Novice and recreational players do not have a tennis training plan, and this is one of the reasons why they don’t improve as fast as competitive tennis players.
Tennis requires so many different skills that players need to train differently throughout the year to maximize their fitness and conditioning.
The debate lies in whether every workout should tax the entire body or if specific workouts should be created to improve cardio stamina, muscular endurance and recovery conditioning. The other balance that must be achieved when formulating a tennis training plan is to increase both strength for the many explosive movements used in tennis and to amp up endurance for the long matches that await.
Developing a Tennis Training Plan
Players also need to work on their quickness, speed and agility. Quickness differs from speed in that it is a measure of a very fast movement in a very small space, like moving a couple of steps to your left to snatch a volley.
This is quite different than speed, which is a measure of rapidity over a larger area, such as following your serve to the net or chasing down a lob. Agility is self-explanatory: you need it all of the time in tennis, from shuffling side to side to retrieve well-placed shots to scampering up to the net to hit the short ball.
A good tennis training plan will help with all of these aspects of the game.
Let’s take a look at several different areas and see how they can be improved with a sound tennis training program that is both demanding and realistic:
A tennis training plan for agility—
a great exercise for this fitness component is to work with cones in any number of variations. Roger Federer has been known to favor putting cones in a triangle about a yard apart from each other. He then takes his racquet and whips through phantom forehands and backhands while circling each cone and doing a figure 8 that encompasses half of the triangle at a time. This does a lot for one’s agility and helps to orchestrate the motion of a groundstroke with the rapid skipping of the feet needed so often in tennis.
If ever a sport required light and happy feet, tennis is it. Try to skip around the cones for a minute at a time, resting for 15 seconds in between drills.
A tennis training plan for the tennis serve—
many more muscles go into your serve than you realize. You will need to strengthen not only your arms, but your shoulders, back and abs as well. One of the favorite tools of tennis players in their workouts is the medicine ball. Both Federer and Nadal use it all of the time as they train; you should, too.
As you work out with the ball, you will build explosive power in your upper body that will give you a faster serve. Plus, the ball is kind of fun and adds a bit of variety to any tennis training plan.
To begin, find a medicine ball at your gym or a local sporting goods store. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the ball at your waist. Raise your heels off the ground and simultaneously reach up as high as you can with the ball. Then, throw the ball into the ground with all of the force that you can muster. As you throw harder and harder, your feet might leave the ground.
Do 2-3 sets of eight repetitions and you will begin to feel the results almost immediately.
Tennis Training Plan for Speed and Strength—
tennis uses the entire body, and thus both arms and legs need a good workout if you are to compete well in the sport. As you still have the medicine ball in your hands, you will use it again to not only work the upper body but to get your lower body into better condition. To start, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the ball at chest level with both hands. Then, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
As you raise back up, jump and throw the ball up above your head, exploding through the movement. You will then land on both feet and let the ball fall to the floor.
Perform two sets of six repetitions of this dynamic movement that will add beef to your legs and upper body, helping a variety of your tennis shots.
Quickness and Speed – Another Crucial Element of a Tennis Training Plan—
“Quickness” can also be called “rapid footwork” and that is what will be built through this drill. To begin, place three small, agility hurdles next to each other, about one foot apart. Stand beside the first hurdle, then quickly hop over it with your right foot, followed by your left foot. As soon as your left foot hits the ground, hop off the ground again with your right foot. Once you have completed the three hurdles, run back to the start and then sprint 50 yards. Perform three sets of four repetitions to get the leg burn you need to build supersonic speed and quickness on the court.
Using Exercise Bands as Part of a Tennis Training Plan
Powerful Ground Strokes— Make friends with the exercise band, another favorite of top players and a staple in their workouts. Many exercise physiologists argue for these bands over free weights for many reasons, among them being that they target muscle groups more precisely and are, of course, much more easily transportable and inexpensive.
You can find these resistance bands at your club, gym or sporting goods store. Tie the band to a stationary object, perhaps a machine in the weight room.
Take one end of the strap in your right hand and very slowly and smoothly begin to pull the band from the side of your body to the front. Be sure to do this movement so that you feel the resistance in both directions.
Maintain great form.
After a set of eight, turn around and grab the end with your left hand, repeating the motion.
Do 2-3 sets of eight and rest. If you want to continue with the bands, you can also do exercises to strengthen your serve and agility. Tie the band, for instance, to a spot about a foot above your head. Then, grab the end in your right hand and pull down and in front of your body in a very slow and controlled motion, much like a triceps curl. Repeat eight times for 2-3 sets. This motion will do wonders for your rotator cuff, which is used in serves and overheads.
If you want the bands to help you with your legs, tie it between your legs so that any movements that require your legs to be spread more than three feet or so will cause the band to stretch. Hit a few ground strokes with a partner while wearing the band between your legs. It will work several muscles in your legs, and when you take the band off, you will feel like you are playing on air. The resistance band and medicine ball are two of a tennis player’s best friends when devising a good tennis training plan.
These five sets of exercises described above can serve as the foundation for any top tennis training plan.
There are many variations of this plan, but these movements will give you a great start in your program—there is variety and versatility built in to match the demands of a sport that requires speed and strength.
Any tennis training plan will be improved by consultation with a personal trainer. It also will work much better if you have a friend or two equally committed to getting into top tennis shape. Anyone who commits to and executes a demanding tennis training program will emerge far stronger on the court, able to hit with power for hours and quickly recovering from long rallies to sprint again. That fitness level, combined with sound technique, will make you a player that is very difficult to beat.
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