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Monday, November 30, 2009

Fitness for Racquet Sports

To further emphasise the different demands that various sports take on the the body, this week we’ll examine the demands of racquet sports, such as tennis, squash, racquetball and badminton. Although there are differences between these particular sports – differences in equipment, ball size and movement and shot execution – there are many similarities also. General movement patterns and skill aspects (aglity, speed etc) are the same in each of the sports.
We’ll examine our training protocol by looking at the specific demands placed upon the cardiovascular and muscular systems, as well as the specific skill-related components required.

Cardiovascular demands
Given that games generally run for between 45 minutes and two hours, each of these sports will call upon the aerobic energy system. Therefore, a solid base of cardiovascular endurance is needed for optimal performance. This can be achieved through steady-state aerobic training (jogging, cycling, swimming at moderate intensity for durations of between 30 and 60 mins.
However, the dynamic, stop-start nature of these sports also produces short periods of fast, high-intensity work. This will utilise your body’s anaerobic energy system, which creates energy without the use of oxygen. The anaerobic system tires out fast, but can be trained by performing higher-intensity speed work of up to 20 minutes duration – say, treadmill intervals, hill sprints or bike intervals.

Muscular demands
A solid base of muscular endurance is necessary for all sports, and racquet sports are no exception. One or two weekly gym sessions that focus on total body conditioning – not forgetting a comprehensive core program and flexibility training – would be ample.

Skill-related demands
Racquet sports make high demands on skills such as agility, speed, co-ordination and balance, and all of these should be trained for optimal performance. Footwork drills, one-legged drills, cone work, speed drills and working with reaction balls would all be of great benefit.

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