The tennis serve is an intricate move that takes years to master. Heavily involving shoulder and back, the serve involves massive bouts of power; after doing this motion for years, tennis players are incredibly susceptible to overuse and subsequent injury in these areas of the body, decreasing their service velocity and accuracy. Recently, researchers set out to develop and study an exercise program to use strength training to improve tennis serves and strength.
“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 authors reported. “Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the effects of a 6- week conditioning program (comprising throwing, elastic resistance exercises and stretching) on serve velocity.”
Youth tennis player conditioning program
Thirty healthy, nationally ranked male junior tennis players were randomly divided into the exercise program group or control group. While all players partook in 8-10 hours of tennis training per week, the experimental group came one hour before joint tennis training sessions so they could perform additional training, and then participate in regular training together with the controlled athletes.
The six-week study examined the effects of a specific strength-training program on throwing velocity in elite junior tennis players. Baseline measurements that were compared at the end of the study included:
- Shoulder internal/external rotation
- Velocity analysis and radar specifications
- Serve accuracy
Performed three days per week, the protocol for the tennis conditioning program was as follows:
- 10 minutes dynamic warm-up
- Core exercises
- TheraBand Exercises
- TheraBand Soft Weight
- 15 minutes stretching
Better serves are just an exercise away
Study results are outlined in the table below:
According to the authors, this study “showed significant differences between training and control groups in the serve velocity, with the training group showing significantly higher serve velocities after the training intervention. There were no differences between groups in the serve accuracy and shoulder internal/external rotation after the 6-week study. The training group increased 13.6 degrees in total rotation ROM while the control group increased 8.2 degrees. All subjects participating in the study did not miss any training sessions, demonstrating excellent compliance with the training program.”
Why you need to implement this program
The excellent results of this study show that this training program is a promising guideline to help tennis players safely develop their tennis serves. The authors concluded, “The present results showed that a short-term training program for young tennis players, using minimum equipment and effort, can result in improved tennis performance (i.e., serve velocity) and a reduction in the risk of a possible overuse injury, reflected by an improvement in shoulder external/internal range of motion.”
Source: Fernandez J et al. 2013. Effects of a 6-week junior tennis conditioning program on service velocity J Sports Sci Med 12:232-239.