A correct physical training program can enhance your tennis game significantly, while an incorrect physical training program can also harm your game tremendously.
In past years players honed their skills on-court and then participated in an off-court physical training program that was very general and non specific to the demands of a tennis match.
This all changed several years ago when players, coaches and trainers began to mimic the physical demands and skills required in competitive tennis. Suddenly off-court training became highly specific to tennis and the players began to experience a marriage of tennis skills and physical ability… the two facets of training began to enhance each other!
If you have not yet synchronized your on-court and off-court training programs you are definitely missing out on obtaining optimal results in competition.
So what areas do you need to be aware of when synchronizing physical training with tennis technique?
Here are 5 areas you must get right:
1. The Line
With any movement you undertake in the gym you must be aware of an imaginary Line from your head, to the foot you are using to leverage ground forces.
When you play any stroke in tennis, correct execution of this Line insures optimum timing and an efficient transfer of energy into the ball.
However, if you repeat The Line incorrectly many times in the gym you are creating an incorrect habit that will hurt your timing and consequently your consistency in matches.
Focus on the Line while working with weights and any pulley type apparatus in the gym so that you are creating habits that will benefit your on-court technique.
Put simply, good balance is maintaining the Line from your head between both feet at all times. Any time the line from your head goes outside either foot you are falling (loss of balance).
Your program in the gym should incorporate activities that enhance stability through a wide base (feet) and dynamic balance exercises that test this stability during movement (maintaining the head within the boundaries of the feet).
By combining awareness of balance during off-court sessions in the gym and on-court practice sessions you will develop excellent stability as you move and hit your shots during matches.
3. The Ground
All strokes in tennis require the creation of energy. Energy is generated from the ground and transferred to your strokes from the legs.
Therefore anytime you perform an interactive exercise in the gym between the Ground and a weight or pulley system you should maintain awareness of the energy you are drawing out of the ground and through your legs.
If this awareness is unfocused and performed incorrectly you are teaching yourself bad habits that will carry over onto the court and your strokes will lack optimum timing and consistency and could even lead to injury.
The human body is very good at adapting to the conditions within its environment. If you train repeatedly in a slow twitch manner (under fatigue, with weights and in an endurance mode), your feet are being taught to move in a slow way.
There is a time and place for strengthening the legs by using weights and creating fatigue in order to enhance endurance on-court. But if you are trying to develop more speed and agility on-court you must incorporate fast twitch exercises into your fitness program and avoid activities that teach the legs to work in a slow twitch manner.
When you want to develop more speed and agility, create a fast twitch environment in your off-court sessions
Put simply, one of the purposes of your fitness program is to be able to maintain proper form and technique throughout a match no matter how long the match lasts. Another benefit of having a high level of fitness is the ability to make good decisions under pressure and while fatigued.
Often your posture as you hit a stroke is an indicator that you are fatigued in a rally.
Make sure that anything you do in the gym is done with an awareness of correct posture so that when you are on the match court that awareness is being repeated during points and while under pressure.
The importance of synchronizing your off-court and on-court training programs is critical to you reaching your full potential. Likewise, if these two components are not working to enhance each other the consequences can be detrimental to your game.