Many tennis players strive to become powerful so they can hit 125mph serves and sizzling groundstrokes but how do you train to improve power?

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The video will have some answers for you or continue reading and you will learn more about:

  1. What it means to be a powerful athlete
  2. What power training is
  3. How to develop power
  4. What strength is
  5. Why developing strength for power makes sense

So what is power?

Definition of Power

Power, which can be expressed as (force x distance]/time), is commonly referred to as speed-strength and is the factor behind performing work in a quick (short) period of time; in other words, power is the time rate of work (work/time).

Being a powerful athlete means being able to exert force in order to handle the resistance of your own body weight to performing explosive movements in a coordinated and athletic manner.

Power training enables you to:

  • Hit powerful ground strokes
  • Perform a strong serve
  • Change directions quickly
  • Dive and return serves effectively
  • Perform vertical and lateral jumps
  • Accelerate about the court in an efficient manner

What is Power Training?

Speed-strength or power training revolves around developing the body’s synchronized activation of motor neurons and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

This means that power exercises train the nervous system to collaborate effectively with the muscular system, which is one reason why the Olympic lifts, such as the hang snatch, are excellent power training exercises.

You have explosive hip extension into rapid hip flexion catching the bar above your head; hip flexion and extension is what you are doing during running and jumping.

So if you are great in the Olympic lifts then that also transfers onto the court – you will be able to sprint faster and jump higher during the serve!

With regards to energy dynamics, potential energy developed in power exercises is converted to enhance the speed with which you can perform work or an athletic movement.

Yet weightlifting is not bodybuilding with regards to tennis conditioning!

Ok, so how can you develop power effectively?

How to Develop Power

There are two prominent avenues for improving power. On the one hand, you perform high resistance power training exercises in the gym, such as Power Cleans; strength for power (strength-power) and power exercises as introduced in chapter 6 of “Advanced Concepts of Strength & Conditioning for Tennis”.

On the other hand, you can do speed-strength (power) conditioning drills on the court, which can be thought of as low resistance power training exercises and chapter 7 provides a great variety of exercises one can use.

It is important to point out that the resistance strength and power training exercises must complement the speed-strength conditioning exercises to achieve optimal results. In other words, weightlifting in the gym and conditioning on the court go hand in hand.

Whether you focus on the weightlifting or conditioning depends on the overall training emphasis and whether you are in competition or not. Generally, when you are in or close to competition, the training emphasis should be on conditioning.

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Also, you should have corrected any speed economy deficiencies, such as muscular imbalances, before focusing on the various speed-strength conditioning exercises.

Doing so ensures effective power training since less resistive forces are working against your effort.

Definition of Strength

According to Newton’s 2nd law of motion, force (F) can be expressed as mass (m) of an object x acceleration (a) of the object; F = m x a.

Generally, if a force acts upon an object and causes the displacement of the object, work occurred upon the object.

In other words, in order for a force to qualify as having done work on an object, the force must cause its displacement.

Also, the force must be applied in the same direction as the displacement to be considered positive work; a vertical force cannot cause a horizontal displacement. This is referred to as strength with respect to exercise.

For example, during bench pressing the athlete lies flat on a bench and applies force vertically to move the bar off the chest.

Once the bar moves vertically, work is being done to move the bar. If the bar doesn’t move then no work is being done! In other words, work (W) can be expressed as force (F) x displacement (d); W = F ∙ d.

With respect to exercise, strength is the equivalent to physical work, since strength (S) is defined as force x distance; S = F x d, which = m ∙ a ∙ d.

Why Developing Strength for Power Training Makes Sense

Since power is the time rate of work ([force ∙ distance]/time), and work (force ∙ distance) is the equivalent to strength, then maximizing your force output will also cause maximum power output, which is why strength training precedes power training!

In order to maximize your strength (S = m ∙ a ∙ d), force output (F = m ∙ a) must be maximized, which means that the resistance (m) should increase while the velocity of the movement (a) decreases and the distance (d) remains the same.

power training

Philipp Halfmann

Slower velocity with heavier resistance leads to greater muscle fiber recruitment. Also, stabilization properties are going to improve due to the prolonged motor unit control mechanism.

It is important to understand that absolute muscular strength development is not the goal – you are not trying to look like Mr. Olympia!

Instead, the focus must be on maximizing body-mass adjusted muscular strength because it is highly related to peak performance. Learn more about how to develop the ideal tennis player body!

This means that you must be strong for your size. While playing tennis you need to control the body (weight) during stroke production, which means controlling dynamic stability while applying force and moving in different directions.

dynamic stability

Daniel MASUR (GER)

If you were to train like a body builder (hypertrophy training only), you would become too heavy (too much muscle mass), which decreases your ability to change direction (center of mass) effectively. In other words, if you are too big you don’t have the ability to move as fluently as you need to.

So the goal is to become lean but powerful because you will be able to move quickly while hitting powerful shots since you are not carrying around any extra weight in the form of fat or muscle mass!

During power training (P = [force ∙ distance/time] = F ∙ a), the speed at which work can be performed is going to be maximized, which means high movement velocity.

High velocities reduce overall force output due to muscle fiber recruitment limitations but also neural control mechanisms are reduced as well because there is no time to think during the action.

Training Zone

In this section we provide you with some workouts you may be interested in to optimize your training:

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Content crafter at Tennis Conditioning. You can find me on the ITF/WTA/ATP tour coaching tennis players or online writing about tennis, strength & conditioning, exercise science or health-related issues. Champions find a way, losers find excuses!

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