The squat is a essential body movement required for tennis players and is used in numerous movements on the court whether running, jumping, picking or changing direction for the ball.
What is a squat ?
A squat simply is the lowering of the body using the legs. When you look at it in detail the movement flexion and then extension in the ankles, knee and hip. Also it requires the core to help with balance and evening out any lateral movement.
When do we require leg strength in tennis ?
1 – Change of direction .
When we run for a wide ball we need to absorb our body weight and decelerate which requires the leg to bend, balance and then push off and extend the leg to accelerate in the opposite direction.
2 – Creating a chain reaction / power.
All shots start from the floor upwards, the legs help create load / power at the start of the movement. For example hitting a serve when we throw the ball up we do a partial squat (whether narrow or wide) to help create elastic energy in the legs which then creates hip rotation, which help upper body rotation, which helps bring the arm throw then wrist then last of the racket !! This creates a sling shot affect.
3 – Balancing.
When we strike the ball we need excellent balance with the legs to give us a wide base and to help lower the centre of gravity . In a ready position balance is required and to help the first step go in the correct direction.
4 – Jumping.
To obviously jump for a lob we need to have leg power. To get up to the ball first we need to go down. Using Newtons law that for every action there is a reaction. So when we push down we go up!
5 – Sprinting.
Again to go forwards we have to push back according to Newton. To create acceleration to the ball when we sprint we actually push backwards. If you look a the starting blocks when Usain bolt pushes off he is using leg strength to push back on the block. Imagine being on a stepping off a canoe onto a platform the canoe goes back and you will fall in the water !
Simple Strength Program to help leg strength
For Power 1-5 reps / For Strength 6-12 reps / Endurance 12 reps plus
Key variations of squats for tennis players
This is arguably the most important squat as this encourage not only leg strength but requires strength and flexibility in the back and upper body. Use a pole or brush and squat with the elbows locked out squat down with your chest and chest up. Keep the spine neutral but allow for minor flexion in the mid back (thoracic spine)
SQUAT / BACK SQUAT
Whether a body weight squat or a weighted ‘back’ squat both are good. With feet hip width apart sit back allowing your thighs to go parallel to the ground then drive up to standing with your chest up and eyes forward at all times.
With the weight simply in front this puts more emphasis on the quads, hamstrings and lats . For example picking up a drop shot this requires more quad strength to get low and pick the ball up.