How To Train A Week Before A Tennis TournamentFeb 15, 2021
There is preparing for a tournament and then there is really preparing for a tournament.
Many player's preparations fall way short of what they should. Getting your preparation right will often be the difference between winning a match or losing it, particularly the deeper you go in a tournament, the better prepared you need your body to be. Makes sense right?
There are a number of areas we need to consider when looking at how to best prepare for tennis tournaments. Today in this blog I want to give you an overview of areas to consider and give you tips you can start to apply. Let’s go!
Having had worked on the pro tour for 15 years, I would like to think we know how to get a tennis athlete prepped the week leading into a tournament.
The focus during this week is to freshen up, fine-tune, build confidence and most importantly stay injury-free! Tennis Injuries are killers right before a tournament. The week before a tournament the work should already be done. You do not want to overtrain this week and we do not want to get a player feeling anxious by making them feel they are underprepared or not doing things well.
The week leading into a major tournament, tennis practice and tennis training should be lighter in volume (duration) than usual, but the intensity should reflect the level of play we are aiming to get during matches. The on-court practice sessions should be aimed at working on any minor technical requirements, match play (practice sets), and point structure - how to structure points working to your strengths.
When it comes to preparing your body for tournaments this is where your off-court training and recovery comes into play. Some players prefer to do nothing regarding off-court training the week leading into a tournament. This in my opinion is a big loss for those players.
Fine-tuning your movement, keeping your neuromuscular system highly active, and keeping your body loose and supple is a given for any athlete wanting to perform at their best. It takes a high level of diligence to get this right. Most pros do this extremely well, they what we call “Taper” down the week leading into a major tournament, but they definitely do nothing except hit balls.
The week leading into a major tournament, I recommend the Tennis Strength and Conditioning side of your preparation should be set up as follows.
How To Train A Week Before A Tennis Tournament
Pre-training – Breathwork (2-3 minutes of breathing exercises and visualization) mobility (dynamic stretching), activation of stabilizing muscles around the shoulder girdle, hips, and core.
Post Training – Cooldown run/bike for 2-5 min, foam roller (muscle release), and static stretching (40-60sec isometric stretch holds) these areas should target areas that the specific individual carries their tension in e.g, calf complex and gluts.
Some extra options (most pros do these) we recommend. A Tennis Sports Massage, daily ice bath (submerge legs and torso in 10-12 degree water for 10min after the last session of the day), hot bath at the end of the day - twice over the week.
Ok, now we get into my favorite part of the blog, the training week leading into a tournament.
What do you do?
Here is what I recommend and why I recommend it.
6 days out – Tennis Speed Drills: A range of speed drills that target top-end speed, acceleration, and deceleration (braking). Making sure you work on multiple planes of movement (linear, lateral, diagonal, backward) allows your body to work at high speed in preparation for the matches ahead. Also including acceleration/deceleration drills help fine-tune your first step and braking steps.
5 days out – Tennis Strength Exercises: A range of tennis-specific strength-based exercises targeting the primal movement patterns (lunge, squat, bend, push, pull, and rotation). I recommend low reps (4-6), fast tempo (1:1), and 2-5 sets depending on the player. I consider this session crucial for the lead-up. Doing the specific lifts helps recruit specific muscles and maintain the strength base that has been developed prior.
4 days out – Tennis Agility Drills: Specific on-court movement drills. These drills are good to do leading into tournaments due to the fact you can isolate certain movements, changes of direction, etc that a player may be having issues with. Duration = 15-20min. Short bursts (10-15sec) of high-intensity movement followed by a long rest up to 1 minute.
3 days out – Tennis Plyometric Exercises: Plyo training involves dynamic jumping, bounding and we also incorporate medicine ball drills into the session. The focus of this session is to work on a player’s dynamic capabilities. It is important to keep players loose, stable, and powerful just before a tournament. These drills are a great way to challenge the neuromuscular system and fine-tune those specific power movement patterns that are used on the court during play. Drills like Lateral bounds, Med ball throw downs, Med ball side throws, and Single leg hops are some good options. Duration = 20min. Low reps (4-8). High intensity. Long recovery, up to 1min.
2 days out – Tennis Footspeed & Reaction Drills: This session would include a selection of drills designed to have players moving their feet at maximum speed, an example would be stepping forward and back over a line as many times as possible for a 5sec period. Adding in reaction drills also focusing on the first step towards the ball and hand eye co-ordination. This is really important to do prior to matches as it overstimulates the body and gets everything firing. It is important to be aggressive and confident with movement and attitude in this session to reinforce the confidence level needed.
Duration = 10min. Low reps (5-10 sec). High intensity. Long recovery, up to 1min.
1 day out – Core/Stability session: This session would incorporate some specific core exercises an example would be banded rotations, in combination with some shoulder stability an example would be a banded 90/90 degree external rotation and hip stability an example would be a banded monster walk. This session would be relaxed and very light. It is a good opportunity to connect with the areas of the body we want to be really active and utilize during tennis play, it is important to reinforce this to the player. The focus should be on technique, connection to the movement/muscles, and breathing.
The aim of this session is not to fatigue the body just switch on and engage certain areas.
Duration = 15-20min. Moderate reps (10-15). Low intensity. Moderate recovery, up to 30sec.
So, there you have a brief overview of how to prepare for a tournament. Getting it right requires feedback from the player and working with them and their needs to ensure they are being heard and feel that the preparation is ideal for them. In saying that, some players can get lazy or due to being anxious will not want to do anything other than hit prior to a tournament, it takes education and a slow incremental approach to swing some players around to doing a little extra prep before they play.
I will leave you with this. If you keep the main focus on recovery - mobility, foam rolling, stretching, ice baths, hot bath and massage, any combination that works for the player and keeping the body stimulated and engaged – Strength, Movement, Stability, Power, and reaction, then you will do a good job of having a player ready to go and far less prone to injury during matches!
If you want more detail and clarity on the training sessions above, our tennis-specific programs for players of all ages, stages, and abilities check them out here.
So now you know a bit more about how you should train and prepare leading into a tournament. You may be asking yourself, what exercises and structure do I follow?
To help you out, our team has put together a range of online tennis-specific programs to help you achieve a higher level of tennis athleticism. You can utilize our programs to help you better prepare for tournaments! Win more matches by being as prepared as you can be!
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