NEWS

Ask the High Performance Lab - Oct. 17

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM
PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.

The answers to these questions are provided by Mike Nishihara, the Strength and Conditioning Specialist for USA Tennis High Performance.

Mike Nishihara has been named Strength and Conditioning Coach for the USA Tennis High Performance program. Nishihara is based at the USA Tennis High Performance Training Center in Key Biscayne, Fla. © USTA
Mike came to the USTA from the Saddlebrook Resort, where he was the Director of Fitness and Sport Conditioning. He brings with him over 15 years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach and has worked with the likes of Jennifer Capriati, James Blake, Chanda Rubin, Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis. Mike is responsible for planning and implementing physical training and testing programs for High Performance players.

Q: I'm 43 yrs old and am playing a few tournaments this summer (singles) and am interested in any ideas on what kind of exercising should I be focused on a couple of weeks leading up to tournament - and how much tapering off of exercise would be good a couple of days before the tournament.

I'm in pretty good shape - I currently work out 6 days/week mixing strength training with cardio, in addition to playing tennis 2 to 3 times per week. I still get sore often (I think due to my age) but I counter that by stretching often.

Anyway - any ideas?

-- Brett Rhodes, Spring, TX

Nishihara: The closer you get to a tournament you want to peak for, the more tennis specific your training should be. Your cardio work should be tennis speed specific involving changes in direction and appropriate work to rest ratios (work 10-20 seconds:rest 20-25 seconds).

Taper the cardio/speed work a couple of days before the tournament by shortening the duration of the sessions. Your strength program should involve total body strength training and tennis specific pre-habilitation strength training (focused on rotator cuff, wrist/forearm, core, and functional lower and upper body strength). The strength program should also taper (lower intensity – light weight, high repetition) and no lifting needs to be done the day before competition.

Log onto www.playerdevelopment.usta.com and select the Strength and Conditioning link to access exercises you can perform to build strength in areas important to tennis as well as prevent injury.

Q: I was wondering if there are certain things I can do to increase my acceleration and agility. I am pretty muscular and I'm fast for my size, but I am almost at 0% for retrieving lobs when I'm up at the net. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

-- Corey, Union, MO

Nishihara: Good acceleration involves being fast/ generating speed in the shortest amount of time possible. Good agility involves acceleration, deceleration, and acceleration again – it involves speedy changes in direction and dynamic balance. There are exercises and drills that address improving acceleration and agility, but from your preceding statement, you may want to focus on a couple of other areas.

If you’re speedy and you’re almost always getting beat by the lob, there are a few things to consider. First of all, perhaps your opponents possess excellent top spin lobs. Secondly, you may be too close to the net. Thirdly, you may need to work on your reaction and response time – quickness.

The best way to work on reaction/response time is with on court drills that utilize a tennis ball as a cue. A partner, coach or teaching pro should force you to react to a tennis ball in random situations. For example, perform the V-Volley Drill (Movement Training exercise #14 on the USTA player Development Strength and Conditioning site) or a variation of this drill, responding to a coach’s cues about where to move. This will help improve reaction time and the footwork necessary to get to balls, including lobs. Repetition is the key. Reaction and response should become as automatic as possible.

Q: After reading your article on strength training, I noticed it did not specify a particular age. My son is 8, but he is the size of a 10 - 11 year old. Is that too soon to use free weights for his arms only?

-- Joiceteen Johnson

Q: What are the appropriate ages for boy and girls to start a workout regime (weights, stretching, etc.)? What would a typical workout be initially and how would that change and when? What would be the right ratio of weights to stretching? What kind of "first" workout would be appropriate for 10-12 year olds?

-- John Sanford, Westlake Village

Nishihara: Strength training can be safely done by boys and girls as soon as they are emotionally mature enough to follow instruction. They should be taught and supervised by a qualified individual (a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (C.S.C.S.) – certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association).

The strength training program should work the total body, not just the arms. Free weights are an acceptable tool for young juniors to use when strength training and in many cases are safer than body weight exercises.

I recommend using weights for which the player can comfortably perform at least 15 repetitions of the desired exercise. At this age, one of the key things is for the young juniors to learn proper lifting technique. Additionally, I would not recommend any lifts that take the weight over head.

As the young junior physically matures, the strength training program will increase in intensity (heavier weight and fewer repetitions). The strength training program will also be periodized to help the junior physically peak at the appropriate time.

Pre-habilitation strength exercises are also important. These exercises target areas tennis players often have problems with injury. A C.S.C.S., athletic trainer, or physical therapist should be able to assist with these exercises.

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Click here for USTA.com's Health & Fitness Archive.

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