In today’s game, developing a tennis fitness program is a necessity for any high level tennis tournament competitor.
Not only does the stroke production, technique and mental aspect play a part in winning tennis matches, but the fitness level of a player must be accountable for to produce positive results on the tennis court.
Implementing a tennis fitness program should not be left in the back burner, but rather it should be a key part of the physical tennis training program. A tennis fitness program should be a well designed and highly specialized tennis training routine with clear goals and performance requirements each day, week and month.
Maximizing the Benefits of a Tennis Fitness Program
If you have been playing tennis for a considerable period of time already, you may notice that there are certain months or seasons when you play better than others. If you are fortunate, these months will coincide with the times when you participate in tournaments.
But if not, then you have to find a way for your game to peak at the right time. This can be done by properly planning a tennis fitness program that will help improve your game in time for any important competition period.
The main concept behind the design process for any tennis fitness program is periodization. It is simply unrealistic to expect a player to perform at his or her very best throughout the entire year. So in order for the design to work, each player must identify his or her own specific time of the year when peak performance is desired.
Using Periodization in a Tennis Fitness Program
For example, if you are a college varsity player, you might want to peak during the months of April and May. Club players may want to peak during the summer months when most club tournaments get scheduled.
A tennis fitness program should cover all components of training for completion. These are strength, stamina, flexibility, movement, balance, weight, nutrition, strokes, strategy and mental toughness. Your actual training program should schedule you to start working out 4 months before the identified desired peak performance period.
Developing Core Body Strength in a Tennis Fitness Program
During the first month, the main target is to develop a base level of strength. Total body workouts through weight training achieves this goal. The exercises should target the major muscle groups like the legs, core, upper body, shoulders and arms.
However, since tennis places a lot of repetitive stress on some key joints and muscle groups like the elbow, wrist and the rotator cuff of the shoulder, specific exercises should be performed for these areas. The following are exercises commonly used during this period of the program:
Squats or Leg Presses
Bench Presses or Push Ups
Back Extensions on Stability Ball
Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
Barbell Upright Rows
Forearm pronation and supination
Weight Training in a Tennis Fitness Program
Weight training should be done around three times a week. On alternate days, endurance training can be done with long distance running, cycling or swimming. Flexibility is also very important. Dynamic stretches should be done before each activity and static stretches used for cooling down after a training session. Unlike weight training and endurance training, stretching is something that can and should be done every day.
With regards to actual tennis playing, you should hit only every other day and put more emphasis on drills and rallying instead of playing actual sets.
Proper Tennis Diet and Nutrition For your diet and nutrition, make sure you are getting enough high quality protein for muscular development. It is also important to take a day off every week to do nothing and allow your body to recover. You can still stretch but you must not do anything strenuous.
Focusing on Movement, Strokes and Flexibility in a Tennis Fitness Program
For the second month, the emphasis becomes movement, strokes and flexibility. Stretching exercises are done on all the days when you do any kind of physical activity. For improving movement, sprints, shuttle runs and jumping rope exercises are done.
You can now increase the frequency of when you play tennis from about 3 times to 5 times a week. You can play practice sets as well as do drills. Specifically, you should be assessing your game and working on improving weaknesses or learning new shots to add to your repertoire.
Weight training and endurance training are still done but with less frequency. If you did these exercises three times a week in the first month, reduce them to only twice a week. Again, allow yourself a day out of every week to rest completely.
Nutritionally, you should continue to take in a balanced diet. With the increase in your overall physical activity, you might find yourself gradually attaining your ideal playing weight.
Tennis Fitness Program: Playing Practice Matches and Tennis Drills
For the third month, your tennis fitness program should now focus mainly on developing your game. You will now be going to the court up to 6 times a week to play practice sets and do drills. Endurance training will now be reduced further to once a week. However, speed training will be emphasized further with movement drills being done up to four times a week.
Strength training will be done 3 times a week but with slightly lighter weights and more reps. Stretching exercises are still standard and should be done before every activity. A weekly rest day is still required.
Your diet should start to see an increase in the intake of complex carbohydrates. Since you will be doing even more sprints and practice sessions, you need the extra fuel.
Optimizing Your Peak Performance in a Tennis Fitness Program
During the fourth month of your tennis fitness program, you should be ready to compete. Your strength, speed, stamina and flexibility have all been developed to optimal levels. You have worked on your game such that you can now try out what you’ve been working on in a competitive situation.
You can join tournaments and play a lot of practice sets. However, you are only doing this to make yourself match tough. Do not put too much pressure on yourself to win right away. Use each match to try to improve. Apply your strategies and tactics in an actual match. See how your strokes hold up in pressure situations.
Weight training, endurance training and speed training all get reduced to a frequency of only 1-2 times per week. However, stretching remains a key component which should be done every day.
In terms of diet, you should keep your carbohydrate intake up because you have to be prepared for the contingency of playing long matches in the tournaments that you participate in.
Final Component of a Tennis Fitness Program: Competition and Match Play
After four solid months of preparation, you should now be ready to do some serious competition. During this period, all off court training gets reduced even further. The main focus is match play. Practice sessions are not as intense either.
Instead of following a rigid schedule, you should be flexible and adaptable. Work on things that need to be worked on. For example, if you are not serving well, add extra serving practice sessions.
Nutritionally, you should load up on carbs before a tournament match. Keep yourself well hydrated with water and sports drinks. Bananas are excellent food to bring to the court. You should refrain from taking in any alcoholic or caffeinated beverages at least until after your match. Ideally, you should wait until after the tournament.
Off Court Preparation in a Tennis Fitness Program
Proper rest and sleep are also vital in preparing for a tournament match. See to it that you get 8 hours of quality sleep so that you are alert the next day when you wake up.
After the competition months are over, the last phase of the tennis fitness program begins. During this time, you take a break from playing and training. Instead, to keep in shape, you can engage in other relaxing activities like hiking, swimming, ballroom dancing or whatever it is you feel like doing.
Final part of a Tennis Fitness Program: Rest
While you are taking a break, it is important not to lose too much of your conditioning. All you really want to do is to get away from playing tennis so that you miss playing and become eager once more when the time comes to start playing again.
Having a cycle of training/playing/resting is a great way to keep fresh and allow yourself to improve and learn. However, it may not be for everyone. Some people prefer to keep playing regularly all year round.
They just do a cycle where they intensify their practice and off court training before a period of competition and take it down but not altogether out afterward. Try to discover what works for you by learning from your own experiences.
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