As an athlete, sprinting can be your best friend in developing speed and power, which are essential for any athlete. However, the distance for sprinting depends on the athlete’s sport. For example, in tennis, the tennis player sprints a max of 15-20m for one ball. Therefore, the importance of shorter sprinting distances is utilized more within tennis players, as provides for performance enhancement on the court.
The two common approaches in sprinting, within all sports, are a (1) short-to-long, and (2) long-to-short. The short-to-long approach has the athlete commencing sprinting at short distances, such as 10m and gradually increasing the distance. The long-to-short approach is the opposite; where the athlete begins at longer distances and eventually decreases that distance. It is imperative to know the average distance sprinted in all sports and even within the position of each sport (for team sports).
Again in tennis, the longest distance sprinted for one ball is 20m, at the most. The shortest can be a single explosive step to a reach the ball. If the athlete is a serve and volley type of player and is more comfortable at the net, I would recommend concentrating on training distances from 15-30m. However, if a player is a baseliner then distances from 5-15m would be more appropriate. It isn’t necessary to sprint at greater distances that aren’t applicable in tennis, such as 200m+ if you are working on improving your on-court speed. Which is why, it can be extremely favorable to incorporate a short-to-long approach in the sprint training for any tennis athletes.
How to set up a short-to-long approach
The first step in planning the athletes sprinting program is to determine the fitness level of the athlete. Sprinting is very demanding on the body and requires a progression in training. The number of reps, sets, and recovery time will fluctuate depending on this level. As a rule of thumb for any athlete, remember to keep the intensity as high at 95% or above, as anything under will not produce improvements in speed. If an athlete trains at this intensity without consideration to the reps and sets, it may take as long as 7-10 days to recover from this kind of speed work. Thus, be mindful of your reps and sets and it is recommended to allow the body at least 48 hours to recover in-between sprint sessions, as the central nervous system takes a hit and prevents the body from performing at its peak if not fully recovered.
Sprint training is extremely demanding on the body and full rest is mandatory not only in-between days, but in-between reps and sets. Allow the athlete 3-5 min rest in-between sprints and 5-10 min rest in-between sets. This is very difficult to do, especially if the coach is short in time, and complete rest isn’t always realistic in a given training session. However, having the athlete understand that less is more and that intensity is key, a session with less reps and sets at higher intensity, combined with full recovery, will do wonders compared to one that is trying to squeeze in as many reps and sets as possible.
Example of a beginner athlete short-to-long approach sprinting drill
· 2 sets of 4x10m build ups (jogging first then sprinting full speed to 10m)
· 2 sets of 4x10m push-up start
· 2x15m falling start
· 3 sets of 3x10m flying start
· 3 sets of 3x10m push-up start
· 2 sets of 2x15m falling start
For a fully customized sprinting program for your athlete, contact me directly.
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M, Letzelter. "Sprint Strength as the Main Training Aim in Short Distance Runners." South Australian Sports Institute (2000): 1-10.
Young, Warren , Mark McDowell, and Bentley Scarlett. "Specificity of Sprint and Agility Training Methods." Strength and conditioning research 15.3 (2001): 315-319. Print.