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So I sat next to my head coach the other day as she was giving one of our young players training schedules and advice, and then it suddenly hit me. Training and diet makes a good tennis player, if you really want to get far in the game and snag yourself some trophy you need to eat and train. That’s like a key to a lock.
“If you really want to go deep in a major tournament then just look how hard the top guys work”. John McEnroe
Tennis requires a combination of strength, speed, agility, fast reflexes and above all, endurance. Legs provide the base of a tennis player, and they have to be strong and agile. Shoulders and arms are essential for power play, and the core should be able to hold it all together. Tennis players are amazing athletes and have to dedicate a lot of time to fitness and conditioning to reach the top of their game.
Tennis is now a very physically demanding sport that requires superior fitness as well as excellent tennis ability. Many good players have failed in recent years because they did not have the stamina to allow them to stay focused for an entire match. Like any other activity, as soon as you start to become physically tired, your mental processes start to deteriorate rapidly. Tennis players have to be “fighting fit” just like solders and martial artists.

Tennis involves relatively short periods of intensive exercise followed by rest. So just jogging 5 miles a day will not create a good player. Interval training is the key. If you can use a tennis court for training, then after a warm up, perform sprints along the length of the court, followed by a recovery exercise such as jogging along the base line, then do another intensive sprint. Also run backwards and sideways along the widths of the court.

The key is to learn to endure short intensive periods, and then take ‘active rest’ i.e. jogging to recover, as it is vital not to stop I.e sit or lie down. On court often the fitter player will win.


Fitness training on the court should mimic the moves a tennis player performs:
Sprint forwards – starting from the tennis stance
Side step backwards, training both side
Sprint forward then walk back to the base line
Training with these simple movements will help improve performance on court during a game. Tennis players sprint forwards to meet the ball then side step to reposition or simple walk back to the base line to get ready for the next serve.Repeating these moves builds the specific strength in the muscles, ligaments and tendons and makes the moves come more naturally. These exercises can be used to warm up before training begins.

Press ups, crunches, star jumps, squat thrusts, squats and lunges are all excellent ways to prepare the body for tennis. Performing body workouts / callisthenics helps to improve muscular endurance and also strengthens supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Tennis, as with all sports, is as much a game of strength as skill. In the last decade we have seen players become stronger on court. Games are often now dominated by the big servers – they are tall and powerful.

The core strength exercises are squats, lunges, calf raises, flyes, leg extensions and curls. All strength training should be done in moderation during competition season to ensure recovery is made before a match. Squats and lunges provide strong legs, but aim for muscular endurance rather than attempting to hit your one rep max on every training session. Learn how to build muscles for power.

All types of bicep curls should be performed: standard curls, hammer curls, concentration curls, preacher curls and also wrist curls. You want to build athletic biceps not just big biceps.

Flyes can be done on a bench with dumbbells or as cable flyes. These help to improve your hitting power.
Lateral raises, done with dumbbells, can help improve back hand power too.
Stretching all muscles well after training is essential, so always allow time for at least 10 minutes of stretching after your workout.
Tennis requires a perfect balance between core strength, agility, flexibility and endurance.
Tennis is really like any other athletic sport. You need to take in a good balance of carbohydrate to provide fuel for the muscles and protein for muscle repair and regeneration.
The key really is to ensure that you stay well hydrated and have a well balanced diet. If you do more weight training to build strength then consider increasing protein intake, but for most of your training you should focus on carbohydrates.
Tennis players should try to balance their workouts with sessions concentrating on muscular endurance, strength, flexibility and cardio. High intensity interval training and circuit training geared to tennis are ideal. A typical tennis workout should include:
Weighted squats (see The Squat)
Weighted lunges
Shoulder press
Pull ups / chin Ups
Push ups / bench press
Dumbbell flyes
Bicep curls
Calf raises
Leg extensions
Jumping jacks
Box jumps
Let’s take some advice from one of the grand slam winners:
Martina Navratilova’s fitness rules
Martina was an exceptionally fit tennis player and is still in great shape. In her 2006 book Shape Your Self she explains her rules of fitness. The rules are designed to keep you on track. This is a simple fitness guide that is designed to ensure that you get the most out of your fitness regime, whether it be for tennis fitness or any other fitness and health program.Navratilova’s tennis career
Navratilova’s tennis career was outstanding.  She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles (a record that she still holds), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She played in the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including 9 consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and she also won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon 9 times, which is still a record she holds.

If you want fitness advice from a tennis player then you cannot go wrong with listening to Martina. We shall be featuring more of her fitness and nutrition advice over the next few weeks.

1. Have fun
The more fun you have when exercising the better your workouts are. This is why martial arts and dance classes are often more effective then gym sessions.

2. Do not follow a set routine
Learn to exercise in a way that suits you. Plan your workout before, ensuring that you cover all the bases, that includes cardio, bodyweight exercises, weight training and stretching. Always push yourself to work harder too.

3. Ensure good form
No matter what sort of exercise you are doing ensure that you do it with good form. This will reduce injury and you will gain more.

4. Exercise first thing in the morning
If you always workout before you do anything else, distractions and unplanned events cannot stop you from exercising in the evening.

5. Stay consistent
Do not skip workouts or take holidays. As you get older your body takes longer to get back into it again, fitness levels drop very quickly. So no holidays, keep training every week, even if it is only 30 minutes a day.

6. Variety is the key
Do as many different things as possible and you will not get bored. Do not just run or just swim. Do everything, and keep changing. It is never to late to try new activities either, whether it be a martial art, tennis, squash, weight training or cycling.

7. Stay focused when exercising
Concentrate on your posture, your breathing and your work rate. Always be aware of what your body is doing, do not switch off.

8. Breathe right
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This helps you to control the intensity of your workout and prevents you training beyond your capacity. You should also feel more refreshed. When in recovery mode try to breathe from the abdomen. These rules do not apply to swimming though.

9. Set yourself goals, challenge yourself
Getting fit is about being able to do more each week. Go faster, go further, train for longer, lift heavier. Whatever it is, progress upwards, do not get stuck in the same old routine.

10. Do something that you can become good at
If you choose an exercise that you can master, this provides greater focus and motivation in the long term and boosts your confidence.

11. Make a weekly plan
To avoid forgetting, make a plan. If you do not have time to exercise you need to reorganize your life, do not give up looking after yourself.

12. Be careful and sensible off season
If you play sports or athletics be careful what you do, and don’t do, in the off season. Do not take up dangerous sports.

The ultimate trick is to learn to love your exercise so that you look forward to it every day and relish the thought of creating a new weekly workout each week. If people put as much effort into planning their weekly exercise as they plan their television viewing there would be many more fitter and healthier people living today.

Stay tuned as we share some general advice plus tips from great tennis stars: Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Serena Williams in our next issue.
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Nurse Festus Lucy
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