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Improve you tennis this Christmas without lifting your racket!

11/12/2015 | Matthew

It’s raining outside and the local indoor courts are booked or just too ‘cheekily’ expensive. A familiar problem facing many players as the winter sets in – so what can we do to keep up our tennis level? Or, even better, what can you do now to be a better player when the sun shines again?

In the last couple of days I have been at the BTCA (British Tennis Coaches Association) Conference. It is always a great opportunity to hear about the latest innovations in tennis coaching. This year on court – we had sessions from Jamie Delgado and Enrique Goldberg, both ATP Tour Coaches (more about their ‘tour tips’ later!).  It was one of the off-court lectures that caught my eye. Leigh Brandon, an expert in injury rehabilitation and sports conditioning, presented on tennis conditioning in players with a focus on the importance of flexibility and stability.

Many players and coaches make the mistake of placing too much emphasis on strength and power training. It feels (and looks!) good to lift weights and build muscle but, Leigh argues, if you don’t have flexibility and stability, you are missing a trick and will almost definitely have problems later in life.

Leigh has developed a program for tennis players called the ‘Grand Slam Tennis Conditioning Program’ (neat name!). The key to great conditioning is to follow the program in order. Optimise flexibility and stability and you will massively reduce your chance of injury. Strength can then be developed and power will be the icing on the cake. 

This isn’t a blog where I start to give you lots of exercises to do but if have heard of Pilates then it is time to sign up or get the DVD in your stocking!

1.    Flexibility 
2.    Stability
3.    Strength
4.    Power 

However, it is not all about exercise. You need to live healthy to be a better player. Let’s visit the 4 doctors for some advice:

Dr Quiet – Sleep is essential – the majority of people need 8 hours of sleep each night – you’ll need more if training hard.

Dr Diet – You are what you eat. Don’t become a mince pie.

Dr Movement – Daily movement is essential to keep trim, reduce the likelihood of illness and countless other benefits. Basically - switch off the TV and go for a walk on Christmas day!

Dr Happiness – you must have a life that fits with your CORE values. The happier you are, the healthier you will be. 

(More information on the 4 Doctors can be found in Paul Check’s book – The Last 4 Doctors You’ll Ever Need)

This will all sound pretty simple and so it should do. It’s not rocket science and, as with tennis coaching, the simpler it is the more effective it will be. 

At the start of the blog I mentioned the ATP Tour Coach, Jamie Delgado. He showed us some drills that he uses on the tour with pro players. They were basically the same as we do on the courts of Oxford or London. The key though is that the pros are able to be consistent throughout the session, hitting the ball with power and accuracy. They are able to do this because they are in great condition – they have flexibility (just watch Djokovic…) and stability and, of course but not only, strength and power. 

So, if you want to improve your tennis this winter without lifting a racket, focus on yourself. Dig out that Pilates DVD and work on that core; eat well; sleep well; move lots; and be happy. 

Merry Christmas!!!!

More Info: 
The Tennis Biomechanics Manual – Leigh Brandon & Paul Chek

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