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Coaches’ Corner with Strength & Conditioning Coach Dean Hollingsworth, MTPS, CSCS

Written by Dean Hollingsworth

As a strength and conditioning coach during these interesting and difficult times, it became my personal goal to create in-home training programs that would do more than maintain an athlete’s level of fitness.

I wanted athletes to move forward in their training and keep them prepared for when the time came to return to the courts. As a coach, when you have so many different training options that a fitness facility has to offer you, creating an effective program can be “easy” to put into place. In-home training for an athlete must go beyond the ubiquitous push-ups, squats, and burpees. Athletes have to be challenged on many different physical and physiological elements. Many in-home programs are great at addressing the endurance side of training, with long circuits combined with very high repetitions. Athletes need to be training power, speed, strength and tennis-specific movement. Power and speed are physical qualities that degrade quickly if not addressed. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, we must be creating a program that is effective without it becoming a circus act for the sole purpose of entertainment. A productive program must address the physical needs of the tennis player all the while ensuring

their safety.

The starting point for me was what can be done in the small area that the athletes have to perform their workouts. When having large spaces to work with, it was easy to put out cones or hurdles and put the players through movement drills. Walking into a gym with essentially all the machines and weights at your disposal made it much easier to create a workout program.

Movement prep, plyometrics that does not require a lot of space, bodyweight exercises, mobility and flexibility can easily be done at home. Now what equipment would be needed? Most athletes do not have weights at home but do have elastics that they used for their warmup which could be implemented in the training. But I needed more than this in order to help them progress and improve. Now, everyone one does have socks, chairs, and towels. These three pieces of “equipment” now become some of the main ingredients of our training programs.

Two variables of training that are often forgotten are the tempo and pausing of the exercise. These two variables were manipulated in order to maximize the effectiveness of the selected exercises. It is amazing what a five to ten-second hold can do at the bottom portion of a split squat. The importance of this is that the lower a tennis player can maintain their position with strength and stability, the better the resulting effect. If a player cannot produce great body control, then

racquet control becomes a fleeting dream.

We also have to remember that the posterior chain is critical for athletic performance. I’ve seen too many shoulders ruined by doing too many push-ups. Add in that fact of not performing any back work and we now have created a recipe for injury. One of the priorities is being able to work the back efficiently along with the glutes, hamstrings, and of course the core. Lastly, taking exercises that we know well, and adding elements of difficulty to challenge the athletes is key. The interesting side of this is that it led to the discovery of new ways of performing some very common exercises and actually increasing their value.

Below I will present to you some of the exercises that I am using with high-performance athletes and actually chosen by them for this article. I asked them to choose which ones they found most beneficial and challenging.

1. Dot Drill: This is a drill that goes way back. It is easy to implement in a small area and challenges the athlete’s agility. We use socks to produce a box. Increase the size of the box depending on ability and the drill is performed.

2. Three Socks: Positioning the socks in a straight line about 2 feet apart, we perform high knees over the socks sideways with a pause at both ends and continuous.

3. The Clock: Imagining a clock around you, jump to the various times on a clock. For example, standing on your left foot, jump forward to 12 and land on your right. Return the same way you went. Then jump to 1-2 and back and so forth. When jumping behind you, do a rotation to perform the drill and return.

4. 1/4 Hop Turns: Standing on one leg, perform a hop with a 1⁄4 turn

clockwise and then return counter-clockwise after a full rotation is performed.

5. Leg Curls with a Towel: Using a towel on a surface that will allow it slide, lift the hips up and slide out slowly. If you are strong enough, pull the heels back in while keeping the hips high. Otherwise, pull the heels in with the pelvis on the ground and perform the eccentric movement only.

6. Reverse Lunge with a Pause: Perform a reverse lunge and hold at the bottom of the movement for 5-10 seconds. For extra intensity, wrap an elastic around your back and press out on the downward phase and hold.

7. One Arm Row: Standing on an elastic with feet apart, grab the elastic, and perform the rowing movement. This does require an elastic with strong resistance. Another version is performing the one-arm row in a single leg deadlift position for added difficulty.

8. Side Plank with Elastic: Perform a side plank with elastic under your elbow. Grasp with the other hand and perform T’s

9. Plank with Elastic: In a push-up position, place the elastic under one foot and grasp with the opposite hand. Extend the arm out performing Y’s.

These are just some of the exercises that were implemented into our high-performance in-home training. Give them a try and see how they can also help you improve physically, athletically, and keep you ready for when the time comes to be back on the court.

Good luck!

Dean Hollingworth MTPS, CSCS

Follow Dean on Instagram here.

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