Many of us play sports at a social level, and racket sports such as tennis and squash are some of the most common. It's a great sport to get into and the beauty of tennis is that you can participate at any level, whether that's hitting a ball around in the garden or taking part in classes and competitive games. As you may have realised by now if you've been reading all of our sports based blogs, strength and conditioning training in the gym is essential to complement competitive sports participation, and really can make a massive difference to performance. Sports performance is a key interest of Sterling Fitness, so whilst we may not be tennis players ourselves, delving into new sports and learning more about the mechanics is something that we love here as it enables us to provide the best possible service to a wider range of PT clients.
Tennis is a hugely dynamic sport and is demanding on the body in so many ways. Some of the top tennis players are some of the best all round athletes of all sports due to the physical and mental skills that they possess that have got them to the top of their game. Key qualities required for tennis success are:
Mental strength and determination
Very few players have perfected all of these skills up to a high level, but all are just as important as the other to make a good tennis player.
Something that we don't often talk about in these blogs is the mental strength of a sports player. This is normally the difference between someone who can succeed in a professional sporting career and someone with equal physical ability but not the sporting brain to get them to the top. In tennis, this is even more evident. Due to the length of the game, it's so important to be able to focus for long periods of time and maintain mental sharpness, as well as thinking tactically to be able to out smart your opponent. A game of tennis can change dramatically and the importance of not giving up and letting it affect your performance if you lose a point is crucial. It takes the strongest athletes to make a comeback from a losing position.
But mental ability doesn't only come into play within a game scenario; the grueling hours of training, losses, injuries and setbacks mean that only the strongest and most determined will make it.
So what can a tennis player do in the gym to improve their performance on the court?
If competing at a high level, I would highly recommend a Personal Trainer or coach with specific experience in training tennis players. At a lower level, most PTs should be able to help you with training and providing a program for you to follow in the gym that will complement your tennis training.
Knees, ankles and hips are put under a lot of stress through rotations, stretches and awkward landings, so it's essential that you do as much work as possible to strengthen these areas to avoid injury. I would recommend a comprehensive strength program which has been specifically designed for you, as well as putting a lot of focus on a stretching/flexibility routine and Pilates based workouts to try and bulletproof your body. A good warm up routine and recovery protocols will be the make or break (quite literally) in terms of injuries on the court, so work with a PT or coach to make sure you cover all bases with your warm up.
As with most sports players, with a tennis playing Personal Training client I would work on plyometrics, jumps, explosive weightlifting movements and compound strength exercises. Fine tuning accessory work should be specific to each individual and their needs for their own performance.
Aerobic fitness and the stamina to last for hours of games would be a huge aspect of a tennis player's fitness, and would need to be tackled from a multi directional approach. Intervals of varying lengths would be most appropriate, as well as cross training to include tests of power under fatigue.
Core work would also make up a large proportion of training, with rotational and isometric work being at the forefront of my focus with the client. The reasoning behind this is quite self explanatory when thinking about the movements required within tennis!
Tennis is a very complicated sport when looking at fine tuning an athlete, and so I would always recommend you speak to a professional tennis coach before hitting the gym. If at a lower level, do get in contact with Sterling Fitness for any gym tips or PT enquiries, be it one to one or Online Personal Training.