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Ask the High Performance Lab

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.

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From Jeff Pinkerton of Borger Texas:
I am a high school tennis coach and I would like to know what would be a recommended amount of running that we should do in practice. We do dynamic stretching and footwork but how much overall running should we do to be in good physical shape?

Mike Nishihara: When training the players the USTA works with, we usually do some sort of "running" four to five times a week. The running session usually lasts between 20 – 40 minutes, but there is a lot of variety in the types of running we do.
You’ll note that we put running in quotation marks, because much of what we do is different from the long, slow distance running many tennis players are familiar with – there is some long distance running, but the “running” sessions also involve footwork/tennis agility work, or interval runs. The type of running depends upon the periodized strength and conditioning schedule of the player.
Generally, the long distance running and longer interval repeats (400s and 800s) are done during the preparation phase when you are getting ready for the season. Shorter, higher intensity intervals (20s, 40s, 60s, 100s, 200s, and 400s) and on-court footwork/tennis agility are the main focus during the pre-competition phase in the weeks leading up to main competition or competitions. During the competition phase of the season, on-court footwork/tennis agility is the “running” focus.
Recognizing that each player is an individual, we adjust the plan depending upon the player’s cardiovascular endurance, agility and their physical and physiological strengths and weaknesses.
From Ivor Savage of Savannah, GA:
As a fellow professional coach, I need advice on implementing good footwork drills into match play situations. I coach 12-year-old juniors and they perform footwork drills very well in practice but when playing points, they just don't seem to step up to that level as performed in the drill? Can you kindly advice what method you implement to solve this? Thank you for your advice!

Mike Nishihara: The best footwork drills for transfer into match play are those that are tennis specific. The movements must replicate those used in match play. The work to rest ratios used should mimic match play work to rest ratios which have been found to be approximately 1:3 (three times as much rest as work). The players should hold a racquet when possible as this will help with developing dynamic balance.
We also like to use tennis specific cues, like a tennis ball, to cue for the player on when and how to react (e.g. rather that yell at a player to run to the right on the court, use a tennis ball and “point” in the direction you want the player to run). Players should also always react out of their split step.
Incorporate these factors into your footwork drills and the performance your players demonstrate during the drills should better transfer to match play.

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.

Past Nishihara columns:



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