One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost your game is to improve your tennis conditioning intensity.
I remember watching Lleyton Hewitt train his arse off for 10 years, I pushed him and challenged him in various ways, things were never easy and he always wanted the hardest option as a first choice.
Lleyton trained with such a high-intensity off-court, during his tennis conditioning sessions, that when he was on the court his body and mind were conditioned to the load and volume he encountered during matches and practice. He simply put his body and mind in environments that challenged them, he did it consistently and always looked to improve from the session before.
This kept his level of intensity always on the up and as his body and mind adapted, he was better prepared and ready for whatever he was up against.
In this day and age, I see young players on the downward slide with their training intensity. When the intensity gets too much and players start “feeling it” they take the easy option - tank, look at their coach for help, and my least favorite “Make an excuse”
Excuses lead to comfort in making them and this spirals very quickly into a “quitters mindset” A young player will never achieve anything with this attitude.
What needs to happen is that we need to be tougher on our players, get them working much harder, and doing it consistently. First, we need to get the buy-in from them and this comes with educating them.
How To Improve Tennis Conditioning Intensity
Start by discussing how hard pros physically work on the court and how hard they push during their tennis conditioning sessions. Mention the fact players don’t’ just “get there” they have to work harder than everyone else, consistently. Throw some stats at them (how fast pros move, how long their matches last, the fact they back it up day after day, the speed of shots, etc.)
We are not expecting or encouraging young players to spend the hours on court, working as hard as pros do. What we are trying to achieve is the mindset that “I am doing everything I can and giving all I can, in every moment”
Then encourage them to push themselves to the point of feeling uncomfortable and let them experience it and realize it's ok and that they can handle it. Then you need to get them experiencing it consistently (x 2-3 times weekly) at a young age.
This is how we allow our bodies to adapt physically and mentally. Does it hurt? Yes. Do you get used to it and adjust? Yes.
The fact is, most players never get to the point where they will experience their upper level of fitness. Purely due to the fact they don’t work hard enough, regularly enough.
If you’re a coach or tennis trainer reading this and working with players who want to be professionals, it is your responsibility to adjust your player's training intensity. You should never let a player dictate how hard they train.
One way we establish a player’s intensity threshold is by putting them through our tennis fitness assessments. A range of tests designed to push them to the max. We find most players tap out way earlier than they should. One test, in particular, the 1.2 MAS tennis test we developed, puts players in an environment where they have 2 ways out (tap out early or push until they have nothing left).
It is one of the last tests they do and I always tell them it’s brutal and they are going to feel sick after it. Most of the time I’m standing there watching them and talking to them (don’t you stop, you have more left in you, etc.).
It is not the time they get I’m interested in; the result is far from everything. It is the way they push themselves that matters. I’ve learned that if a player can push themselves and have a high-intensity threshold, it is easy to get results out of them.
I'll finish with this;
Having worked in Spain as a tennis trainer, it never surprises me why Spanish players consistently make up 10% of the top 100 players on the ATP tour. It is not a magic formula. They get the technique good (not perfect). They push their athletes every day and expect them to give everything. They don’t make excuses as options. This culture produces a winner’s attitude and gets them working at the intensity that is needed to make it.
I encourage everyone to get as much as they can out of themselves and those they work with. Find your own ways, use some of ours, but get it done.
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