Lockdown showed us that we can do a hell of a lot with home training, from lounge yoga to hallway HIIT, not to mention running.
But some things are certainly more difficult to replicate, especially when you need a specific setting, lots of space, and a partner – like tennis.
So when I get the chance to take part in tennis training at home, I’m curious. Will the neighbors wonder what the bat is? Fascinated by what is being served, I decide to give it a try …
Bring tennis home
LTA has launched a “Tennis at Home” hub, with a range of home workouts slated to be available on their website, as well as live Facebook sessions from Saturday morning through February – all for free.
The training videos are not only intended for experienced players to see how tennis is “opened” to a wider range of people. There are sedentary workouts in the mix, loads of useful stuff for beginners to avid fans looking to improve their game, tips on technique, and general home fitness fun with a tennis twist.
Ball games allowed
I’m attending a 40-minute group introductory session led by Matt Smith, LTA trainer development and learning manager. With 16 years of coaching experience and numerous awards including former LTA Coach of the Year, the bar is set high. But it’s been years since I got myself a tennis racket, and while I’ve enjoyed an occasional game or two during the summer vacation over the years, I’ve never really been a real tennis player. Also, my lounge – where I train – is a tight squeeze. I have about two square meters to work.
Fortunately, the session starts with the balls set aside. Smith begins with a few simple exercises designed to warm us up and test our coordination and reaction speed, with Smith calling out certain words and reacting accordingly. As soon as we start, the clubs come into the mix and the sequences get a little more demanding. Quick responses may be the goal, but these exercises mean that we are also effectively doing a lot of squats and straightening our arms, and my heart rate is going up soon.
Next, Smith walks us through some basic techniques – working on our dodge positioning, the forehand and backhand. This part of the session is a bit like miming in that we copy the movements without actually hitting balls.
Eventually we pick up the balls – but there is no way to hit them around the room. Smith takes us through a series of challenges where the ball bounces off the ground, then gets hit and caught, and then different types of volleys (essentially like keepy-uppies that don’t drop the ball on the ground) and rallies ( This means seeing) How long can you run a sequence before you drop the ball?) with the clubs, switch between forehand and backhand and turn around with each hit so that we constantly challenge our coordination and move our body.
Apart from the ball rolling under the sofa a couple of times when I miss it, everything goes very smoothly. No broken vases and while we didn’t move much I broke my sweat and definitely felt like I made some movement. It shows how much you can do in a small space with a little guidance, and if you resort to a completely different skillset, this is a welcome change from my usual HIIT workouts and runs. Holding a ball in the air is fun!
What else can you do to finish tennis at home?
If you like the idea of going to a tennis court when they reopen, there are plenty of other ways to prepare yourself. Harriet Dart, one of the UK’s most promising young professional tennis players, says there is no single “best” approach to cross training for tennis, but it is a good idea, both in your general fitness and in yours Strength to work.
“You can do so many things,” says Dart, 24. “I’m very happy that I have a lot of equipment at home, so I did a lot on the Wattbike and trained with a weight vest and bags. I also got some fresh air for a run and it was fun. You can use literally anything to keep your fitness going. “
Smith also emphasizes the importance of whole body strength. “People sometimes think that tennis is all about strong arms, but for many, it’s actually about having strong legs and a strong core,” he says. These important muscle groups help you move and stay stable while you move around, court yourself and drive your shots. So, including some lower body and core strength workouts at home also pays off when you’re back on the court.
If you want to work on your technique specifically, depending on the space available, it may be helpful to use a wall to practice with, whether you’re just working on your serves and single punches or getting some rallies going.
And if you’re new to tennis or just want to enjoy casual games, that’s totally cool. “I always think just having fun is overlooked,” says Dart. “To be honest, nobody has a single sentence technique with technique if you watch all the top professional players. I think you can improve pretty quickly by playing more and correcting yourself as you study. And just have fun! “
More information is available at lta.org.uk/tennis-at-home-hub