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Winning Ways:
Net Gains

Wednesday, May 5, 1999

By Nancy Pope
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

Grip it and rip it! When it comes to the game of tennis, that's my motto. Whether you play at the elite level or are a serious recreational player, the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of improving your game and conditioning level is time. Once the decision is made to enhance your ability to compete, getting fit has to become a priority.


When it comes to developing your conditioning protocol, begin with defining goals and objectives. This gives your protocol a sense of direction. NBA Hall of Fame inductee Julius "Dr. J" Erving once told me, "If you don't know where you are going, any road can get you there." Once we have thought out what our purpose is, it's time to devise a plan of attack. With my athletes, our main focus is efficiency. We go into the training session to get our work done and get out. I don't want my athletes in the weight room any longer than we need to be.


In the first few weeks of training our major concern is general skill and strength development. We will spend a lot of time working on the techniques of the basic lifts, emphasizing posture, range of motion and balance. The amount of weight is not nearly as important in this phase. Also during the first phase of the protocol, speed and agility technique should be emphasized. Remember, every athlete progresses at his or her own rate, as long as you are moving in a positive direction everything will be ok.

As the progression continues, the focus will shift to increasing the intensity of our work. My job, as a conditioning coach, is to work to instill a concept I like to call "controlled intensity". I don't believe in stepping on the court and playing with reckless abandon. My goal is to teach my athletes to trust their bodies. Knowing they have reached a point where fatigue will no longer play a point during a match, they can now work on "imposing their will" on their opponent.


In the weight room, the weights get heavier while speed and agility work gets more intense. Technique should no longer be an issue and movement should be second nature. During this phase, one thing will not change which is the length of the training session. The optimal length is 75 minutes. I found that in this time we can keep the intensity fairly high while decreasing the risk of overtraining. Our training protocol is based on a 5-day work week.

An improvement in performance is the best way to measure the effectiveness of your protocol. If your performance plateaus, feel free to "tweak" your protocol, do not fear making adjustments you may feel are needed. Even the best protocols need to be modified from time to time. Constant monitoring combined with solid techniques will lead to a quality protocol that will give you benefits that are consistent.

Photos by Art Redd

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