A Perspective on Plyometrics in Tennis PDF Print E-mail

In tennis the use of plyometric training centres around three main areas.  The storage and release of elastic energy between the back swing and forward swing of stroke production, leg drive into the strokes and in the development of the crucial “first step”.   

In the back swing of the stroke the large force-producing muscle groups ie latissimus dorsi and pectoralis, are pre-stretched to a maximum.  These pre-tensed muscles are then in an ideal position to quickly apply force in the forward swing of the racket.  The recovery of this stored elastic energy needs to occur rapidly to benefit stroke production.  Throwing medicine balls to replicate tennis strokes is a very effective training tool to simulate this “stretch – shortening” cycle. 

The vital “first step” of movement around the court also utilises this “stretch – shortening” cycle.  After a split-step a player’s knees will flex then extend quickly to store and recover elastic energy.  This maximises lower leg drive when accelerating to a ball.  Drop sprints where a player drops from a low box and immediately accelerates in different directions is a very effective training method for this move. 

It is worth noting that the ability to produce force rapidly in tennis is crucial but it must be performed in an extremely balanced way as at the end of the movement or the stroke a fine motor skill will have to be performed.

Lastly, the vertical linear momentum of the leg drive up into the strokes created by ground force is also dependent on an effective “stretch – shortening” cycle.  The maximising of these ground forces allow a player to drive upward and forward to a ball thus providing velocity and spin to the shot.  Clean and snatch mechanics replicate this move. 

By Jez Green BSc

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