Getting the Most Out of Your Tennis Training Regime
Playing tennis requires you to use many different aspects of performance to succeed including strength, speed, power, agility, flexibility, and endurance. Learning to balance your training regime to work on all of these at once is a demanding task but one that you must take on if you are to compete at a high level. Below are a few principles that you can follow to get the maximum benefit from your training sessions and reach the top ranks of the tennis world.
Improve the functioning of specific systems through repetition
Tennis will put demands on parts of your body that are not used to dealing with the increased level of strain(1). The principle of adaptation is the belief that the body will adapt to these new strains. Running long distances will cause adaptations in the heart and lungs, making them stronger and allowing you to run longer distances. Specifically for tennis, the more you practice serving, the more your arms and back muscles will adapt to enable you to perfect the technique.
Lift weights that will challenge your limits – but not too much
You should always be looking to push the boundaries and exercise at a level that challenges your ability to consume the appropriate oxygen. However, do not over do it. Lifting too much too soon can do more damage to your body than good (2). It’s not a game and looking at it that way can lead to problems of you constantly challenging yourself to lift heavier and heavier weights, a common problem among amateurs in every sport (3 + 4). To maximise performance, you should lift loads heavier than you do in normal daily activities but not anything too drastic. Many tennis players think that the longer they spend lifting heavy weights, the harder they will hit the ball and the faster they will serve. This is folly and you should balance lifting weights with the other activities on the list to avoid risking injury (5).
Work out what works for you
Specificity is the principle that adaptations to the body occur under stress brought on through exercise. However, what is specific for you is not likely to be specific for another player. Your training should be physiologically demanding for your style, level and in comparison to your opponents, and for you as a tennis player. Things like the surface of play and rest breaks should be brought into account when you are working out the specificity of your regime. Remember that both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems should be trained up specifically for the sport of tennis (6).
Train at an intensity that will push you as in a real game
Intensity relates to specificity in that you have to gauge how intense your training should be based on how intense the games of tennis you will be playing will be. It’s not necessarily the stoppages and the length of points that are important but the intensity of the exertion. You have to look to improve performance at the intensities specific to tennis. The best way to measure intensity is with heart rate. Match your heart rate in training to the heart rate you experience in a competitive game.
Determine how long you should train for
The total amount of training you do, both on court and off court, should be carefully monitored. Not just the time of training but also the intensity should be monitored to ensure overtraining doesn’t occur. Your training programme should be worked around this giving you a specific time and intensity to work on your weaknesses first and foremost (7).
Determine how often you should be training
Determine how often you should be training
The frequency of your training sessions is something to consider carefully. You should work out a timetable to give you a focussed schedule to work on your game. Not planning this out carefully can leave you with not enough training to encourage adaptation, or leave you prone to damage caused through overtraining.
Make sure you mix it up
Variety may seem to conflict with principles of specificity; however, you should select a variety of exercises in your training regime that all push the limits of specificity in different areas. For example, work on your footwork, and then work on your serve. By using a variety of excercises you are much less likely to become bored and lose motivation to succeed.
Leave enough time for recovery
It can be tempting to go on and on but you must leave enough time for recovery if you want to continue to improve. Without recovery, adaptation is not possible and injury is highly likely. However, if you leave too much time for recover, you will not improve and adapt at an optimum pace which is obviously the most desirable state of affairs (8).
If you follow all these principles when coming up with your training schedule, you will be sure to adapt your body at an optimum pace and in a way that will make you improve as a tennis player.
1. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/mar/06/healthandwellbeing.health, accessed on 11/12/14
2. http://www.projectknow.com/research/exercise-addiction/, accessed on 11/12/14
3. http://www.stronghealthtips.com/lifting-weights-addictive, accessed on 11/12/14
4. http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/mental-health-and-addiction/muscle-dysmorphia/, accessed on 11/12/14
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577483/, accessed on 11/12/14
6. http://livehealthy.chron.com/tennis-aerobic-anaerobic-3285.html, accessed on 11/12/14
7. http://www.optimumtennis.net/how-to-train-for-tennis.htm, accessed on 11/12/14
8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/health_and_fitness/4283136.stm, accessed on 11/12/14
A very interesting article written by freelance writer, Helen Curtis especially for the Cork Tennis Blog. Many thanks to Helen and as always please feel free to contact me if you would like to contribute to the blog.