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Ask the High Performance Lab - Mar. 13

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.

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.
The health and fitness advice for this week's column come from Mike Nishihara, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for USTA Player Development. Mike has worked for the USTA since the spring of 2004 and has worked with a number of top tennis players in his career, including Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and James Blake.

Q: When working with young girls ages 8-16 I like them to do light weights with sets of 12 for upper and lower body. The max weight that I currently let them do is between 10-45 lbs. Is this a good range for the 8-12 year olds to work with? The 13-16 years old I work as high as 45 lbs -- is this a good range?

Thanks for your input.

Nishihara: For young juniors (pre-pubescent), I usually have the players strength train with a weight they can do at least 15 reps with. If they cannot do 15 reps, the weight is too heavy. This is a conservative approach, but I prefer to err on the side of safety – especially for the really young players, 8-11 years old.

Depending on physical maturity (usually 14-16 years of age), I will increase the intensity, allowing for heavier weight and fewer repetitions. I believe 10 pounds is probably too heavy for most 8-10 year olds and 45 pounds is too light for many 16 year olds.

Also, the muscle group that is being trained is important as well. 45 pounds may be light for training leg muscles, but too much for training the upper body.

The bottom line is the weights selected should be determined by the ability of the individual and whether he/she can perform the number of repetitions prescribed.

Q: I'm a 12-year-old with ambitions to become a professional tennis player.

I've been playing for several years and know the importance of conditioning and physical fitness. When I ask tennis coaches about a workout plan, they say, "physical trainers are the best at helping with that." Information on the internet is so biased and contradictory, I don't know what to do.

Is there a particular program that aspiring juniors can contact about this?

Nishihara: You have smart enlightened tennis coaches. Tennis coaches are usually good tennis players that understand the game and can teach tennis technique and strategy along with the many important life lessons associated with the sport. In short, they are tennis experts.

The best place to seek strength and conditioning information is from a strength and conditioning expert. These individuals are usually certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and are called Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

There are other fitness certifying bodies with other certifications but, in my opinion, the CSCS certification through the NSCA is the best and only truly recognized certification by people “in the know” for fitness professionals involved with athletes.

So, your first step should be to find a CSCS in your area that has an appreciation and understanding of the game of tennis. They don’t have to be tennis players but they should have an understanding of the physical demands of the game.

Your observations of the information on the internet are astute, yet not surprising. Why does the information out there seem biased and contradictory?

The answer is that there is not a single strength and conditioning program that works for all tennis players. A good tennis based strength and conditioning program will address the player’s individual tennis fitness strengths and weaknesses. Since everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are different, there cannot be one program for all tennis players.

Your age and physical development must also be considered. An advanced program (probably more important later in your playing “career”) will also address your tournament schedule, playing style, and playing surface of upcoming tournaments.

If you would like to submit a question that may be answered by our Health & Fitness team or want to share an idea for a future column, please click here.

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

Also, click here to visit the new USTA Player Development website!



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