Drilling it: Become a tennis ninja with agility training

Published by Nathan and Giselle Martin

Agnieszka Radwanska is one of the best movers in tennis. Photo: Getty Images
Natural levels of agility vary between players but it’s a skill that every athlete can develop with the right training.

Agility is the ability to rapidly change direction without losing speed, balance, or body control – so agility training is a key component for all successful players.

It is normal that some players are more agile and naturally faster than others. However, it is proven that players can improve agility with the right type of training.

If you train the way you play, your neuromuscular system – which controls your ability to accelerate, decelerate, quickly change direction, and move efficiently – is highly trainable.

Important factors to consider, when training and developing agility drills:

1. Agility drills between five and 10 seconds – studies show that 78 percent of points played during a match are under seven seconds (depending on the surface)

2. Contain three to five short directional changes – studies show players seldom run more than eight or nine metres in one direction during a point.

3. Predictable and unpredictable drills – Players can learn to anticipate the next movement when drills are predictable, so it’s imperative that some of your agility drills have that unpredictable element.

4. Lateral drills – Studies show that 48 percent of a player’s movement occurs sideways during a match. The ability to rapidly change direction laterally – to enable you time to set up for your next shot – is therefore essential.

5. Perform the majority of drills holding a tennis racquet – players always carry their racquets during points.

6. Design drills so that players simulate the same rest period during a match – studies show that players rest for 20–25 seconds between points and 90 seconds on changeovers. Try to mimic this work/ rest periods for agility drills.

Besides praying for unforced errors by your opponents, find out how to become a faster and more agile athlete on the tennis court, through these great agility training drills.

Tennis agility exercises can be performed on and off the court. They can be fun drills, which can be included in every training program.

Be sure to check out our ‘Agility 1 & Agility 2 Video’ You will find full video footage on all our agility drills and previous month’s tennis article workouts – speed, strength, core etc. at www.energisehealthmanagement.com.au.

Oncourt agility training 1. Lateral Z Drill
6–8 reps / 2–3 sets

• Place six cones on the court as shown (one metre apart).
• Start at the first cone, laterally shuffle to the second cone, plant your right foot next to the second cone, stop, bend the knee and dynamically push off the second cone, then laterally shuffle to the third cone and plant your left foot next to the third cone.
• Continue this pattern until you reach the last cone. When getting around the cones, keep your body facing forward and keep your centre of gravity low. Power 5 out of the outside leg, ensure you change your speed and accelerate out of each cone.
• Rest 20 seconds and repeat.
• Rest 90 seconds between sets.
 
Oncourt agility training 2. Acceleration/Deceleration Leg Drive Z Drill
6–8 reps / 2–3 sets

• Place six cones on the court as shown (three metres apart).
• Start at the first cone, sprint forward to the second cone, plant your right leg next to the second cone, accelerate out of that cone by pushing off the right leg, then sprint forward to the third cone, plant your left leg next to the third cone, accelerate out of that cone by pushing off the left leg.
• Continue this pattern until you reach the last cone. Complete all six cones.
• When getting around the cones keep the body facing forward and keep your centre of gravity low. Power out of the outside leg, ensure you change your speed and accelerate out of each cone.
• Rest 20 seconds and repeat.
• Rest 90 seconds between sets.
 
Oncourt agility training 3. Three Cone Push Offs
2–5 sets

• For this drill have cones placed on the court as shown.
• Start in line with the middle cone, move forward rapidly to second cone, when you get there turn your body on the side, plant your foot next to the cone, stop, bend the knee and push off as dynamically as you can and return back to the start using a lateral shuffle.
• Repeat using the same leg to push off for the third and fourth cone. Turn around and face opposite direction. Repeat using the other leg.
• Rest 90 seconds between sets.


Trainers Nathan and Giselle Martin, of Energise Health Management, have been in the health and fitness industry for 15 years. They travelled on the WTA Tour from 2000–2004 and also worked at the Sanchez Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona, Spain. They’ve worked with Sam Stosur, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jennifer Capriati, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova. The Bondi-based pair now work with Casey Dellacqua and Lleyton Hewitt. For further information, visit www.energisehealthmanagement.com.au.

This article first appeared in Australian Tennis Magazine.

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