Strength and conditioning coaches and trainers are engaged in a constant search for the best ways to improve sport performance. All things being equal, a bigger, faster, stronger, more conditioned athlete will rule supreme on the playing court or field. While there is constant debate over techniques for boosting sport specific speed, power and strength, I believe we tend to overlook the importance of a comprehensive warm-up, and the role it plays in optimising performance in each and every workout, practice and game. This leads to the obvious question: what is the best way to prepare an athlete for performance – mentally as well as physically?
This type of warm-up has been used by track and field athletes for years.
The great thing about a comprehensive dynamic warm-up is that it doesn’t take any more time than the more traditional stretching method, but is much more focused, effective and productive. Since your warm-up sets the tone for the entire workout, these are just the qualities you should be looking for.
Advantages of a dynamic warm-up, by comparison with the more traditional ‘sit and stretch’ routine:
- It involves continuous movement, it maintains warmth in your body and muscles.
- Prepares the muscles and joints in a more sport specific manner than static stretching.
- Enhances coordination and motor ability as well as revving up the nervous system – benefits which are particularly important for younger athletes who are still ‘learning their bodies’;
- Prepares the mind for the workout ahead; it forces athletes to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
The starting point is a cardio-vascular warm-up, lasting 5-10 minutes (or until you have broken a light sweat). This raises the body’s core temperature enough to enhance the elasticity of muscles, tendons, ligaments and overall joint structures and prepare the player for the workout ahead.
This portion of the warm-up can be accomplished in several ways, including light jogging, skipping (jump rope) or even performing different footwork patterns in a speed ladder. Another purpose of this initial warm-up is to prepare the mind for the workout ahead. It is a time to focus and concentrate, leaving all outside distractions and stressors (school work, relationship problems etc) at the door. After this initial preparation of body and mind, it is time to move to the next phase of preparation and begin the dynamic part of the warm-up.
Strength and Agility
Find USTA Strength and Conditioning Articles Here.
Plyometrics is a term used to describe exercises that use the muscles natural elasticity to create explosive reactive power through contractions of the muscle fiber. Sounds complicated, right? Not at all. Imagine your muscles as rubber bands – when you stretch a rubber band, you create stored energy. In plyometric exercises, the storing of energy in the muscles is known as the eccentric phase, and the rapid release of that stored energy is known as the concentric phase. Imagine yourself trying to jump and reach something well over your head; you would first bend your knees and your waist and then explode upwards – plyometrics at work. You first store the energy by creating tension in the muscles of the legs and then releasing that energy upwards as you jump. You can reach higher as a result of first storing the energy (lengthening the leg muscles) and then releasing it (contraction of the leg muscles). Plyometrics simply uses these properties of the muscle fibers by conditioning them to release the maximum amount of stored energy in the shortest distance.
Lower Body Training Plyometrics
Tennis is a game of getting to the ball quickly - without executing that part of the game, the most perfect forehand form in the world won’t do any good. Squat jumps, jumps to and from boxes, lateral box jumps, and ring/ladder drills are all excellent ways to improve your foot quickness. Check some of them out here
Upper Body Training Plyometrics
For those who have developed a good base of strength, some of these challenging drills will be just what you need to reach the next level. The upper body work found here
can be a nice range of options for any player to implement. The overhead and side throws will serve to increase racquet-head speed and stability through the impact zone. Squat throws and plyometric push ups will enable players to transfer power more easily from the legs and core to the chest, shoulders, and arms.
to read an article entitled "Application of Upper Extremity Plyometrics for Rehabilitation and Performance Enhancement in Elite Tennis Players"
, written by Todd Ellenbecker, who is on the USTA Sport Science Committee and is the Clinical Director of Physiotherapy Associates Scottsdale Sport Clinic.
for a complete, tennis-specific annual weight training program.
Increasing on-court endurance is an important physical component to being a successful tennis player. When choosing endurance exercises, it is important to understand that tennis requires a specific type of endurance - which is different than most other sports. Running a marathon is very different to playing three or five sets of tennis. Although they may take a similar time to complete, the marathon requires a slow relatively consistent pace; whereas, tennis requires the repetition of hundreds of short explosive movements. We know from the tennis literature that most tennis points last less than 10 seconds with very few points lasting more than 30 seconds. Each point typically has multiple changes of direction requiring quick starts and stops and many of the movements are lateral (side to side).
Stretching is an important part of any exercise program. Most aerobic and strength training programs inherently cause your muscles to contract and flex. Stretching after exercise promotes equal balance and can help remove toxins from your muscles. Stretching also increases flexibility, improves range of motion of your joints and boosts circulation. Stretching can even promote better posture and relieve stress.
In the last two decades, physical training and competitive opportunities have increased dramatically in junior, collegiate and professional tennis. This arose due to a multitude of factors, but much of it has stemmed from an increase in knowledge and understanding of scientifically based training programs focused on improving performance. As this focus on performance has increased, the area of recovery has received relatively limited focus. Recovery is a multi-faceted paradigm focusing on recovery from training—session to session, day to day and week to week. Recovery is also vitally important during training as well as in competition between matches and between days during multi-day tournaments. As more information is needed in the area of tennis specific recovery, the Sport Science Committee of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) sponsored an extensive evidence-based review of the available literature related to eight distinct areas of tennis-specific recovery.
These eight areas are:
• Nutritional Aspects of Tennis Recovery
• Heat and Hydration Aspects of Tennis Recovery
• Psychological Aspects of Tennis Recovery
• Recovery Aspects of Young Tennis Players
• Physiological Aspects of Tennis Recovery
• Musculoskeletal Injuries/ Orthopedics Aspects of Tennis Injury
• General Medical Aspects of Recovery
• Coaching Specific Aspects of Recovery
To download a PDF of the complete Recovery Project
To download a PDF of the Recovery in Tennis booklet
Tennis has evolved into a "power sport." Players need to sustain the quick anaerobic movements required by the sport for matches that can last several hours. The competitive tennis season is also held during the warmer months where a high heat index and hot court surfaces are common environments. These conditions make tennis players targets for dehydration and heat illness. The tennis training diet should be focused on high-energy foods and adequate hydration, timed appropriately before and after multiple competitions. The following guidelines help develop successful nutrition and hydration practices for players.
to read more at the USTA Nutrition website
USTA's 'Ask The Lab' About Tennis Injuries
for our Improve Your Game
page from the Ask the Lab archive
, which addresses a range of health, fitness, strength and conditioning, footwork, and injury rehab/prevention issues.