capacities to continue progressing athletically). While the program definitely can be adapted to a younger player (14 and under), 15 year olds and up are likely the best age groups to start this type of work (to be on the safe side). That said, I have implemented this type of program with younger athletes - but because I was seeing them on a daily basis, I was able to progress the exercises and loads very carefully. If you’re qualified to do so, I don’t see any issues with taking certain aspects (including strength & power work) and implementing them with younger players.

2. The Elite Player

This program is very well suited to fit the needs of more mature players (over the age of 18) who are competing at the collegiate, regional, national or international level. Each type of player will likely have a different window of time to implement a specific preparation program - as we’ll see in the section on planning, this is highly dependant on their tournament schedule.

I am currently coaching a number of WTA, ATP and ITF juniors who are implementing a similar program while traveling part-time and full-time on tour. These players range from 16 years of age to their mid-20s. No elite player is exempt from putting in the specific work - that’s how the most optimal transfer occurs from the gym, to the court.

As we saw in HPP, a general preparation is a must and usually the type of program that is often overlooked by most players and coaches. The specific prep program, however, is the bridge. It connects the gym to the court - without it, the qualities that were developed during a general phase, will never be manifested onto the tennis court - at least not to the degree we would hope for.

3. The ‘High-Achieving’ Club Player

Many senior ITF players and ‘high-achieving’ club players joined HPP - they had a ot of success implementing the various physical qualities into their programs. I strongly believe that any age group can benefit from strength, power and speed training. That means lifting, sprinting, jumping, throwing and so on. HPS is designed in such a way that all competitive players can benefit - tour, college academy and club players alike.

The reason that many of the same training items can be implemented with a junior, a pro and a senior player is quite simple and it refers to self-regulation. Let’s use a simple squat jump (video example below) to illustrate this point. Young juniors can perform a jump squat to begin developing power - they don’t have the ability to generate high forces so their jumps are usually lower and therefore, less taxing on the body. As they mature (and enter the pros), they will have greater force generating abilities - which means they’ll produce more power and jump higher. Not only that, they have to absorb more force during landings. As you can imagine, this takes a greater toll on the body.

Lastly, an older player may use jumps to attenuate the decline in power output that usually occurs as one ages (research suggests that our ‘natural’ strength & power levels begin to decline after the age of 25...training can attenuate and even reverse this equation). The same scenario occurs during med ball throws (faster speeds for more powerful athletes) and during strength training (heavier vs lighter loads depending on age and abilities).

Your setting will dictate whether the exercise is performed from a learning perspective or from a training perspective. There is a difference.

Who is this program not for?

As mentioned in HPP - while minor injuries, aches and pains etc shouldn’t stop the elite player from training, there are circumstances where a player should seek medical clearance before beginning a program. If, for some reason, an evaluation administered by a medical professional indicates severe illness, injury or movement/joint deficiencies in an athlete, they should NOT begin this program. A ‘Return to Play/Train’ program should be created for that athlete instead. Some of the elements from this program may likely still be performed (and will probably help the cause), but a discussion and agreement with the medical professional should be finalized beforehand.

Two other types of players shouldn’t perform this program. First, players who have never completed a dedicated off-season training routine. These players should perform at least a 6 week general preparation block (see HPP).

The other type of player this isn’t for is the ‘semi-committed’ player. If you’re going to put in a part-time effort, you should expect part-time results. This program should be followed as closely as possible - for at least a 3 week period - in order to see any type of benefit OR be implemented in an a la carte format for coaches and trainers in unique settings. It should then be revisited several times a year for extended periods (depending on the time frame available), to both develop and reboot certain qualities. This will be further discussed throughout this resource.

Program Guidelines

  1. If you’re going to perform the program in its entirety, do so as closely to what is presented as you possibly can. There is a specific progression that should be followed. Also, DO NOT perform another program at the same time. This may seem self-explanatory but you’d be surprised.

  2. If you’re taking bits and pieces of the program and adapting it to your setting, still take note of the progressions. Don’t skip to the end where the loads are intensified - see the progression and aim to program something similar.

  3. In this program, there is a steady progression in tennis play - from less to more as the program moves along from week to week. The workouts are adjusted accordingly - don’t try to do the same amount of volume throughout while also increasing on-court tennis by several hours - you will not adapt and will likely have many aches & pains. Injury risk also increases.

  4. With HPS, we’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel; the progression from GPP to SPP should be seamless, not a complete overhaul. That’s why you might see some similar exercises in both the general prep and the specific prep phase. These movements, however, are slightly modified to tackle the principle of specificity and include the following items.

    • Velocity-specific

    • Muscle group specifics

    • Nervous system response (i.e. reactiveness)

    • Angle/joint specifics

    • Work:rest ratios that are more relevant to actual tennisplay

What’s the difference between HPS and HPP?

HPP was designed to be implemented primarily during the off-season and/or developmental periods (i.e. younger players). For example, during collegiate tennis, most programs will perform a large general prep phase at the beginning of the fall season. This is designed in a manner that improves general athletic abilities (with a bias towards tennis).

HPS, while can (and should) be implemented during an off-season cycle, is designed a way to be a natural progression from HPP. While HPP encompasses 2 general physical preparation (GPP)  cycles, HPS encompasses 2 specific physical preparation cycles.

Recall the principle of specificity - it tells us that an organism (in this case the athlete) will adapt to the demands which are imposed on them. The most specific form of physical training for tennis, thus, is playing tennis. I know this sounds a bit funny but tennis is an extremely physical sport. It forces players to accelerate, decelerate, jump, lunge, rotate, perform overhead movements and more - all of which happen in an explosive manner. There was even a time when players did no physical training AT ALL - some of you may remember this from the days of Laver and Emerson - they simply played tennis (even John Mcenroe stated that he did virtually no physical training during his prime). So how did they get so good? They played lots of tennis - and more importantly, lots of competitive tennis!

So does that mean we shouldn’t do any physical training? Well, times have indeed changed and while tennis-play itself is still critical, supplementing (key word here) with plyometrics, weight training and other off-court training qualities, will certainly help players reach their genetic potential.

Note on genetics:

Bringing us back to the difference between general physical prep and specific physical prep - with SPP, we are now performing exercises that are more closely related to tennis play. This DOES NOT MEAN that we are mimicking tennis movements in the training room - that is not specificity, that is called simulation - not something we want to be doing EVER! When referring to specificity, we are referring to it in terms of the following items (from Mel Siff’s, Supertraining):

  • Type of muscle contraction

  • Movement pattern

  • Region of movement

  • Velocity of movement

  • Force of contraction

  • Muscle fibre recruitment

  • Metabolism

  • Biochemical adaptation

  • Flexibility

  • Fatigue

Let’s illustrate specificity, using an example from the weight room. In the general prep phase, I might be performing full squats in the gym - rarely does a player need to develop strength in this deep range but because my goal is to develop general athletic qualities, I’ve included it in the training menu items. But now, in the specific prep phase, I want to implement squats again (because the force of contraction is similar to what I would need during the first few steps of a deceleration or acceleration) - this time, however, instead of doing full squats, I might only do half squats (this would fulfill the ‘region of movement’ specificity aspect).

Another example - let’s say that I prescribed 15m acceleration sprints during the general prep phase, with a 60sec recovery between sprints. In the specific prep phase, this might change to 2-5m accelerations (distances that are more closely similar to what a player will encounter during a match) and I would have much shorter recovery periods (15-25s) as this again would be more reflective of actual on-court play. From a metabolic perspective, the latter is much more specific than the former - although both are important - one will potentiate the other.

In terms of the planning process involved, we will explore that in section 3 - i.e. how to plan an annual program (or at least part of an annual program) in the most effective manner. In section 9, we’ll also look at how tennis practices fit into the specific prep phase - if you recall from HPP, the recommendation was to do as little tennis as possible during at least a 3 week period. I know practically this isn’t always possible - and so I offered solutions - but as we get closer to major competitions (provincials, nationals, international events etc), we obviously have to spend more and more time on court practicing. That section will cover the integration of the on-court and off-court training - as you can imagine, it is highly dependant on the athlete’s stage of development, the planned tournament schedule, and the individual needs of the player (where are various components ranked on a KPI list).  

To finish up, here’s a chart of the various phases - HPS reflects the specific preparation phase of an elite tennis program.

Insert chart here


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