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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

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Dom’s Website – www.maximiseathleticperformance.com

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 – dom@everyball.net

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! 🙂

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!

TFP 035: Martin Blackman USTA Player Development

TFP 035: Martin Blackman—USTA Player Development

On today’s show, I had the pleasure of speaking with Martin Blackman, General Manager of the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Player Development Program.

Coach Blackman is responsible for partnering with the U.S. tennis community to identify and develop the next generation of world-class American tennis players. The former ATP pro and college tennis coach spoke to us about the USTA’s player development program that has recently seen a lot of success and a ton of top-ranked American talent.

The current head of USTA PD was one of the top juniors in the world and eventually climbed to a ranking of #158 on the ATP Tour. He also played Davis Cup for Barbados. After his pro career, Blackman coached the American University tennis team and top junior players at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland.

On Episode 35, Coach Blackman speaks to us about what the USTA is doing to bolster the development of top American tennis players. We can adopt many of Coach Blackman’s and the USTA’s principles into our own way of thinking to help us improve our tennis games.

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • [3:44] How Martin Blackman started playing tennis
  • [5:00] Coach Blackman’s college and pro tennis career
  • [8:00] The most important part of the evolution of a tennis coach
  • [9:35] How Martin figured out to have a stronger connection with his players
  • [10:50] Advice Coach Blackman would give to his 20-year old self
  • [11:50] The importance of embracing the process
  • [13:11] How does Coach Blackman define player development?
  • [18:57] What key characteristics or traits need the most development among top tennis players?
  • [22:40] Knowing the long-term vision for the player and sacrificing short-term gain
  • [23:11] Why Pete Sampras switched to a one-handed backhand, and Martin’s victory over Pete in the juniors
  • [25:10] What our audience can do to help improve their tennis games

A huge thanks to Coach Blackman for coming onto the show and for speaking with me about how the USTA, and you all as players and coaches, can better develop into successful tennis players.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Coach Blackman! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Links Mentioned in This Episode

Free Guide to Setting SMART Goals

Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition)

Interview with Dr. Mark Kovacs

Interview with Coach Brian Boland (UVA Men’s Tennis)

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 with Coach Blackman, do yourself a solid and subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast!

To get a copy of your free guide on How to Set SMART Goals, subscribe to my newsletter below!

3 Broken Piggy Bank - Tennis on a Budget

Tennis on a Budget: 13 Ways to Save Money

Tennis is expensive. Racquets, strings, grips, tennis balls, and shoes are just some of the things we have to keep buying to play the game we love.

Below are my 10 tips for playing tennis on a budget. Because we need money to pay the rent too.

1. Buy a Stringing Machine 

You can save hundreds of dollars per year by purchasing a stringing machine. Stringing is not difficult to learn. Once you figure out how to weave strings and tie a knot, you are golden.

Right now, you probably spend at least $25 bucks per string job. Let’s estimate that you string 2 racquets per month. Your total racquet-stringing costs are $600 a year ($25 x 2 x 12).

Instead, you can buy a $180 stringing machine and a couple reels of string ($160/reel) which will cost you $500 total. You will break even in less than a year!

After that, you will start saving good money, because you will only pay for the cost of the string, which is $10 per racquet for a $160 reel. That’s a $15 savings on every racquet you string!

24 string jobs (1 year) x $15 means you will save $360 per year! That’s a lot of money. And the more frequently you need to string racquets, the more money you will save. String for your friends to make extra income!

2. Purchase Older Model Racquets

When a premium racquet first hits the market, it will be in the $200-300 range. Then a few years go by, and an updated model comes out. What happens then? The price of the older model will take a nose-dive to make room for the newer one.

All that matters is that you like the racquet and it suits your game. So if you want to save money on racquets, try finding some older model racquets on sale, demo them, and see which ones you like.

You don’t need the latest model racquet to play great tennis. The same principle works for clothes, shoes, and other tennis products, too.

3. Buy Shoes with a 6-Month Warranty

Most of the big brands make fantastic shoes with 6-month warranties. If you can wear out these shoes within 6-months, you get a free pair!

Great tennis shoes that I have used with a 6-month warranty are: Adidas Barricade V, Asics Gel Resolution 5 (newest model = Gel Resolution 6), and the Nike Zoom Cage 2.

The Gel Resolution model has been the lightest and most favorite pair of shoes that I have used in this category.  Shoes with 6-month warranties tend to be a bit heavier because they are more durable. However, these shoes are getting lighter thanks to advances in shoe technology. 

The extra weight can be a good thing, because these shoes are usually more stable than their lighter counterparts. And you will get used to the weight, if you notice a difference, after a couple hitting sessions.

If you want to save money on shoes, buy a pair with a warranty and enjoy two pairs for the price of one! Just remember to keep the receipt and the warranty card included in the box, and don’t forget to send the shoes back before the 6-month deadline!

4. Use Cheaper Strings

You can probably find cheaper alternatives to the strings that you use. If you like your current strings but wouldn’t mind saving some money, there are tons of similar strings on the market that you should try.

For example, I used to play with Babolat RPM Blast, but switched to another polyester string called Volkl Cyclone which costs half as much! Since money isn’t growing out of my pockets, and Cyclone plays similar to RPM, I happily made the change. Now I play with the Tour version of Cyclone because it feels a bit softer.

You can search for cheaper strings at places like Tennis Express, Holabird Sports, or other tennis shops. There are a ton of tennis strings on the market, but you can filter for type, gauge, brand, and more on the websites above to help find what strings will suit you best.

5. Buy in Bulk 

Purchase as many products as you can in bulk to save money. For example, one can of tennis balls costs $3 to $4 bucks. Instead, you can get 24-cans of tennis balls for $60. You will save between $12 to $36 dollars per 24 cans!

Buy tennis strings in reels. One pack of Babolat RPM Blast costs $18. Instead, you can buy a reel of Babolat RPM Blast, which will string about 16 racquets, and costs $245 bucks.  

Since buying 16 individual packs at $18 each costs $288, this means you will save $33 bucks ($288-$245) if you buy a reel. Believe me, it (reely) adds up!

You should also buy grips in bulk (30 or 60 packs). Everyone buys in bulk to save on groceries and other products, so why not buy in bulk for tennis, too? 

6. Search for Coupon Codes

Perform a quick google search for coupons on the tennis shop you are buying from. You can often find coupon codes that you can input in your shopping cart that will take off a percentage from your total bill. Just search for “[name of tennis shop] coupon code.” It’ll take you less than a minute, and you can save a few bucks. 

7. Save Old Tennis Balls

If you open a fresh can of tennis balls and use it for one practice session, chances are it is still good enough to use again. And even if the balls lose some bounce, you can still use them for other things like practicing your serve or placing balls on the court as targets or for footwork drills.

I recommend you buy a ball hopper to store and pick up balls. I use this one, which holds 75 balls and is pretty inexpensive ($25). Buy your tennis balls in bulk and you’ll have enough for one!

8. Play Tennis Outdoors When Possible

Playing indoors costs anywhere from $20 to $40 an hour. Not that cheap. I recommend that you play outdoors if possible to save money.

Most outdoor courts are free. You can use tennismaps.com to easily find public (or private) tennis courts in your area. If it’s a little chilly, layer up! Or invest the $20 you just saved towards a sweatshirt!

9. Indoor Tennis: Early Bird and Splitting Court Costs

If you have to play tennis indoors, there are a couple things you can do to save money.

First, if you can, play tennis during the non-peak or early bird hours.  The cheapest time to play is usually first thing in the morning (~6am), followed by weekdays during work hours. The most expensive times to play are after work or on the weekend.

Second, make sure to split the court costs with a friend. And if you play doubles, the cost can be divided by 4. That makes playing tennis pretty cheap!

Bonus Tip: Sometimes, tennis clubs don’t mind if you play past the time you booked, as long as you paid for an hour. So keep playing and see if they say anything! If they are strict about court times or you see an employee scowling at you, you may want to get off the court! Find a court online that will be empty after your time slot to facilitate this strategy.

10. Ask for a Discount on Lessons

Ask your coach for a discount if you take multiple lessons. A coach will only list an hourly rate. However, if you are willing to commit to 5 or 10 lessons, sometimes the instructor will cut you a deal. This is great for both parties: you save some money, and the coach has guaranteed income coming his or her way. It won’t always work, but it has for several of my friends. “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.”

11. Re-Use Grips

If you want to save a few bucks, and don’t believe in wasting a perfectly good grip, then try re-using your tennis grips!

When one side of your tennis grip is no longer usable, take it off the handle and turn it over to the other side. If that side isn’t worn or damp, you can use the grip again!

I have done this successfully with all of my favorite overgrips: Yonex Super Grap, Wilson Pro OvergripBabolat Pro Tour Overgrip, and Tourna Grip

Will you score style points and be invited to the next “I am the 1% meeting?” Probably not. But if you want to save money and don’t have an extra grip in your bag, re-using the backside of a tennis grip might do the trick.

12. Use a Rubber Band as a Vibration Dampener

Vibration dampeners come in a lot of cool varieties, but there’s no need to pay for one. Instead, tie a rubber band to the same spot of the stringbed where you would place a vibration dampener. If you don’t believe me, google search Andre Agassi. He used rubber bands and he did pretty well. Throw a bunch of them in your bag, and you are all set to go! Boom, more money in the bank!

13. Practice More Efficiently

Don’t waste your time or money on training that doesn’t help your game. If you take private or group lessons, tell your coach what you want to work on to maximize the value of your investment. Arranging practices with tough players who want to improve is the cheapest way to train effectively (cost = $0).

Be smart about your training, and your wallet will thank you for it.

Note: The product links above are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I make a small commission. If you do, I really appreciate it! And if not, I appreciate you too 🙂

If you have any other ideas about how to play tennis on a budget, I would love to hear about them. Let me know by leaving a comment!

For more tips on how to improve your tennis game, get a free copy of my eBook: The Building Blocks of Tennis Success by subscribing to my free newsletter below!


15 Mistakes Tennis Players Need to Correct

While I have had a successful career playing tennis, there are many things about the game that I wish I had known earlier in my career.

I am going to share 15 mistakes that tennis players need to correct with you so that you can accelerate your tennis growth. Commit to these pieces of advice and I promise that your tennis game will improve drastically.

1. Focus on the Process, Not the Results

When you play a match, you play to win.  However, players tend to focus all their thoughts on winning rather than executing a game plan. Instead, think about what strategies you need to implement to win you points.  It will prevent you from tightening up on big points and keep you focused on optimal strategy instead.

2. Focus on Long Term Development, Not Short Term Gain

Humans want results and they want it now.  This mindset hinders long-term growth. Instead of trying to win today, focus on developing your game so you can compete and beat the best years down the road when it really counts.

3. No One is Unbeatable

If you don’t think you can beat your opponent, you have given up before the match has begun.  Everyone is human.  Tell yourself before every single match that you can and will beat your opponent.  Be confident.  Be a warrior. You will make the big shots when it really counts. Give it everything you have.

4. Don’t Be Shy: Make Friends

You can meet tons of wonderful people involved in the game of tennis.  People that can find you jobs, help you when you have car problems, hang out with you at the bar, and increase your happiness.  Make one new friend each day at the tennis court. Opportunities to make invaluable and advantageous connections will be lost if you are too shy to introduce yourself.

5. Get a Line Judge Against a Cheater

Do not let cheaters screw you over.  If you think your opponent is making bad line calls, request a tournament official immediately.  The mistake many people make is not getting a line judge sooner (or at all).  By giving cheaters the benefit of the doubt too many times, you could be setting yourself up to be cheated big-time on a very important point.

6. Please Yourself, Not Everybody Else

Do what is best for you and your tennis.  Choose your priorities and make sure you spend most of your time on them.  Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t want to hit with a weak player.  It’s okay to do a favor once in a while, but not at the expense of your happiness and development. As the kids say these days: “YOLO.” You only live once.

7. Train with the Best Players Possible

How else will you get used to playing higher-level players besides playing them in tournaments? Find great players, train with them, and pay attention to what they do that makes them successful.  There is a place for average and weaker players in your training schedule: for example, if you are changing your technique or implementing new strategies.  Generally though, you should be practicing with the best players in your area.

8. Avoid Tournaments When You Are Changing Your Technique

Playing a tournament in the middle of changing your technique can set you back for months. Here’s why: you will, at some point in the tournament, revert back to your old mechanics.  This is because you can’t win playing with new technique that you are not accustomed to using.  As a result, you will reiterate the old technique into your muscle memory. Instead, keep practicing until the new technique is second nature (you don’t have to think about it) before you play a tournament.

9. Make Your Serve a Priority

All I did when I was young was hit groundstrokes.  I grinded out wins regularly until the 16s age division.  Then something happened.  Kids with big serves started blasting them in the corners and won points before I had gotten my racquet on the ball. Suddenly, I was working hard for each point while my opponents picked up free points off of serves.  Think about this: If you can hold serve every time, how often do you think you will lose a match?  Devote more time to your serve.

10. Develop Perfect Form from Day 1

Ignoring technical flaws is a recipe for disaster.  You may be able to hide a weak backhand or volleys, but soon that weakness will be the reason you lose.  Fixing bad form takes longer than developing good mechanics from the beginning.  The old adage applies: “Prevention is better than cure.”  If you are at the beginning of your tennis career, learn the right form.  And if you have technical flaws, locate and fix them ASAP.

11. Spend Time Finding the Best Tennis Coach In Your Area

Many players choose a tennis coach because of convenience, proximity, or recommendations from others.  While you should take those things into consideration, first ask yourself if you want to maximize your talents.  If you do, then you need to find the best tennis coach in your area.  Having a great teacher can be all the difference between becoming a top college player and quitting the game for good.  The reward for spending a little extra time finding a great tennis coach can be extraordinary.

12. Don’t Listen to Everybody: Figure It Out Yourself

It is good to seek advice.  But don’t listen to everything people tell you.  Assess a person’s tennis career and how successful they have been before you take their advice.  There is so much information out there it can be overwhelming and seem contradictory.  Try different things and see what works for you.

13. Take Advantage of Opportunities

My dad’s favorite saying is “When the oven is hot, bake the bread.”  There will be rare opportunities that come along in your tennis career: the chance to hit with a top-ranked player, a tryout for a prestigious training camp, or a session with an elite tennis coach.  Whatever the opportunity may be, jump on it! Don’t be lazy: take advantage of every single opportunity.  It may be the last time you get that chance.

14. Take Better Care of Your Body

Stretch a lot.  Correct muscular imbalances.  Warm-up before you play.  Eat healthier.  Keep your body in top condition, because it pays dividends in the future.  Small injuries or imbalances when you are young can lead to career-ending injuries later on in life. Invest in your body so that you can enjoy tennis for your entire life.

15. Tennis isn’t Everything

Don’t let the outcome of a tennis match determine your attitude for the day.  In the end, tennis is just a sport and a vehicle for self-growth (and damn good exercise, too).  Be more objective about your wins and losses.  Ask yourself what you did well, not so well, and how you can improve your tennis game.  After that, go out and enjoy your time with your family and friends. Losing at tennis isn’t the end of the world.

YOLO, remember?

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