Tennis is one of the most skill-based sports out there, so training is essential to have any type of success. This means not only training on the court, but off it as well.
Since tennis is such an intense sport that provides a full-body workout, players need to be strategic on how much they do in the weight room to work out as well. The muscles need to get some sort of a break when people are playing, or they will be more susceptible to injury. Here is a how professional tennis players train on and off the court to improve their overall game.
Purposeful On-Court Training
Tennis players spent a lot of time on the court, as the sport takes a lot of practice to get to a certain level. Tennis is a full-body workout in itself, and there is a reason why people sign up for cardio classes and get into tennis later in life to stay fit.
As far as professional on-court training is concerned, there needs to be a purpose behind every drill. That means shots need to be at match speed, and the body needs to be moving around. Practicing any type of shot without proper foot movement is going to fail to prepare a player to translate that to an actual match.
There are a variety of drills on-court that can improve a player depending on what they want to work on that particular day. Focusing on a forehand or backhand is one option, and there is always a need to focus on volleying and overheads as well. As a way to rest a bit, work on the serve at that time. This largely mimics how amount goes anyway, as players are running around quite a bit before having to stop and step up to the line.
Professional players have their own hitting partners to work on drills with, but there is no reason an amateur can’t someone at a similar level as well. Both players benefit from a training session, as players always need work on certain shots.
Training With Durability In Mind
Hitting the gym means different things for different types of athletes. During the offseason, working out in tennis might mean trying to add muscle and working on something specific. During the season, maintenance is a big key to cut back on any potential injury issues. There is specific training that helps with body maintenance so that people feel incredibly confident.
Make sure to pay particular attention to low or bodyweight exercises involving the hamstrings, wrists, shoulders, and more. Tennis players are constantly doing the same type of motions, so a lot of injuries with tennis come from overuse. By strengthening some specific areas, there is less of a chance of this becoming an issue.
Balance is also crucial in a sport that can be very one-sided in general. For example, a player with a one-handed backhand might feel like they do not need to focus on their left side at all. However, a body that becomes a little too strong on one side is going to throw the balance off in general.
If weight is used with any maintenance exercises, try to keep it very light. Not only is there no need to add bulk as a tennis player, but it could put a person at some potential injury as well.
Short Sprints & Agility Drills
Tennis matches appear to be marathons on paper, but it is really a bunch of short sprinting with breaks in between. Players must be able to go hard for a few seconds at a time, and then recover to the point that they can do it over and over again.
When working on speed drills and agility, focus on keeping repetitions short. That means focusing on sprints more than long-distance runs. It is fine to do some long-distance training to build up endurance, but interval training makes more sense more frequently.
As far as agility is concerned, the joints need to be strong and flexible to have success in tennis. That means being able to change direction at a moment’s notice, and doing it over and over again with success. Good footwork is one of the most important attributes a tennis player can have, and this is something that pro players tries to improve every day.
Agility drills do not really require too much more than some open space, and maybe a ladder to do some drills. It does not have to be extremely different to tennis movements either, as people can focus on what makes sense as a player.
By having agility and flexibility in the body, a player can have balance on both sides of the body. This is important when making a split-second decision on going with a forehand or backhand.
Part of the training process in a very physically demanding sport like tennis is to have some type of recovery plan set up. This is nothing too strenuous, but the body is going to feel much better after doing something light when there is some dead time.
As far as exercise is concerned, a jog anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is an excellent place to start. Make sure to stretch out the entire body as much as possible before and after. Tennis players can go through some pretty tough spots where they start to tighten up, and it is usually due to not stretching enough.
Once a little bit of physical activity is in the books, A cold shower or even an ice bath can help with the recovery process. The body responds well to have a little bit of rest after putting so much stress on it for hours at a time.
In an individual sport like tennis, there is no teammate to rely on in the middle of a match. That means that the player’s diet and overall energy level needs to be on point at all times. Gone are the days where players can get by with some poor diet, since all of the top players focus on feeding their body just the right way.
Players need a good amount of calories to have the energy to get through matches in training, but it needs to be healthy food at all times. Players can’t feel lethargic, as a lot of matches are taking place in the heat of the day.
Rest is also important, which is harder than it seems the higher a player gets in the sport. For example, players who are traveling all around the world can find a pretty difficult to get the proper amount of rest at all times. Some players really struggle to get a proper amount of sleep, especially if they are changing ZIP Codes all the time.
Without a well-balanced diet, a player can start to feel very sluggish on the court. Getting a routine down to eat the right things in many different locations is harder than it looks. The best ones figure out a way to make it happen, and just about everyone understands that they can’t out-exercise a horrible diet.
Ask people who follow tennis, and they will say that physically speaking, there is not much difference between the top 50 or so players in the world. They all have the shots to be the best player in the world, but one of the most significant separating factors is mental strength. Too many tennis players at all levels do not spend enough time working on mental toughness, and in an individual sport, it matters greatly.
Some of the training methods the professional players use might seem like something a kid would do, but that is what makes mental strength training so important. If younger players learned at an early age how to stay strong mentally, it could help them turn the corner and beat players that might actually be more talented than them at the time.
A few top mental strength training tips include visualizing the ball and build muscle memory on hitting certain shots in certain situations. Keeping the big picture in mind is also huge in tennis, since it can be very discouraging to lose matches and stray away from overall development.
Concentration and confidence to hit certain shots in certain situations takes a lot of time, but once players build up mental strength, they can feel confident to go after what they need.
How Much Do Pro Players Train Each Day?
During the offseason or a break in the schedule, tennis players will practice on the court for three or four hours at a time. This seems like a long time to practice, but there are plenty of matches at Grand Slams that go this distance and even longer.
After wrapping up on-court training, the focus shifts to strength and conditioning for an hour or an hour and a half. Finally, players wind down with about 30 minutes of stretching, relaxation, nursing any nagging health issues, and more.
Add that all up, and it starts to look like a full workday. The average tennis player might not be able to train exactly like a professional, but scaling it to fit into a schedule makes a lot of sense. Even if a player only has two or three hours to dedicate to tennis per day, people will notice success pretty quickly if they build up a routine.