Guest blogger Tim Wilkison recently shared his insight into five of the top training tips for tennis players. In his tennis career, Wilkison reached 23rd in the world in singles and 21st in doubles. He won six singles ATP titles and nine doubles titles. Wilkison is perhaps best known for his diving volleys at Wimbledon that earned him the nickname “Dr. Dirt.”
After retiring from professional tennis, Wilkison has remained active in the sport through his coaching career. He has coached at various levels ranging from young children to juniors to professionals and everything in between.
- Exercise Bands and Foam Rollers
I do quite a bit of coaching and some of it is at the professional level and the one thing I have noticed that professionals always have in their tennis bag are exercise bands. I see it with every single one of them. It’s a key element that people can use because you can do it as a warm up and/or you can do it as a little bit of a strengthening exercise.
The pros are traveling quite a bit, so they use the bands as sort of a portable exercise device as they go along. If you do it for a long time or at a very high tension, then you can get a pretty good workout. Or, if you do it just a few times and at a low tension, that’ll be a little bit more of a warm up. Not a single professional player in the world will hit a tennis ball without first doing three or five minutes with an exercise band.
Another nice thing about these bands is that you can isolate some areas of the body that are really hard to strengthen. For example, if you have a bad rotator cuff – which a lot of tennis players do – this is actually what a physical trainer or health care professional would have you start working on because weights would be not as effective.
If all tennis players, whether they are recreational or competitive, would get into that same habit, they would get a little bit of exercise strength training just five minutes before every time they hit a ball plus they would get warmed up.
In addition, I always see the pros with foam rollers. It’s meant to just stretch them out and relax their muscles. And, again, because they are traveling, they can use that a type of portable masseuse.
Balance is super important in tennis and the better player you are, the more balanced you’re going to be. Good balance helps your shots become more efficient. If you’re off balance, you’re not going to time the ball as well, you’re not going to make as good of contact with the ball, and your body is not going to work as efficiently.
To improve your balance, you should do a lot of exercises when you’re simply standing on one foot. A lot of the pros use a Bosu ball to work on balance exercises. If this is too difficult for you initially, I would recommend starting by standing on the floor and doing balancing exercises on one foot.
- Hip Mobility
Over the years, I have noticed that when a player’s hips are tight, they simply can’t bend at the knees. And that’s crucial in tennis. I would encourage everyone – especially men – to work on their hip mobility and flexibility. Here are some things to try.
- Strengthen Your Core
All tennis players, no matter what level they play, really need to work on strengthening their core. Look at the best players in the world – they’re in very good shape of course, but you’ll notice that their arms or legs aren’t super muscular. It’s because they don’t really work on that, but they do work on their core.
Most club level players that I see tend to just use their arms during their strokes. They have a lot of arm swings but they don’t really get their core activated. My advice would be to put in some work with your coach to take some lessons to properly learn how to use your core in your strokes.
In order to do this, though, you have to strengthen your core first. Medicine balls are a really good exercise for your core. You can even mimic strokes with a medicine ball. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Cut down on your sugar intake
Believe it or not, it’s easier than you think to decrease or eliminate sugar from your diet. If you eliminate sugar, then you’re going to lose weight and you’re not going to be as achy on or off the courts. After decreasing my sugar intake, I feel better than I have in years. I am 58 years old and since cutting back on my sugar intake, I have a lot less overall discomfort and pain in my body. It’s crazy how good I feel.