Most conventional training programs are based on the fact that if you practice tennis skills over and over that all other variables in the sport will be enhanced as well. While improvingskills is critical, especially at younger ages, it is the improvement of the player’s athleticskills that will elevate the athlete to the next level.
Athletic skills include strength, speed, power, endurance, agility, balance, and quickness. Conditioning is a great equalizer. It could make the difference as to whether you start or sit, or whether you can advance to the next level.
Althoughtennismovementhas some consistent traits among all athletes, it is highly specific to the position the athletes are in on the court and what type of shot their opponent has just made. Tennisis a highly reactive sport, andmovementtraining needs to progress from a simple closed skill environment to an open skill environment using visual stimuli. This ability to react will have a direct effect on the perceivedspeedandagilityoftennisplayers.
When one looks at the various athletic qualities, more often than not strength is at the core. Strength is the ability to exert force at a given speed. Let’s take a look at speed, power, and agility.
Speed is the amount of distance covered in a given amount of time. Acceleration is how quickly you get to top speed. A tennisplayer is focused on quick explosive feet.Strength, particularly in the quadricep, hamstring, and hip flexor groups, plays a role in all of these abilities. Reactive speed also obviously plays a key role. Speed needs to be addressed in all planes of motion under all forms of stimuli.
Agility is the body’s ability to change direction while maintaining speed. Power, and therefore strength is at the root of agility. Key areas are the legs, hips, abdominals, and low back.Agility is related to stopping and stopping is related to your ability to absorb and redirect energy.
HOW IS IT DONE?
Strength should be developed mainly through the use of free weights and body weight resistive movements. Free weights are supreme since the various stabilizers and co-contractors come into play, not just prime movers, much like during a game situation. A foundation of strength and stability is necessary in order to build upon this foundation using other modes of training in a safe, effective manner. Other modes utilized include plyometrics, medicine and Swiss ball training, speed training, and agility training.
Plyometrics utilize the body’s stretch reflex to yield a more forceful contraction. The goal of plyometrics is to increase power output. It is the linking of speed and strength to develop reactive power. It also teaches good coordination and agility. One needs a good strength base before performing plyometric exercise. The vertimax is one tool that we use at our facilities to improvespecific power. It is used at high schools and universities across the country.
Medicine ball training is utilized in correspondence with weight or resistancetraining to develop power. Motions can be multi-planar and sport specific. The core, which consists of the abs, back, hips, and thighs, can be targeted in a sport specific way. Athletic ability is enhanced. The core contributes greatly to body power. All movement initiates at the core.
Swiss ball training enhances balance and teaches strength expression and coordination in unstable environments, much like on the field. Activation of prime movers in a motion is 100% only when balance is present during the motion. Therefore, functional strength is enhanced by improving balance alone. Neutralizer and stabilizer muscle action is enhanced. High levels of nervous system activation occur, which leads to a reservewhen the athlete hits the court.
Resistive and sprint assisted methods are used more specifically to target quick feet. The drills range from general to very specific.
Agility training is accomplished utilizing drills that teach athletes to absorb energy.Traditional methods are great for novices but theSFAS method departs from the traditional mode, focusing on energy absorption. Work/rest ratios are designed to enhance the appropriate metabolic pathways and for cardiovascular conditioning as well. An example of a specific drill would be a resisted open step while hooked up to external resistanceresponding to an external stimulus.
The total program is affected by and should be planned in accordance with at what point of the season the athlete is in. Generally speaking, the program moves from very generalized in the off season to more specific as the season approaches. The younger the athlete, the more skills training should be at the forefront. Provisions should be made in programs to blend skills and conditioning accordingly.