A tennis training program has to meet the demands of an all-round physically challenging, individual sport.
For a tennis player to perform at their best, they must have just the right mix of aerobic and anaerobic endurance, explosive strength and power, speed off the mark and agility. In fact, the amount of strength, speed, agility and flexibility conditioning a player is prepared to undertake has been linked to the standard they play at (1).
A tennis match is characterized by repeated bouts of high-intensity activity. However, a typical rally may last about 6 seconds (2) and not much more than 10 seconds even on a clay court. Between points there is the luxury of up to 25 seconds rest – 90 seconds if it’s a changeover. Hence, the overall physical demand is closer to prolonged moderate-intensity exercise (such as distance running) than a true multisprint sport (such as soccer) (3).
A tennis training program must be based on solid aerobic endurance to sustain a high work rate for the duration of a game that may last several hours. Anaerobic endurance is also an essential component so that power over each rally, and in each shot within a rally can be maintained to same high level.
On average a tennis player will move just 3 meters per shot and 8-12 meters during a point (5). It becomes obvious that good speed and quickness around the court is essential in order to reach the majority of these shots. During a match 48% of a players movement is sideways (6) so agility, or the ability to change direction rapidly and under control becomes equally as important.
Finally, a balanced tennis training program should help to prevent injury and over training. For example, a preventative program of wrist extensor strengthening and stretching exercises can help to prevent tennis elbow (7). Specific exercises can also be prescribed to reduce the risk of rotator cuff damage. -First published in Sports Fitness Advisor