Fit for Tennis, Fit for Life

How do you know when you are really "fit?"

Overall fitness is comprised of several components--muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular capacity, body composition and flexibility--that are important to your fitness for tennis and your fitness for life.

No matter what level of tennis you play, you need to address each component in order to help you enjoy the game and remain injury-free. Here is a brief review of these fitness components and some general tips on how to enhance them.

Muscular Strength

Tennis is an impact game, and each time you strike or run for the tennis ball your body absorbs serious impact.

To withstand this force you need both upper and lower body strength. Thus, including strength training in your off-court workout is a smart move.

Traditional weight lifting (with dumbbells, barbells, or weight machines) is an excellent way to develop muscular strength. You can also use exercise bands or tubes, body weight exercises (push-ups, and body squats) and medicine balls.

Muscular Endurance

Tennis requires the strength to hit or run to the ball numerous times during the course of a point, game, set or match. Muscular endurance will help your body quickly recover from prolonged points and be ready to perform again with minimal "rest."

Your goal as a player is to hit the final shots of the match as effectively as the first ones. Muscular endurance can be enhanced through training that requires you to use the same set of muscles to perform multiple exercises or through multiple repetitions of the same exercise.

You need to push through fatigue barriers to establish new endurance thresholds. The same equipment used for developing muscular strength can be used for enhancing endurance.

Generally, endurance workouts will be with a lighter weight than strength training and using a higher number of repetitions or sets.

Cardiovascular Capacity

I often describe tennis as "a marathon comprised of several mini-sprints."

During the course of a match you cover a lot of ground, which is the "marathon." But within each point, game, set and match, you also perform countless mini-sprints running to the ball.

To enhance cardiovascular capacity, you need to include both distance training and sprint work. Sprint work involves varying your distances and your rest times between sprints. You can perform this type of training with a partner. Jogging and sprinting both stress your cardiovascular system, but in slightly different ways.

By training with each, you’ll be prepared for the marathon and sprints of your tennis match.

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