Most tennis players dread the process of undergoing the various intensive tennis fitness drills mentioned below, but these drills can have a substantial impact on a tennis player’s speed, agility and explosiveness on the tennis court.
Club players and lower level players usually lack tennis fitness drills from their overall workout regimen, and this results in slower and poor footwork movement on the court. In tennis, foot speed and agility directly translates to a player’s ability to reach the ball in time and be properly balanced to hit an aggressive shot.
Slow and inefficient movement due to not practicing tennis fitness drills and exercises can result in poor results on the tennis court.
Why Practice Tennis Fitness Drills and Exercises?
Tennis fitness drills are unique in the way that they are tailor made for the specific demands that the sport places upon the body. An average point in tennis lasts 3 to 5 seconds. During a point, you will probably change direction 3 or 4 times.
Time in between points is about 20 seconds. Therefore, drills should be designed in order to improve your ability to do a series of short bursts of maximal exertion over an extended period of time. Furthermore, drills to improve your movement in various directions are also very much needed. The following are a few drills that have designed with this purpose in mind.
Tennis Fitness Drill #1: Four Ball Pick Up Drill
This tennis fitness drill is widely used by coaches for elite players. In this drill, balls are placed on 4 points along one side line: at the net, between the net and the service line, at the service line, and between the service line and baseline. The player runs from the baseline and stoops to pick up the first ball, runs back to the baseline and puts down the ball, then immediately runs to get the next ball. It is basically a shuttle run.
While the player is still running, the balls may be replaced in their original positions to keep the drill going on and on. Additionally, the player may be made to move sideways or in other kinds of steps to develop his or her footwork.
Tennis Fitness Drill #2: Jumping Rope
This is one of the best tennis fitness drills. In fact, it is quite useful for many other sports as well. Powerful legs are the foundation of many athletic activities. Jumping rope is a great cardiovascular activity that also develops quick footwork. It also helps to make the legs more explosive.
When you incorporate jumping rope into your fitness routine, you will find that you will automatically be on the balls of your feet throughout every point in a match. This allows you to take a quicker first step to the ball, especially if it is far away.
Tennis Fitness Drill #3: Spider Drill
In this set of tennis fitness drills, the player stands at the centre mark of the baseline which is the starting point. He or she side steps to the left singles line and then goes back to the starting point. Immediately, the player will run diagonally to the left side T where the service line and side line meet. He or she will backpedal diagonally back to the starting point. The next run will be straight ahead to the centre T mark of the service line after which, the player backpedals to the starting point.
The fourth run is a diagonal rightward run to the right side T followed by a backpedalling diagonal run to the starting point. The last run is a sideward shuffle to the right singles side line. The whole process is repeated. This develops fast footwork, especially the ability to change directions quickly. The spider drill is a very vigorous tennis fitness drill that will improve a player’s speed and agility on the tennis court.
Tennis Fitness Drill #4: Sprint Stops
This is a very simple tennis fitness drill that requires two cones placed 10 yards apart. The player simply sprints as fast as he or she can from one cone to the other then jogs back. This is done back and forth. This drill develops speed which is so important for tracking down balls that would otherwise be winners.
Tennis Fitness Drill #5: Shuffle Stops
With two cones placed 10 yards apart, the player shuffles side wards from one cone to the other. Upon reaching the second cone, he sprints back to the first cone. After 3 repetitions, he reverses direction, shuffling to the other side and repeating the whole process. This is helpful for the constant side to side movement during long baseline rallies.
Tennis Fitness Drill #6: Back Sprints
With two cones 10 yards apart, the player sprints backward as fast as possible from one cone to another and jogs back forward to the first cone. The process is repeatedly done. Sprinting backwards for short distances is useful in actual matches when you have to track down lobs.
Tennis Fitness Drill #7: Combination Drill
Using the service box, start at the centre T. Shuffle side wards to one side line, sprint forward to the net, and shuffle side ward again to the centre service line and then sprint backward to the centre T. Repeat around 5 times. This helps develop your ability to change directions quickly.
Tennis Fitness Drill #8: Squat Jumps
This is a great tennis fitness drill for developing explosiveness in the legs. This will help greatly on both the serve and the ground strokes. The player starts by standing with legs body width apart. He or she goes into a squatting position and then quickly jumps up as high as possible, keeping the legs straight. After landing, he goes into another squat and repeats the whole thing 15-20 times.
These tennis fitness drills are useful only when you also work hard to practice your strokes and your game. During practice matches, use what you learned from your drills. In the same way that you use the strokes you practiced in actual matches, you should also keep your feet constantly moving during your matches. This will then become second nature to you. It shouldn’t really be something you think about actively during play. Moving to the ball should just be automatic.
Maximizing Your Use of Tennis Fitness Drills
Additionally, to maximize the usefulness of your tennis fitness drills, a total fitness program should include specific tennis exercises to help improve stroke mechanics and protect against injury. Special attention is paid to the following areas of the body: the shoulders, elbows, wrists and core muscles.
Weight training in the gym is the best way to develop strength. Proper nutrition is also vital in order to develop fitness for tennis. Having a good nutrition plan will ensure that you are putting the right kind of fuel for your body to perform at your best on the court. Refined sugars and starchy carbohydrates should be limited and largely replaced by more complex carbohydrates like wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice.
Caffeine should be limited. High quality protein and fiber are very much recommended. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals that help with body resistance, eyesight and reflexes. Eating around 5 small meals a day or one meal every three hours or so is also a better way than eating 2 or 3 big meals hours apart. Finally, sleep and rest are also essential to obtain optimum tennis fitness.
Proper Off Court Preparation
Having at least 8 hours of quality sleep every night will ensure that you are fresh mentally whenever you step out on court. Have a regular pattern of sleeping at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. You will be more alert and your reflexes will likewise be faster. It is also not advisable to work out every day.
Developing a Schedule With Tennis Fitness Drills
Your weekly training schedule should include a rest day to allow your muscles and tissues to repair and develop properly. When you exercise, you are actually working your muscles to the point that they get slightly injured. There are microscopic tears in the tissue. When they get repaired, the muscle becomes stronger.
This process of repair only happens during rest. If you work out the same muscle every day, you will end up with chronic injuries. Your workout schedule should therefore exercise different muscle groups on consecutive days.
For example, if your Monday schedule is to work out your upper body, then on Tuesday, allow these muscles to rest and instead focus on your lower body.
Total tennis fitness training is has now become mandatory for all competitive tennis players. Players who fail to work hard enough on their fitness will literally be left behind because they will be slower, weaker, more easily fatigued and more prone to injury even if they have a lot of talent for the game.
Even if you are just a club player, it helps to add some fitness drills to take your game to the next level.
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