Like many others, I was engrossed by the action at the recent Australian Open. It was a fantastic tournament with an unbelievable level of athleticism on display.
The official Twitter account of the Australian Open provided some superb updates and they really excelled themselves with some of the pictures that accompanied the updates. Whether or not it was intentional, or they just made ‘good pictures’, what many of the pictures did was demonstrate many of the unique positions that tennis players get themselves in on the court.
Novak Djokovic with a trademark wide defensive pose!
(check out the left foot/ankle)
Jo Konta with a wide forehand reach
Seeing these positions always gets my S&C Coach mind thinking about how we can best go about training for tennis. You will hear many different opinions on whether we ought to replicate the exact movements of the sport, or whether we should just get players strong in a more ‘traditional’ manner and have that carry over to the court.
This is one aspect of what makes training for tennis so wonderfully challenging – you’ve got to look to maximise what you’re looking to achieve with arguably limited time. Prioritising what is important for a particular player at a particular time will go some way towards determining where you focus your energies.
Personally, I look to combine both ‘traditional’ strength exercises but also incorporate some more ‘tennis-specific’ strength training exercises. In my opinion, you’ve got to look to prepare the player for the positions they may find themselves in on the court and to build up strength, stability and robustness in these positions. This will have a higher likelihood of transfer to the court, which is what it’s all about.
I was having this discussion the other day with some people about how this may look in reality. Effectively what this means for me is that when I am looking to really load someone to develop their overall strength, I will use the ‘traditional’ strength exercises such as the lunge or single leg squat, maintaining good postural positions in order to minimise excessive stress through parts of the body such as the knee or the back. However, I may then look to supplement these exercises with more extreme tennis-specific positions using lighter modalities such as tubing, cables, medicine balls, Viprs, dumbells, peturbations etc to provide some additional load and challenge to these positions.
The training history, current status, time of year etc etc will all have a say in how much time is spent on each area but I think it’s important to incorporate all the different variations if we truly want to prepare the players for the court.
The picture here of Shvedova reaching out off a wide lunge may well be my favourite image of the tournament in terms of how you may need to take a more ‘traditional’ exercise like a lunge and adapt it to make it more tennis-specific; increasing the depth, incorporating a reach, strong torso position, shoulder strengthening etc etc- remember also that she will need to be controlling her momentum and then recovering back out of this position, all to be factored in!!
With all of that said, I’m not sure how you programme exercises to prepare for some of the things Aga Radwanska does on a tennis court!