Summer is quickly approaching, which means the tennis pros are ramping up for their Grand Slam appearances. It also means that — whether you’re new to the sport, have some experience or you’re a seasoned veteran — it’s time for you to start training for tennis.
Why would you want to get involved in training for tennis?
Well, it’s a great sport to add to your repertoire if you’re looking for something new, something that requires endurance and agility, something that you and a buddy can get competitive with, or something that’ll help get you get “physical” with a girl.
Now, a lot of you who already play the sport may think that you know everything there is to know about training for tennis. That may be true according to ATP World Tour player Andy Roddick (whom we chatted with for some expert advice), who told us that: “It’s kind of like anything as far as getting in shape... people probably do know right from wrong... but a lot is discipline and follow through.” We think that it’s that last bit that troubles a lot of guys.
Andy Roddick has had what a lot of analysts have called his best start in his career, and he likely owes that to his 15-pound weight loss in the offseason and his new coach Larry Stefanki — though we’d like to think it had something to do with his new wife, Brooklyn Decker.
When training for tennis, keep in mind that you want to be light, fast and agile while keeping recovery time to an absolute minimum.
Trimming the Fat
When training for tennis, it’s important to consider your body weight. For the same reason that Andy Roddick gave for not wanting too much mass up top, you also don’t want to have an excessive amount of body fat: “Anything you put on (at least as far as a pro) up top, you’re going to have to carry around [on the tennis court] for potentially four or five hours.”
The best way to trim the fat when training for tennis is to do cardio, and in that regard you have two choices: steady-state or high intensity interval training (HIIT). Opinions vary on which is better, but in general steady-state helps you burn more calories after the workout, while HIIT will burn more fat and calories during the workout.
As we stated earlier, Andy Roddick lost 15 pounds in the last offseason, and he credits that to having “had a six-week block where [he] was able to plan out workouts and meals.”
For him it was key, and unusual, to be “in one place and being able to map out a day-to-day strategy on how to go about it.”Most of us don’t have the problems of being on the road as ATP tennis pros does, so what we can take away from this is to establish a training and diet plan — and stick to it.
As with all sports, conditioning the core muscles is, as Roddick puts it, “extremely important in tennis.” Core conditioning when training for tennis will improve your stability, balance and the speed of your trunk rotation, which will help you deliver faster, stronger and more accurate serves and returns.
Traditionally, tennis pros use the medicine ball to train their cores, and Andy Roddick is no different. He typically uses a 10-pound ball and does 10 to 15 sets, working out for an hour to an hour and a half. Not one to sit for five minutes before doing another set, Roddick also incorporates “10 to 15 switch exercises to keep it going for a four or five minute circuit.”
Training for Quickness and Agility
Obviously, quickness and agility are important in tennis — especially if you’re on the receiving end of one of Roddick’s 150 mph serves. Aside from specific running drills, Andy Roddick’s method for improving these qualities is surprisingly simple and basically consists of one-legged hops (“bunny hops as opposed to bounds”) that they call “rudiment training.”
These bunny hops involve Roddick holding “a medicine ball on one hip and hopping on one foot for 60 meters there and back [with] most of the focus on the heel.”
Training the Legs
While at some point you may want to hit the gym to build on your maximal strength with squats and leg presses (2-3 sets; 4-8 reps), early on it’s not necessary, if it ever is. For Roddick, with regards to training the legs, “most of it’s done on the track,” which would include the bunny hops, running drills, “a bunch of lunges, a bunch of squat jumps, [and] stuff like that.”
The reason for avoiding the gym and weights when training the legs is true for a lot of guys (not just Roddick); we tend to bulk up pretty quick, which isn’t a good thing in tennis since you want to remain light, strong and fast. Roddick “isn’t one for maxing out on the weights in the gym [because it] makes for a blockier muscle as opposed to a lean and agile muscle.”
Training for Endurance
When it comes to training for endurance in tennis, you’re going to do a lot of running, both distance running and sprints — and you’ll “switch them off.” Andy Roddick, however, “will never really run six or seven miles at a time,” as he tends to “focus more on power-speed type running drills.”In tennis, recovery as an aspect of endurance is as important (if not more so) than the ability to play for an hour or longer. As such, your training should reflect the experience on court, where you’ll only have 25 seconds to recover between sets. To achieve this, Roddick does a lot of “straight track work.” With only a minute and a half to recover between sets, Andy will run “30-, 40-, 60-meter sprints (8 to each one)” and the following day he’ll do five or six 300s (300 meters). “With me, my focus is more on how quickly I’m able to recover from something tough.”
Diet and supplements
Training for sports takes fuel, and the type of fuel you take in is as important as the type of physical training you do. As far as carb and protein intake goes, Roddick says that it’s “been the thing that’s changed the most this offseason.”
He stopped eating white bread and limited his intake to wheat or whole grain, and during his six weeks “off” he didn’t consume any carbs after the final workout of the day. Other than that, he consumed mostly protein and vegetables. During actual events, he’ll take in a lot more carbs than when he’s at home training, which means a lot of “pastas and vegetables before the match as opposed to a steak.”
We all know that proper hydration is important to any physical endeavor; that’s why Gatorade was invented. During competition, Roddick’s trainer provides him with three to four liters of electrolyte-infused water, which will be consumed throughout the day because “if you’re starting when you’re out there [on the court], it’s probably too late.”
Speaking of electrolytes, that’s about as supplemented as Andy Roddick gets due to the strict regulations of the tours.
Roddick’s Boot Camp
There’s a bit of insight into the training life of one of tennis’ best players, and as you can see, it requires a great deal of discipline and dedication. However, if the average tennis player incorporates some of these tips into his regimen, his game should improve drastically. Get out there and start hitting those aces.
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