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Leg Strength for Tennis – the Squat

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.

Image result for tennis saq

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.

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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.

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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 !

See the source image

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

OVERHEAD SQUAT

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)

Overhead Squat

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.

Squats Muscles Worked

FRONT SQUAT

Image result for front squat with dumbbell

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.

Intercepting in Doubles

This week we are working on intercepting in doubles. The best doubles pairs look to win at the net rather than baseline. With correct movement patterns and decision making you can win more points with these simple steps…

  • Intercept by moving diagonally unless high balls where you have to move back.
  • Use to simples steps by leading with you nearest foot to the ball then step across with the trailing leg
  • Turn you shoulders when you can towards the ball as you move with the racket head up for a potential high or low ball.
  • For a low ball interception swing high to low with a open racket face to get the ball up. more backspin gives you more control less spin gives you more power.
  • Position yourself halfway between the service line and net for rally balls. Move to the service line when defending.
  • Position yourself in the middle of the box for a normal cross court ball from you partner
  • Change you position 1m either way for a wide ball of a ball down the middle
  • For lobs move to the middle to to finish and towards the net
  • Aim for the volleys feet or into the space . Rally volleys just aim deep and keep the ball low

Dealing with High Balls

Particularly on Clay and Hard court the ball bounces higher or perhaps against a heavy topspin player. But how do you deal with it ?

1 – MOVE BACK and get behind the bounce , let the ball drop . Red the ball early look for the cues to read a high ball e.g. a open racket face

2 – Advanced players can TAKE THE BALL EARLY  as it rises.

3 – Key is EARLY movement and preparation with a shoulder / unit turn getting into position with fast and effective footwork.

4 – Alternatively you can try a SLICE slice on the high bouncing balls and be able to take the ball more comfortably and easier than a one hand backhand topspin for some.

5 – You can still hit TOPSIN on a high bouncing balls with a ‘brush’ action and the racket going over the ball sooner.

Autumn Coaching plan 2020

DATE GAME SITUATION TACTICAL INTENTION TECHNICAL INTENTION (PAS) & BALL  CONTROL (HDDSS) CORE DRILL (MEASURABLE) PHYSICAL MENTAL SKILLS
 

31 Aug

BOTH BACK CONSISTENCY

 

HIT A QUALITY RALLY BALL THAT GOES DEEP LOW TO HIGH SWING PATH. MEDIUM ARC OVER THE NET FOR DISTANCE HOW MANY BALLS PAST THE SERVICE LINE. OR HOW MNAY RISING BALLS THROUGH THE B.LINE 5 BALL PICK UP . SPEED ENDURANCE AND AGILITY BREATH OUT ON THE HIT. RELAXTION UNDER PRESSURE
7 Sep BOTH BACK NEUTRALISING HIT A HIGH BALL WHEN UNDER PRESSURE & RECOVER STEEPER SWING PATH. TOPSPIN FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS. ‘TURN & RUN’ SCORE OUT OF 5 FOR HITTING A DEEP BALL UNDER PRESSURE LTA SHUTTLE TEST. HOW MANY COURT LENGTHS IN 90 SECS POSITIVE SELF TALK WHEN IN A TOUGH SITUATION.
14 Sep BOTH BACK

TRADE OR BUILD

CROSS COURT KEEP PLAYER AWAY FROM THE MIDDLE. HIT THE OUTSIDE EDGE OF THE BALL. LOW TO HIGH DIAGONAL SWING LINE. HOW MANY CROSS COURT BALLS IN A MINUTE

 

5-0-5. CHANGE OF DIRECTION TEST. RUN FROM C.LINE AND TOUCH BOTH S.LINES CONCENTRATION. FOCUS ON THE BALL. TIGHTEN STRINGS IN BETWEEN.
21 Sep BOTH BACK BUILD USE ANGLES AND DOWN THE LINE SHOTS TO PLAY AWAY FROM THE MIDDLE STEEP SWING FOR ANGLE TO CREATE SPIN. LINE SHOTS KEEP LINE OF THE SWING STRAGIHT POINTS . PLAY AWAY FROM THE MIDDLE . HOW MANY BALLS PLAYED AWAY (MATCH CHART) SQUATS (KG) OR DEEP SQUAT (TECHNICAL SCORE / 5) AGGRESSION. FAST RACKET WITH CONTROLLED AGGRESION
28 Sep APPROACH TO THE NET FINISH THE RALLY WITH A DOWN THE LINE WINNER OR VOLLEY FLATTEN THE SWING FOR LESS SPIN. AFTER A SHORT BALL HIT AWAY FROM THE MIDDLE INTO TARGET AREA SPRINTS 20M (SECS) RISK TAKING. TAKE ON THE SHORT BALL AN COMMITT.
5 Oct APPROACH THE NET CHANGE DIRECTION ON THE VOLLEY ANGLE VOLLEY BY HITTING EARLY AND OUT INFRONT BUILD DOWN THE LINE AND VOLEY INTO THE OPEN COURT STANDING BROAD JUMP ( CM) GOAL SETTING. SET GOALS FOR THE SEASON AND FOR EACH MATCH
12 Oct SERVE CONSISTENCY DEPTH OF SERVE TO ENSURE OPPONENT CAN NOT BUILD MEDIUM SPEED. CONISTENT BALL TOSS AND AIM FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE LUNGE TECHNIQUE SCORE / 5 VISUALISATION. MENTALLY REPLAY YOUR BEST SHOTS.
19 Oct SERVE BUILD WIDE OR T SERVES TO MOVE THE OPPONENT ANGLE THE RACKET AND USE THE INE OF THE SWING TO AIM 20 SERVE CHALLENGE. 5 SERVES WIDE AND T. SCORE OUT OF 5 FOR EACH DIRECTION JAVELIN THROWS (CM) MEDITATION PRACTICE. 5 MINUTES . RELAX AND FOCUS.

 

RAMP Warm Up for Tennis

Getting warmed is essential for a match and a training / session coaching session. As a coach I need to observe a player first in a realistic situation rather than seeing a player not showing their real shot as cold. Also for competition often players see themselves as ‘slow starters’ and this is because the miss the warm up and and therefore not mentally focused.

So here is a explanation of a RAMP warm up and exercises yo can do to be ready for anything

R-AISE

  • ↑ Body temperature
  • ↑ Heart rate
  • ↑ Respiration rate
  • ↑ Blood flow
  • ↑ Joint viscosity

Just jogging is ok but put in some changes of direction and run with movements like side stepping, low skips, back steps and arm circles. Being specific is better so shadowing shots with a racket is more realistic.

A-CTIVATE & M-OBIILISE

The aim here is activate major muscle groups for example by doing a squat activates the quadriceps and hamstrings. Focusing on good quality of movements rather than speed and power. The whole body needs to be warmed up so a good routine would be. This is NOT static stretching but should involve full range of movement on the move so to keep the body warm and heart rate up.

  • Squats
  • forwards/ backwards and side lunges
  • Superman’s (from all fours extend right arm and left leg) working the core and back
  • Hip circles
  • Leg swings forwards / backwards and
  • Arm swings / move arms up and down a the side of the body and infront
  • Using light therabands & thigh loop bands as a progression from bodyweight exercises

POTENTIATE

This part can be more fun and feels like a car accelerating as we are going from 60/70% to full speed. Moving know is the last stage and like getting ready for a fight if not then we are not prepared mentally and physically for learning and / or winning. Of course we have to be careful not too tire the player out.

This stage should involve more plyometric movements, changes of direction and mentally challenging the player so it could be a game or challenge.

Some examples …

  • reaction ball  drops from a partner / coach . 2 balls on after the other for a player to react
  • Tig. You could thigh elastic bands to help activate the glutes
  • Medicine ball tennis – throwing the medicine ball as a rally or even a point so you are moving each other around
  • Reactaball ball . A great bit of kit is the reactaball as it ‘wakes’ the eyes up and challenges players reactions and movement

ON COURT WARM UP

There are 2 types of warn up one when you are on on court with your opponent and you have a timed warm and then there is voluntary warm up you do with a partner or coach. SO we are going through the warm up yo may do for example with you team …

1 – Rally in the boxes using full swings but 50% speed . After every 10 shots increase the racket head speed

2 – Rally down the middle and deep. Rally cross court both ways (essential for doubles)

3 – Volleys and smashes with one back / one forward. Volley to volley in the boxes cross court and straight for doubles players

4 – Serves . Practice 1st serve and 2nd serve. Personally I aim my serve one to the forehand and then one to the backhand.

5 Returns . Really important practice hitting deep and in, often forgotten.

6 Mentally Prepare. Chat or self talk . What is your game plan with you partner, just a quick reminder ? How will you beat you opponent ?

 

 

How to beat a pusher

Beating a pusher a a tricky task as they get a lot back and they make you make errors. To beat a pusher you must stick to your game and stay aggressive and be patient. They will not give you much pace so you therefore have more time to generate pace but often leads to errors as players mentally get frustrated.

MENTAL 

Controlled aggression is required to beat them

Patience is required as they will get a lot of balls back

Take risks. There is a fine line but you have to be able to finish the point when you get the chance. This is however when errors are made so knowing when to finish and take shots on.

TACTICALLY

Take their time away. Take the ball early and / or move to the net. Look to step inside the baseline to take on mid and short balls.

Play too your strengths. Use for example your big forehand or your volleys to help build and finish the point

They will make errors. Forced errors rather than unforced errors. By using angles for example this will make them run and create space to finish the point.

TECHNIQUE

Trust your swing. Go for your shots with a full swing.

Use topspin if you have it. Use it to your advantage. Brush up the back with a fast racquet.

Keep good technique don;t fall back to pushing and shortening your swing. Us topspin to be able to a

PHYSICAL 

Good endurance is required as the rallies will be longer.

Take you time in between points to recover.

Breathe out when you hit shot to help with breathing. Also big deep and controlled breathes in between points.

Strength Exercises for One Hand Backhand

This is a great exercise for one hand backhand players. The movements in the shoulder include external rotation and extension, the wrist supinates and requires the core to be engaged. 3 Sets of 1o reps as a warm up or add to strength program. Weight’s could be used instead between 1-5kg. For variety try on 1 leg or in a bent over position

Improve your ankle mobility for more power in your shots and more

Ankle mobility is key to all shots and by improving your ankle mobility can help your sprints and change of direction around the court. Also with a mobile ankle can help with increased leg drive in shots and help produce greater force into the shot and help with balance for execution of a shot (fine skill)

Are my ankles Mobile …(self screen)

To check them ideally go to a physiotherapist and they can screen you. To self screen you can get a ruler and put it against the wall measure the distance from the wall required to meet the knee on the wall from a standing position to the knee touching the wall. The foot must stay on the floor as the heel will be tempted to lift off the floor.

Ankle Mobility Program…

Exercise 1 – Standing leg squat. stand on 1 leg and lower yourself as if you are sitting into a chair.

Exercise 2 – Resistance Band Toe Flex. Hold a band or towel under the foot and point towards and away from the body with a straight leg

Exercise 3 – Calf raises on a step. heel off the step and go up and down

Exercise 4 – Ankle roles. Role in and out . Then stand so you have a neutral standing position

 

Meditation for Sports

My yoga story started with a friend suggesting Yoga for sports after Matchday. I learnt that yoga was more than trying to reach for my toes and about mindfulness for example keeping calm and controlling emotions in the session and in tennis matches.

5 reasons how meditation can help with sport…

1 Relaxation & control emotions – relaxing the mind helps relax the body. We all get tight from time to time on big points and learning to relax in a yoga session can help in a sports match. Also it can help with being a hot head or being too cool with understanding how you are feeling.

2 Help Focus – Oh my god, how many times have I been doing well in a match then I start thinking ahead of the trophy, what I am doing later or who is that watching me play. Using the ‘third eye’ to channel your mind can help keep focus and train attention and ignore what is going on around you.

3 Reduces the mind from ruminating and negative cycles – We all have doubts that creep in life and in sport. We are not robots but we can beat the chimp on the shoulder by batting away negative thoughts and keeping the mind on track .

4 Increase endurance – If we can concentrate for longer we can last longer, like a duracell bunny . However, the bunny can not keep going if it is switched off!! Even if we have good physical endurance and a full tank , it still requires a driver to steer in the right direction.

5 Improve sleep patterns – we all know that if we have a good night sleep we will play better the next day. Also after a training session a good night sleep can help with recovery. Often our mind has so many things going on, so to be able to relax and swtich off before going to sleep and help with training and on match day.

Coming Soon – How to meditate & visualise!!!