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Planning and

Periodization for the Elite


Junior Tennis Player
Machar Reid, PhD, Geoff Quinlan, Simon Kearney, and David Jones
Athlete Development/Sport Sciences, Tennis Australia, Victoria, Australia

SUMMARY more pertinently competitionin ten- general performance targets related to


nis is less clear. To this end, Reid et al. 1 of 3 broad competitive foci: pro-
ELITE JUNIOR PLAYERS TRAIN
(15) have illustrated the merits of the fessional events only, professional
IN STRUCTURED HIGH-
International Tennis Federation junior events with a small number of ITF
PERFORMANCE PROGRAMS, tour and U.S. College system as devel- junior events, and ITF junior events
ASPIRING TOWARD PROFES- opmental pathways, yet little research with a small number of professional
SIONAL SUCCESS, FROM A RELA- has investigated the role of planning events (Table 1). In this way, retro-
TIVELY YOUNG AGE. WHERE and periodization as part of junior spective observation of the different
IMMEDIATE PERFORMANCE player development. calendars of current successful male
ENHANCEMENT IN THE PHYSICAL professionals can be instructive (Table
When these approaches to structuring
DOMAIN IS SOUGHT, ARGUABLY 2), with the schedules of Nadal and
competition calendars are coupled
MORE IMPORTANT IS THE PREPA- Federer in their 17th years providing
with an uncertain micro (weekly) back-
RATORY WORK REQUIRED TO
drop, characterized by unpredictable tangible examples of 2 very different
WITHSTAND THE RIGORS OF THE playing times and numbers of matches, competitive foci but with relatively
PROFESSIONAL TOUR. THIS ARTI- the challenge for professionals working similar tournament volume. In other
CLE PROVIDES AN INSIGHT INTO to maximize the health, performance, words, where Federer played 14 of
HOW THE PROGRAMMING CHAL- and well-being of the tennis players is 18 events on the junior tour, Nadal
LENGES OF TENNISYEAR-ROUND marked. For the strength and condi- participated in 20 professional tourna-
COMPETITION, CONSTANT tioning coach, the principles of pro- ments and no junior events. Interest-
TRAVEL, IRREGULAR PLAYING gram design and exercise prescription ingly, in their 18th years, the total
TIMES, AND AN UNCERTAIN NUM- still apply, yet adaptability becomes number of events that each player
BER OF MATCHESCAN BE MET paramount to accommodate this un- played remained relatively constant
WITH A 17- TO 18-YEAR-OLD MALE predictability. With this and the pleth- but their competitive foci shared
ora of other variables that can influence considerably greater parallel.
PLAYER.
programming (chiefly gender, age, and The large SDs associated with the
geography) in mind, the aim of this number of tournaments played by the
INTRODUCTION article is to provide some practical sample of top 10 male players in their
he planning of junior tennis

T
examples of macro and micro strength 17th and 18th years (Table 2) underline
player development is generally and conditioning planning delimited to the individualized nature of player
emulative, guided by the expe- a 17- to 18-year-old male professional development, with players progressing
riences of the coach (often as a player) tennis aspirant. at varying rates through different
or reflecting the schedules of the approaches or pathways. Nonetheless,
sports well-performed contempora- CONSIDERATIONS IN PLANNING in general, most internationally com-
ries. These approaches, although mer- FOR JUNIOR PLAYER petitive players of this age compete in
itorious, share limited scientific or DEVELOPMENT 18 to 30 tournaments, some of which
systematic origin. While the contribu- Most 17- to 18-year-old athletes who are likely to be domestic prize money
tion of large amounts of deliberate train in a structured high-performance
practice to the development of exper- program and who aspire to profes-
KEY WORDS:
tise has received critical support in sional success follow some form of
other domains (2), how this framework planned competition schedule. These tennis; periodization; strength and
is expressed through trainingand schedules are individualized, considering conditioning

Copyright National Strength and Conditioning Association Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-lift.org 69
Planning and Periodization for the Elite Junior Tennis Player

Table 1
Competitive foci and annual target number of tournaments, matches, and win to loss ratios
for 15- to 18-year-old male players (5)
Age (y)

Benchmarks 1517 17+


Tournaments/competitive foci 1822 tournaments (assuming 2030
competitive foci [a] but more
(a) Professional events only likely [b] or [c]) 2030 tournaments (assuming competitive
foci [b] or [c])
(b) Professional events with a small
number of ITF junior events
(c) ITF junior events with a small
number of professional events
Matches 6580 singles 80100 matches
Doubles as agreed by player and coach
2545 doubles
Win to loss ratio 2:1 2:1
ITF International Tennis Federation.

or junior events (not represented in sport therefore challenges the more TRAINING BLOCK 1
Table 2). Training blocks feature be- classical models of periodization (1). General aim.
tween these clusters of tournaments, Nevertheless, a periodized approach to  To complete a full fitness test battery
providing coaches in the region of 20 training, which embraces but is not similar to those previously published
weeks or almost 40% of total tennis constrained by method, is preferable and recommended (14).
time to focus on specific (technical, (13). The work of Kraemer et al. (8) has  To reintroduce the athlete to all
tactical, physical, or mental) goals. previously illustrated the value of aspects of physical training, working
These blocks also provide athletes periodized resistance training with un- through all movement planes, and
and coaches the opportunity to dulating intensity to tennis and phys- targeting the development of the
rejuvenate by training at home, with- ical performance. aerobic energy system.
out the associated pressures of Given this challenging milieu and with  To develop a general strength and
competition. a view to providing a practical exam- conditioning base to facilitate pro-
DEVELOPING PHYSICAL SKILLS ple, the strength and conditioning foci gression into subsequent tournament
WITHIN TENNIS CONTEXTS of the elite junior tennis players in their and training blocks.
The schedules of most 17- to 18-year- 17th or 18th years are detailed below.
old male players attempt to strike In context, the vignette assumes that Total workload summary Overall vol-
a balance between learning, training, the player plays a baseline game style, ume is generally at its highest for the
and competing. From a physical prep- competes for 24 weeks of the year year (13-17 hours of specific physical
aration point of view, the players (Table 1) participating in a combination work per week over 8 weeks); in turn,
annual plan and associated goals de- of ITF junior and professional entry- the training intensities are submaximal.
pend upon their own individual phys- level events, but enjoys only limited Variety is strategically incorporated
ical requirements. These requirements previous strength and conditioning into training given the high volume.
are determined through the compila- experience. The training blocks last Technical complexity is relatively low
tion and interpretation of observational between 4 and 8 weeks and aim to as fatigue levels are elevated.
analysis, tennis-specific fitness testing elicit 3 peaks in performance of up to Strength summary Basic strength ex-
batteries, and musculoskeletal/medical 9 days, coinciding with 2 junior Grand ercises are introduced in all movement
screens. Other factors that shape the Slams and 1 block of 3 consecutive ITF planes, with pelvic and scapula stability
physical progression and require con- future events. The first section provides targeted for monitoring and/or re-
sideration include peaking for major an outline of content and emphasis finement. Intensities are relatively low
tournaments, surface changes, travel, across 4 training blocks, while the (50-75% 1 repetition maximum 3
variable temperature and altitude con- second section offers a more incisive 10-12 exercises 3 3 sets 3 8-12 rep-
ditions, schooling, growth spurts, train- view of programming during a typical etitions 3 3-4 sessions per week), with
ing age, and rest. The nature of the tournament block. particular focus placed on technique.

70 VOLUME 31 | NUMBER 4 | AUGUST 2009


Table 2
Calendar of events played by the current top 10 ATP players in their 17th and 18th years (5)

Professional events Junior events


Current ATP
ranking Player Year ATP circuit Challenger ITF futures ITF Total

1 Nadal 17th 11 9 0 0 20
18th 18 0 0 0 18
2 Federer 17th 3 1 0 14 18
18th 14 7 0 0 21
3 Djokovic 17th 3 7 6 3 19
18th 9 4 0 0 13
4 Ferrer 17th 0 0 0 0 0
18th 0 0 10 2 12
5 Davydenko 17th 0 0 0 0 0
18th 0 0 11 0 11
6 Murray 17th 0 4 7 3 14
18th 9 7 3 1 20
7 Nalbandian 17th 0 1 7 6 14
18th 2 11 3 0 16
8 Roddick 17th 0 0 0 17 17
18th 5 5 0 12 22
9 Blake 17th 0 0 0 1 1
18th 0 0 0 4 4
10 Wawrinka 17th 0 0 1 6 7
18th 4 5 5 1 15
Average (SD) 17th 1.7 (3.5) 2.2 (3.3) 2.1 (3.2) 5 (6.0) 11.0 (8.2)
18th 6.1 (6.3) 3.9 (3.8) 3.2 (4.2) 2.0 (3.7) 15.2 (5.5)
ITF International Tennis Federation; ATP Association of Tennis Professionals.

Conditioning summary Establishing TRAINING BLOCK 2 of the training block reduces by 2


a satisfactory aerobic base is essential, General aim. weeks (to 6 weeks) to facilitate the
particularly given the players style of  To maintain and/or progress aerobic adaptive responses to increased session
play. A combination of 4 to 6 weight- and general strength bases. loads. Shifts in exercise focus see
bearing or non-weightbearing training greater technical complexity intro-
sessions (@ 60-80% V_ O2 max) is Total workload summary. Intensities duced to strength, conditioning, and
scheduled per week to help minimize increase moderately as session volume skill development.
the prospect of stress-related injuries. (10-13 hours of specific physical work) Strength summary. General strength
Select anaerobic/tennis-specific foot- decreases slightly from preceding train- exercises and injury prevention/joint
work drills are incorporated as the ing block. There is a commensurate stability are further developed. As an
training block progresses. Running increase in emphasis on recovery. The individuals strength base grows, pro-
technique may be revisited. duration and therefore overall volume gram design begins to feature a larger

Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-lift.org 71


Planning and Periodization for the Elite Junior Tennis Player

number of power movements (65-85%

recovery after game.


1RM 3 8 exercises 3 3-4 sets 3 6-10

Completed as part of
acceleration work
Footwork drills and
Light jog/pool/bike

repetitions 3 3-4 sessions per week).

warm-up and
completed in
for recovery.

Conditioning summary. Prescription of


Day 6

warm-up.
aerobic, anaerobic (repeat speed), and
technical footwork exercise attracts
similar weighting as long as the aerobic
conditioning objectives are achieved in
the previous training block. Approxi-

recovery after game.


mately 3 to 5 sessions are dedicated to
Completed as part Completed as part
of warm-up and
this exercise prescription per week,
with conditioning intensities of 75 to
Sample schedule for a 17- to 18-year-old male player competing throughout a tournament
Day 5

85% V_ O2max. Technical work: The


alternating of weightbearing and non--
weightbearing exercise continues, and
an increased amount of tennis play is
likely to feature compared with the
Light jog/pool/bike

flexibility session

previous block.
of warm-up and

game. Specific
recovery after
for recovery.

in evening.
Day 4

TRAINING BLOCK 3
Aim.
 To refine strength and conditioning
skills previously developed, with in-
creasing attention afforded to the
coordination work
Footwork drills and

Completed as part

development of tennis-specific
short-duration

completed in

and recovery

movements and energy systems.


gym session.
low-volume,
High-intensity,

of warm-up
Table 3

after game.
Day 3

 To reassess the athletes progression


warm-up.

and development through the fitness


test battery used in Training Block 1.
Total workload summary. Similar in
duration to Training Block 2 (6 weeks),
Light jog/pool/bike

Completed as part

more frequent recovery sessions (i.e.,


and recovery

contrast water therapy) are scheduled


for recovery.

of warm-up

after game.
Day 2

to accommodate likely increases in


exercise complexity and tennis play.
This block is also punctuated by less
variety as the level of training specific-
ity heightens: 7.5 to 11 hours of specific
acceleration work
Footwork drills and

physical work of varying (nonlinear)


Completed as part
of warm-up and
recovery after

but generally increasing intensity.


completed in
Day 1

warm-up.

Strength summary. With program-


ming not entirely linear in nature, an
game.

almost equal emphasis is placed on


general strength and power develop-
ment (65-85% 1RM [or 5-7RM] 3 7-8
Fitnessanaerobic/aerobic

exercises 3 2-5 sets 3 4-8 repetitions


3 3-4 sessions per week) as well as
Flexibility and injury
Strength and power

injury prevention throughout this


Fitness component

Speed, agility, and

training block.
coordination

prevention

Conditioning summary. The condi-


tioning prescription shares a similar
energy system focus as Training Block 2
but with an increased emphasis on
speed and agility development. Often

72 VOLUME 31 | NUMBER 4 | AUGUST 2009


programmed as a precursor to an

high-intensity
footwork and

warm-up and
incorporated

warm-down.
on-court tennis session, speed-agility-

Short-duration

main tennis
speed drills

Completed in
within the
coordination activities are scheduled
Day 5

session.
up to 4 times per week. Physical
and cognitive efforts are generally
high, precipitating neural stress and
Sample schedule for a 17-18 year old male player exiting in the 1st round and with a five day break between tournaments

underlining the need for appropriate

Completed in warm-up
volume (2 sets only).
work to rest ratios (1:3-1:5, with work

Additional flexibility
session in evening.
gym session: short
duration and low
, 15 seconds). Lower-limb joint and

and warm-down.
tissue loading are again managed
Refer to sample
Day 4

through the scheduling of weightbear-


ing and non-weightbearing modes
of exercise.

TRAINING BLOCK 4
within tennis training.

Completed in warm-up
agility drills included
session incorporated

Aim.
in tennis warm-up.

 To optimize adaptive stress applied


and warm-down.
Twenty minutes of

to all tennis-specific movements and


Day 3

conditioning

energy systems, while accommodat-


Sport-specific

ing an increasing competition


stimulus.
Total workload summary. High inten-
sities are programmed necessitating
that volume is kept low (6-9 hours
Twenty minutes of

tennis warm-up.
footwork drills

of specific physical work over a 4-week


warm-up and
Refer to sample
gym session.

warm-down.
Completed in
included in

cycle) and recovery is emphasized.


Table 4

Day 2

As neural stress is higher, decreases


in the frequency of weekly training
sessions and the duration of the
training block are required (from 6 to
4 weeks).
Light jog/pool/bike

session/rest day.
for recovery or

Strength summary. The prescription of


power and tennis-specific movements
Day 1

rest day.

assume priority (3 sessions @ 70-95%


Flexibility

1RM [or 4-6RM] 3 6-8 exercises 3


2-4 sets 3 3-6 repetitions, plus 1
session @ 30-50% 1RM), but with
a continued focus on the scheduling of
Completed as part
of warm-up and

injury prevention exercise. Previous


recovery after
Match day

technical work should ensure profi-


ciency such that benefits transfer to
game.

stroke technique and court movement.


Plyometric exercises, emphasizing
high movement velocities, are increas-
ingly incorporated to train the stretch--
Fitnessanaerobic/aerobic

shorten cycle and to challenge reactive


strength.
Flexibility and injury
Strength and power
Fitness component

Conditioning summary. Anaerobic


Speed, agility, and

conditioning (2 sessions 3 20-30


coordination

prevention

minutes per week @ 77.5-92.5% max-


imum perceived physical effort) and
continued refining of footwork skill are
prioritized. As mentioned, recovery
strategies are employed regularly.

Strength and Conditioning Journal | www.nsca-lift.org 73


Planning and Periodization for the Elite Junior Tennis Player

Table 5
Sample strength and power program for a 17- to 18-year-old tennis player during a competition block

Exercise (complexed pairs) Tempo (ecc/iso/conc) Prescription


DB overhead pull 201 6, 6, 6 @ 10RM
Medicine ball overhead passes for distance 10* 6, 6, 6 @ 2 kg
Back squats 311 4, 4, 4 @ 6RM
Drop jumps Short contact time, explode off ground 4, 4, 4 @ BW
Cable rotational pull 101 6, 6, 6 each side @ 10RM
Medicine ball sidearm throws for speed 10* 6, 6, 6 each side @ 2 kg
Lunge complex 201 5, 5, 5 @ 8RM
Lateral incline board jumps 10* 5, 5, 5 @ BW
Bench pulls 201 6, 6, 6 @ 8RM
Reverse catch deceleration *01 4, 4, 4 @ 0.5 kg
Unilateral calf raise 201 6, 6, 6 @ 10RM
Toe tapping Short contact time, low-amplitude movement 3 3 10 s
Guidelines: rest 1 minute after each pair of exercises, e.g., complete 1 set of DB overhead pulls, 1 set of medicine ball overhead passes, then rest
1 minute.

DB dumb bell; RM repetition maximum; BW body weight.

*Explode with maximal acceleration or control under maximal deceleration.

PRESCRIBING STRENGTH AND mechanically comparable to serving tournament. However, the quality of
CONDITIONING ON THE ROAD speed in tennis, of handball players off-court training takes precedence
Strength and conditioning programs following the cessation of resis- over its quantity. Travel-related stress
during tournament blocks need struc- tance training. As detraining has been and any nutritional challenges also
ture; however, they also require flexi- implicated in elevated injury risk require consideration, such as contrast
bility. That is, given the uncertainty in among tennis players (7), measures to temperature water therapy, wearing
start times, match durations, and guard against this regressionand pro- compression garments, and low-inten-
frequencies (8) as well as access to gram noncomplianceare important. sity active exercise (4).
facilities, it is common for strength The aims and general content of
and conditioning coaches to have strength and conditioning exercise Strength summary. Efforts should be
a Plan C to accompany Plans A and B. prescription over the course of a made to complete 1 (Table 3) to 2
In general though, the intent will be to 3- to 6-week competition block for a (Table 4) strength and/or power
schedule training to maintain players 17- to 18-year-old player are summa- sessions per week (19). To minimize
fitness status, minimizing any regres- rized below. detraining including decreases in
sion. To this end, a recent study strength and power (6), the general
performed by Kovacs et al. (7) is COMPETITION BLOCK recommendation is to reduce the
topical. The researchers were able to Aim. volume of strength training while
show that the speed, power, and  To maintain previous strength and maintaining a high intensity (17). For
aerobic capacity of collegiate tennis conditioning adaptations and mini- example, 2 to 4 sets of 3 to 8 repetitions
players decreased significantly over mize detraining. (18) with loading of major muscle
a 5-week period, despite the players  To ensure that the athlete is physi- groups/movement patterns are em-
having a structured but unsupervised cally prepared for competition. phasized (Table 5). Where applicable,
physical program in place. Similarly, strength exercises can even be alter-
Marques and Gonzalez-Badillo (12) Total workload summary. This largely nated/complexed with plyometric ex-
noted a decrease in the ball throw depends on competition load and ercise (18,19). Preferably, strength/
velocity, a parameter that is when the player exits from power sessions are completed at least

74 VOLUME 31 | NUMBER 4 | AUGUST 2009


24 hours prior to players taking to the shifting from medium-intensity/
Machar Reid is
court for their next match. Typically, medium-volume training to high-
the sport science
flexibility and injury prevention exer- intensity/low-volume training as the
manager for
cises are of low intensity, resulting in next tournament approaches (9).
Tennis Australia
little fatigue and can be performed Jet lag or travel fatigue can affect
(TA) and is a high
daily. a variety of physical parameters and
performance TA
therefore decrease athletic perfor-
coach.
Conditioning summary. Match play is mance (10). Consequently, provisions
known to provide a mild aerobic need to be made to allow players
stimulus ((3), as in the scenario pre- sufficient time to adjust to the rigors
sented in Table 3); however, the pre- of tournament travel and new time David Jones is
scription of 1 to 2 specific conditioning zones (Table 4). Practical strategies for the strength and
exercises per weekoften integrated as coping with jet lag and travel fatigue conditioning
part of a sessionis generally targeted center on adjusting the body clock to coordinator at the
for maintenance of both anaerobic and new time zones as quickly as possible. Tennis Australia
aerobic fitness throughout competi- Adjusting sleep patterns can be aug- National
tion. High-intensity interval training mented by melatonin and maintaining Academy in
has been shown to increase parameters daytime alertness with caffeine and Adelaide.
of both aerobic and anaerobic fitness gentle exercise (20).
(11), lending support to the use of short
sprint/interval work that replicates the Simon Kearney
games metabolic characteristics. On- CONCLUSION is the strength and
court tennis drills that incorporate Planning and periodizing the physical conditioning
specific technical-tactical demands training programs of tennis players coordinator for the
and that extend or elicit similar phys- represents a significant challenge for Tennis Australia
iological responses to match play (16) the strength and conditioning pro- National Academy
represent another viable conditioning fessional. The idiosyncrasies of the in Melbourne.
alternative. Furthermore, footwork ex- sport see elite junior players training
ercises in addition to speed and agility in structured high-performance pro-
development depending on tourna- grams and aspiring to professional
ment involvement can be performed success from relatively young ages.
daily as part of warm-ups and provide Continued performance enhancement Geoff Quinlan is
an alactic-anaerobic and, on occasion, in the physical domain is regularly the Tennis Aus-
a lactic-anaerobic training stimulus. sought, yet often confounded by tralia National
extensive playing schedules, frequent Academy man-
travel, and inconsistent training in- ager.
PRACTICAL frastructure. This article provides an
EXAMPLEGUIDELINES FOR example of how these programming
TRAINING BETWEEN MATCHES challenges can be met with a 17- to 18-
In keeping with the aforementioned year-old male player who undertakes
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