The Ball's In Your Court
Improve your tennis game with an agility-building workout from Cooking Light Fitness Expert Gin Miller
Reader: Stacy O'Daffer, Seattle
Her challenge: "Add speed and agility to my tennis game."
Her story: "I'm a mother of three who loves to exercise," O'Daffer says. "In addition to a cardio and weight routine I do three to four days a week, I play competitive tennis, two to four matches per week. But I want to take my game up a notch―for instance, improve my speed and agility on the court. I don't feel my exercise works toward this goal, which makes it hard to see improvements," she says.
Increase speed. "Speed and footwork are essential for a tennis player," Miller says. "I've partnered with Adam Grandstaff, a U.S. Professional Tennis Association–certified pro and director of tennis at Legacy Park in Kennesaw, Georgia, to create a routine of drills that incorporate lateral, forward, and backward movements―all common in tennis―to increase speed and efficiency while maintaining balance during a game."
Build stamina. O'Daffer should consider interval walking, running, or cycling for 30 to 45 minutes one day a week. "Intervals help strengthen the legs for the fast footwork required of tennis," Miller says. "Plus, they improve cardiovascular health, which will provide stamina for a long match." She can add this to her existing routine or substitute for one cardio-strength session. To incorporate intervals, add three or four 30- to 60-second bursts of speed to a 30-minute cardio workout.
Avoid injury. "O'Daffer is on the right track by including strength training in her workouts. Strong muscles are less likely to become injured. To help further reduce injuries, like tennis elbow and rotator cuff damage, we devised three conditioning exercises that can be added to an existing strength-training routine," Miller says.
Training at a glance
Footwork drills (2 to 3 days a week; on regular practice days, but not match days)
• Perform 3 sets of each drill.
Strength conditioning moves(3 days a week)
• Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps per exercise.
Interval training (1 day a week in place of cardio and weights)
• Warm up and cool down with a 3 to 5 minute walk before and after each workout.