Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Are You Making This Big Mistake?

What a day it has been...I've been getting myself ready to visit my family for the Holidays.  I try to give myself 2 weeks at the end of the year to rest, recover and recharge for the year to come.  Part of this is taking a break from most digital interface.  Personally, I think we can all stand to do this from time to time- get away from all the crazy technology that is at our fingertips.  I don't know about you, but for me it seems way to easy to sit down in front of the computer to work and before you know it, 2-3 hours are gone.  

Anyway, enough about my little break I will be taking and on to the good stuff...more tennis exercise tips for you.

There may be one HUGE mistake you might be making that could be possibly setting you up for serious injury...not spending at least 5 minutes doing dynamic warm-up before you hit even one tennis ball. I can't tell you how many adult players in particular I see go from their cars to to hitting balls on the courts without any real warm-up.  Alright, alright...I know you might be one of the those "special " people who have been lucky to have gotten away with it so far, but let me tell you, sooner or later it will catch up with you. 

By the way, starting short court or hitting gently at first DOES NOT count as a warm-up.  Yes this should be done, but after you have taken the muscles and joints through a series of simple dynamic exercises.   It doesn't have to be anything crazy either.

Many times, I think people don't go through a proper warm-up because they are afraid of being the only one and looking stupid.  Look...hopefully gone are those high school days when we felt like we needed to be in the "in" crowd.  Take your health into consideration please and don't worry what anyone else is going to think.  

Say you are going to be joining a clinic and you can't get on the court early because there is another group there until you start.  You don't need the court to do a dynamic warm-up.  Here is a simple routine:

1. 20 Jumping Jacks
2. 20 High Knee Marches
3. 20 Butt Kicks
4. 10 Body Weight Squats
5. 10 Lunges
6. 10 Arm Circles Backward
7. 10 Arm Circles Forward
8. 20 Side to Side Loose Arm Swings

Doing something as simple as this is better than nothing.  This will at least give your body a chance to safely begin to engage the muscles with the intensity that the sport requires and FYI...you won't look silly doing it!  

Be Well,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

6 Tips To Break Tennis Fitness Plateaus

As one works to improve their overall tennis fitness level, typically you will run into what are referred to as plateaus in your progress. That is, there will be weeks, even months for some, where no improvement seems to be taking place, whether it be in weight loss, fat loss or strength gains or even on-court improvement. These plateaus are normal experience but most certainly there are ways to reduce the length of time they last.

The key to busting through plateaus can be summed up in one word...VARIETY. If you participate in some of my Santa Monica fitness workouts, then you already know a lot about this, as I do all I can to have no 2 workouts the same...however if you can't join us, it is essential for you to put this into your plan of action.

When it comes to tennis strength training, one of your goals is to keep your muscles guessing…often referred to by some in the fitness industry as muscle confusion. If you constantly do the same thing over and over, your muscles will adapt and at some point without some form of new stimulus introduced, your progress will level off in terms of new muscles fibers being fired.

What follows are 6 simple ways to add variety to your home fitness routines or gym workouts:

*Make sure to choose the appropriate weight for the given repetition ranges...that is, where you feel the muscle beginning to burn a bit during the last rep. Choosing weight that are too light is a common error for many that will also lead to plateaus. It is that burn that is going to help you build lean muscle to help you burn fat.

1. Use circuits: typically you will put a series of 4-8 exercises together where there will be no rest between. The rest comes at the end. Traditionally you will order them so that you target major muscles first and minor muscles further down the line. Usually done if you are just starting out or just need to get in and get out. Use 8-12 reps of each exercise

example: Total Body
1. Squat
2. Shoulder Press
3. Bent Over Row
4. Chest Press
5. Mountain Climbers
6. Biceps
7. Triceps

2. Use supersets: this is where you will two exercises back to back before you rest. The most effective supersets typically use non-competing muscles as a pairing...i.e. Chest/Back or Legs/Shoulders instead of Shoulders/Chest or Back/Biceps. Use the repetition range of 8-12 reps, choosing a weight that allows you to work to fatigue.

example:Legs and Chest
1a. Forward Lunge
1b. Spiderman Push-up

3. Use compound sets: Take one muscle group and do 2 exercises back to back for the area...you are "compounding" the effort put out by that muscle as well as the effect. Usually two major moves. Do 8-12 reps of each.

example: Legs
1a. Goblet Squat
1b. Dumbbell Step Ups

4. Use giant sets: Take one muscles group and do three exercises back to back to back. Typically a major move is done first, maybe second and then a more targeted exercise is used to finish it off. Use 8-12 reps of each exercise for best results.

example: Shoulders
1a. Military Press
1b. Lateral Raise
1c. Front Raise

5. Use complexes: here you will take a particular area of the body, and do 2 exercises for it...the first being a traditional resistance exercise to be followed by a plyometric or power oriented move for the same area. These can be challenging, so do them early in your workout. Use 6-12 reps of exercise 1, and 4-6 reps of exercise 2.

example: Chest
1. Dumbbell Chest Press
2. Clapping Push-Ups

6. Use timed sets: typically done with lighter weights...you would work for 60 seconds as an example and get as many reps in as possible. The goal is to burn out the muscle and rev up your heart rate,Rest 30-60 seconds and repeat.

example: Back
1. 60 seconds of Bent Over Row

These ideas should get you started...good luck and let me know how it goes.

Adam Brewer

Thursday, December 4, 2008

3 Keys To Performing Tennis Exercises Safely and Effectively

In Real Estate, it is said that three most important factors when buying a home are location, location, location. Well, when it comes to doing safe and effective tennis exercises, our mantra will be FORM, FORM, FORM.

Getting back to homes for a second, when you build a home, before you put up the walls of the house, the cement foundation needs to be set...without a solid foundation, your home will crumble. In exercising, our "cement" from which we put up our "walls", will be our legs. In other words, even if we are doing an exercise that is targeting the upper body, such as a dumbbell shoulder press, in no way shape or form should you begin to do the exercise without first addressing your set up from the ground up.

Step One: (for standing exercises)
Set up your feet. The most stable stance is on two feet with them parallel and squarely set under the hips. Another version is what is referred to as the staggered stance- one foot slightly in front of the other. This position tends to help if one has low back issues. The last base set up is on one foot- definitely an advanced option.

Step Two:
Put a slight bend in the knees. Helps with balance, saves the joints and protects the low back

Step Three:
Engage your core. Draw your navel toward your spine without flexing forward and continue to breath. To help you with this concept, the sensation in your mid section should be much like when you cough.

Once you've addressed these three primary foundational techniques for standing exercises, you are now prepared to "put up you walls"- move your arms through the shoulder press exercise. Use this three step process and you will be setting yourself up to safely and effectively perform your tennis exercises.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Make Your Tennis Workout Count With These 3 Steps

I'm going to get right to the point...I am a stickler for detail and efficiency in action in just about everything I do.  Truth be known, that is why I get great results for myself and my clients when it comes to tennis conditioning.  When it comes to training, you don't have to spend all day and into the night getting fit for tennis.  To my mind, way too much time is waisted by most individuals when it comes to their workouts.  

This "time-waisted" may come in the form of not planning ahead, not knowing your purpose, not staying on task or worse yet, a combination of all three.

Plan Ahead
Before you hit the gym, make sure you know what areas of the body you are going to be focused on and what exercises you are going to be using that day.  Write it down if you have to.

Know Your Purpose
If you have no purpose, keep it simple...make your purpose to train movement patterns, not muscles.  Focus most of your time on full body movements that work more than one muscle group and joint at the same time.

Stay On Task
Do all you can to not dilly dally...get in, get out.  Since time is of the essence for most of us, make the most of yours in your workouts.  You are there to get the job done in the most efficient way possible, just like when you step on the court.  Hopefully you aren't spending too much time talking about the game you watched last night...

So there you have it. Don't be a "time-waister" in your workouts..apply these 3 simple ideas to your workout sessions and watch your on-court tennis performance move to new levels.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tennis Exercises..Use Specificity to Improve Performance

I wanted to wish you an early Happy Thanksgiving, as there is a good chance I won't get around to blogging tomorrow. Like a lot of you, I will be involved in holiday events, beginning with my Family Affair Boot Camp workout at the beach starting bright and early at 7 am. It should be a blast, as about 30-40 people, young and old, will gather to start their holiday off with some fitness...sounds pretty cool to me. Hoping the weather holds out though as today was a rainy day here in LA and tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same. We'll just have to wait and see.

Now on to the topic for today...Do I always have to apply periodization training to my tennis fitness exercises? To cut to the chase, the answer is NO. As long as you are thoughtfully applying Specificity to your training, you are good to go. So let's look at what specificity means. To sum it up in one sentence, I might say...

Train The Way You Play-

When one is deciding what types of exercises to use, it is necessary to look at one’s operational environment. In what ways will you be functioning- will you be moving just you arm or will you be bending down, turning and walking, throwing something etc? At the same time, what experience are you bringing to the workout with regard to how much strength training you are presently doing? This is referred to as a needs assessment.

More often than not, it is ideal to gear your training to fit your purpose. For our purposes, we are going to apply our training to an environment (the sport of tennis) where you’re body is constantly be called upon to operate in a synergistic way in which it allows you to change levels, move in multiple planes of activity, at extreme ranges of motion and varying speeds, all the while attempting to maintain balance so you can strike the ball in an optimal fashion. Now that’s a mouth full!

In other words, make your workouts multi-joint, multi-planar, uni-lateral, unstable and primarily standing. However, make sure to be progressive in your approach. Begin with the basics and then move on to advanced conditioning...start slow and controlled and then move to fast and chaotic.

Examples of this will follow soon.

Be well and until next time, train on purpose and play with passion!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Simple System For Tennis Fitness Programs

So now that I've established a background for the need to spend time on building stamina, strength and speed in a well designed tennis fitness program, my goal today is to share with you when you do each, how long to spend in each phase, and whether it is always necessary to always go through all three phases.  

When it comes to tennis strength training, typically the primary intention is to optimize your physical being for tennis performance.  So achieve optimal performance levels on the court, as a tennis player, do you need stamina for long matches? You better believe it.  As a tennis player, do you need strength to perform at your best?  You bet your bottom dollar.  As a tennis player, do you need speed and power to crank those rocket-like serves and rip those killer forehands?  You most certainly do.

But to know when to do them, and how long to do them, you need to know when you hope to be peaking during your year...usually if you have trained properly, you are shooting to peak for a period of about 8-16 weeks- if you are a recreational player, maybe it is the club championships or possibly your USTA league season. If you are a college player, typically you are working to peak for your Spring season and the NCAA tournament. If you are a tournament player (whether junior or professional), typically you would plan out your training schedule at the beginning of the year...pin-pointing specific chunks of time during the year to peak with the biggest, most important tournaments involved.

Remember, when one applies this periodized approach to their training, it is next to impossible to peak at every tournament you play...so don't expect to.

So here's the SIMPLE SYSTEM:
Once you've picked your key points thoughout the year where you want to peak, here it is working from beginning to end:

A. Stamina:  3-8 weeks
B. Strength: 4-8 weeks
C. Speed: 4 weeks
D. Restoration: 1 week
E. In-Season PEAK PERFORMANCE Training (8-16 weeks)

**The sport-specific strength gains achieved by going through phases A-D should last 8-16 weeks (a season).

So now you ask, "Do I always have to go through all three phases?"
The short answer is NO, but there is more to it...


Monday, November 17, 2008

Periodization Training Applied To Tennis Strength Training

...so to pick up where we left off, I wanted to provide you with some of the basic parameters of each area of tennis training I mentioned: Stamina, Strength, and Power/Speed. Today I will very simply explain what each is and the sets, reps, pace, rest period, weight, volume used in each. So here we go...

Phase 1: Stamina/General Strength
The exercises in this stage of program design do not mimic any specific sport movements...Main purpose is to create anatomical adaptations necessary to build basic strength and endurance necessary to increase the volume (amount) of work

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 12-20
Pace: moderate
Rest: <30>Weight: light
Volume: high

Phase 2: Hypertrophy/Absolute Strength
This is where you are working to build up the cross-sectional area of muscle fiber to increase its potential for power. Designed to build on base strength in resistance and movement drills and increase functional capabilities.

Sets: 3-4
Reps: 8-12 and 3-5
Pace: moderate to slow
Rest: 30-90 seconds
Weight: moderate to heavy
Volume: high

Phase 3: Explosive Power/Speed
This is where your training becomes as sport-specific as possible. In this stage of training you are peaking for performance. It is designed to enhance explosive capabilities of athlete; generate force rapidly in all areas of training.

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 4-6 and for time
Pace: explosive/fast
Rest: 2-3 minutes
Weight: heavy to light
Volume: moderate

So I here you saying to yourself, "This is all great, but when do I do each, how long do I spend in each and is it always necessary to go through all 3 phases when I set up a tennis fitness program?"

I applaud you for your question and will respond to this in our next session.

To Be Continued...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Great Tennis Fitness Programs Make Room For Everything

Happy Friday Everyone!  

Today I wanted to plant some seeds for a topic which  I plan to devote a great deal of time to over the next month or so...it is the area of Periodization Training applied to tennis training.  

Often, I get asked..."so how many repetitions should I be doing?"  Because there is rarely a one size fits all answer to this question,  I often respond with the question..."What phase of training are you in?"  More often than not, the person has no idea how to respond to my question.  

I don't ask this of them because I don't know the answer, rather to be able to accurately answer their question, I need to know whether they are training for stamina, strength, or speed/power.   

Each area of training has different repetition ranges as well as different weights to be utilized. In fact, each phase of training has numerous variables to consider...frequency, intensity, volume, rest, tempo and duration- just to name a few (I will go over these in another blog).

To make sense of all the above variables, a powerful system for training was designed called Periodization Training.  In short, periodization training is the systematic progression of an athlete through different phases of physical training intensities.  In a well designed periodization program, each phase becomes the building blocks or foundation necessary for the physical demands of the ensuing phase. 

To help illustrate this principle, let's look at an area that we all have experience in...let's use mathematics as an example.  To get to the point where one is able to do multiplication and division, they must first master addition, then subtraction.  In training terms, to get to the point where we train for speed and power, we must first prepare the muscles and joints for these higher intensity phases, by moving through stamina and strength first.

 In short the moral of this blog is that there is a time a place for everything in a thoughtfully designed tennis fitness training program.

To be continued...


Monday, November 10, 2008

12 Minute Results-Driven Tennis Fitness Workout

Just last night I was reminded of a syndrome which plagues folks relating to their tennis training and tennis fitness. It keeps them from working out...it is the false belief of "There'sJustNoTime-itis".

For many, the crazy demands of today's life leaves small windows of only 15-20 minutes for health related activities. Often, these same individuals mistakenly believe that a good workout means one where they spend 45-60 minutes in the gym (sometimes even more). Because these two numbers don't add up, the result is to DO NOTHING. Missed exercise is a slippery slope toward irreversible consequences...especially as it relates to your on-court tennis performance...without finding time for you off-court fitness, you might soon find yourself nursing a pulled hamstring, or sore low back, or torn rotator cuff.

Throw out the idea that you need an entire afternoon or a free evening to have a great workout. It simply doesn't take as much time as you think. Here's one example: (taken from one of my newsletters)...and there will be MORE TO COME! By the way, this can be home exercise, you don't even need to go to a gym for this one.

12 Minute Results-Driven Tennis Fitness Workout
**Do the following in a circuit with a 30-60 sec rest at end. Complete 2x, time permitting

1. Dumbbell Squat Press: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. First lower down into a squat position. Make sure that your knees do not go past 90 degrees. Exhale as you press the dumbbells overhead while you straighten your legs and return to the starting position.
Complete 8-12 repetitions.

2. Sprint, Jump Rope, or do Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds.

3. Dumbbell Lunge and Curl: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand down at your sides. Exhale as you lunge forward with your right leg and curl the dumbbells up toward your chest. Make sure that your knee does not go past 90 degrees. Inhale as you return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Complete 8-12 repetitions.

4. Sprint, Jump Rope, or do Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds.

5. Dumbbell Bent Over Rows: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees and lean forward from your waist, keeping your back flat. Exhale as you drive your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Complete 8-12 repetitions.

6. Sprint, Jump Rope, or do Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds.

7. V-Ups: Sit on the edge of a chair or bench and lean back. Exhale as you drive your knees in toward your chest, squeezing your abdominal muscles. Inhale as you lower your knees back down with control. Complete 15-20 repetitions.

8. Sprint, Jump Rope, or do Jumping Jacks for 30 seconds.

Think outside of the box. Could you do a 10 minute workout in the morning and a 15 minute workout before bed?

Let's be honest, you make time for the things that you feel are important. If I told you that for every minute you spent exercising I would give you a thousand dollars, would you find a minute to exercise? Sure you would! You'd probably find quite a few minutes to exercise.

Short bursts of intense exercise will give you the results you want, all you have to do is make the time for it.

Somewhere deep down inside you know that it's now or never.

Will you allow your hectic schedule to slowly push you down the path of injured tennis player, obesity and health risk? Or will you find creative ways to fit exercise into your day as you steadily regain your shape and health?

Make this the day that you finally make the change.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Tennis Training Must Do For Your Abs

So now that you've got your tennis fitness program for your abs headed in the right direction by putting you on the swiss ball, I wanted to add one more exercise for you to work on and master before we move on.  Before I reveal the exercise, I wanted to reiterate the idea that a comprehensive tennis training program wouldn't be complete without a simple and effective series of moves devoted to your midsection.  

As with any area of your body, when it comes to your belly, you absolutely need to start with the basics and build fundamental and baseline strength before you move on.  Far too often, I see people in the gym putting themselves in the position for serious injury by doing very advanced exercises (that they've probably seen on a video somewhere or have seen someone else doing) without having the necessary foundation of strength to do them safely.  

As a tennis player, functionality and mobility are the cornerstones of what we do, so don't blow that by doing ab exercises that look cool, but that you shouldn't be doing until you are ready. Remember, it is in repetition of the fundamentals on a daily basis that true mastery is found.

So anyway, here is the third of the fundamental moves on the Swiss ball...it is called the Roll-Out.

Just like the the Stability Ball Crunch and SB Oblique Crunch (see last post), begin with 1 set of 12 repetitions and work your way up to 1 set of 20 repetitions.  Work on these three exercises for 2-4 weeks and then you'll be ready to take it to the next level.

Train on Purpose and Play with Passion,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Abdominal Exercises That Offer Twice The Effect

Wouldn't it be great if there were some piece of home-exercise equipment that you could use for your abs that recruited twice as many muscles as traditional crunches? Well there is and believe it or not, it costs less than $30...it is the one thing I recommend everybody has in there home if they want great abs for tennis...the stability ball (also known as Swiss Ball).

The instability created by the ball which calls on you to stabilize yourself, is what doubles the results. A recent study done at California State University found that work on the ball activated more muscles than even yoga/Pilates inspired workouts. If you have ever done yoga or Pilates before, you know that this is saying alot, as these forms of fitness can provide quite a challenge to your abdominals.

How To Choose The Proper Size Ball
The following are typical recommendations:
*If you are 5'1"- 5'7", look to use a 55 cm ball.
*If you are 5'8" and taller, look to use a 65 cm ball.

There are alot of great balls out there, but Gymnic Plus has a latex-free vinyl, and burst resistant ball that is great. You can get it from Perform Better (see link on the right)

As with anything, just getting the ball is the first step and knowing what to do with it is the next step.

To get you started, I wanted to give you 2 basic exercises on the stability ball, so if you still don't have one, stop putting it off and go get one this weekend!

1. Stability Ball Basic Crucnch
2. Stability Ball Oblique Crunch

Level 1: 1 set, 12 reps of each
Level 2: 1 set, 15 reps of each
Level 3: 1 set, 20 reps of each

These exercises should be done a minimum of 3x a week, every other day for at least two weeks or until you can get 20 reps of each. Remember to perform the repetitions slowly...apply quality to the quantity for best results.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tennis Exercise...Stretch Your Way To Better Play

I'm sure you know by now that as a part of tennis player health, you need to add stretching to your tennis exercise programs if you want to prevent injury and perform your best on the court.  Truth be known, staying limber and supple is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself as a tennis player. However, the reality is that stretching is probably the least glamorous and most often neglected aspect of tennis exercise programs.  

More often than not, players have a specific amount of time that they can commit each day to there tennis game, whether it be practicing, playing in a match or working out in the gym. When one operates from a "time-crunched approach" to these sessions, almost 90% of the time, the first thing to go is the stretching.  At the very least, by not stretching, you risk losing your range of motion and stability in the joints.  Ultimately these can lead to serious injuries if left unattended. Or if it is not due to lack of time, in many instances it is due to lack of knowledge of what to do or when to do it.

Well I'm here to tell you that you need to make time to stretch and I'm here to tell when to do it and why to do it.  Done properly, stretching will increase flexibility, promote healing between workouts, and allows the muscles to expand and contract quickly for ultimate explosive play.

I plan on keeping it pretty simple here...we are going to look at three very common types of stretching: Dynamic, Static, and Myofascial

Dynamic:  To be done before performance of any kind.  Usually preceded by a short bit of cardio (2-3 minutes).  Purpose is to warm up core muscle temperature, get blood flowing, take muscles through smooth and controlled full range of motion and movements should mimic activities to follow.

Static:  To be done after your workout.  This is the time to hold each stretch for 20-40 seconds and breath into it.  Post exercise, the muscles are most receptive to lengthening and then staying lengthened to increase flexibility.  Far too often people to this type of stretching before workouts...this is like taking a frozen rubber band out of the freezer and trying to stretch it...it doesn't work.

Myofascial:  To be done anytime.  This is typically done placing your body weight on a foam roller targeting a specific muscle group and applying pressure to the muscle by rolling over it.  In this type of stretch you actually hit the the membranes surrounding the muscle which are called fascia.  I'm not going to lie, it will hurt but the decrease in overall tension you will feel in the muscle when you are through is well worth the discomfort.

So there you have it...a brief overview for the whens and whys of the 3 key types of stretching.  If you need some simple routines, check out my iPod Workout called The Flexibility Factor.  It has 3 simple downloadable 10 minute stretching routines in it.

Until next time, 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Welcome to Fit Tennis Player!

Hello Everyone,

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to bring this blog to life!  It has been a long time coming...but as the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait".  My hope is that those "good things" come in the form of interesting and educational information and videos relating to tennis fitness.

Over the course of the 15 or so odd years that I have been creating tennis training programs for clients- from the recreational tennis player to tour professionals- I have had the good fortune of learning so much along the way...both from ideas and training programs that have worked great and those that quite honestly were not so hot.  At the end of the day, it is through both our successes and failures that hopefully we gain insight, wisdom and grow along the way.  

It is my sincere hope that through this blog, I can share with all of you, those "things" relating to tennis training which I believe can help take your game to the next level.  To that end, I'll be covering topics that will include strength and conditioning, speed, agility and quickness, core stability, balance, nutrition, sport psychology and so much more. 

So here's to the sport of lifetime...whose competitors are, in my eyes, the ultimate athletes. 

Train on Purpose and Play with Passion,

P.S. Oh yeah, in case you haven't seen any of my One Minute Clinics on the Tennis Channel, check out the video below.  It is one of a series I did for them recently.  Some of the others can be found at TennisChannel.com/omc