Tennis fans are on the edge of their seats when it comes to this time of the year. Summer is in full effect and all the scheduled tournaments are back to back.
This is great for the fans, but the players however, don’t even get a chance to sit in their seats - as the number of tournaments doesn’t make it feasible for players to fully rest and recover during this highly competitive time of the season.
With that said, there’s a scientific approach that helps prepare an athlete to perform at an elite level during these exhausting times. Wouldn’t you like to know the training system that helps you gain a competitive advantage – even before your next competition?
It’s imperative for the athlete to train “by the book” during this highly demanding period of the year - as there’s really no sufficient recovery periods for the tennis players. Performing at a high level in each tournament is the goal for every athlete. There are a lot of factors that can aid the tennis player to prepare for the next upcoming tournament.
What’s the Training Secret of the Elite?
Tapering is the crucial element before a tournament that can optimize the athlete’s performance tremendously.
Tapering by definition means reducing the training load of both on and off court workouts before important competitions. At the elite level in all sports, any type of performance edge over a competitor is what the majority of the athletes strive for.
The expected improvements after incorporating tapering techniques have been analyzed - and the findings conclude that one can expect at least moderate improvements. However, at the top level, this can mean reaching the finals instead of only round16.
Even Just a Small Gain Can Produce Huge Results
Mujika et al. (48), who report that the magnitude of taper-induced improvements regarding performance in the swimming events (2.2%) were of similar order to the differences between the gold medalist and the fourth place (1.62%) or between third and eighth place (2.02%) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (Mujika)
Reducing fatigue by altering training efforts before competition will improve the tennis player’s athletic performance. There are three variables you need to pay attention to. These three dynamics need to be reduced or manipulated in the athlete’s workout regimen.
They are: Decreasing the intensity, volume, and frequency of the training will be the key factors for proper tapering.
As a coach who specializes in customized strength & conditioning programs for tennis players, there are different approaches on how to taper the athlete CORRECTLY before a tournament.
The format that will be detailed in this article is the progressive non-linear format, which has been successful amongst many athletes.
An athlete will peak using this tapering approach 2 weeks before competition. Various athletes will benefit with a tapering guideline anywhere from 8-14 days. If a tennis player loses in the 1st round compared to a player who reaches the final, both of their tapering approaches will differ for the next tournament played. The training method both on and off-court will gradually decrease around 40-60% in volume, frequency, and intensity. It is the coaches job to ensure that the volume decreases gradually and not within the first couple of days of the taper.
There is strong evidence supporting that the reduction of intensity should not change in any tapering approach. The key is to maintain and enhance physiological adaptations during the taper.
For example, if a tennis player squats 225lbs for 6 reps and 4 sets, during the taper the tennis player will squat 225 for 2 -3 reps and 2 sets at the end of the taper. Before the taper is initiated, make sure that the athlete will undergo training sessions that are high in volume, intensity and frequency to maximize and reach the athletes peak before the tournament.
There are other factors that will aid in the success of the “tapering” approach. There are a lot of variables that go into the process of the taper that will be in the athlete’s hands to control. The appropriate balance between training stress and recovery is important to maximize performance. The athlete must undergo massage therapy, use of compression garments, good nutrition and hydration, and finally carbohydrate loading to maximize muscle glycogen storage before the tournament.
The coach should continuously assess the athlete on their perceived fatigue during the taper and then adjust accordingly - depending on the athlete’s results. A taper that is executed properly between both the coach and the athlete will not only potentially produce a competitive edge, but for the athlete can also reach a new higher ranking on a continuous basis.
Mujika, I. (2010). Intense training: the key to optimal performance before and during the taper. Scan J Med Sci Sports, (2), 24-31.
Meur. L, Hausswirth.C, & Mujika.I. (2013). Tapering for competition: A review. Science & Sports, 27(2), 77-87.
Bosquet. L, Montpetit.J, & Mujika.I. (2007) . Effects of Tapering on performance: A meta-analysis. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, 39(8), 1358-1365.
Pyne.D, Mujika.I & Reilly.T. (2009). Peaking for optimal performance: Research limitations and future directions. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27(3), 195-202.