Racquets, strings, and courts may be in the midst of a high-tech transformation, but the cutting edge of training and conditioning remains decidedly old school. Below, two top trainers highlight their approaches.
1. Developing Strength and Agility
Andy Murray trains with a Catapult, a tiny device popular with soccer and football players that tracks acceleration, heart rate, and distance moved. But Murray's fitness trainer, Jez Green, says that such gadgets can only do so much. "The problem with these devices," he says, "is that tennis players move so quickly and change direction so fast that they cannot be properly tracked."
Green advises players to work on rapid-fire muscle systems that enable pros like Murray to hit massive forehands and serves. These three drills (the first created by Green) do just that.
- 1. Core Strength: Grip a six-pound medicine ball with two hands and practice the motion of your strokes by throwing the ball against a wall. Do five sets of five reps.
- 2. Ball Reaction: With a partner, take turns tossing three balls onto the court, within reasonable arm's length. The goal is to get to all three balls on the first bounce. Complete three sets of 10 attempts each.
- 3. Footwork: For leg strength and hip stability, place a rubber exercise band around both ankles, crouch with arms extended, and do the "monster walk" from doubles alley to doubles alley, twice in each direction.
2. Improving Recovery Time
For Satoshi Ochi, head of strength and conditioning for the U.S. Tennis Association, the data that matters most is heart rate, which he closely monitors to help players cut the amount of time it takes them to recover between points. In a match, he says, the player who can recover the fastest often has the advantage. "Your opponent may not be ready to play the next point, but you will be," he says. "You'll have more gas in the tank in the second and third sets, and will be able to outwork your opponent."
Ochi suggests this combination of simple sprinting drills and deep-breathing exercises:
3. Build Endurance: For each of these intervals, run from one doubles line to the opposite and back. Record your heart rate after each rep and each recovery period.
Start with one rep, then rest for 15 seconds. Add reps one at a time, increasing the rest by 15 seconds for each interval until you get to six reps and 120 seconds of rest. Repeat that series and then decrease intensity, dropping one rep and 15 seconds of rest for each round until finished.
4. Control Your Breathing: "Slow, deep breathing reduces the heart rate and creates a sense of relaxation," says Dr. Larry Lauer, the USTA's mental-skills specialist. Here's how he teaches it in Boca Raton.
- 1. Inhale through the nose and breathe out through the mouth. During inhales, expand the diaphragm or breathe deep into the belly to take in more oxygen.
- 2. As you exhale, accentuate the breath by keeping the lips slightly apart, almost looking like a fish.