Tips And Techniques For Tennis Players: Play Like A Pro! Fitness

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Tennis is one of the greatest individual sports there is. The simple game of lawn tennis has origins dating back hundreds of years, when the upper class played fully regaled in their finest outfits. It has grown into one of the most popular sports on the planet.

These days, it’s hard to find a good-sized public park without a tennis court. Because of this, it’s now easier for anyone to take up this sport. There are also many accessible programs aimed at bringing the sport to the masses, eroding the stigma of tennis being a “country club” sport.

It takes an excellent athlete to excel at tennis. Although learning the proper techniques of hitting the ball over a net is important, of course, if you are interested in playing like a professional, that’s not the only thing you should focus on.

Practice is always going to be important to improving your game. But by following these tips on nutrition, fitness, and movement training, you may very well bypass your competition and find yourself playing like a pro!

Fitness

Tennis players are some of the healthiest athletes out there. Because of the rigors of their sport, they must maintain peak physical form throughout the year.

Although top professional players have a stable of doctors, trainers, dieticians, and the like to keep them at their best, many fitness activities can be done on your own to help you play like a pro!

Flexibility

Flexibility is as important to overall fitness as anything. Whether you’re lunging to one side to defend against a passing shot, cocking your shoulder back to explode for a cross-court winner, or even accidentally doing a split on a clay court, it’s important to train your joints to be limber for tennis.

Here are a few exercises to promote flexibility:

  • Deep bending
    Bring your palms together straight over your head. With your back as vertical as possible, squat down with your bottom going to your ankles. This is a good stretch for all areas of your leg and your back.
  • Twist at the hip
    Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, and bend your knees slightly. Fold your arms flat in front of you (think “I Dream of Jeannie”). Then slowly rotate your body to one side. Let your head turn to guide your body in that direction. Hold there for a few moments, then stretch to the other side of your body.
  • The Semi-Lotus Position
    Sit with both legs extended in front of you. Bring one foot up over your opposite leg with the bottom of your foot facing your body. Bring this foot up as close to your body as you can. Then gently apply pressure to that knee. Hold that position for a few moments, then switch legs.
  • Backwards Shoulder Stretch
    Stand with your feet in a wide stance. Bring your hands together behind your back. Then while bending down, bring your arms up slowly, as high as they can go.

Tennis elbow and shoulder injuries are common among recreational players, but you hardly ever hear about players on the professional circuit suffering from these maladies. The main reason: They stretch thoroughly before playing. Be like the pros and take the time to make sure your muscles and joints are prepared for the rigors of tennis.

Movement Drills

Tennis is much more than swinging a racquet at a ball. There are many areas that tennis players should concentrate on in order to improve their tennis game. The United States Tennis Association offers these tips that even the top-tier tennis players use.

Run Form Drills

Running is a big part of your tennis game. All of those stops, starts, and sprints help to define your talent on the court. Here are a few drills to help you develop the proper technique of running for your tennis game.

  • High Knee March Without Arms
    Stand on the outside sideline, with little weight on your heels and with your body relaxed. Lift one knee up high while moving your heel towards your butt, and your toes pointed toward your shin. Don’t twist your shoulders or your hips. Step forcefully down with that leg, taking a small step. Repeat with the other leg. Go back and forth across the court twice.
  • High Knee March With Arms
    This is the exact same drill as the High Knee March Without Arms, except this time, when you bring one knee up, bring the opposite arm up with your elbow at a 90 degree angle.
  • Butt Kicks
    Stand at the outside sideline on the balls of your feet, and place your hands palms up. While moving forward, try to kick your hands with your heels. Do not use your arms to run, stay balanced on the balls of your feet, and keep your bent knee pointed down. Repeat this twice across the court.
  • High Knee Running Without Arms
    Stand on the outside doubles line on the balls of your feet, leaning forward slightly. Moving slowly across the court, lift up your knees alternately. The key to this drill is “keep your nose over your toes” to prevent you from stumbling. Planting your foot firmly under your body will help.
  • High Knee Running With Arms
    This is the exact same drill as the High Knee Running Without Arms drill, except this time, raise and lower your opposite arm with your legs. You arms should be moving in a piston-like fashion.
  • A-Skip Drill
    The movement and body position for this drill is similar to the High Knee Marching With Arms Drill. However, in this drill, when the arm and leg are brought up, a slight hop or a skip should be made with each step forward. Bring your foot down so it is under your body to maintain your balance.
  • B-Skip Drill
    This drill shares the same movements as the High Knee Marching Without Arms drill, except this one adds some movements. When one knee is lifted, a very slight bounce is made. When the knee is at the apex of your hop, extend that leg forward. Immediately afterwards, bring that foot down gently so the ball of your foot hits the ground underneath your body. It’s important to keep your upper body relaxed during this drill.

Tennis-Specific Movement Training

When you think of a tennis player in a match, you can see him in your mind’s eye making all kinds of movements: Lunges, stretches, slides, and reaches. The following are some of the tips provided by the USTA to help improve the wide variety of movement you can expect to make on the court. They also make a great warm-up before a practice session.

To add a variation to these drills, try them with your racquet in your hand, also.

  • Lateral Alley Drill (side step)
    Start by straddling the doubles sideline while facing the net. Shuffle to the side to move both feet over the singles sideline, then go back to straddle the far sideline. Repeat this non-stop for about 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Lateral Alley Drill (back and forth)
    Start out with both feet outside of the doubles sideline facing inside the court. Run into the court, stopping short one step over the singles sideline. Then run backwards to your starting point, making sure to keep your weight on the balls of your feet. Continue back and forth for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Lateral Figure 8s Drill
    Place two cones (or markers) about four and a half feet apart. That’s about the distance between the halfway points of the ad court and the deuce court. Face the net and start behind one of the cones. Move around the cones in a figure 8 motion, moving laterally and slightly diagonally. This doesn’t involve just a side step, but you’ll have to have some adjustments as you make the circuit, with some small step adjustments both backwards and forwards. Move around the circuit for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Four Cone Square Drill
    Place four cones (or makers) in a square on a court about 6 yards apart. Start at one of the back cones, facing the net. Sprint to the cone directly in front of you, then circle that cone. Side step to the cone to the side of that one, and circle that cone. Then back peddle to the cone behind you, then circle that cone. Side step to the cone you started at and circle it. Repeat this drill 2 or 3 times in a row, then rest 20 to 30 seconds.

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