When it comes to speed work for tennis players, it is the most critical element to include in your training sessions, because it continuously improves performance of tennis player of all levels. The hype of anaerobic conditioning, such as interval or agility training, has been the means of “speed” work for majority of tennis players. Most coaches applying sports specific methods towards training, such as all out sprinting for twenty seconds for the length of the point and completing this several times. It is believe that this type of training is the best way to not only get the athlete faster, but to improve recovery time between points.
But, is this popular “trend” really the best way to improve speed in a tennis player?
Hands down the best way to get an athlete in shape is through interval training of 20-30 seconds with a rest ration of 1:1. When considering a competitive athlete’s schedule, an athlete can be on-court anywhere from 2-5 hours. On top of that, they also have to complete a fitness session that includes interval training, which in turn results in an over-trained athlete.
But, as a strength and conditioning coach, I focus first and fore most on injury prevention, which in turn allows me to enhance an athlete’s overall speed.
If an athlete is already in top shape on-court, the best way to maintain tennis ready form is to include interval training on-court while at the same time perfecting strokes. Coaches can include 20 minutes of basket feeding where the athlete is running for 20 seconds and resting for 20 seconds, which allows to improve/maintain their cardiovascular system while at the same time practice the technical aspects of the game.
The problem is that the fundamental movements of the game and the player’s habitual movements on the court are oftentimes overlooked. Trainers need to examine the essential elements of the game, in order to gather the necessary data needed to develop a training program for a high performance athlete.
For example, by observing the distance that a player sprints to a ball, a coach can determine important factors that need to be incorporated into a tennis player’s off-court training program. In tennis, the probability of an athlete reaching their maximum speed during any point - is zero. The baseline distance to the net is only twenty (20) meters, and it takes at least thirty (30) to forty (40) meters for an athlete to reach their maximum speed. This means that the most important phase during a sprint to a ball is only the initial acceleration phase. Therefore, speed work in training sessions should include distances from 10-20m.
Here are some of my speed work training recommendations:
Speed work for the novice athlete:
1: 3 sets of 3 x 10m hill sprints (1 min rest between sprints, 3 min rest between sets)
2: 2 sets of 3 x 10m falling starts (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
Speed work for the intermediate athlete:
1: 4 sets of 4 x 10m hill sprints (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
2: 3 sets of 3 x 15m falling starts (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
Speed work for the advanced athlete:
1: 2 sets of 5 x 10m hill sprints (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
2: 2 sets of 4 x 10m flat sprints (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
3: 2 sets of 15 m hill sprints (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
4: 1 set of 3 x 20m flat sprints (1 min rest between sprints, and 3 min rest between sets)
Note: complete these speed sessions twice a week in order to see results on-court.
After speed work, make sure to include strength training, such Olympic lifting, and compound movements, such as squats and deadlifts. Training the fast twitch fibers with the use of sprints will aid an athlete to improve their first-step quickness and recovery in-between shots during a point rally.