Ryler DeHeart, a Hawaii native, currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and holds the coveted position as the Head Tennis Coach for the Men’s Tennis Team. Prior to his current position, Ryler has reached a career high of 174 in singles and 122 in doubles on the ATP circuit.
In his career on the professional tennis circuit, DeHeart competed against one of the world’s number one tennis players, Rafael Nadal. DeHeart also played for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he achieved the #1 ITA singles ranking and was honoured as a two-time All-American Athlete. He finished his University athletic career with the most wins in Illinois’ history; holding a singles record of 138-36.
Ryler DeHeart has competed at all levels of tennis – from junior ITF tournaments, to college and finally on the professional circuit. He dedicated countless hours of hard work throughout his life to accomplish all of his commendable career highlights.
His off-court training has had a significantly positive impact on his tennis game and has made him the successful athlete that he still is today. In this brief interview, DeHeart reveals some of his well-kept training secrets – all the way from his college days to his professional life on tour.
Up-close and personal with Ryler DeHeart
SH: [Ryler] can you compare between the volume of your off-court training from college to the ATP tour?
RD: [It was] less on tour actually; less lifting and more rehab and maintenance because your playing so many tournaments. [The] goal was just to stay healthy and be able to be fresh.
SH: On tour, did you find a certain type of training that was most beneficial for you? Under which type of training have you experienced positive results? From sprint/strength training etc., for example.
RD: Recovery phase such as massage, stretching etc. helped me the most.
SH: During your “off-season”, as tennis players on the tour barely have, what type of off-court training did you focus on?
RD: During this off time, I would do more intervals for conditioning and more strength work, as well.
SH: How many hours a day did you dedicate to off-court training during the tour?
RD: During tournaments, not much, I would say 3 or 4 times a week around an hour long and off-season roughly an hour a day or an hour and a half every other day.
SH: Did you have a trainer on tour that was easily accessible?
RD: I was based where I went to school at Illinois so I would see a trainer there, but the best stuff [that] I did was with a massage therapist and physical trainer in Illinois.
SH: How would you have changed your off-court training differently, if you could, during your career?
RD: Honestly that was the single biggest issue in my career and why I eventually stopped. I beat myself up in college, but did more rehab and stayed stronger and therefore healthier. On the tour, it eventually caught up with me, and my body started to break down to [the point of] no return. If I could do it all over again, I would travel with a full time physical trainer and physiotherapist. I would have done more work on my explosiveness and more exercises to prevent my body from breaking down, particularly my back and shoulder. I would have included more rehab and overall strengthening of important parts [that are] specific to my sport.
SH: What would you recommend for players trying to go on tour for their off-court training?
RD: I would recommend [that] they focus more on their body than their tennis, because in the end no matter how good of a player you are if you can’t physically sustain it, it won’t matter!
SH: What is the biggest difference from players in the top 20, particularly in their off-court training?
RD: Being around the guys at the top of their sport, they do just that, and really work hard on keeping their body fit and healthy so they can not only play at their best on one occasion, but [also] stay consistent throughout their career.
SH: As a college tennis player myself, I experience an abundance of off-court training focused on endurance, but the game is continuously changing into a more powerful fast past game on every level. Did you experience a difference in training throughout the years?
RD: I hear ya, and have heard that before. Luckily, I had good coaches and tried to nearly always do tennis specific stuff. I like plyos (plyometric) a lot; short burst agility, change of direction drills etc. Of course you have to have endurance, but strength and speed is more important in an interval setting – like [during] playing a point.
SH: What is your favorite workout that you found beneficial on court?
RD: I think people now realize this, but there’s still a lot of bad training out there. [You] need to always be sport specific and [focused on] injury prevention. Hurting yourself training for your sport is clearly not smart. I like doing stuff where I’m hitting or being fed through [tennis] balls – simulating points; or do agility stuff like spider drills where you pick up balls or whatever; quick bursts then recover are my favorite. I [also] love playing ultimate Frisbee haha.
SH: Whose training do you admire off court, any specific tennis player?
RD: Seems like the fittest guys are the top guys: Novak, Fed, Rafa, Murray. I’ve heard Murray and Novak do a ton of tough fitness, but I’ve seen some videos of Fed’s stuff and it looks very sport specific and he seems like he has never been injured and always in top tennis shape.
SH: What are the most frequent injuries on tour that you find?
RD: Most common injuries are shoulder/arm, back, and then joints of knees and ankles and feet too.
SH: Thank you taking the time for this interview.
DeHeart’s interview has sure given us a glimpse into what off-court tennis training is like on tour. It is essential to make sure that tennis players recognize the importance of injury prevention in order to attain longevity as tennis players. DeHeart is a great role model to learn from, and I highly recommend including his training tips into your off-court training regiment.