Training is crucial to upping tennis game

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If you’re into tennis but haven’t done any pre-conditioning before you play your first match, you could be in for some disappointing performances, not to mention injuries.

On the other hand, if you follow an effective training program, you can expect improved technique and power, making you a better athlete. You’ll also avoid common tennis injuries, which mostly result from overuse, improper mechanics and a lack of sufficient flexibility and strength.

By strengthening the muscles surrounding typical injury sites, you can strengthen the area and enable it to withstand the repetitive stresses associated with tennis. Pre-conditioning also allows you to handle longer matches at a higher level of intensity without getting winded.

photoSherri McMillan demonstrates "Side to Side" footwork, part of an eight-week fitness program you can do outdoors.

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Agility is extremely important in a tennis match. In your next strength-training workout, perform four traditional strength-training exercises, then one of the following agility exercises. Then another four traditional exercises, then one of the agility drills. Then another four exercises and the last agility exercise. Try to incorporate traditional strength moves like squats, lunges, chest and shoulder presses, back rows and pull-ups. But remember: Because tennis requires the body to rotate in order to generate force during serves, backhands, forehands and smashes, be sure to include full-body rotational movements like the ones we did last week in the golf section.

photoSherri McMillan demonstrates "Rectangle Sprints."

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Side-to-side fast footwork — Position two cones or props a few feet apart. Now quickly step laterally to the outside of one cone and back to the outside of the other, touching down toward the floor on each end. Try to go as fast as you possibly can. Continue for 30-60 seconds.

photoSherri McMillan demonstrates "Monkey in the Middle."

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Rectangle sprints — Position four cones in the shape of a rectangle so that the area within the cones is about half the size of a tennis court. Start at the base and sprint forward, staying outside of the cones. Now shuffle laterally. Shuffle backward. Shuffle laterally. Reverse, and go the other way. Do this for one minute. Take a 30-second break and repeat in the opposite direction.

Monkey in the middle — Stand in the middle of four marked spots, then sprint forward to the top mark, then back to the middle, shuffle to the left mark and back to the middle, backward to the rear mark and back to the middle and finish by shuffling to the right mark and back to the middle. Do this for one to two minutes. See how many times you can return to the middle during the drill, and try to get better over time.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She also can be reached at Shape Up With Sherri.