Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Marco Bitran: Off Court Tennis Training For Young Players


It is always recommended for young players from the age of 8 years and up, to do a thorough fitness assessment and postural analysis to determine their height, weight, flexibility, physical strengths and weaknesses. It also gives them the ability to look back in subsequent years and see areas they have improved on, track their growth and development etc. After the assessments a tennis program should be designed to target certain areas such as strength, speed, cardio vascular endurance, flexibility etc.

If tennis is the main sport of a young player, then training away from tennis should be structured to help gain benefits for tennis, this is what we call specific tennis training.

Tennis Training programs should take into account the movement dynamics e.g. high speed, agility and power endurance and dimensions of tennis e.g. lateral, forward, backward, up and down, rotational etc.

Strength is the foundation for development in all-young players. Increases in muscle strength will help to improve movement, power, endurance, injury prevention, co ordination and confidence. There have been 100s of times I have had a coach or parent tell me their young player needs to move quicker or have more power. Doing power and agility exercises will help to a degree, but without a solid strength base benefits will be minimal.

Examples of strength exercises for tennis are;

1. Body weight: (push ups, squats, planks, lunges etc.)

2. Suspension training: It is highly recommend for young players and has many benefits and very low risk for injuries. We use suspension training with the majority of our young players and get great results in strength, balance and co ordination.

3. Resistance band training: Resistance bands have been around for decades and are a great way to work certain muscle groups in the body. They are commonly used for rehabilitation from injuries, injury prevention and to challenge the musculoskeletal system (muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments) to promote muscle strength. Resistance bands are low cost and are good to travel with.

4. Muscle loading: It is using weight (dumbbells, weight plates, barbells, machines etc.) to challenge the musculoskeletal system. This form of training has huge benefits for athletes, but for younger athletes it can be very dangerous, particularly on the joints of the body. It is hard for a coach or parent to know when a child should start lifting weights. Research tells us, this form of training should be avoided until the age of 16. In most cases it would be accurate, however we need to take into account the body type, physical maturity and natural strength of young athletes before determining when to start their strength program. Obviously working with a specific tennis conditioning trainer will help make that decision. A tennis conditioning trainer should start all players off by lifting no more than 5% of their body weight for upper body exercises and 5%-10% for lower body exercises. Until you have seen a trained professional avoid using weight training for players under the age of 16 years.

As important as strength is, it is also necessary to look at other areas of training for tennis to help boost a young players development. Cardio vascular endurance (running, swimming etc. ) Anaerobic cardio vascular training (agility) flexibility (stretching), co ordination and core stability should also be targeted and structured into the off court tennis training plan.

Young players should be encouraged to participate in a range of structured sports (soccer, basketball, netball, gymnastics, swimming etc.) and also fun unstructured exercise/play. Participating in other sports (e.g. Basketball, soccer) away from tennis will often give young players an increase in cardio vascular endurance, co ordination and strength.

It is best to consult a qualified tennis conditioning trainer to help structure a plan for off court tennis training. Getting them to work in with the coach is highly recommended, as the coach will have some knowledge on areas of strength and weakness.

We provide fitness training for tennis players of all levels. We offer tennis specific exercises and online tennis programs that are proven to improve footwork, speed, agility, core, power and strength.

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