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eeping Fit

Strength Training For Tennis

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series

Depending on your activity schedule, you may train two or three days per week. Research shows that three sessions per week are somewhat more effective than two sessions, but either exercise protocol will produce excellent strength results if you follow the recommended training guidelines. In fact, in our most recent studies, one weekly workout provided almost 70 percent as much strength development as three training days. This should be good news for the active tennis player who is concerned about time constraints and overtraining.

Advanced Strength Exercise
After two months of basic training, you should be ready for some more advanced strength exercises. Some of these will replace the introductory exercises, while others will provide supplementary training relevant to tennis performance.

Let's begin with the powerful leg muscles that generate the force for your ground strokes, as well as your movements across the court. Instead of training the quadriceps and hamstrings separately, replace the leg extension and leg curl with the leg press that works both of these muscle groups and the gluteals simultaneously. The leg press permits heavier weightloads, and is the best exercise for developing functional leg strength. In addition to the quadriceps and hamstrings, the hip adductors and abductors play a major role in your weight shifts and lateral movements. These opposing muscle groups on the inner and outer thighs are best trained with the hip adductor and hip abductor machines, which should be added to your strength exercise program.

Due to the stop-and-go movements that require almost continuous force production and shock absorption in the lower leg muscles, it is prudent to perform some calf strengthening exercises. The calf machine or standing calf raises are highly effective for targeting the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the lower leg, and serve as an excellent supplement to the upper leg exercises.

The power generated by the large leg muscles is transferred to the upper body through the muscles of the midsection. Swinging movements (ground strokes and serves) involve the internal and external oblique muscles on both sides of the midsection. These important muscles may be effectively strengthened on the dual-action rotary torso machine, which works the right internal and left external obliques on clockwise movements, and the left internal and right exernal obliqueson counter-clockwise movements. Add the rotary torso exercise to the low back and abdominal machines for comprehensive midsection conditioning.

Upper Body
The major upper body muscles involved in swinging a tennis racquet are the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and deltoids of the torso, and the biceps and triceps of the arms. While the basic strength training program addresses these muscles individually, it may be advantageous to work some of the groups together. This is best accomplished by doing pushing and pulling exercises such as bench presses, seated rows, overhead presses, and pulldowns.

The bench press is a popular pushing exercise that strengthens the pectoralis major and triceps muscle at the same time. Conversely, the seated row is an effective pulling exercise that works the opposing latissimus dorsi and biceps muscles simultaneously.

One of the best means for training the shoulder and triceps muscles together is the overhead press. The counterpart to this exercise is the pulldown that involves both the latissimus dorsi and biceps muscles.

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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