Without a doubt tennis is becoming an increasingly physical sport. There are few sports that require its elite athletes to excel across so many physical domains – speed, power, agility, aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance strength and stability. A weak link in any of these capabilities in such an internationally competitive sport can mean the difference between breaking through to a professional career and not.
One of the challenges in developing athletes capable of progressing into the upper echelons of professional tennis is successfully developing these physical capabilities at the same time as developing technique, skill, tactical prowess, mental toughness and competitiveness.
It can be really tough for everyone involved knowing when and where to start, and how to build a program over the developing years. Keeping in mind you don’t won’t to burn kids out and you still want to give them time away from tennis to develop as a person.
After being involved with tennis players now for two decades as a Coach, Physiotherapist and Strength and Conditioning Coach, I have developed an approach that can be applied to all athletes successfully.
I break tennis physical development into 5 categories. These categories I use to structure sessions. Keeping in mind no one aspect of physical development is mutually exclusive from the other.
- Body Management Program – Done in the gym or at home
- Strength and Power – Done in the gym
- SAM – Speed, Agility and Movement – Done on-court or a big open space
- Conditioning – Combination of on-court and off-court
- Recover – Done at home, gym, at courts
I always start with the Body Management Program. This is developed after performing a musculoskeletal screening which covers flexibility, stability, past and current injuries as well as other regular weak or tight points.
We develop the Body Management Program from this information. This is a personalised program that is specific to very important areas for all tennis players. We use a smartphone/tablet application to deliver the program that consists of self-massage/rolling, trigger pointing, stretching, muscle activation, core stability, scapula control and rotator cuff exercises and basic strength exercises. The application provides videos, images, descriptions and sets and reps to help with technique compliance. This Body Management Program can be updated with athlete progress approximately every 8 weeks.
The Body Management Program is a great place to start as it introduces young athletes to how they need to begin looking after their body as well as it being very important to preventing injury as their training loads increase.
In our next blog, we delve into how to add the other 4 categories of physical training to an overall program…. Stay tuned.
Written by Sean Fyfe