The right way to condition for tennis is passionately debated. Some believe that long-distance running is the key to success, while others champion anaerobic work. Which way will best help you dominate your opponents?
The Physical Demands of Tennis
When designing a training program for any sport, you have to look at its physical demands. Tennis is a series of sprints interspersed with allowed rest periods. Ninety-three percent of all rallies take less than 15 seconds. The average is less than six seconds, with 20 seconds of rest (average rest time taken: 15.2 seconds).
Since tennis requires so much explosive movement, I personally see greater benefits from anaerobic conditioning. The predominant source of energy for tennis is anaerobic, emphasizing the need for interval training rather than traditional aerobic training methods. Train to meet the needs of your sport, and the results will be more noticeable. Perform sprints that resemble your tennis match play.
My preferred method of conditioning involves straight sprints, sprinting with stops and starts, and sprint patterns. Sprint patterns (Phase III) are used to mimic typical court movements, incorporating a split step when returning to start position and always fixing your eyes forward on the net.
Below are my three phases of a tennis conditioning workout. Adjust the sets and reps to your fitness level.
Run sprints for either a specific time or distance. The work-to-rest ratio should be 3:1 or 4:1, with a rest period of 90-120 seconds between sets.
- Sprint from doubles line of first court to outside doubles line of adjacent court and back — 1×10
- Sprint from doubles line of first court to outside doubles line of adjacent court and back — 1×8
- Repeat first set
- Sprint from doubles line of first court to outside doubles line of adjacent court and back — 1×5
- Repeat first set
The work-to-rest ratio should be 3:1 or 4:1, with a rest period of 90-120 seconds between sets.
- Place seven cones five yards apart in straight line
- Perform shuttle run with six cones — 1×5
- Perform shuttle run with three cones — 1×10
- Perform shuttle run with five cones — 1×6
- Perform shuttle run with seven cones — 1×3
- Perform shuttle run with four cones — 1×8
Perform the following sprint patterns on a tennis court. To add difficulty and a reaction factor, assign numbers to the cones and run to the cone called out by a partner. This drill should be performed for at least five seconds and up to 20 seconds.
- Perform sprint patterns noted below
- Sets/Reps: 6-10×1 each pattern, with 90-120 seconds rest
Dean Hollingworth, CSCS, has extensive experience working with athletes of all ages, helping them develop speed, agility and strength. He has consulted with various amateur and professional organizations as a fitness specialist for tennis, hockey, gymnastics and football; and his involvement has directly contributed to athletes’ performance both on and off the field.