Power is the most talked about feature of modern tennis. It is the one single component that has shaped the game we know today. When we talk about power tennis (think Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin, Roger Federer, the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova) it is the ability to accelerate and coordinate not only the racket, but also the movement of the relevant body parts that is crucial. Power is determined by your ability to exert forces quickly. Genetics determines your potential for speed of movement and therefore your power. However, it is now known that even if you are not blessed with an initial abundance of fast-twitch fibres (type 2b) – the muscle type best suited to quick explosive movements – appropriate training can improve your situation. It is possible to train in such a way that not only increases the number of fast-twitch fibres you have but also increases the speed at which they fire (work) and the rate at which you can access them during performance. As power is a product of force (strength) and speed, any increase in either of these components, especially speed, will improve your power. While training both components individually will lead to gains in power, training them together – a process called complex training – will give you the biggest increases. Complex training is when a traditional resistance exercise is performed and immediately followed by a matched plyometrics (high-speed) exercise. Following are some complex training exercises I use with the Tennis GB Girls squad players. Before attempting this kind of training it’s crucial to perform a thorough warm-up routine first to prevent doing yourself serious damage. To gain the most from these workouts it’s important to be physically fresh (as well as highly motivated), so if possible avoid training hard for at least 48 hours before a complex session. Fasttwitch fibres are not magically recruited, you need to be focused and perform the exercises as explosively as possible.
Try these exercises!
1. ABDOMINAL CRUNCH FOLLOWED BY MEDICINE BALL SITUP AND THROW This sequence trains the abdominal muscles for core power. Start by lying on your back with your legs and feet up at 90 degrees with your feet crossed. With your hands on your temples (not behind the head) and abdominal muscles drawn in towards the spine, crunch up by raising the shoulders off the floor, keeping the head still. Perform 15 repetitions. Immediately afterwards go to the same start position but with a medicine ball held in both hands behind your head. Sit up using your abs and throw the medicine ball powerfully towards a partner or against a wall. Do six throws, have two minutes rest and perform the sequence again.
2. LUNGES FOLLOWED BY BAG JUMPS This sequence trains leg explosion and overall power. Start by standing up straight with hands on hips and lunge forwards until your front leg is at 90 degrees. Come straight back up to the start position, alternating legs for 12 reps. Immediately afterwards stand with your feet together and knees slightly bent in front of a large racket bag and explode up, bringing your knees towards the chest and landing softly on the other side of the bag. Turn round and repeat for six jumps. Rest for two minutes and do the sequence again.
3.BENT OVER DUMBBELL ROWS FOLLOWED BY MEDICINE BALL FOREHANDS AND BACKHANDS This is an upper body sequence, training the back muscles in order to provide power on groundstrokes. Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the knees. Bend over, keeping a straight back. Hold the dumbbells at full arms’ length (see main pic opposite) then draw them up in rowing motions, keeping the arms close to your body, drawing your shoulder blades in together. Use a weight suitable for you to do 12 repetitions. With no rest this is followed by a forehand throw with a medicine ball. Throw the ball against a wall or to a partner. Do six forehand throws followed by six backhands. Perform the whole sequence twice with two minutes of rest in between.
4. TRICEP DIPS FOLLOWED BY OVERHEAD MEDICINE BALL THROWS This sequence trains overhead power. Using a bench or a step as we did, with your legs bent or outstretched and your weight supported on your hands (facing forwards not backwards) behind you, lower yourself until your elbows are at 90 degrees then come back up again. Perform 12 reps. Immediately afterwards, start in a standing position with a medicine ball behind your head and throw the ball to a partner or a wall as if you were doing a football throw-in. Do six throws, rest for two minutes and repeat the sequence.
5. FOLLOWED BY A KNEELING MEDICINE BALL CHEST PASS This sequence trains upper body explosion. Start in a classic press-up position, arms and back straight, on your toes and the abdominals drawn in. Then lower by bending the arms to 90 degrees and keeping the back straight. Perform 12 repetitions. Immediately afterwards, kneel holding a medicine ball in front of your chest and explode the ball with a chest pass motion to a partner or a wall. As the momentum is forwards you may need to fall on to your hands after the throw to support yourself. Gently get back up and go again, performing six throws. Rest for two minutes and repeat the sequence.
Before starting any fitness programs consult with your physician.