October 24, 2013 — A research study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that a short-term tennis conditioning program is effective in enhancing serve velocity in junior developmental tennis players. In just six weeks of strength training, study participants significantly increased their serve velocities by nearly 5 mph.
“To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that has examined the effects of a strength-training program on serve velocity in youth tennis players. The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a six-week conditioning program comprising TheraBand elastic resistance exercises,” stated the authors, led by Jaime Fernandez-Fernandez, researcher, Department of Training and Exercise Science, University Ruhr-Bochum, Germany. “One of the primary advantages of this training program is that only inexpensive resistance devices are needed so it can easily be implemented during the daily training routine.”
According to another study (Reid & Scheiker, 2008), the use of elastic tubing is the most common strength training tool used by professional players. The authors supported the use of TheraBand elastic tubing “because of its portability and flexibility in allowing athletes to explore variable ranges of motion, resistances and limb positions.”
Thirty competitive, healthy, and nationally ranked male junior tennis players (average age of 13 years) participated in the study. Because young athletes increase muscle strength through maturation, which can affect serve velocity, a control group was used. Participants were randomly and equally divided into control and training groups. All the athletes had a minimum of three years of prior tennis specific training and all were tested before and after the six-week program for shoulder range of motion (ROM), serve velocity and serve accuracy.
The strength-training program was approximately 60 to 70 minutes in duration and performed three times a week for six weeks. Each session comprised of a 10-minute warm up and approximately 50 minutes of strength training that combined core-stability, elastic tubing and medicine ball exercises. Twenty-five of those 50 minutes consisted of using TheraBand elastic tubing for nine upper extremity strength exercises.
Click here to view the junior tennis conditioning exercise protocol.
The strength training group increased their serve velocity an average of 4.9 percent (from 93 to 98 mph) while athletes in the control group showed a small increase of only 0.2 percent. Both groups increased in their shoulder ROM, but the training groups increased an average of 13.6° of total rotation motion, while the control group only increased an average of 8.2°. While the control group did not improve in their velocity, serve accuracy remained the same in both groups.
The study revealed that this short-term training program can result in improved tennis performance and a reduction in the risk of a possible overuse injury, reflected by an improvement in shoulder external/internal range of motion.
“This is another example of how a TheraBand resistance exercise can effectively be integrated into the training program for an elite junior tennis player,” stated Todd Ellenbecker, DPT, clinic director, Physiotherapy Associates, Scottsdale, Ariz. “Through conducting this study, we found we actually have a functional performance improvement (i.e., increased serving velocity, which should lead to improved training compliance. The training program not only makes the player stronger, it provides a measurable functional performance improvement.”
Click here to watch a short video of Ellenbecker describing the study and its impact on junior tennis players. Ellenbeck is the senior director of medical services for ATP World Tour.
The authors concluded, “Due to the importance of the tennis serve, as the most powerful and potentially dominant shot in tennis, these strength-focused training interventions, especially in developmental players, can be helpful to increase performance levels. Based on the results of this study, young tennis players who want to improve their performance levels should perform supervised strength training, three times a week, combining core stabilization, TheraBand elastic resistance exercises, and upper body plyometric exercises.
Source: Performance Health
1Fernandez-Fernandez et al. Effects of a 6-Week Junior Tennis Conditioning Program on Service Velocity; 2013. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 12, 232-239; www.jssm.org