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Plyometrics can help you develop a powerful serve.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
To be a good tennis player, it's crucial to have a variety of well-grooved strokes in your arsenal. Just as important is having the explosive strength to move around the court with lightning speed and then hit the ball with power. Plyometrics is a mode of training that can help you gain strength and explosive power, regardless of your skill or strength level. If your goal is to take your game to the next level, participating in a weekly plyometric training program is a must.
The term plyometrics refers to a type of exercise that trains the muscles to use their natural elasticity to explode with power. Simply put, it's a combination of resistance training and functional fitness. A more physiological explanation, offered by Tulsi Desai, a United States Tennis Association staff member, is that plyometrics causes a rapid lengthening of a muscle followed by a shortening of the same muscle. The lengthening phase involves an eccentric contraction, when energy is stored in the muscles. The shortening phase involves a concentric contraction, and this is when the stored energy is released, providing explosive power.
Tennis Training with Plyometrics
In designing a tennis-specific plyometric training program, select exercises that mimic the movement patterns of the sport. Strong, explosive legs are important for quick movement around the court and for powerful strokes, including the serve. To improve your lower-body strength and the quickness of your feet, include plyometric exercises such as squat jumps, box jumps, lateral jumps and agility ladder drills in your program. Include exercises such as forehand and backhand medicine ball throws, ball slams, clapping pushups and overhead throws to develop your upper-body strength and power.
Develop explosive power in your legs with squat jumps. Stand, bend your hips and knees, lower your body into a squat and then quickly extend your legs and explode vertically. Reach skyward with your arms to help you jump as high as you can. Upon landing, lower into another squat, immediately jump and repeat. Challenge yourself with lateral box jumps. Stand to the side of a sturdy, 12- to 18-inch box with your right foot on top of the box. Jump laterally over the box to your right. Upon landing, your left foot is on the box and your right foot is on the floor on the opposite side of the box. Reverse your movement back to the starting position and repeat.
Include plyometric pushups to focus on your upper body. Start in the classic pushup position. Lower your body, and when you are an inch from the floor, extend your arms and explode upward, off the floor. Land on your hands, immediately lower your chest and repeat. Perform perpendicular medicine ball throws against a wall, mimicking the movements of your forehand and backhand. While holding a medicine ball, stand sideways next to a sturdy wall. Rotate away from the wall, take the ball back behind your hip, rotate toward the wall and toss the ball. Catch the ball after it rebounds and repeat. Switch sides after one set.
Begin each workout with a short, aerobic warm up to prepare your muscles for the exercises. If your strength level is low, start with low-intensity exercises. Only athletes with a high strength level should perform high-intensity plyometric exercises. Perform your plyometric workout two to three times each week with 48 hours of rest between sessions. Start with two sets of 12 reps with each exercise, recommends Desai, with a work to rest ratio of 1:10. For example, if a set of squat jumps takes 24 seconds, rest for four minutes between sets. Mix up the exercises between sessions to keep your workouts fresh. If you've been away from regular exercise for a long time, get the OK from your health care provider before starting a plyometric program.
- Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images