Agility, Speed Training Drills For Senior Tennis Players

agility speed training drills for senior tennis players

Looking for agility exercises for seniors?

To play tennis well, you need to be able to respond rapidly to your opponent’s shots. They may try to surprise you by hitting the ball wide or short, and if you do not react quickly to these variations they will probably continue to use such tactics.

To reach this type of shot, produce an effective reply, and recover in preparation for the next ball, you will require both speed and agility. If you lack these qualities you will struggle to do well in seniors tennis, as your opponents will soon find a way to exploit your weakness.

Of course, your overall athleticism will tend to reduce as you get older, but you will benefit from maintaining as high a level as possible. So, what are the most appropriate agility and speed training drills for senior tennis players?

Warning

To begin with, you should be careful to only train at an intensity appropriate to your existing fitness level. For example if you are a previously inactive 80-year old, it would be inadvisable to suddenly attempt a demanding programme of agility and speed training.

The key is always to progress gradually, but if you have any concerns about your ability to increase your level of training, or you have previously been largely sedentary, you should consult a doctor before trying any of the exercises described here.

Why Do Seniors Need To Train Differently?

As you age, you gradually lose muscle mass, and both aerobic and anaerobic capacity tend to reduce. You are also likely to incur more injuries than you did when you were younger. The training you attempt should therefore reflect these changes by means of a reduction in duration and intensity, and an avoidance of anything that might aggravate pre-existing injury issues.

Acknowledgements

The exercises set out here are based on an article in the Strength & Conditioning Journal by Miller, Hilbert and Brown, entitled: ‘Speed, Quickness and Agility Training for Senior Tennis Players‘. If you require further details, please refer to that.

How To Structure Your Training

I will summarise the other important elements of a training programme in another article. For now, it is enough to appreciate that if you want to play tennis well, you cannot simply focus on agility and speed.

Other types of training, such as strength work, will predominate at certain times. It is normally considered best to build your strength prior to the season commencing, with a switch to primarily agility and speed training as the start of matches and tournaments approaches.

During the season, the emphasis should remain on speed and agility. Whatever stage of training you have reached, it is crucial to start each session with a few minutes’ warm-up, in order to prevent injuries. 

Agility Exercises For Seniors

The key to effective agility training is to ensure that you perform each drill as fast as you can, with your feet spending as little time as possible in contact with the ground. Little equipment is required for this type of training, but it will useful if you have access to a step-box and a long skipping rope or fitness ladder. Some good drills for seniors are set out below.

Swapping Feet

Use a step-box, and place one foot on it and the other on the ground. For around 10 seconds, rapidly jump and repeatedly swap the positions of your feet. After a break of around 60 seconds repeat until you have done three sets.

Jumping Back And Forth

Place a skipping rope or ladder on the floor. Stand next to it, facing the rope, and for about 10 seconds jump backwards and forwards over it. Concentrate on aiming for fast, low jumps rather than slow, high ones. Rest, and repeat twice more.

Sideways Jumps

This is very similar to the previous drill, but this time you must jump from side to side over the rope or ladder. Once again, do three sets with a break in between.

Crossing

Still using the skipping rope or ladder, place one foot either side of it. This exercise also requires a rapid series of jumps, but in this case, with the first jump, place your right foot on the left side of the rope, and your left foot on the right side. With the second jump, put your feet back in their original position. Repeat until 10 seconds have elapsed, again aiming for fast, low jumps. Complete three sets.

Speed Drills For Senior Tennis Players

Many speed drills are most effectively carried out in conjunction with a partner. COVID rules may make this tricky in the short-term, but hopefully the exercises listed below will soon be feasible for everyone. Speed work will enhance your acceleration, enabling you to reach drop-shots and lobs more effectively. The partner’s role is to resist the athlete’s forward movement by standing facing them and placing their hands on the person’s shoulders and leaning forward, back-pedalling slowly, as the person attempts to sprint.

Resist And Release

Get into a running position with a partner facing you. The partner should place their hands on your shoulders, allowing you to lean forward without toppling. On a count of three, the partner should let go and get out of the way while you begin to sprint for a short distance. Repeat this around seven times, and then take a two or three minute rest before going through the whole routine again. Complete three sets with appropriate rests in between.

Resisted Running

Begin by standing opposite a partner. Take up the same position as in the previous drill, with the partner’s hands on your shoulders and you in a running posture. This time, the partner stays in place, resisting your movement and slowly back-pedalling while you attempt to run for around 10 metres. Repeat this around seven times, rest, and carry out two more sets.

Resisted Run And Release

This is a hybrid of the two preceding drills. You will begin with 5 metres of resisted running, and then your partner will step aside and allow you to sprint for a few metres. Use the same pattern of rests and repetitions as above. 

Resisted Run And Pursuit

This is a development of Resisted Run And Release. Once again you start with 5 metres of resisted running. This time, when the partner releases you, they turn and run in the same direction as you. Your job is to accelerate and catch them. Again, do this around seven times, and, with appropriate rests, carry out three sets in total.

Combined Speed And Agility Drills

Plastic cones, as used by tennis coaches across the world, are extremely useful here. Placing them on the ground in set patterns allows you to copy they type of movements you might make during a rally.

Fan Drill

Spread five or six cones around, with each being around 5 metres from your starting point, where you should place another cone. Time how long it takes you to run to every cone, returning to the starting point after touching each one. Repeat the drill around seven times, for three sets. Over a period, try to improve your best time for a set.

Sidesteps

Stand in between two cones which you have placed 5-6 metres apart. Sidestep to one, touch it and sidestep back to the other, touching that. Touch each cone five times. Repeat seven times for three sets.

Running Back And Forth

Using the same cone positions as for Sidesteps, start by one of the cones. Run forward to the second cone, move around it and run backwards to the starting point. As usual, repeat around seven times for three sets.

Wrap Up on Speed & Agility Exercises for Seniors

What is most important about the drills described here is that seniors can perform them at any level of intensity. This enables you to build up gradually. Rests are incorporated, and the length of these can be adjusted as required. Nonetheless, following this programme should help you to improve your agility and speed and play better tennis.

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