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Secrets in Improving Your Tennis Game

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Author: Richard Chan

Secrets in Improving Your Tennis Game
By Richard Chan


So how do you improve your tennis game or kick it up a notch separating you from being ranked at the bottom to a top 10 tennis player in the world?  Ok, that may sound a little outrageous and I may have left out that it would help immensely if you were a gifted athlete as well!  So, in the world of sports most athletes understand that certain attributes will help their game in areas they need improvement. 


This is the reason serious tennis players or athletes hire a trainer or coach that will design a program focusing on their strength, speed, agility & footwork, flexibility, and endurance to elevate their tennis game.  A trainer will focus on how to increase racquet speed that is done through strength training, flexibility movements to improve a person's range of motion, and how to generate power from the legs to hips so strength or balance is being utilized. Every edge on your opponent counts or should I say every split second makes a difference if you are able to return that shot from the baseline in that final match point!


Alright, let me describe the following skills you need to focus in improving your tennis game.


1.  STRENGTH-Your core strength is very important and I can contest that all athletes no matter what their sport profession is need to have a have a strong base or core balance for maximum performance.  Having strong core training will improve your balance and ability to twist or rotate all angles.  Common tools will be resistance bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, and stability balls to aid you in developing or strengthening these areas.  Your strength training will mainly be focused in the off season (2-3 months) tailored for most athletes even though tennis could sometimes be all year around for those choosing that path.  During tennis season, you can still maintain your strength by focusing on higher repetitions and lighter weight not overworking your body.  When adding resistance training to your tennis, make sure they would be functional exercises meaning you are training multi-movements rather than just the muscle.  For example, in the gym you perform 3 sets of 10 reps of leg extensions strengthening your quadriceps.  Now, one will assume it may help a tennis player's quadriceps but instead it is only designed to limit joint involvement isolating that muscle group for the purpose of building muscle.  Most machines perform concentric contractions and in this case leg extensions are uni-planar, linear, and isolated. My point is that you have to target your attention to not only train the quadriceps but other muscles in conjunction with it such as the ankle, knee, hip joints, lower back, speed, acceleration, deceleration and stabilization.  All of these play a major factor when implementing a strength training program for an athlete.


2.  SPEED, AGILITY & FOOTWORK-To get fast you also need to be strong.  The first component of speed is strength.  The next component is speed, agility and footwork which need to be practiced constantly to get better.  Often you'll see some coach's train their athletes combining an elastic band or tube around their waist that can be held by that person or training partner.  You can perform explosive jumps in all directions with this added resistance.  This is a great tool to build up a few attributes at the same time by getting faster and stronger simultaneously.  To get fast feet you need to work on drills using a hula hoop or drawing a circle.  From inside the circle you will jump out with both feet to each angle returning to the center each time.  Perform this a few times and you can try with 1 or 2 feet.  Agility involves quickness along with smooth graceful movements.  You can set up cones in various patterns and change the directions for the athlete.  A person can perform this without the racket and eventually adding it to the practice along with a tennis ball at the end.  Using drills like this will help an athlete improve their agility since most tennis points aren't more than 15 seconds, players usually don't run more than 25 feet in one direction, and in a tennis point it usually involves at least 5 directional changes.  Another aspect is to focus on your footwork patterns and similar movements to your on court conditioning because tennis involves movements in all directions.  Make sure you include forward, sideways, and backward sprints.


3.  FLEXIBILITY-Your flexibility involves movements that are dynamic that can be integrated as a warm up and cool down.  Static stretching should be done after training or playing so muscles return back to their length preventing soreness from the lactic acid.  There are two types of stretching receptors as one detects the speed of stretch and the other is the magnitude of stretch.  The static stretching improves the flexibility and dynamic stretching improves dynamic flexibility. Static stretching can be done anytime during the day but not before a workout.  This type of stretching relaxes the muscle increasing the possibility of injury and decreasing performance.  It is performed by gradually easing in a stretched position and then hold for 6 to 30 seconds.  This type of stretching is best done after a workout when doing a cool down.  Dynamic stretching is the opposite and can be done before a weights workout and after a cardio warm up.  An example would be arm swings, shoulder circles, hip circles, etc. It is very common to see player use static stretching as a warm up.  So, a good way to get your body loose prior to playing a big game is a bit of jogging, side shuffling, back pedaling, skipping for about 5 minutes followed by arm circles, chopping motions, torso movements, leg kicks, crab walks, etc. Basically your movements should emulate a lighter version of what you'll be doing before playing.


4.  ENDURANCE-Some of us assume that tennis is an aerobic sport but it is more so anaerobic.   Although the game may sometimes last 2-3 hours, the energy athletes expend is bursts of anaerobic energy.  There is alot of stop and go with constant footwork involved exchanging shots from the baseline to running to the net for a volley or leaping for an overhead smash.  However, an athlete should still be conditioned aerobically to last throughout the whole match or they will not survive a 3 or 5 set match.   If an athlete's conditioning isn't as good, they will need to focus on cardio conditioning in conjunction with the anaerobic training.  So, the best type of training would be interval training by performing short burst of 15-20 seconds followed by active recovery of 30-60 seconds continuing for 25-45 minutes.  Your rest period will increase to about 90 seconds after every 9 times producing a similar training effect.  This will emulate a similar sequence in a tennis match by performing a 90 second rollover after 2 games.  With high intensity interval training, the ratio is using a formula of 1:3 rest period ratio.  For variety, this type of interval training can be carried over to cycling, biking, rowing, running, etc.

Other Added Tools:

There are so many tools out there to help you improve your strength by emulating your swing or movements to improve your footwork or reaction time, etc.


1.  Strength-Some people use resistance bands building a more powerful swing associating with specific shoulder movements.


2.  Agility & Reaction-Agility rings are quite effective and a very simple tool to use improving your agility, quickness, coordination and reaction.  It's used for resistance insuring it is laid flat used for footwork drills.


3.  Stretching-There are devices similar to a resistance band but you can adjust the length to fit your body's length and flexibility.  You can increase the tension by adjusting your hand grip position.  It's pretty good since you can monitor yourself in stages on your flexibility progress and strength.


4.  Core-A popular one being used is a rotational torso training ball with rope at both ends.  It's basically a medicine ball with a rope handle.  It's great for rotational swinging, chopping and throwing drills and exercises.



As we now know a properly designed program is essential because it is based on what areas an athlete needs improvement, tennis schedule, and ensure they aren't being overworked or else they will not perform well during game time.  Another thing I would like to mention and its something that is hard to be taught because it comes deep within you.  What I would like to address is regaining back your train of thought or mental strength during a critical part in the game.  Most times you may be in a slump and hitting shots wide, too deep, or a simple volley into the net.  You need to approach this positively and change your game around by remembering to take a deep breath, slow down the pace, or even if you have to lose a few points to readjust your timing and rhythm.  Once you gather your thoughts during the game you are back on track regaining your confidence and eventually winning the game, set, and match!  Follow my advice on how to improve your tennis game and you'll notice a dramatic improvement.  Now, you can bring all these skills into your arsenal and confidently say you have an ace in your bag!


Richard Chan is a Health and Fitness Life Coach promoting harmonization with the mind, body, and soul. An individual that is keen in precision training to his clients resulting in optimal results. An experienced trainer that has coached police personnel, firefighters and athletes in periodization. In addition, he will introduce Qi Gong to his clients so they will maximize their training potential. This involves an understanding of exercising their internal health and controlled breathing.

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