Take Home Points

  1. Short- term training program for young tennis players, using minimum equipment and effort, can result in improved tennis performance (i.e., serve velocity) and a reduction in the risk of a possible overuse injury, reflected by an improvement in shoulder external/internal range of motion.

Among tennis strokes (serve, forehand and backhand) the tennis serve has been examined the most as it produces the largest stress on the shoulder and lower back. This stress can result in overuse injuries. The serve is also a highly complex stroke because of the use of multiple body segments to produce power through properly timed rotations and complex coordinated muscular activations. The serve requires strategic pinpoint accuracy and coordination of body segments, known as the kinetic chain. This chain links the generation, summation, transfer, and regulation of forces from the legs to the hand (Fernandez 2013). Research has suggested increasing serve performance occurs with increasing muscle strength of the entire kinetic chain without affecting serve accuracy (Fernandez 2013).

 Fernandez (2013) examined the effects of a 6-week strength-training program on serve velocity in youth tennis players. Thirty competitive healthy and nationally ranked male junior tennis players (13 years of age) were randomly and equally divided into control and training groups. The program for the training group was approximately 60-70 minutes in duration, and performed three times a week, for 6 weeks. Each session comprised of a 10 min warm-up, and approximately 50 min of strength training (combining core, elastic tubing and medicine ball exercises). All training sessions were preceded by a 10-min standardized dynamic warm-up (arm circles in multiple directions, side stretch to the right and left, forearm supination and pronation, and wrist flexion and extension). The next 10-15 min consisted of basic core training exercises (i.e., crunches, reverse crunches, oblique crunches, plank, and side-plank). Each player performed two sets of 20 repetitions for the first three exercises, and two sets of 20 s for the last two exercises. Exercises were performed for 2 sets of 20 repetitions, with 45 s rest between exercises, and included the following: (a) triceps (elbow extension); (b) rowing; (c) external rotation with shoulder flexed 90°; (d) external rotation with shoulder abducted 90°; (e) shoulder abduction to 90°; (f) diagonal pattern flexion; (g) reverse throw; (h) standard forward throw; and (i) wrist flexion-extension. Each exercise was performed in a 3-s repetition (1 s for the concentric phase and 2 s for the eccentric phase). Each subject was instructed on how to perform each exercise with proper form and technique and use enough resistance for each exercise that allowed them to perform 20-25 repetitions but no more. Both groups (control and training) also performed a supervised stretching routine at the end of each training session, during the 6 week intervention. Service velocity, accuracy and shoulder internal/external rotation were assessed initially and at the end of the 6-week conditioning program for both, control and training groups. There was a significant improvement in the serve velocity for the training group (p = 0. 0001) after the intervention, whereas in the control group there were no differences between pre and post-tests (p = 0.29). Serve accuracy was not affected in the training group (p = 0.10), nor in the control group (p = 0.15). Shoulder internal/external rotation ROM significantly improved in both groups, training (p = 0.001) and control (p = 0.0001). The present results showed that a short- term training program for young tennis players, using minimum equipment and effort, can result in improved tennis performance (i.e., serve velocity) and a reduction in the risk of a possible overuse injury, reflected by an improvement in shoulder external/internal range of motion.
Short-term tennis conditioning program is effective in enhancing serve velocity in junior developmental tennis players. In just 6 weeks of combined strength training players participating in the training groups increased their serve velocities almost 5%, while players in the control group showed a small increase of only 0.2% (Fernandez 2013). Due to the importance of the tennis serve, as the most powerful and potentially dominant shot in tennis, these strength-focused training programs can be helpful to increase performance levels. Young tennis players who want to improve their performance should perform supervised strength training, three times a week, combining core stabilization, elastic resistance exercises, and upper body plyometric exercises. The training program should focus on the primary muscle groups and stabilizers involved in tennis specific movement patterns. One of the primary advantages of this training program is that only inexpensive resistance devices are needed (elastic tubing, dumbbells, medicine balls), so it can be easily implemented during the daily training routine (Fernandez 2013).
COR provides functional movement screening that helps in identifying functional limitations and asymmetries. These are issues that can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort body awareness. COR focuses on a detailed sporting biomechanics and movement skill analysis. This combination provides critical information for enhancing sport, resolving pain, or preventing injuries in the sport.
Reference:
1. Fernandez-Fernandez J, Ellenbecker T, Sanz-Rivas D, Ulbricht A, Ferrautia A. Effects of a 6-week junior tennis conditioning program on service velocity. J Sports Sci Med. 2013 Jun 1;12(2):232-9.
Written by Chris Barber, CPT