Getting ready for your next racquet season is not magic or voodoo. You won’t automatically be on the top of your game just because you were doing great at the end of last season. Your backhand can get weak, without training or practicing. So, this means there should be some type of training routine during pre-season, right?
The off-season or pre-season is a time when an athlete is not competing. As with any sport, the off-season and pre-season training tend to be the most crucial in athletic growth, maintaining performance and to keep your body in shape. Preparing yourself for any racket sport season (tennis, squash, racquetball, badminton, or padel) requires athletic training, exercising, and eating right. Your pre-season training should include general training and sport-specific conditioning.
There are six elements you should work on before your season begins:
These 6 elements of pre-season training and conditioning can put you at the top of your game and get you ready for a great season in tennis, badminton or any other racquet sport you may play.
Strength training is also known as weight training. The idea is not necessarily to gain muscle but instead to improve your core strength while strengthening areas that could be prone to injury during the season. In racket sports, strength training has a lot to do with your upper body and extremities. Several types of strength and conditioning exercises you should familiarize yourself with during the pre-season are bench pressing, lateral raises, incline press, and dumbbell row. All of these will help condition muscles and joints that are used during your season.
Having weak shoulders, torso or leg muscles may cause injury during your full season. So, don’t skip out on the strength training. It may not be your favorite thing to do but it is quite beneficial. Other areas to work on many include hamstrings, hips or shoulders. If you are unsure about any exercise or weight lifting technique, consider asking a certified strength and conditioning trainer to show you how to do them properly. It’s better to ask someone who is knowledgeable than to end up with an injury before your season even starts.
Agility is the ability to move fast and transition to different directions quickly. Agility training exercises are important in tennis and badminton because so much of the lower half of your body is being used in a stop and go movement as you play the game.
Injuries can occur in your lower extremities so it’s important to train and strengthen those body parts. A couple of drills that can help with agility are forward running high knee drills and lateral running drills. Forward high knee running drills are where you use basic speed running forward, lifting your knees high like you are stepping through a ladder. Lateral running drills are great for your ankles and even knees. Simply run side to side like you are stepping through a ladder. Another great drill for agility is the jump box drills. This type of drill is great for your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
When you play padel, tennis or even racquetball your body must be flexible. There is a lot of quick movements, backhands, jumping and running. In order to prepare your body for that type of intensity stretching exercises are great. You should always stretch, warm-up and cool down after playing any sport. During the pre-season, you can prepare yourself by doing different stretches. Pay attention to stretching your legs, shoulders, and torso. A good stretching routine will include stretches for your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, hip flexors, triceps, and shoulders. Flexibility training will help with your range of motion too.
Improving Your Speed
Speed for any racquet sport consists of two parts. One is your speed on the court, while the other is your reaction time. Your speed gets better with practice, strength training, and resistance training. Some people like to hire a personal trainer or coach while others will practice serving and returning the ball to another player. Your speed will increase as your skills get better. And it’s perfectly okay to just go out there and have fun while you are training. The more you practice and play, the better you will be. Be sure to work on your footwork too! Proper footwork will give you an edge on your speed.
Increasing Your Stamina
Interval training and aerobics can really help increase your stamina and endurance when you play any racket sport. Racquet sports are sports that increase your heart rate and oxygen levels, so it’s ideal to be fit and in shape. Aerobics can really help with that. During your off-season from racquet sports, try to do at least two days of aerobic exercises a week. Running, jogging and swimming are all great ways to get your heart going and will help with your endurance and stamina.
A good diet will help you during training and even in your regular season. It’s easier to maintain a diet if you stick with it during your off-season too. Foods to include in your diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, foods that contain zinc which will help with hand-eye coordination, Vitamin C for your muscles, Dimethylaminoethanol which is found in fish, Vitamin A for white blood cells, lean meats, and foods that contain glycogen. Also, be sure to stay hydrated, especially when training during the racquet sports pre-season and during gameplay.
Other Aspects To Help Get You Ready For The Season
An athlete’s life should be well balanced emotionally and physically, this is especially true for racquet sports. There several things that can help you maintain balance including:
- Maintaining healthy relationships
- Giving yourself breaks from work, stressful activities, and sports
- Trying new sports including cross-training which is a great way to keep up your performance!
- Practice mindfulness. It’s amazing how much your thoughts and emotions can affect your game
- Take a vacation. There is nothing wrong with working or training, but everyone deserves a break to rejuvenate the body.
No matter what you do during the racquet sports pre-season be sure to stay fit, eat right, and take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Good athletes know their limits and know when to push themselves.