The most important key to success on the tennis court might not be the speed of your serve. The proper level of strength, conditioning and agility is critical for peak performance. Although serving technique, a wide repertoire of shots, and the ability to move quickly around the court are undoubtedly important, strength, fitness and agility are just as crucial for optimizing your game.
Guillermo Vilas and Bjorn Borg were the first tennis players to redefine what it means to be "fit" on the tennis court. Vilas was known for training five consecutive hours or more on a daily basis. He went through one partner after another on the practice court, and he kept practicing until he felt he had perfected every detail. Borg was known as a machine. He could play five-set matches without seeming to tire one bit.
Ivan Lendl was probably the first player to revolutionize tennis training by lifting weights and doing other work off the court. Lendl's training inspired greats like Pete Sampras and Jim Courier to take their games to another level. They began dedicating one or two hours a day to strength training. It paid off for Courier. He won multiple Grand Slams. And Sampras became one of the best tennis players in history. Today, proper strength training is unquestionably necessary to perform at an elite level.
Yet strength training is often overlooked. Depending on your individual level, one to two days of dedicated strength training will help reduce your risk of injury and improve your power generation. A proper training program can give recreational athletes a significant boost in performance. We are talking only a few days of strength training to complement their time on the tennis court.
The following two-day program is a sample of how recreational athletes can add strength training, conditioning and agility work to their routines. By incorporating a combination of speed, strength and agility training, the workouts are designed to improve the attributes that ensure peak performance. Add them to your routine during the week with at least a day of rest in between. Adjust the intensity to suit your level of experience.
- 1A. Squats - 3x10-12 @ 70-75% of 1RM
- 1B. Box Jumps 3x10
- 2A. Bench Press 3x10-12 @ 70-75% of 1RM
- 2B. Clapping Push-Ups - 3x8
- 3A. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows - 3x8
- 3B. Pull-Ups - 3x10
- 4. Tricep Pull-Down - 3x10
- 5. Shoulder Circuit - Front, Rear, Lateral Raises - 2x15
- 6. Plank - 3x45 seconds
- Rest 45-60 seconds between sets
- 10x20 yards, rest 15 seconds between reps
- 8x50 yards, rest 30 seconds between reps
- 6x100 yards, rest 45 seconds between reps
- 2x400 yards, rest 60 seconds between reps
- 2x800 yards, rest 90 seconds between reps
This day includes lots of footwork drills to improve agility for side-to-side, forward, and backward movements.
- Set two cones about three racket-lengths apart, one in front and one behind you.
- Once the timer starts, take one step forward toward the front cone, then step back toward the back cone.
- Perform two sets of 30 seconds.
- Starting behind the singles alley line, sprint to the other singles line, touch the line with your hand and come back sidestepping while facing the net.
- Perform two sets of 30 seconds from each side of the court.
- Beginning at the fence, sprint forward and touch the baseline.
- Go back and touch the fence.
- Repeat, touching the service line and finally the bottom of the net, returning to the fence each time.
- Perform two sets of the entire sequence.
Find more tennis workouts at STACK.com/Tennis.
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