Tennis requires an abundance of off-court training in order to keep up with the powerful shots and the fast pace of the game. Tennis requires a player to develop a powerful serve and groundstrokes to be successful, which can be achieved through a combination of on-and-off the court training. When it comes to off-court training, the greatest benefit can be achieved through a well-tailored strength training program. Off-court training will not only prevent injuries related to the heavy impact of the game, but will also improve the contraction and firing rate of the muscles – which is achieved via heavy load resistance training.
When it comes to load resistance training, there are 3 key exercises that increase performance, and subsequently overall competitiveness on the court.
The ultimate performance enhancing exercise for any sport is the squat. There is a strong correlation between squatting and increased power, speed, and jumping performance. Power, in turn, is extremely dependent on maximal strength; thus, by incorporating squats to your strength training program, you will be able to improve the force of muscular contraction that leads to increased speed, acceleration and change of direction. Squats are a great exercise, and when done properly squats load the body with heavy resistance that is key for on-court success.
There is a wide range of benefits from squatting that include increased range of motion, injury prevention, and increased mobility, to name the few.
This Olympic weightlifting exercise is vital for an athlete to include in his/her training program in order to sprint and jump faster. The snatch enforces velocity, which is essential for power generation during groundstrokes and serving. Snatches teach an athlete to produce and absorb forces and excite the central nervous system, which improves coordination, and activates the fast-twitch motor units that contribute to improved on-court performance. This Olympic lift provides phenomenal improvement in stability, balance and ability to apply forces through the whole kinetic chain, such as during the serve in tennis.
The snatch engages more of the hamstring than conventional Olympic lifts, which produces a powerful hip extension that is seen in short sprints and vertical jumps. In order for this lift to produce positive results, you must have flexibility in both the shoulder and latissimus dorsi, which prevents any shoulder injuries that can halt your tennis game. Thus, practicing your technique prior to building up the weight is key.
Drop Box Jumps
This exercise is a member of the plyometric family that relies on eccentric contractions that allow a tennis player to take their speed and strength to the next level. The demands of tennis are steadily increasing due to the high level of off-court training of fellow competitors, combined with grueling tournament schedules; as such your off-court training should mirror these changes. Drop box jumps train the stretch shortening cycle and help increase sprinting speed. There are 3 important parameters in drop box jumps that are the main focus of training:
- The drop height from which the athlete is jumping from – the higher the box the more advanced training this will intake;
- Ground contact time is the time the athlete spends on the ground after landing, and before jumping – the goal is to have short ground contact time; and
- Finally the jump height after contacting the ground is also important –the goal is to increase your vertical jump as much as possible.
Improving these 3 parameters will help improve short burst of speed, which are essential in the game of tennis.
By correctly implementing the squat, snatch and drop box jumps into your off-court strength training program you can elicit substantial performance results on the court. Keep in mind that these exercises are advanced drills, and if not done correctly can increase the risk of injury. They should always be performed at low volume and high loads, such as 4 reps of 6 sets, to see the benefits on-court; of course only increase the load after you’ve mastered the technique.