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Testing Fitness for Tennis

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Fitness Testing for Tennis

As a Tennis Coach I am used to improving players tactical game and technical game. We look for improvements in players with more efficient stroke production so they can execute their tactics. The best test is our players winning matches, however if we focus just on results we may be missing the real picture of a players improvement. When players get to teenage years they are vulnerable if too much pressure is on them to win and not on their overall development.

PERFORMANCE FACTORS

When players come off from a match and you analyse what happened you need to be aware that the reason for a win or lose could be due to good or bad tactics, technique, mental for physical components. A player may look better but gets stressed on the big points on the other side a player may play with full effort and come off being out powered due to another player being fitter and technically more efficient. Either way we need to look at the whole picture and all the 4 factors.

Mental – The most important factor. Do they want to learn, train & compete ? Hat are they like under pressure and in competitions? Do they want to play socially or more challenging events

Tactical – Are they understanding the game rules and then advancing to developing a game style. Do they understand key patterns of play to suit their strengths and weakness’s ? Can they pick out a players weakness and also change their tactics or they do just rely on one game plan ?

Technical - to help execute the tactic can they produce efficient shot that lead to maximal power or control and reduce the risk of injury ?

Physical – splitting the elements into Speed, Strength, Suppleness & Stamina, do players have a training plan to work on strengths and weakness’s. This is what this article will now focus on

PHYSICAL SCREENING

As a strength & conditioning coach I know what injuries can occurs in tennis and how to prevent however I am not an expert in this area so I would pass players on to a local Physio to screen for weakness’s in an athlete or just to give them the ok to train with more load / intensity.

A physio would look essentially look at all the key movements in detail from squats, lunges, press ups and check for range of movement in key areas. Personally I screen in warm ups for basic technique in movement patterns and remind players the basics on the movements before advancing to more complex and higher intensity exercises. My key exercises for screening tennis players are below and I score them out of 5 , again of below 3 I would work on them until component or send them to a physio if I feel that there is something wrong…

SQUAT – bodyweight & overhead squat. Single leg squat

LUNGE – forward, backward & side lunge.

PLANK – Front and side plank

PRESS UP – or chest press with a resistance band

PULL UP – or lat pull down with a resistance band

SPRINT – check the running technique

HOP – both legs and in different directions

There are other exercises and with each session may require specific movement screening before going ahead with the session. So these are just a starting point and you will not get them in all sessions.

TESTING

The big benefit for testing is that players can see what their scores are compared to their peers or can just see them improve their scores which can really give confidence and motivation with players. I have had players not wanting to compete at teenage level and loose confidence but with a growth spurt they can gain confidence again seeing how they are growing physically and they get quicker and stronger.

When doing s testing session it is key to understand the demands of tennis and why we are testing these areas. Do here are some key facts

Tennis Physical Demands

  • Played over a long period requiring good cardiovascular system. Lasting 45 minutes or as long as 4 hours. Points tend to last 1 to 20 seconds requiring good power, speed, suppleness & endurance.
  • Players have recovery in between points and after 2 games where players get to sit down and recover for 90 seconds.
  • It is a mutlidirectional sport requiring with players sprinting up to 5 metres and having to change direction 200-300 times in a match
  • 300-500 burst of energy using the ATP energy system
  • Power required to create racket head speed
  • Players usually run 3 to 5 miles in a match in total with points lasting from 1 to 30 shots with an average rally of 3 for Wimbledon and 5 for the French Open.

KEY PHYSICAL TESTS FOR TENNIS PLAYERS

Stamina Test - 5K Run

During the off season perhaps when holiday I would recommend a 5k run in which they time themselves. This is simple and can be done anywhere in the world. It helps can help test endurance and requires mental strength to push all the way. Park Runs on a Saturday morning are great as they are family orientated and you can race against the runners

Speed Endurance – Baseline Shuttle Run

Knowing that players have been keeping fit in the off season a pre-season test of endurance can help players build their endurance needed to last increased training hours and build an aerobic base.

Simply run 20 metres (baseline to baseline) 10 times , rest for 90 seconds and repeat 2 more times. Sub 60 seconds may be a good goal for someone to keep under through each set.

Power Test

Medicine Ball Throw

Distance on throwing the medicine Ball can help see if players can co-ordinate the kinetic chain and how much power they can create. It is important that player practice the technique of throwing in a warm up or in a whole separate session.

Stand facing sideways on throw the ball using legs, trunk rotation and swinging the arms.

Test 1 – forehand throw

Test 2 – Backhand Throw

Test 3 – Football / serve throw

Other variations can be a hook or discuss throw similar to a forehand, javelin throw similar to serve a serve action or a shot putt throw.

Speed – 20m sprint. This is hard to time accurately with just a watch but still can gauge a sub 6 seconds for a 20m sprint knowing over a period then can improve to a sub 5 second time

Change of Direction Tests

The most common is the COD test but timing this is very hard without a timing gate but still give it a go …

Change of Direction (COD) – Change of direction. Start from the centre line and sprint to the right then left side line.

Service Box Shuttle – Easier to get a score by timing the player for 30 seconds and see how many times they can touch the sidelines of one service box. As only 3-4m this is realistic to a match.

Flexibility Tests – based on posture screening.