Q. "My weakness in my game is my height and weight. I'm 16 years old, and I only weigh 105 pounds, and I'm coming on 5' 8". I'm practicing with 14 and 15 year olds who are hitting the ball 110 and 120. I can counter this pretty well with some power, but that is mostly generated from my form. Does anyone have advice on how I can gain weight and add some power to my game, while still keeping my game consistent?"
From Michael of Lexington, KY
Any time you are undersized in a sport, you have to be twice as good in your preparation and fitness. Look at undersized basketball, football and tennis players. Take Michael Chang, for example. He was always undersized but committed himself to having stronger legs and a stronger core (abs). Most power is generated from your quads and core. I would work on doing more crunches, lunges, squats and medium weight lifting. Drink a Gatorade or protein shake every other day. Don't think putting on 30 to 40 pounds will answer your problems. Preparation and being physically stronger will negate the power disadvantage you lack now.
From Mike R. of MN, tennis coach
First, Sean, confirm with your doctor that you’re actually underweight for your age and size, and make sure that your body is correctly using the calories in your diet. If everything checks out OK, don't fight your body -- work with it. Maybe your genetic disposition is to be very thin, and large muscles are not in the cards for you. Find a strength-lifting program that will make the most of what you have. Consider becoming a consistent baseline counter puncher who many players fear. Work on getting all your balls in play, and force your opponents to hit winners all match, while you are very selective about your offensive opportunities.
Also consider buying the most powerful racket and lower poundage string job that will help create pace. Remember, lower poundage stringing may induce a spray of shots, so work on consistency. Balance a lack of strength with speed, endurance, intelligence and emotional stability. Work your more muscular opponents with the longest points possible early in a match. Weather a drubbing in the first set, anticipate a long match. Grind out points. Drink lots of fluids. Your game is the long haul. Revel in it. Good Luck!
From Ethan of Detroit, MI
Eat a lot of good food and lift weights. If your stomach is never empty and you lift weights, you will grow steadily but surely until all of a sudden, you'll get really big, really fast. Drink tons of milk and eat a lot of meat, eggs and peanut butter for protein. Also, start your day with oatmeal. It packs fiber and calcium for helping muscle and bones grow. Don't be alarmed if you gain some fat before you start to get muscle, as it is your body's way of getting ready to grow. Good Luck!
From Neal Z. of Highland Park, IL
Rather than worry about your height and weight, keep your focus on speed, quickness, anticipation and an all-around game plan. The phrase “speed kills” should become your motto. Power players usually stay at the baseline. There is no reason why you should stay back there and play a power game that you are not comfortable with.
From Ross B. of Ennis, TX
Well, I’m a 17-year-old ex-football player, so I know the perfect way to gain weight. Currently I weigh 280, and I can most of the time best the varsity No. 6 fellow, so I don't think the added weight will affect your game negatively. All you need to do is eat bananas and drink whole milk for added fat. A bunch of the two. For more muscle, sorry to say that weight lifting and protein are the tried and true way to gain muscle mass. Good luck.
From Dwayne Thomas of Matthews, NC, USPTA-P1, Head Professional/Jr.
As a junior player, power will definitely help in certain situations. To add some pounds, you need to get yourself into the weight room and add a little muscle. Talk to your coach or fitness trainer at school to see if they can help. You can increase your power by increasing your swing speed or the tension of your strings. Keep plugging away and working on your mechanics, mostly your point of contact. Find ways to give yourself opportunities to move forward into the ball by using your momentum to help generate some more power. Good Luck.
From Enno P. of Flushing, NY
The key to gaining weight and power is weight training. Doing some resistance work three to four times a week should give you some dramatic results. Just make sure that you stretch more frequently to keep yourself flexible.
From Gary of Lenoir City, TN
When you are 5' 8" and weigh only 105 pounds, you have to have great speed and perfect form and foot work. Don't worry about matching power with the bigger players; just work on being steadier. Remember the last ball over the net wins, not the most power.