Like many sports, tennis can be stop-and-go, demanding intense bouts of activity followed by periods of rest. Training your body the way you use it on the court will help you perform at your peak and keep you from fatiguing as your match wears on. Speed endurance training prepares your muscles and your cardiovascular system to meet the challenges posed by your fiercest opponent.
Endurance for tennis is not the same as for activities like cycling or running. In tennis, you need to develop the ability to sustain and recover from many small bouts of explosive activity. In order to meet the demands of your sport, your training should be geared to those demands. According to Mark Kovacs, the U.S. Tennis Association's manager of sports science, most tennis points last less than 10 seconds and rarely last more than 30 seconds. In that time, a player will make a number of quick starts, stops, changes of direction and side-to-side movements.
Intensify Your Training
Exercise intensity is key to developing optimal endurance for tennis. While aerobic fitness is important, your game is made up of hundreds of short explosive movements that are anaerobic in nature. Kovacs acknowledges that aerobic training may be of some benefit for tennis players, but he explains that running short distances at intensities as high as or higher than those demanded on the court will yield training adaptations that are more specific to your sport. He recommends using a heart rate monitor and working at 65 percent to 85 percent of your maximal heart rate, or HRmax. To calculate HRmax, subtract your age from 220 and multiply the result by 65 percent and 85 percent. If you are 30 years old, for example, subtract 30 from 220. Multiply the result, 190, by 0.65 and by 0.85.
A 2010 research review published in the "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports" noted that speed endurance training using high-intensity intervals lasting 30 seconds to four minutes can improve an athlete's oxidative capacity and performance of intense short-duration high-intensity bouts of exercise typical of tennis and other sports. To train for tennis endurance, Kovacs recommends performing high-intensity intervals ranging from five to 45 seconds, with a work-to-rest ratio of either 1:2 or 1:3. You should include frequent directional changes every 5 to 20 yards.
Your endurance training program should incorporate footwork that duplicates movements typical of play. For example, perform a spider drill. Beginning at the center baseline of the court, shuffle to the sideline and back, then run diagonally to the left net post and back, run to center net and back, run to the right net post and back, then shuffle to the right sideline and back. Intersperse high-intensity bouts of varying distances and lengths of time with rest periods two to three times as long.