Lee Taft’s Top 10 Tennis Speed and Power
Must-Have Drills Checklist
I am all about understanding the skill and the movement pattern that needs to be addressed- then finding a drill or corrective that fits the need. This is the way it should be.
See what’s broken, find the correct tool to fix it, and get to work.
I have my Top 10 Speed and Power Drills just for YOU!
These drills are an epic part of my toolbox of drills. I love to use all ten to challenge my tennis player’s athleticism. Each one of these would be chosen for a specific reason- start reading down below to find out why…
Drill #1 – Tennis Lateral Reach Test (a.k.a. Cone Stack)
Purpose: The Tennis Lateral Rach Test drill is excellent to challenge a tennis player’s ability to accelerate laterally using a Lateral Run Gait Cycle. A pure shuffle can be used, but it is not nearly as fast or explosive as the Lateral Run Step Pattern. This drill also challenges the tennis player to change levels, reach wide outside their center of mass, and instantly change directions and repeat the same pattern but on the other side of the body, which is why it makes this such an excellent drill for tennis speed and quickness.
The are many variations of this drill- meaning you can start the tennis player in all different stances and facing different directions. The bottom line is the learn to escape old space and attack new space very quickly.
Description: The tennis player will start at the first cone, which is also where they will stack the other three cones. The player faces the starting cone, and on command, or their timing, they begin. The player must get to the first of the three cones, pick it up with the same side hand (forehand side), then put it down with the same hand (backhand side). As soon as the player stacks the first cone, they continue to return for the next three cones. Time stops when the last cone is stacked, and the cone stack is upright.
The Cone Stack Drill is an exciting and competitive drill for tennis players to work on a specific pattern valuable to their tennis speed. Have the athlete complete 2-4 sets per side with a minimum of 60-90 seconds rest after each set.
Drill #2 – Lob Rundown (a.k.a. Hip Turn to Sprint)
It kills me when I hear tennis coaches teaching their tennis players to use a pivot to open up and retreat for the first movement. It is ineffective by doing it this way.
On the other hand, the Hip Turn is an instinctive human movement to allow tennis players to escape where they are starting and get into great posture and positions to attack new court space- especially when running down and lob.
Purpose: The Lob Rundown is a fantastic way for tennis players to compete for their speed. Players learn to move into acceleration from a non-acceleration stance quickly. They learn to quickly use sprint acceleration mechanics because they try to move to the baseline as fast as possible. The Lob Rundown drill also teaches tennis players the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line. Allowing them to focus on the details of pushing off quickly and explosively in the correct direction.
Description: The players start at the net at approximately 9-feet. The distances can vary based on the goal, but for the TMA, there are specific lengths that need to be consistent. The player is in a parallel athletic stance with toes facing the net. On a command or their own, the player will quickly rotate their hips and legs to push off and get into a straight line accelerate to the middle of the baseline. The coach times the moment the tennis player moves until they cross the baseline. Simple, but incredibly effective. This drill is repeated to the opposite side as well. Have each player complete 2-4 sets per side with about 45-75 second rest in between sets.
Drill #3 – 30-Yard Sprint
I know what you are thinking! Tennis players never sprint 30-yards in tennis. Well, they do with me, and let me tell you why you should have your tennis players doing the same.
Sprinting is by far the fastest ground contact time a player will reach. When a player sprints, they strike the ground in lightning-fast time frames and are forced to have stability and elasticity to run high speeds. The 30-yard sprint is long enough to get out of acceleration and execute several strides in an upright posture, which are the fastest contact times.
Purpose: The 30-Yard Sprint builds high levels of speed, increases foot and ankle stability/stiffness to withstand high forces, creates elastic energy qualities, and increases hip and core strength in a very dynamic way. This development carries over to the tennis court because of all the unique strength qualities the tennis player will build.
Description: The tennis player can start in any number of stances. They will take off on their own or with a command and sprint for 30 meters. The play will need to take a two and a half to three-minute rest before the next set. I typically suggest 3-4 reps because the goal is to build speed, not endurance.
Drill #4 – Medicine Ball Side-Throw (a.k.a. Ballistic Side-Throws)
Purpose: When a tennis player properly unleashes their leg, hip, core, shoulder, and arm power into the medicine ball side throw, they create a tremendous amount of power. This movement helps the player learn how to summate force from the tennis court up through the feet, through the body, and out the racquet.
Description: The tennis player will need to stand in a wide athletic stance, hold the ball with the hand pushing the ball directly behind it (do not throw like a ball of shoulder injuries can occur- push it), and the front hand directly in front of the ball. Using a strong back leg and hip rotation to load to preload the core, upper body, and shoulder. The hand that will be pushing the ball should release and follow through. The front leg should open towards the target to allow the hips to clear on the loading of the throw.
There are several progressions that can be used to add variety and progress this medicine ball throw drill. Completing 2-5 sets of 3-5 throws per side is a great way to prepare the tennis player for explosive ballistic hips and upper body for releasing power.
Drill #5 – Volley Lateral Quickness
I can’t think of too many other drills that work on aggressive lateral speed and quickness during the change of direction.
Purpose: A tennis player needs to be very explosive, both linearly and laterally. The volley lateral quickness test is designed to complete two Lateral Gait Cycles for speed and create the ability to change directions as quickly as possible. The tennis player needs to explosively accelerate laterally, stick into deceleration, and quickly change directions to travel in the opposite direction. The athlete will learn to stay level to eliminate wasted motions, plant-wide enough or use the plant foot for deceleration and reacceleration, and properly position the plant leg for optimal stability and force production.
Description: The tennis player starts outside the doubles alley. On their own or coach command, they begin to shuffle to the opposite side, ensuring both feet clear the lines. Quickly change direction to return to the initial side. Repeat back and forth for a total of 4 trips.
Complete 3-5 sets with approximately 90 seconds recovery. It loads the eccentric and concentric capabilities of the muscles.
Drill #6 – Split Step Straddle Drill (a.k.a. Split Step)
Purpose: I can’t think of too many other CNS primers and foot quickness drill that I enjoy more than this simple drill. The Split Step Straddle Drill teaches the athlete to stay level while the feet are moving from outside the center of mass to directly under the center of mass. The athlete learns to properly position the feet perpendicular to their travel direction, supporting a split and glide step and quick lateral movements. Finally, this test trains the elastic energy, stretch-shortening cycle, in a pattern very conducive to great tennis quickness.
Description: Place two strips of tape 18 inches apart. Stand with both feet outside the tape lines. On
‘GO”- straddle the feet inside and outside the two lines for 7-seconds as fast as possible. Do not rise up and down or step on the tape – simple, fast, and effective at training feet quickness.
Complete this test 3-5 sets with about 45-60 seconds rest or more. The Split Step Straddle Drill is great to do before practice or training sessions.
Drill #7 – Tennis Power Drill (a.k.a. Broad Jump)
Purpose: This is an easy test for lower body ballistic power. The great benefit of this test is we can train both bilateral and unilateral lower body ballistic power. It is a way to test the player’s ability to generate horizontal, with slight vertical, force. There is an excellent coordination component to this drill as well. This drill exposes if the player can decelerate and control all the force they generated to travel airborne by landing with control, balance, and stability.
Description: Stand behind a line where the toes do not cross or touch the line. This is the same, obviously, for the single leg. Start in a taller, more stretched-out posture with arms above the head and quickly lower arms as squatting and rolling forward occur simultaneously. Once a depth is reached that feels appropriate, uncoil with a quick and powerful jump forward. Be sure to land on two feet, even for the Single-Leg Broad Jump (there is a time when we will land on one foot, but not for this drill), and stick the landing. A loss of balance, scuffling of the feet, or a falling back is a failed attempt- no score given.
Complete roughly 4-8 reps with maximal attempt and at least 30 plus second recovery in between.
Drill #8 – 4 Corner Box Drill (a.k.a. 4 Corner Read and React Drill)
Purpose: This test shows how well the tennis player can reposition their feet out of the split or glide step to acceleration in any direction. This drill challenges Hip Turn Escaping skills, angular acceleration skills, deceleration, and control skills, quickly read and reacting without wasted motions, and overall movement economy. A player can use shuffles, lateral runs, inside-out footwork, etc.
Description: The player must use active feet while watching the coach. The coach will point to one of the four cones making up the box (two cones in front to the right and left and the same to the back while the player is in the middle). The player returns to the middle using either a shuffle, lateral run, or straight acceleration step. The player can be asked to perform a tennis action at the cone (stroke or volley) or a straight-forward athletic movement.
Complete 3-5 sets, lasting 7-10 seconds. Rest roughly 60-90 seconds.
Drill #9 – Service Box 180 Run to T-Step Series (a.k.a. 180 Run Series)
Purpose: There are not many more drills that will challenge the body and spatial awareness than the 180 Drill. It teaches the player to run and turn on straight lines (spatial awareness), to turn the hips, upper body properly, and feet to have proper loading and stability. It also teaches how to load off the backpedal to transition forward quickly.
Description: The tennis player will start outside the deuce side of the service box (just inside the doubles alley) and begin jogging, slow running, toward the center service line. As soon as the player hits that center line, they quickly rotate the body 180 degrees and begin backpedaling to the edge of the advantage service box and double alley line. Once there, the player will perform a T-Step so the hip, leg, and foot opens up so the player can have complete foot contact while remaining in a forward lean. This forward lean allows the player to push off the T-Step quickly and accelerate back toward the center service line, where a 180 will be performed again into a backpedal, and a T-Step is performed as well. The player must complete the 180 turns, always facing the net (or the same direction) so each side is being worked.
I like to perform 3-4 sets of 3-trips over and back. A 45-60 second rest is used due to submaximal efforts.
Drill #10 – Shuffle to a Lateral Run Drill (a.k.a. Lateral Transition Drill)
Purpose: The Shuffle to a Lateral Run Drill is a great drill to meet the demands of an explosive game. The tennis player learns to use the lateral shuffle to gain momentum in the direction of travel and quickly load the back leg to explode into a Lateral Run Step, or series of sprint steps, to gain massive speed down the baseline. The player learns to use the P.O.P. (Push -Open-Push) action of pushing with the back leg, opening and preparing the front leg to push down and back, and the front leg pushing down and back to increase acceleration. The players also learn how to disassociate at the hip and the upper and lower body to generate powerful action from shuffling to lateral run.
Description: The player will start on the baseline and double alley, take 2-3 moderate speed shuffles, and immediately use a Lateral Run Step to shift into a high gear of tremendous speed. The player can either completely turn and run like an acceleration sprint or perform two lateral run steps. As soon as the player is done, they will start the drill on the opposite side, and come back. This makes sure both sides are being equally training – forehand and backhand sides.
Complete 4-7 sets on each side. If you choose less than the maximal speed, then add more sets. Rest about 30-60 seconds after a trip over and back.
There you have it…my Top 10 Tennis Speed and Power Drills!
I certainly have other drills in my toolbox, but these are my “goto” drills when I want to gain speed and power in my tennis athletes.
Give these a try and see what you think.
Be sure to go take a closer look at the Certified Tennis Speed Specialist course. After diving into my Top 10 Speed and Power drills, I have a feeling you are going to want to learn even more….AND, set yourself apart from the rest by becoming armed with so much knowledge on how to train for on-court tennis speed.