So now that you have hopefully read the Lessons posts 1, 2 and 3 (if you haven’t check out the previous posts!!) I can finally get to giving you Gil’s responses to the group’s questions:
1. How much weight should a tennis player lift?
Another way of asking this question is how strong is strong enough? Well, Gil said ‘the real answer is you can never be strong enough. How strong you become is dependant on how long you spend training it. Sports which traditionally have long competitive phases (i.e., Tennis) don’t spend long enough training it. Of course maximal strength doesn’t go away so once you have built it up it sticks around and you don’t need to work as hard to maintain it BUT……at some point you need to put some time aside to build it up in the first place.’
2. What would you prioritise in a typical 6-8 week training block for a professional player who maybe only has one opportunity a year like this to work on their physical qualities?
Gil would using a concurrent periodisation model and focus on Maximal Strength and Power development. Obviously the bias of the programme would be based on individual results from assessment but this should be a main goal of a programme bearing in mind this is the only time in the year when there is a significant reduction in playing volume.
3. How much rotational work would you put into a tennis player’s S&C programme?
The focus of the training is to Control rotation not create it. The rotation happens naturally as a by product of stroke production. The job of the S&C coach is to get them strong and powerful and then it is the role of the tennis coach to transfer that force to the skill. The moment you start trying to replicate every sport specific skill is the moment that you are no longer seeking to develop force and power qualities that will overload the body. But you can use ‘complexes’ to add that sport specific element. This is where you pair a heavy barbell exercise with a lightly resisted or unloaded sport specific skill such as a single arm medicine ball chest pass. But remember, the focus is still on choosing an exercise where you can focus on the initial creation of force and then the subsequent control of that force. Don’t try and load a movement that is exactly the same as the sport skill. The ultimate transfer comes through repetitive practice of the actual stroke. The complex will enable force production using light implements in similar but not the exact same movement pattern.
Gil showed us a good exercise for development of production and control of rotational force should we want one good rotational exercise in our toolkit! Apologies that the photo is not the best but the Barbell twist can be very effective. Be cautious and start with a broomstick and gradually build up to an Olympic Bar. Focus on explosively creating the force to generate the movement and then the control to stop it before you over rotate. This is a velocity dependant exercise in that you need to develop a certain amount of bar speed to challenge your ability to control it. However, some of the multi-joint ‘functional type’ exercises you see like Barbell Lunge and Press or Medicine Ball Lunge and Rotate are not velocity dependant so these would serve better as Rotational warm-up exercises.
4. How important is single leg work to your S&C programme for a tennis player?
This is not an instead of issue, it’s an as well as issue, meaning to say that it is not necessary to look at bilateral or unilateral exercises as being more or less important. They are both equally important. There is no question that you must do Bilateral exercises because this is the most important way to develop the qualities of Maximal Strength and RFD. They simply allow the most amount of load to be overcome.
Unilateral exercises are important because they address some of the stability issues where there may be potential energy leaks. Gil gave the example of a very well conditioned triple jumper who was incredibly strong and powerful but was not able to translate that into his jumping perforance due to not being able to control the pelvis during take off! They also iron out imbalances between both sides of the body and obviously develop strength in acyclical movements that happen in most sports!
Stand by for answers to questions 5 to 7 and that will wrap up my summary of Gil’s workshop!!!