Category Archives for "Fitness"

11 Fitness Principles That Improved My Tennis Game

11 Fitness Principles for Competitive Tennis Players

In 2011, I learned an unforgettable lesson about the importance of fitness training.  The day after I took the bar exam, I played tennis and worked out as much as possible.   I had slaved away for the past 4 months studying 10+ hours a day, and come hell or highwater, I was going to make up for the lost time!  It proved to be a foolish move.  I wasn't fit enough to workout in the morning, play tennis for 2 hours, and workout again in the evening, but I tried to anyway. 

I still remember the moment I pushed up from the 9th rep of a high-bar squat during my evening workout, when I heard a crack.  My knee was in pain, and when I visited the doctor, he diagnosed me with a knee condition called chondromalacia.  Gulp. ūüôĀ

I underwent several months of rehab exercises and weird knee creaking noises whenever I stood up from a seated position. It was during this time that I first understood how important it is to have an organized, goal-oriented, and sensible approach to fitness training.  Without it, I wouldn't be able to play the game that I love for much longer.

Tennis players routinely ignore and underestimate fitness training with well-thought out comments, such as "fitness doesn't matter bro, work on technique."  Fitness does matter, way more than the average tennis player comprehends.

This realization motivated me to become a certified Tennis Performance Trainer by the International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA).  I've also interviewed some of the greatest tennis fitness experts on the planet on my podcast, like Dr. Mark Kovacs, Todd EllenbeckerAllistair McCawDean Hollingworth, and Dominic King.  And I had the pleasure of attending the iTPA World Tennis Fitness Conference in July, where I met Andre Agassi's fitness coach Gil Reyes

There are several key fitness principles I've learned which, based on speaking to many of you in my audience and reading tennis forums, are either unknown or not practiced by much of the tennis community. Your talent will never be realized if you don't put in the work to level up your fitness.  Below are the 11 most important fitness principles that improved my tennis game.

1. You Need Fitness Training to Improve and Avoid Injuries

When you witness the incredible play of the top professionals, like Federer and Nadal, their amazing offensive and defensive plays would not be possible without fitness training.  In particular, the top players have all developed a world-class level of tennis-specific power.  Power is a combination of strength and speed.  When you see a player rip a forehand or explode up and into the serve, those are power movements.  All tennis players can improve their game by increasing their power output.  Great technique is extremely important, but when you are satisfied with your technique on a particular stroke, the next step to improving it is by developing more power. 

Another reason for fitness training is protecting yourself from injury.  Why do we get injured? There are many reasons, including overuse, muscle imbalances, and a lack of strength and/or flexibility.  When you increase your strength, you protect your body against injuries.  The same muscle that keeps getting pounded on the tennis court or when hitting the ball will be able to withstand many more reps without breaking down when you are stronger.  Think about it this way: the extra 30-45 minutes you put into fitness training a couple times a week can dramatically increase your chances of playing tennis injury-free, at a higher level, and for a lifetime. Does fitness training sound more appealing now?  

Think about all the injuries  that happened on the tour recently (Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic, Bethany Mattek-Sands, Milos Raonic, and the list goes on). The best in the world devote a significant amount of time to their fitness to prevent injuries and improve their performance.  It makes sense for us to do the same.

2. You Need a Long-Term, Goal-Oriented Workout Plan Before You Start Training

When I first started training to improve my tennis fitness, I went to the gym and did a bunch of random exercises with weights. It's a great first step, except I didn't have a long-term plan for how I wanted to improve physically.  Nor did I have a clue how the way I was training would impact my game. Was my 3 sets of 10 of bench press, squats, dumbbell flys and bicep curls going to result in increased muscle gains, strength, endurance, or power? Which muscles and tennis strokes would be most affected by my workout? What was the ultimate purpose of me training in the gym, and would I reach that goal with my routine?

Answer the following questions below to help you and your coach or fitness trainer create an optimal long-term training plan:

  1. Self-Assessment: What are your strengths, weaknesses, and physical limitations? 
  2. Timing: What part of the year do you need to reach your peak physical fitness levels?
  3. Sequence: When and in what order will you train for general fitness, strength, endurance, hypertrophy (muscle mass), and power (the ultimate goal)?
  4. Routine:  What exercises and how many repetitions/sets will you use during your workouts, and how many days per week will you train?
  5. Rest: When will you designate rest periods in between your workout days and training cycles?
  6. Debrief: How did your game improve as a result of your training, and what will you change differently for the next training cycle?

The fittest players have specific, long-term plans organized in phases (i.e. they periodize their training) so they peak for the biggest tournaments.   All too often the amateur tennis player sees a couple of exercises on Youtube and adds them to his or her routine without thinking about their effects.   You can't just randomly schlep together a few exercises and expect to be the next David Ferrer on the court in a few weeks. It can take several months or longer to reach peak performance levels, but it will be worth it when you are the fittest tennis player you've ever been in your life.

Use the criteria above to help you construct an effective long-term workout plan, or you can get my free tennis fitness workout guide to help you get started.  

3. Different Rep/Set/Weight Ranges Train Different Performance Goals

Another principle of fitness training that you may not realize is the effect of the number of sets, repetitions, and weight you use during training.  For example, lifting 3 sets of 10 repetitions with light weights will have a different effect on your body than 4 sets of 5 repetitions with heavy weights.  The amount of weight that fitness professionals suggest you lift is often based on your "one-rep max," which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition.  

I put together a simple graphic below to illustrate how many sets, reps, and the amount of weight you should use to train different areas of your fitness:  


Rep range: 4-8 repetitions

Sets: 3-5 

Weight: 70-90% of 1-rep max  


Reps: 6-12 repetitions

Sets: 3-4  

Weight: 60-80% of 1-rep max.


Rep range: 15-30 repetitions

Sets: 3-5 

Weight: 40-60% of 1-rep max


Rep range: 6 or less repetitions 

Sets: 3-5

Weight: 30-60% of 1-rep max

To figure out your one-rep maximum and receive free sample tennis workout routines, click here

A note of caution: you can also develop strength using less than four repetitions with heavier (over 90% 1RM) weights, but I especially recommend that you have a spotter and learn perfect technique on the exercises in this case, or you might injure yourself. Be careful!

4. The Type of Stretching Before and After You Play Are Totally Different

Dynamic stretching is far superior to static stretching before playing matches and training.   This type of stretching activates the muscles that will be used during play/training but does not involve holding the stretch at the end position like static stretching.  Examples of dynamic stretching are arm circles, knee to chest walk, and lateral lunges.  Before playing, I warm up my body with light jogging or the elliptical for 5 minutes or so, followed by dynamic stretching to activate my tennis muscles.  The proper time to perform static stretching (i.e. lying hamstring stretch, pec stretch) is after training and/or competition.  

There are numerous studies (thank you, science!) concluding that power output from athletes is substantially lower if static stretching is performed pre-competition rather than dynamic stretching.  The reduced performance from static stretching has been shown to last for 60 minutes.  Power is an extremely important component of tennis and the science shows that dynamic stretching will enhance athletic performance in place of static stretching.  

I have committed to my dynamic and static stretching more than ever this past year with fantastic results.  Here's my routine for pre and post-match preparation/recovery:

  1. General warm-up (i.e. jog, bike)
  2. Dynamic Stretching (i.e. knee to chest, lunges, arm circles)
  3. Play Tennis or Physical Training
  4. Static Stretching (i.e. shoulder stretch, quadricep stretch)
  5. Other Recovery Techniques (i.e. massage, foam roll, ice bath)

You can check out Episode 57 of The Tennis Files Podcast to hear me talk about my warm-up routines in more detail.  

5. Weight Training Does NOT Make You Slow and Inflexible if You Implement the Right Training Program

It's not the weights that can make you slow, it's the way you train.  One of the main goals of a resistance training program for tennis players is to develop maximal power output with a small amount of weight (i.e. swinging your tennis racquet).  However, if your workout routine is not properly designed for developing power, then you may end up becoming slower on the court.  For example, using a set/rep scheme of 4 sets of 15 reps with light weights or 5 sets of 5 reps with a very heavy weight without a power or agility/speed phase in your long-term training plan could set you back a step or two.

This is why you have to understand the different ways that training variables affect your physical abilities.  See #3 above for the effect of different set/rep/weight schemes on your physical training.  A properly structured long-term training plan will help you be more explosive and fitter on the court.  Either you or a qualified trainer must choose the right mix of exercises and parameters that will get you quicker, faster, stronger, and fitter by the time your big tournaments or USTA league matches take place. This handy tennis fitness workout guide I created for you will help you get started.

6. Your Fitness Affects Your Technique More Than You Think

Tennis technique and a fit body and mind are intertwined.  In tennis, you must perform the same technical movements over and over again with similar power outputs to play optimally on the court.  Has your technique ever gone down the tubes after fatigue set in?  I'm sure that just about every player on the planet has.  But if you implement the right exercises and a proper rep/set/weight and work-rest ratios in your training, you can maintain and improve your technique during long matches.  Good technique is about having the strength to perform a movement efficiently through the entire range of motion over and over again.  If you have a shoulder injury or a tight lower back, you won't be able to perform proper technique once, let alone hundreds of times during the course of a couple sets.  

Another example is the loading phase of the serve.  Have you wondered why you or other players aren't able to get into an optimal loading position like the pros do? There's a good chance this is due to inflexibility, lack of strength, and/or muscle imbalances as much as it could be a lack of proper technical knowledge.  Injury prevention, improved power output on the court, and the ability to perform at a high-level for a long period of time are all benefits of a proper tennis fitness regimen that can also make a huge difference in your technique.   And don't make your age an excuse, because you can always improve your physical qualities with consistent effort and dedication!  

7. Tennis Technique is All About Using Your Kinetic Chain Efficiently

From the moment I interviewed Dr. Kovacs on my podcast, I became a huge fan.  He is one of the most knowledgeable sports performance experts on the planet, and that's no exaggeration.  One of his most well-known research papers is about the 8-stage model of the tennis serve.  Mark's session on the Tennis Technique Summit that I hosted several months ago was the most watched of all 30 coaches.  The 8-stage model of the tennis serve explains how the optimal serve can only be achieved through a total body effort in specific phases, starting from the lower body upwards.  If a link in the chain is broken (under-rotation of the hips, for example), the player will lose power and acceleration.  

The kinetic chain applies to all tennis strokes.  And what you see on the court every day, especially from the 2.5-4.0 levels, is players arming their strokes.  Most people think about using the arms first, which makes sense.  It is reasonable to assume that you swing the racquet and hit the ball with your arm.  But then the rest of the body will not contribute to the stroke, as it must do to achieve full power.   Dr. Kovacs's research paper breaks down the serve into the following phases: (1) Preparation (2) Release (3) Loading (4) Cocking (5) Acceleration (6) Contact (7) Deceleration (8) Finish.  It is a very enlightening read, and I highly recommend you check it out.  You must use your kinetic chain if you want to have efficient and effective tennis strokes.

8. Train Based on Your Style of Play and Your Strengths/Weaknesses

What's your style of play?  If you grind at the baseline, but your footwork training is exclusively sprints, that's not smart training.  In fact, baseliners move laterally about 70% of the time.  Similarly, if you only train your chest and back in the gym, you are neglecting far more important power sources, like your core and lower body.  Here's an example of training for your style of play: if you serve and volley, you should perform lunges in different directions, since lunges are a very sport-specific move for volleying. If you lack flexibility, you need to concentrate on performing an adequate amount of stretches (dynamic pre-training, static post-training).  Lately, I've recognized that my left IT band tends to get tight, so I focus on stretching and foam rolling that area more frequently.

It is always important to ask yourself why you are performing an exercise or training.   Gil Reyes told a group of us in Atlanta that Andre Agassi always asked Gil the simple question "Why?" when Gil told Andre to perform an exercise.  Andre wanted to know the purpose of each exercise he was asked to perform and how they would help his game.  You have to ask yourself the same question.  Bicep curls help you look good on the beach, but how do they fit into your overall tennis fitness goals?  Make your fitness program specific to your playing style.

9. Intake Enough Fluids, Sodium, and Carbohydrates Before, During, and After Matches

So you're going to play a tournament match and all you're drinking is water? You cannot be serious!  It's fairly common knowledge that we all need to hydrate properly. But most people ignore the importance of sodium and carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are your main source of fuel during points, and sodium is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat.  

Part of the iTPA certification course I took highlighted that we should intake 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during a match, and consume a drink with 70mg or more of sodium per 8 fluid ounces.  Since I have followed these two guidelines over the past several months, I have experienced a substantial boost in energy on the court during my matches.  I always pack a Cliff Bar and a Gatorade (or Pedialyte if it's really hot) along with water to help me through my matches.  I also like to bring bananas, dates, and pretzels if I have them.

10. Sleep is the Most Important Aspect of Recovery

Did you know that you don't build muscles while you train, you build them while you sleep?  I urge you not to fall into the trap of seeing a few celebrities or your friends boast about sleeping under 6 hours a night and think you can function optimally with the same amount of sleep deprivation. A 2011 study of the Stanford Men's Basketball team, where the players slept 10 hours a night, resulted in faster sprint times, a 9% increase in free-throw accuracy, and a 9.2% increase in three-point accuracy.  In a game of razor-thin margins, this makes a huge difference.  

Two of the greatest athletes of all-time don't play around with their sleep either: basketball superstar Lebron James averages 12 hours of sleep per night, and some relatively-unknown tennis legend-dude named Roger Federer gets around 10 hours of sleep per night.  I have experimented with sleeping under 7 hours versus 8 or more hours after my matches, and I feel way more recovered and less sore after getting more sleep.  Everyone is different, so figure out what works best for you.  If you want to fully recover from your matches, get enough sleep!

11. Consistency is Key: Start Small and Work Up

The most important aspect of a fitness program is sticking to it.  What's a better program: two thirty-minute lifting sessions per week that you can maintain, or four days of 1-hour lifting sessions that you only stick to for 2 weeks and then go back to eating cheetos on the couch?  The answer is pretty clear.  The easiest way to stick to a workout plan is to start small.  If you feel pressed for time, make it a goal to workout for 20-30 minutes twice a week.  This small goal is so manageable that the chances of you sticking to it is very high.  Then once you get used to a consistent workout schedule, you can add another day in, and/or increase the time of your workouts as needed.  

This principle reminds me of the story of the guy who hated to floss. A friend of his suggested that he try to floss just one tooth a day.  While this sounds ridiculous, it was so easy to do, so the guy started flossing one tooth a day consistently. This small victory encouraged the guy to floss more teeth, until he ended up flossing all his teeth every day.  Lesson learned: above all else, choose a workout you can consistently perform and scale up from there.

I hope that the 11 most important fitness principles that improved my tennis game will help you become a fitter, more improved tennis player.  Pick one of the principles above that resonated with you the most, implement that concept into your fitness habits, and let me know how it works out for you.  

If there is a tennis fitness principle that has helped your game that you didn't see on the list, let us know what it is by leaving a comment below.  And if you have any questions, email me at

To download a free sample tennis workout guide that I created to help you become fitter and avoid injuries, click here or fill out the short form below! Thanks for reading, and keep improving your tennis game!

TFP 056: Speed, Power, and Plyometrics with Dean Hollingworth

TFP 056: Speed, Power, and Plyometrics with Dean Hollingworth

On today’s show, I spoke with sports performance coach Dean Hollingworth about how we can train to become stronger, fitter, and faster tennis players and athletes. ¬†I first met Dean while eating breakfast before the World Tennis and Fitness Conference, hosted by the International Tennis Performance Association.¬† Dean gave a fantastic presentation about plyometrics, and I knew that he would be the perfect guest for the podcast.

Dean is the Director of Fitness and Sports Performance at Club Sportif Cote-de-Liesse (CDL) in Montreal, Canada. He has over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, and is a highly regarded author, speaker, and fitness and performance consultant.  Dean is the only strength and conditioning coach in Canada to be certified as a Master Tennis Performance Specialist by the iTPA.  He is also a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Speed and Agility Coach, and worked as the S&C coach for Canada’s Fed Cup team win against Serbia in 2014.  Dean coaches a wide gamut of athletes, including professional tennis players such as Elena Vesnina and Francoise Abanda.

We spoke about why strength and power training is essential for your tennis career, exercises to increase your strength, power and movement, why plyometrics is a great way to improve your speed and power on the court, Dean’s experience as part of Elena Vesnina’s team, and much more.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Dean, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [3:59] Why focusing on our fitness training is so important in helping us become better tennis players
  • [5:05] The¬†specific benefits we get from fitness training for tennis
  • [6:34] How Dean became a world-class fitness and sports performance coach
  • [8:31] Associations and conferences that helped Dean expand his tennis fitness knowledge
  • [9:45] Dean’s¬†first exposure to tennis.
  • [11:19] Why tennis is the hardest sport to train athletes for
  • [14:47] Should we use undulating periodization in our training?
  • [16:29] Why we must decide when we want to peak, or else we won’t improve
  • [17:54] The biggest mistakes that tennis players make in the gym
  • [19:45] Dean‚Äôs favorite thing about being a fitness coach
  • [20:53] Examples of tennis players Dean trained that focused seriously on their fitness and had a huge improvement on their game
  • [22:21] Dispelling the myth that weight training is bad for your tennis game
  • [24:53] Part of the body tennis players need to improve the most
  • [26:31]¬†The importance of ‚Äúheavy lifts‚ÄĚ i.e. deadlifts, squats, and bench press, and why single leg training is so critical
  • [29:32] How many days per week to perform fitness training, and considerations when creating a program
  • [31:34] Tips for training on the road and in faraway places with little equipment
  • [33:30] Exercises for speed training
  • [34:57] How long does each set last for speed training?
  • [36:18] What is plyometrics and how can it help our speed on the court?
  • [39:15] How to integrate plyometrics with speed training
  • [41:03] Plyometrics technique tips
  • [42:00] Plyometrics exercises you can perform to improve your speed
  • [44:47] How many reps per set should we perform for plyometrics?
  • [46:07] Key principles to help us do plyometrics the right way?
  • [48:10] If an athlete is deficient in a certain area, and you focus on that more so in their training, once they are proficient in it, do you then reduce focus on that area and train everything equally again?
  • [49:36] Static stretching routine and optimal number of exercises
  • [51:05] Dean‚Äôs advice for improving our endurance on court
  • [53:02] Should we do heavier lifts in certain parts of the season, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press, or all-year round?
  • [54:09] Dean‚Äôs experience as part of Elena Vesnina‚Äôs team at the US Open a few months ago and Elena’s professionalism¬†
  • [55:06] How Dean became a part of Elena‚Äôs team
  • [56:08] What type of fitness training Elena do before and during the US Open?
  • [57:17] How do we choose which exercise to use in our training when there are many different types and variations?
  • [58:16] Dean‚Äôs favorite memory of the US Open as part of Elena Vesnina‚Äôs team
  • [1:00:22] Dean‚Äôs experience at Tennis Congress in Arizona last month
  • [1:03:09] Dean‚Äôs plans to continue working with Elena
  • [1:03:46] Dean‚Äôs new tennis fitness video course he‚Äôs working on
  • [1:05:44] Where we can follow Dean live and online
  • [1:06:39] One key piece of advice to help you improve your tennis game

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Sample Workout Plan

Dean’s Website

Dean’s Facebook Page

Contact Dean

Dean’s Twitter Page

Dean’s Instagram Page

Tennis Technique Summit

Tennis Files Youtube Channel – Subscribe! ¬†You know you want to ūüėČ

If you enjoyed my interview with Dean, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

To improve your tennis fitness, download a free sample workout plan here! Thanks for listening!

TFP 048: Optimizing Your Strength and Conditioning Workouts with Dominic King

TFP 048: Optimizing Your Strength and Conditioning Workouts with Dominic King

On today’s episode of The Tennis Files Podcast, I spoke with¬†Dominic King, Head of Athlete Development for Everyball Tennis at Halton Tennis Centre in the United Kingdom. ¬†Dom is an expert in strength and conditioning for tennis players, and it was a great pleasure speaking with him and learning about many important principles and tips about tennis fitness.

Dom has a very accomplished background. He is an iTPA Master Tennis Performance Specialist (MTPS), one of only a small number of people to hold this designation worldwide. Dom is also an Accredited Strength & Conditioning Coach (ASCC) with the UK Strength & Conditioning Association, and an NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES). Dom holds numerous other professional qualifications as well. 

Dom trains club players anywhere from 8 to 80 + years old and loves helping each player improve and develop as a tennis athlete. We covered several important areas of tennis strength and conditioning, including how players can optimize their workouts, optimal rep ranges and recovery periods, and key exercises to improve your tennis game.  I hope you enjoy my interview with Dom!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [3:16]¬†What made Dom decide to specialize in the fitness side of tennis?
  • [5:19] Dom’s competitive tennis background
  • [6:27] Accreditations and degrees Dom finds the most useful for his profession as a tennis strength and conditioning expert
  • [9:13] Mehrban talks about taking the iTPA exam to become a certified Tennis Performance Trainer in 3 months
  • [10:15] Athletes/coaches Dom looked up to the most when he was figuring out his career path
  • [12:43]¬†How many strength and conditioning sessions do Dom’s players usually partake in per week?
  • [14:30]¬†How long does each S&C training session last for on average?
  • [15:50] How should we split our workouts in terms of what part of the body is being worked out (i.e. legs day, arms day, push-pull etc.)?
  • [17:43] Why¬†working out for a tennis player is different than general weight training
  • [21:53] Rep ranges and recovery periods that Dom’s players use, and whether it varies on the off season or type of workout
  • [25:10]¬†Is there a use for low rep ranges and 90%+ of 1 rep max for tennis players?
  • [27:52]¬†3 exercises that transfer into better performance on the court
  • [32:39]¬†Is the bench press a useful exercise for tennis players?
  • [34:33]¬†How often you should change up a workout routine
  • [36:44]¬†Should we use tennis-specific exercises in our weight training, or should we get players strong in a more traditional manner first?
  • [39:30]¬†The biggest mistake that tennis players make when training
  • [42:20] Tips for players to maintain their strength and conditioning while constantly traveling on the road to tournaments
  • [46:42]¬†Can players have a good S&C workout without weights?
  • What types of equipment do you suggest they use?
  • [48:39] Use of the legs and rotation to generate power and what we can learn from boxing and other combat sports
  • [53:10] How¬†important are the legs for the serve?
  • [55:57]¬†What other sports are most similar to tennis?
  • [58:44]¬†Dom’s¬†experiences working with players of all different ages
  • [1:04:17]¬†A¬†typical day training tennis players at Halton Tennis Centre in the UK
  • [1:07:00]¬†3 books Dom would gift to a friend to help them increase their knowledge about tennis fitness and strength and conditioning.
  • [1:09:18]¬†Where we can find Dom online and in person
  • [1:11:04] One myth about strength and conditioning for tennis
  • [1:12:28] One key tip to help you improve your strength and conditioning for tennis

Subscribe to automatically download new episodes!

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Click this icon, click¬†the blue “View in iTunes” button, then hit “Subscribe.”


Subscribe on Android

Or hit the subscribe button in your favorite podcast app!


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Links Mentioned in the Show

Dom’s Website –¬†

Dom on Twitter – DomJKing

International Tennis Performance Association 

Complete Conditioning for Tennis

Tuesday’s with Morrie¬†(Dom’s book recommendation)

TFP 033: Dr. Mark Kovacs – Strength and Conditioning for Tennis Players

TFP 039: Todd Ellenbecker – Injury Prevention and Recovery

Dom’s Email Address –¬†

Tennis Technique Summit

Note: Some of the¬†links above are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking them, I make Eleventy-Billion dollars a small commission that helps support the podcast. Thanks either way! ūüôā

If you enjoyed my interview with Dom, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success below! Thanks for listening!

2 TFP 039: Todd Ellenbecker On Injury Prevention and Recovery

TFP 039: Todd Ellenbecker‚ÄĒInjury Prevention and Recovery

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Todd Ellenbecker, DPT, MS, SCS, OCS, CSCS (whew!). Todd is the Vice President of Medical Services for the ATP Tour and a Director of Physiotherapy Associates Scottsdale Sports Clinic in Arizona. He was kind enough to join me to talk about injury prevention and recovery for tennis players.

I received a ton of questions from all of you because injuries are a huge part of the game. We must take measures to prevent injuries, and properly recover when we have the misfortune of getting them. Otherwise, we will not be able to play the sport we love for very long.

Todd’s advice goes beyond helping your tennis game, and will help you lead a much healthier, more functional life. If you don’t make time to work on your physical strength and flexibility, you’ll never reach your tennis potential.

Todd, along with recent The Tennis Files Podcast guest Dr. Mark Kovacs and Paul E. Roetert, is a co-author of Complete Conditioning for Tennis. This book has been a life-changer for me and my game. I have used it to formulate my own periodized workout routine and am seeing fantastic results on and off the court because I am committed to the program.

Thanks so much to Todd for coming onto The Tennis Files Podcast and providing us all with such amazing value. His expertise in the area of physiotherapy is truly second to none!

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [1:49]¬†How Todd became the VP of Medical Services for the ATP Tour and Director of a Physiotherapy Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ
  • [3:36] Todd’s degrees and certifications
  • [5:29] Three things most of the world doesn’t know about Todd
  • [6:20]¬†Why do tennis players get injured?
  • [7:37]¬†Can you get injured with¬†good technique?
  • [9:09]¬†Three of the most common injuries on the ATP Tour today
  • [10:52]¬†Difference in injuries now versus previous generations of players
  • [12:20]¬†What we can do to protect the shoulder
  • [13:53] Why traditional heavy lifting can be detrimental to tennis players
  • [16:20]¬†The optimal time to train and perform exercises
  • [18:30]¬†A case study on how Ram, a member of our audience, can recover from a rotator cuff injury
  • [21:09]¬†The cause of hip pain and how to remedy it
  • [23:14]¬†Todd’s duties as the Vice President of Medical Services for the ATP Tour, and how Todd and other ATP physiotherapists go out on the court to treat professional tennis players during medical timeouts
  • [25:00] The most common injuries treated during medical timeouts
  • [26:17]¬†How often are medical timeouts used for gamesmanship, and how are trainers supposed to respond if they sense this
  • [27:41] Todd’s favorite tools that we can use to prevent injuries
  • [30:28] Three things that amateur players can do to prevent injuries
  • [33:45] How can Doug help his team deal with shin splints
  • [36:44] Where can our audience follow Todd online?

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Complete Conditioning for Tennis

Physiotherapy Associates Scottsdale Sports Clinic

Note: The link to Complete Conditioning for Tennis above is an affiliate link, so if you make a purchase after clicking, I make a small commission. Thanks either way!

If you enjoyed my interview about injury prevention and recovery with Todd, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success eBook below! Thanks for listening!

8 Simple Tests to Analyze Your Tennis Progress

The 8 Most Critical Tennis Skills and How to Test Them

In a world of cookie-cutter programs and one-size fits all solutions, analyzing your game is the first real step to progress.

Trying to find the “best” fitness program or the “top” tennis drills without knowing what areas you¬†need to work on to optimize your play is a waste of time. What are your deficiencies? What skills or attributes will most improve your game if you focus on training them?

After interviewing some of the best tennis coaches in the world on my podcast, including¬†Brian Boland, Martin Blackman,¬†Allistair McCaw,¬†and Dr. Mark Kovacs, I’ve heard a common theme about producing great tennis players and athletes.¬†Knowing the individual‚ÄĒthe strengths, areas that need improvement, and what¬†makes the person tick, to name a few‚ÄĒis critical to maximizing the player’s performance.

Before we get into the skills and tests, I need¬†to give credit where it is due. I learned many¬†of the fitness tests and average scores below from¬†Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition). I can’t stress enough how much this book, and my amazing podcast guests, have helped me improve my tennis conditioning and my game.

There are several skills which you need to assess before confidently creating a training program that best suits your individual needs. They are the following:

1. Technique

Biomechanically efficient technique is highly determinative of your tennis potential. Deficient technique will cause errors, especially in pressure situations. It can be even more destructive when you have bad technique and know you do, because your confidence in your game will be compromised.¬†More importantly, biomechanical inefficiencies can lead to undue stress on the body and eventual injury. There’s a good chance that there is a stroke or two in your game that you can¬†improve.

Action Step: Record your play with a camera or cell phone and examine your strokes to determine which shots need the most improvement from a technical standpoint. Even better: have a coach grade you on each of your strokes.

2. Footwork Speed/Agility

If you aren’t in position to hit the ball, everything else (technique, power, endurance, etc) is irrelevant. Many players incorrectly attribute a bad shot to incorrect technique when the culprit is often suboptimal footwork. Your footwork speed, intensity, and efficiency is a critical aspect of your game that needs to be developed. Your footwork affects every single shot in your repertoire. It is the difference between a powerful, offensive, and balanced strike, and a short, defensive, attackable one.

Action Step: Perform a 20 yard dash and record your time. Between 3.3-3.4 seconds (men/women) is an average time. Evaluate your lateral speed by shuffling sideways from the middle of the court to the right doubles line, left doubles line, and back to the middle. A time of 7.0 seconds is an average score for men and women. Analyze a match or practice session and see how consistently you are prepared and in position to hit each shot.

3. Power

Tennis is an explosive sport. A fast start makes a crucial difference in your¬†ability to strike the ball in a comfortable versus a compromised position. Both the quickness of your initial reaction and sustained speed¬†will determine how much time you will have to hit your shot. If you train in the gym to improve your game, you can’t ignore the explosive part of weight training if you want it to translate on the tennis court.

Action Step: Stand sideways next to a wall or tennis fence, reach up as high as you can, and mark that spot with tape or any adhesive. Then jump as high as you can, touch the wall, and mark that spot. Measure the difference between the two points. Between 12-16 inches for females and 21-26 inches for males is an average score.

4. Mental Fortitude

Mental strength in the face of adversity is one of the most critical skills for all tennis players. You can have picture-perfect strokes and unparalleled athletic ability, but if you do not have self-belief, a competitive desire, and the ability to overcome adversity, you will not be successful on the tennis court.

Action Step: Evaluate your results over the past year. How do you perform during critical points? Are you winning most of your big matches?  Do you think about forces out of your control while playing? If you find yourself underperforming in pressure situations, you need to make mental fortitude a priority.

5. Flexibility

If you are not flexible, you increase your chance of pain, injury, and a short career in the sport. In addition to reversing these issues, by training your flexibility, you will be able to retrieve more balls and return shots from uncomfortable positions. If you want a healthier body and a hugely improved tennis game, you must work on your flexibility. On my podcast, Allistair McCaw remarked that flexibility is the main reason why Novak Djokovic became #1 in the world. Watch the Serbian at work, and you will have little opportunity for argument.

Action Step: Assess your flexibility with a trained professional. You can also perform basic stretch flexibility tests, such as measuring how far you can reach toward your toes (2-4 inches past the toes for females and 1-2 for males is an average score) and the internal shoulder flexibility test.

6. Endurance

Sustaining a high-level of play for several hours on the court is critical for any competitive tennis player. The most crucial period of any match is closing out the win, and if you cannot perform optimally because of fatigue, you are doing your game a huge disservice.

Action Step: Assess your endurance by considering how your perform at the end of matches relative to your intensity and focus at the beginning/middle of play. Run 1.5 miles and record your time. Around a 14-15 minute time for females and 11-12 minutes for males is average.

7. Strength

We can all agree that the best tennis players don’t look like powerlifters or football players. That said, players often severely underestimate the impact strength plays in improving a player’s game. Dr. Mark Kovacs explained that while flexibility is very important, a muscle that is not strong enough and overstretched can cause injury. The stronger you are, the more you will be able to develop your speed and power from¬†your base of strength.

Action Step: See how many pushups you can perform in one-minute. Based on Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition), around 30 push-ups for females and 35 for males represents an average score.

8. Strategy

Creating and implementing a solid strategy for your matches will result in more wins. As I discussed in my article on how to formulate a winning game plan, formulating strategy based on your game and your opponent’s game offers many advantages, including helping you stay focused, handle pressure, and play matches more optimally.

Action Step: Analyze how often you plan and implement strategy before tennis matches. Do you usually feel outplayed or controlled by your opponent (i.e. you are reactive rather than proactive)? If you want to learn how to formulate winning game-plans before your matches, download my free match-strategy guide below!

CLICK HERE to download my free strategy guide.

Periodic Re-evaluation

To gauge your progress, perform tests on the skills above periodically. It depends on how often you’d like to know your numbers, but every couple months is¬†a good baseline. Try to replicate the same conditions as when you took the first test for a more accurate sense of your progression (i.e. same amount of sleep, rest, food, etc).

Complete Conditioning for Tennis

The last thing I want to emphasize is that you pick up a copy of Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition). It contains hundreds more self-assessment tests, exercises, and advice on how to analyze your capabilities and create your own fitness program based on your individual needs.

I give a huge amount of credit to Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition), Dr. Mark Kovacs, Todd S. Ellenbecker, E. Paul Roetert, and all of my amazing podcast guests for helping me become a better tennis player.

(Note: the links to Complete Conditioning for Tennis are affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase, I make a small commission. Thanks either way!)

Final Thoughts

The key takeaway here is to assess your strengths and weaknesses of the skills above, and formulate your tennis goals and training regimen according to your findings.

And I’ve heard from a lot of you asking about my training program since I posted a sneak peak of it on instagram recently, so I will be discussing it soon in a future post! ūüôā

Analyze your game and let us know what skills you need to improve in the comments section!

To help you plan and create your fitness and training goals, download your free copy of my SMART Goals guide below!

2 TFP 033: Dr. Mark Kovacs‚ÄĒStrength and Conditioning for Tennis Players

TFP 033: Dr. Mark Kovacs‚ÄĒStrength and Conditioning for Tennis Players

On today’s episode, I spoke with world renowned sports science and fitness expert Dr. Mark Kovacs about strength and conditioning for tennis. Mark has trained numerous top professional tennis players, including John Isner, Sloane Stephens, Sam Querrey, Donald Young, and Melanie Oudin. Stack named Mark one of the Top 31 Fitness Professionals to Follow in 2015.

Mark is a performance physiologist, researcher, professor, author, speaker and coach with an extensive background training and researching elite athletes. He has been featured in many of the biggest sports and news publications, including ESPN, the New York Times, and Tennis Magazine. Mark was also a top college player at Auburn and achieved a world ranking on the ATP Tour.

To sum it up, Mark has one heck of a resume, and it is an honor to speak with him on the show today.

Mark co-authored an amazing book and resource, Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition), which was published a couple months ago. I have a copy of his book and have had a hard time putting it down in my spare time. It has a ton of invaluable information on how we can put together a personalized fitness program using the exercises and in-depth knowledge from Mark, E. Paul Roetert (former managing director of the United States Tennis Association’s Player Development Program) and Todd S. Ellenbecker (Vice President, Medical Services ATP World Tour, and clinic director at Physiotherapy Associates Scottsdale Sports Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona).

The book also includes 56 videos illustrating the exercises and stretches which you can access online. The value in this book is unparalleled in comparison to any other tennis fitness book I’ve seen on the market so far.

In this episode, I ask Mark questions on how we can improve our tennis fitness to become better tennis players. We also talk about Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition) and some of the principles in the book that will help take your game to the next level.

Mark has an unbelievable amount of knowledge in sports science for tennis, and provided us all with a ton of value on The Tennis Files Podcast.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • [3:18] ¬†How Mark became a world-class fitness expert
  • [5:08] ¬†Mark’s degrees and certifications
  • [7:14] ¬†One thing about Mark that most people don’t know
  • [8:27] ¬†The elements of tennis fitness
  • [10:25] ¬†How to train¬†the different elements of fitness
  • [12:30] – What most tennis players lack in their fitness
  • [14:12] ¬†The muscle group that amateur players tend to undertrain the most
  • [15:39] ¬†Ways to train your your weakest muscle group
  • [17:16] ¬†How low should we go when we squat
  • [19:22] ¬†What type of squat should we use during training
  • [22:35] ¬†Will partial squats put pressure on the knees
  • [25:04] ¬†What set/rep/weight ranges should we use for our exercises and what are the effects of using different ones
  • [29:16] ¬†What is periodization and how does it affect our¬†training
  • [32:30] ¬†In what order should we train the different fitness elements in a periodization program for maximum results
  • [36:07] ¬†What are the best strengthening exercises for the serve
  • [38:37] ¬†The importance of the kinetic chain and discussing Mark’s “An 8-stage model for the tennis serve” scientific study
  • [42:47] ¬†How do we correct inefficient footwork
  • [45:56] ¬†Mark’s favorite footwork drills to help your speed and agility
  • [49:10] ¬†Stretches that tennis players should incorporate into their routine
  • [51:41] ¬†Analysis of professional tennis players’ fitness and why tennis is one of the toughest sports in the world
  • [53:53] ¬†How can we get the most value out of¬†Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd ed.)¬†and put what we learn into action
  • [56:07] ¬†What has changed in the 2nd Edition of Complete Conditioning for Tennis from the 1st Edition
  • [57:27] ¬†Mark’s favorite chapters in the book
  • [58:24] ¬†Where can we get Complete Conditioning for Tennis
  • [59:39] ¬†One common misconception/myth about tennis fitness among tennis players
  • [1:01:26] ¬†Other books and articles that Mark has authored
  • [1:02:06] –¬†Where we can find Mark online and on social media
  • [1:04:14] ¬†Mark’s one tip¬†that will help us improve our tennis games

I can’t thank Mark enough, who was extremely responsive through social media and email, for coming onto the show. He continues to make a huge impact on the success and lives of countless athletes, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to put his advice and principles in¬†Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition)¬†into action!

Subscribe to automatically download new episodes!

Subscribe on iTunes Button

Click this icon, click¬†the blue “View in iTunes” button, then hit “Subscribe.”

Or hit the subscribe button in your favorite podcast app!

Right Click Here to Download the MP3

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition)

Tennis Anatomy

Dynamic Stretching

The Flexible Stretching Strap Workbook

Interview with Allistair McCaw

Mark’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram¬†(mkovacsphd)

Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking, I make a small commission.

Regardless of where you purchase Mark’s book, I hope you give it a read! I highly recommend it and will post a book review once I am finished reading this incredible fitness resource.

If you enjoyed my interview with Mark, be sure to¬†subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast! Next up on the schedule are Brian Boland (head coach at national champion University of Virginia Men’s Tennis) and Martin Blackman (Head of Player Development at USTA).

For more tennis tips to improve your game, download my free eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success, by subscribing to my newsletter below!