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Ask the Lab: Weight Training & Push-Ups

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 Elaine Kimel of Yadkinville, North Carolina:

    I do a fairly heavy weight workout during the winter months. How should I adjust my weight workout while I am playing tennis for the spring?

    It seems like I don't do as well playing when I'm doing heavy weights. I also do cardio two to three times per week on my days off of weight training.

    Dr. Riewald:
    Elaine, great question and one that ties into the concept of periodization - breaking a seasonal training plan into “phases”.

    In the “off season” it is advisable to build your strength base. This means doing a high volume of work (sets and repetitions) to first build muscular endurance and then strength. It sounds like you are doing this.

    However, as you get closer to, and eventually into, your competitive season the focus of the training should shift to become more tennis specific. This means a number of things:

    • Shift your focus from doing basic “weight room lifts” like bench press, lat pull downs, etc. to more tennis specific exercises that use the whole body and incorporate rotation when possible. Some examples are low to high chops, modified Olympic lifts, medicine ball throws.

    • Focus on power development. Use the base of strength you’ve developed to improve your power. This will mean using lighter weights and performing them as quickly as possible. Plyometric exercises and medicine ball exercises, where you can work on acceleration, are great - see the medicine ball squat with chest throw as an example of a good power exercise.

    • Work on your movement and footwork. The USTA has a number of on court drills you can use to help build your speed and agility.

    • Use your cardio training wisely. Cardio training does not need to be long slow distance running or cycling. If you train indoors use the interval or random settings and challenge yourself. If you run outdoors, run shorter intervals as you get closer to your competitive season (400s, 200s, 100s) to build speed while still improving your cardiovascular endurance.

    You will still want to mix things up and keep some of the strength training you’ve been doing in your training plan during the competitive season. However, the focus of the training should shift towards developing power and speed instead of strength
    Is there any benefit / detriment to male or female high school tennis players doing push-ups immediately before their match?

    Dr. Riewald: Push-ups are not one of the exercises we typically encourage for tennis players. The reason is, most players drop too far into the push up and end up placing unnecessary stress on the front of the shoulder (in a proper push up the elbows should not bend more than 90o).

    Consequently, we would not generally recommend push ups as a pre-match warm-up routine.

    However, the idea of performing a dynamic warm-up is a great one and there are some alternative exercises we can recommend that will target the chest and shoulders. Several examples are:

    Use a light resistance and perform a set of 15-20 repetitions to warm up the muscles. Also make sure you warm up the rest of the body as well.

    You can find more guidelines on doing a dynamic warm up on the USTA Player Development website under the Strength and Conditioning link.

    About the Author:

    The answers to this week's column come from Scott Riewald, PhD. Dr. Riewald is the USTA Administrator of Sport Science, he reports to Paul Lubbers, Director of Coaching Education. Dr. Riewald and the Sport Science staff work with Coaching Education to provide information to the coaches of top American players through seminars, workshops and newsletters.

    Past Riewald Columns:
    Knee Problems & Tennis Elbow
    Strength & Flexibility Exercises
    Playing in the Sun & Jumping Rope
    Banned Substances & Youth Strength Training

    From Jerry Williams of Dover, New Jersey:



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