When it comes to tennis exercise and preparing your body to play your best tennis, it is important to do the right things at the right time. That includes resting and changing what you do, even if you feel your current routine works. Tennis training variety is often overlooked.
Some people prefer consistency, so do the same things all the time then often wonder why they are not improving. Others jump from tennis program to another without allowing the body time to adapt.
Whatever your "training personality", it is vital for long-term development (at any age) and performance to phase the tennis training you do. Often known as tennis periodization, phase training is as important as your actual tennis exercises. This is how it works ...
TENNIS TRAINING PERIODISATION
General: High training volume and low intensity. Focus is on endurance and strength. Your tennis training can be general and non-tennis specific at the start (cross-training). This is a good time to work on tennis training techniques.
Ratio: 30 percent on the court, 70 percent off-court training; Phase length: 4–6 weeks
Specific: Low volume and high intensity. Focus on more specific tennis training variables (anaerobic endurance, speed, and power endurance). This is a good time to work on fine-tuning technique and match strategy.
Ratio: 50 percent on the court, 50 percent off-court training; Phase length: 3–6 weeks
Pre-competition: Low volume and high intensity. Focus is on power, agility and speed, match play, and individualized fine-tuning of technique and mental preparation. During this phase, the focus shifts from off-court training to predominately on-court tennis training.
Ratio: 70 percent on the court, 30 percent off-court training; Phase length: 2–4 weeks
Competition: This phase is all about physically peaking, so involves very low volume and high intensity. The focus is to maintain the tennis fitness level and fine-tune physical capabilities. On-court sessions should be match-specific. Off-court sessions should consist of foot speed, power, agility, and reaction. Phase length is dependent on the level of the player and their tournament schedule.
TRANSITION: This is a time for players to rest and recover, with little-to-no time on court. Players can engage in other sports at a moderate level. During this phase players often feel guilty about not hitting, but the rest and recovery help them prepare for the workload ahead and provides the opportunity to assess, set goals, and plan for the future. It’s all about achieving the right balance.
Phase length: 1–3 weeks
BENEFITS How does a periodization plan benefit your game?
- Reduces the risk of overtraining (burnout)
- Injury prevention
- Encourages performance peaking
- Motivates players
- Alleviates boredom
- Educates players on what and when to do certain training
IMPLEMENTATION: Some important steps to consider when planning a tennis periodization plan.
1. Decide when you want to peak (goal setting). As tournaments run almost year round, it is important to target your peak period. It is not realistic to peak year-round. Planning training around ideal peak times will keep you motivated, have you better physically prepared, and help keep you injury-free.
2. Focus on quality not quantity, especially during pre-competition phases.
3. Conduct specific tennis fitness testing (annually as a minimum). Ideally, do so prior to the preparation phase and then re-test.
Continually adding variety to training is key to overall success. Combined with mixing up volume, intensity, frequency, and specific focuses, it will help produce better results.
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