An detailed explanation of this infographic with review of the study is on the iTPA Inner Circle Member Only Website.
By Oliver Stephens, CTPS, MTPS
Lateral movement is an integral part of tennis. It is a fact that around 70% of movements in tennis are lateral (side to side) and not linear (forwards and backwards). This is not only true in professional, college and junior performance tennis but is also true at the Adult Amateur Level as well. (This is exactly why tennis shoes are heavier and have more support on the side than running shoes, in order to prevent ankle injuries when moving laterally.)
Everyone can benefit from lateral movement training. Not just younger players or the pro's. Even if you are working with a Senior player aged 80 years old, there will be benefits to lateral training.
I would recommend taking your Adult Students through the below routine and encouraging them to utilize it two or three times a week by themselves. Below are five lateral movement exercises that will help strengthen the ankles and hips and also increase lateral movement speed and efficiency. Of course, according to the age, athletic ability and fitness level of your students, they can adjust with more or less repetitions if necessary. Remember, form is key!
All of these exercise are online at Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRmV4fwgdcc
Hopefully, these exercises will help all of your Adult Students increase their lateral movement speed. If done with the correct form and on a regular basis, even your older students will see positive results.
By Dominic King, CTPS, MTPS, ASCC
I thought it may be interesting to share an enlightening conversation I had with a 14 year old female tennis player I train recently. The details may not be 100% accurate but hopefully the essence of it will come across. It just made me reflect that sometimes some of the most revealing things come out in these seemingly casual exchanges. We had just finished a session. On this occasion it had been an on-court movement session. It had been a productive session, looking to work on some specific movement patterns and to improve the efficiency of movement and we were walking back from the courts.
The player commented that she thought that I had been really motivated and she could see that I was working hard to come up with ideas that would benefit her. We talked about how some of the ideas may work and some may need refining but that's fine! The intention, however, was always to try to develop her.
She commented further that she really didn't like it when a coach (tennis or S&C) is clearly not engaged in the session and doesn't appear to really care about improving the player and we dug a little deeper into this. Many of her observations were incredibly astute. I have recently completed my Master Tennis Performance Specialist (MTPS) with the International Tennis Performance Association (ITPA), and the player said that she felt she could see a difference in me since I had done this. I said that I had enjoyed the course, had taken lots of ideas from it and agreed that I had developed as a coach as a result.
It was a very open and honest discussion and I thought it was very interesting. The key points for me were:
Dom is Head of Athlete Development at Halton Tennis Centre in the UK, where he works with players of all ages.
You can connect with him at
** An accompanying explanation and article discussing this topic and infographic is on the iTPA Inner Circle Member Only Website for our members and subscribers.
Attend the 2016 WORLD TENNIS FITNESS CONFERENCE (July 30th & 31st, 2016) in Atlanta, Georgia alongside the 2016 BB&T ATLANTA OPEN. Check out the website for more information and to register www.itpa-tennis.org/tennisfitconference.html
International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA) to Host the Annual World Tennis Fitness Conference July 30 & 31, 2016
By Dean Hollingworth, CTPS, MTPS
It goes without saying that the health of a tennis player is dependent on their support team. There seems to be a growing epidemic of injuries at all levels, from professional players pulling out of major tournaments to young players missing practice time. I have seen too many injuries happen at all levels because decisions are often made based on one’s own individual wants, athletes not taking the advice of their team or lack of planning. Whether it’s a young athlete or a professional one, health decisions must be made with the input and sincere commitment of each team member. This input must be based on the best interest of the athlete, and not on an individual’s ulterior motives.
It may seem funny to some that I said “sincere commitment.” I have often witnessed coaches, trainers and parents that put their own personal needs ahead of the player’s. This can happen for various reasons, like one’s own potential financial gains, ego or lack of commitment.
Coaches that give lessons or training sessions to players who have injuries have always fascinated me. I cannot understand a coach that would book or give a lesson to an athlete knowing that they are suffering from an injury. This is often leads to the session being cut short or “working” on other aspects of their game. Funny thing about pain, playing or training with it does not make it better. Easy rule to follow: does it hurt, yes or no? Anything but a firm no means yes. I am completely aware that there are training sessions that can be done and will not affect the injury negatively. I am not talking about helping to rehab or not doing serves because everything else is ok to do. But far too often it results in the athlete admitting that they felt pain at some point in time during the training. It’s not enough that training sessions take place while the athlete is injured, as it is also expected that the athlete return to play at the same intensity and duration. Returning from injury is a process. If the process is forced, chances are the injury reoccurs. There is nothing wrong with a shorten practice when starting back. Better to get off the court early and pain free, then to continue and take a major step back. Let us not only put the onus on the coaches. What about the parent that allows this to occur? Unfortunately, sometimes the reasoning is that there is a tournament coming, or cancellation fees might apply.
Coordinating an athlete’s schedule requires great planning and so does putting that plan into action. Showing up and deciding on the spot what needs to be done, not planning the tournament schedule or continuing to overload the athlete at every turn is a sure plan for failure. The team should all be on the same page, with the athlete, on what the course of action is for the year. Overzealous trainers trying to prove their worth with inhuman workouts are not on a constructive plan of action. You cannot build someone up by destroying them each time. Coaches and parents that sign up for every tournament without any focus on recuperation is counterproductive, again just looking for those extra points and or other gains. We must remember that a career, especially at a young age, is part of a very long journey. Pushing through injury can be seen as brave and warrior-like, but at what cost for the young player. I am not at all saying that training should stop or a lesson cut short because of some of the discomfort that is associated with elite training. But when it increases the magnitude of the injury and risks a longer absence from tennis, then I think we all have to pay attention and re-adjust.
For the young athlete, parents should take the advice of the training team. If the parent is not confident with the decisions being made, then changes in the coaching staff should be made. Often in fitness the parents want a big emphasis on tennis-specific training for athletes of a young age. Building an athlete is the goal. Specializing too early may bring early rewards but will eventually lead to a tennis player with sub-par athletic ability.
Lastly, let’s not forget the player’s involvement and commitment. The player needs to be present not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. All the training in the world is pointless unless it is accompanied with a great sense of purpose. I have seen athletes that don’t care and go through the motions, hoping for the best come match day. Time on the court does not always dictate success.
I believe that for the most part, coaches and parents have the wellbeing of the player at heart. Working together with passion and commitment towards a common goal will ultimately lead to the best possible success that the athlete can obtain. Developing an athlete safely and smartly is all that can be asked. Besides the physical, great coaches help develop a better person, which will last a lifetime. At then end of the day, that is why we coach.
By Joshua Colomar (iTPA) and Mark Kovacs, PhD, CTPS, MTPS (iTPA)
The calendar of a tennis player at the junior, collegiate or professional level is increasing each year. The demands have increased with exhibition events, a more robust tournament schedule and sponsor events, which have added to an already loaded year round competitive calendar. This leads to less time for coaches to program and periodize preseason periods. While technical and tactical issues tend to be the most important aspect during players’ training, it is challenging to develop the much needed physical aspects during a shortened preseason period. We know from the research that it takes a significant number of weeks to develop strong strength and hypertrophy gains. As a result, newer techniques are developed to approach training during preseason. High Intensity Training (HIT) is a rather common technique that is being utilized more. A shock microcyle (an increased intensity of work over a short amount of time) in combination with technical/tactical work could offer enough stimulus for positive adaptation in a time efficient manner for preseason training. A recent study by Fernandez et al (2015) can offer some preliminary insights.
12 male professional tennis players (500-800 ATP Ranking) performed a 17-day HIT shock microcycle in addition to conventional tennis training. The program was formed by 3 running protocols based on the Intermittent Fitness Test (IFT) and one protocol based on on-court specific drills (‘Big X’; ‘Suicide’; ‘Recovery/Defensive’…) Data was collected from different tests:
Results indicated major increases in velocity during IFT (6.5%) and average increases in repeated sprint ability (0.5%). CMJ and 20m sprint remained statistically without significant differences.
Increases in IFT velocity didn’t correspond with increases in VO2max. Studies have demonstrated that endurance can be enhanced without changes in this parameter. These results indicate that training intervals ranging from 15s to 120s at 90-95% of HR result in specific endurance increases.
Regarding RSA improvements, specificity of training that involves similar muscles and acceleration/deceleration patterns result in positive changes in specific coordination during RSA tests.
The major concerning aspects of this type of training is the risk of overreaching/overtraining or potential injury. High intensity bouts at initial stages of season added to normal training can result in highly fatigued athletes. Further studies should be carried out to establish “how much is too much?’’ and “how much is needed to maintain gains?’’ Until then, coaches have to be very aware of load control and fatigue-related parameters like RPE, soreness, recovery quality, sleep parameters, heart rate variability measures, etc.
As coaches, we need to monitor, control and better quantify the load players are exposed to during training. HIT can be considered as a viable addition to a preseason training plan, with appropriate monitoring and understanding of the increased fatigue that is likely to occur to the athlete. Some studies revealed the validity of RPE as an effective method for quantifying load in tennis sessions. It’s the case of Gomes et al. (2015) in which RPE applied to 12 tennis players in 384 on-court tennis sessions; 23 simulated matches and 13 official matches were compared to heart rate values (internal load in this case) for the same players in the same situations. Results gave high correlation between both values and offers an easy technique that doesn’t require sophisticated equipment. This heart rate monitoring allows for relatively low cost monitoring for coaches and tennis performance specialists. Nevertheless, future investigations are needed to demonstrate validity of RPE for recovery aspects, overall season progression and fitness workouts in which specificity, volume, intensity, density and many physical parameters are involved in training.
To learn more about the science and practical application of physical training for tennis, please look into becoming a certified member of the International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA). www.itpa-tennis.org . Learn the latest about tennis specific training and injury prevention at the 2016 WORLD TENNIS FITNESS CONFERENCE (July 30/31st, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia alongside the BB&T ATLANTA OPEN) www.itpa-tennis.org/tennisfitconference.html
Fernández et al. Preseason Training: The Effects of a 17-Day High-Intensity Shock Microcycle in Elite Tennis Players. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2015) 14, 783-791.
Gomes et al. Ecological Validity of Session RPE Method for Quantifying Internal Training Load in Tennis. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching Volume 10 · Number 4 · 2015.
By Joshua Colomar and Mark Kovacs, PhD, CTPS, MTPS
Classical descriptions present tennis as a prolonged activity (2-4 hours) of repeated, high-intensity bouts interspersed with standardized rest periods. Such description establishes that the sport is physically and physiologically demanding. However, tennis can last more than 5 hours in some extreme cases like Grand Slam and Davis Cup matches. There’s a lack of literature when quantifying such extended matches. Professional players mainly would benefit in having knowledge of fatigue development in these conditions and how it evolves during matchplay, as well as during competition weeks. To try to contextualize these doubts, Reid & Duffield (2014) offer us an interesting review on fatigue, putting together information and possible future areas of study for unanswered questions.
Professional players should be prepared for a typical situation that happens during tournament weeks and especially when playing Grand Slams. This involves scenarios of the potential of 4-5+ hour matches and the possibility of playing 7 matches in a two week period, with only 24-49 hours of rest between each match. Fatigue occurs: the challenge for everyone is to determine the amount of fatigue and the impact it has on performance, recovery and possible injury. It’s unclear if players experiment movement changes, poor technique or reduced cognitive performance. Fatigue responses (i.e. an athlete’s physiological profile) can be divided into changes in mechanical, contractile and cognitive characteristics:
Researchers have studied internal load parameters that are produced during tennis. This information is summarized briefly below. Most of this data is based on matches lasting 120 minutes or less:
Movement characteristics: Although literature is clear in quantity (around 8-12m per point and 600-800m per set) and duration (<10 seconds per point), movement patterns variations produced by fatigue is unclear. While it’s known that certain technical approaches have different oxygen costs it remains dubious if movement patterns change due to fatigue. Other factors may contribute as well (surface type, game style or tactical decisions). What is confirmed is that over 4 hours of prolonged matchplay and then again after 3-4 consecutive days of matchplay there is a reduction in overall movement patterns: 5% within respective days and 15% from day 1 to day 4. Whether this profile represents fatigue, or alternatively, a deliberate change in game style, isn’t clear and should be investigated in the future.
Changes in mechanical, contractile and cognitive characteristics: Studies have observed decreases in serve and groundstroke velocity during training and matches, as well as following training/matches. Despite these results, previous studies also found that the reductions in velocity were not necessarily accompanied by decrease in accuracy. This suggests that many tennis players adapt to the fatigue, by reducing the pace of the ball, but maintain accuracy. This is makes theoretical sense as it holds to the speed accuracy trade-off. In addition to these results, most of the studies were performed in simulated environments rather than in “real” competition situations. While these findings were unclear to determine if fatigue itself affects mechanical aspects like the groundstrokes, studies also indicate that velocity and accuracy can be altered during matchplay by expert players. With so many doubts, the most appropriate advice we can give and that is supported by these studies is to train for these type environments through a combination of tennis-specific strength training to allow for repeated stroke and movement mechanics over an extended period of time.
Contractile function seems to clearly reduce its function following prolonged tennis matchplay in addition to reduced neuromuscular function, particularly of the lower body, during matchplay greater than 2 hours and over consecutive days of matchplay. If this altered function precedes the reduction in movement activity profiles or relates to the accumulating physiological load remains unknown. A well-organized training program enhancing muscle resistance and function, as well as neuromuscular stimulation, should theoretically result in less reductions of these parameters.
Cognitive aspects such as perception of fatigue are also interesting in which to comment. Simulated and matchplay situations result in elevated ratings of perceived exertion, muscle joint soreness and suppressed mood states. Recent data reveals that cognitive load relates directly to physical exertion of on-court tennis training although few studies report these variables in competitive scenarios. What does seem to be clear is that there is a reduction in motivation that’s part of the fatigue process irrespective of the capacity of the muscle to contract which we’ve discussed above these lines. We can also highlight increased RPE and mental exertion to prolonged matchplay and increased error rates throughout longer or more taxing drills. This may mean that motivation and exertion are affected by the physical state, and thus alterations in stroke play and/or movement patterns. Nevertheless, motivation to perform within research settings is distinct from the motivation to perform within competitive scenarios.
Reid, M. Duffield, R. The development of fatigue during match-play tennis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014; 48:i7-i11.
By Joshua Colomar, iTPA Intern
Researchers often recommend a split step as a preparatory motion to enable quick movement for the next shot. Given that the majority of tennis strokes are hit under time pressure, it seems essential to provide the athlete with the best way to react and respond to these kind of situations. This post is focused on a 2014 research study by Nieminen and colleagues.
Nine healthy tennis players participated in a choice reaction test. The test consisted of reacting to a LED light stimulus and to move in that direction as fast as possible using the pivot step (moving out with the outside leg in the direction of the ball) as first step. Test was conducted with split step option and no split step option before the first step. Measurements taken during this test were: a) response time; b) force production time; c) total reaction time; d) horizontal and vertical mean forces; e) time to photocell. Apart from the measurements given from the choice test, other parameters were taken into account. Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC), Rate of Force Development (RFD), stretch-reflex and excitability of the motor neuron were registered. All these parameters would examine possible advantages of the split step over non-split step conditions and how force production capabilities, reflex sensibility and muscle activation patterns of leg muscles differ between situations.
We will divide results in two categories: time parameters and neuromuscular variables. Concerning time, in split step condition, response time, total reaction time and photocell time were significantly shorter (meaning faster) than with the no-split step condition. No differences were observed in the force production time. Observing the data available from the force plate we see that split step also produced greater vertical and horizontal peak and mean forces (more ground reaction forces). Neuromuscular variables highlighted that vertical and horizontal forces correlate negatively with the time from onset of force production to the photocell in the split step condition. Also forces correlated directly with the athlete’s RFD.
Split Step: Time registrations reveal that the split step was faster than no split step condition. This is related to timing of landing so players must be effective calculating when to execute the split step in order to make it effective. Also important is the split step technique, which includes greater forces on further foot from intended target and a pivot step to reach further and faster. Split step also developed greater forces. This may be explained by stretch reflex and elastic energy mechanisms (SSC). This study showed substantial pre-activation in some muscles before landing which is typically associated with reflex potentiation and stiffness regulation.
Non-Split Step: During this situation players leaned forward and dorsiflexed the foot, requiring greater anterior tibialis activation to enable ankle function. This preparatory movement is not as effective as the hop with split step. Although it seems a worse choice, in some occasions, split step can’t be used due to lack of time and/or improper timing. In these cases, it’s interesting that players have a well-developed strength base in anterior tibialis and vastus lateralis, muscles in charge and more involved in force production in these situations.
In conclusion, split step is faster and more effective if performed with proper timing. It generates more force due to the SSC and relies on its performance. Ankle function seems to have the greatest importance with split step. Now we can offer some practical applications based on information that we’ve been able to extract from the study review such as enhancing ankle function, strength on specific muscles, split step technique or SSC workout. When training athletes to move better it is important to work on Anterior tibialis strength, ankle range of motion to allow for more pronounced ground contacts.
Nieminen et al. Effects of neuromuscular function and split step on reaction speed in the simulated tennis response. European Journal of Sports Science, 2014. Vol. 14, No. 4, 318-326.
Backhand groundstrokes are gaining importance in modern tennis. 20 or 30 years ago, many players had weaker backhands than forehands. In the modern game it is very difficult - some may argue impossible - to play at the highest levels without a strong backhand. While studies and investigations have focused more on the serve and the forehand, the backhand is becoming one of the big changes in tennis over the past few decades. The one-handed backhand was almost the only option before the 1980’s, but nowadays some of the best players in junior, collegiate and professional tennis can master the two-handed backhand without losing tactical versatility. Many coaches only teach the two handed backhand as they feel it provides an advantage over a one handed backhand. This implies the need for coaches to understand the differences and performance factors of these two actions.
To prove the importance of the backhand, studies have compared factors such as ball velocity or accuracy compared to forehand results. Part of the literature doesn’t find any differences while other papers do find higher accuracy or speed with the forehand. Investigations must go further and try to study different levels and situations.
Focusing on the two variations of the backhand, literature is even more inconclusive showing few differences between one and other options. This suggests coaches shouldn’t prejudice any choice regarding which stroke to use based on speed or accuracy. Kinematic differences between each backhand needs to be appreciated and put together in the context of each individual player and their needs.
If we divide the backhand stroke into its three common phases (Ryu et al. 1988) we find:
Preparation phase: displacement of the racket backward until the initial movement of reversing the direction forward. (Figure 1).
Acceleration phase: from the start of the racket forward displacement until the ball contact. (Figure 2).
Follow through phase: from the contact point with the ball until the end of the racket forward movement. (Figure 3).
Following this classification, every phase has its differences between the one-handed backhand and the two-handed backhand.
Concepts offered above can be used as a guide to help with correct technique – whether the athlete uses a one or two handed backhand. Bad execution of strokes is a major reason for many injuries. Different kinematic patterns we’ve seen offer different injury profiles which we will go over next.
As the one handed backhand relies more on upper-body rotation instead of trunk, injuries are many times seen in elbow and wrist related problems. A correct transfer of the momentum from proximal to distal segments (from trunk to hand) is essential in preventing these problems, as well as a specific strengthening program for wrist extensors and pronator teres. Adequate grip size selection based on age and hand size can also help.
Regarding the two-handed backhand, the direction of the foot relative to the net when playing a closed stance can influence the risk of ankle inversion sprain and heightens the stress on the knee. The authors of this one review recommend placement of the foot approximately 45º angle relative to the baseline to facilitate body rotation and decrease stress on the hip, knee and ankle joints. Strengthening programs specifically for these areas could also help and prevent injuries.
In conclusion, backhand selection shouldn’t be conditioned by differences in velocity, speed or ball accuracy, but based on kinematic factors, coordinative abilities and general skills of the player. Knowledge of correct execution and specific movement patterns and strokes help to limit injuries and will allow for more effective prevention programs and preparation workouts.
Genevois, C. Reid, M. Rogowski, I. Crespo, M. Performance Factors Related to the Different Tennis Backhand Groundstrokes: A Review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. (2015). 14, 194-202.
The leader in tennis fitness, performance, education and tennis certification. Get iTPA Certified today!