Threshold Training for Tennis

Training at anaerobic or lactate threshold is one of the main components of training for endurance athletes. Very simply, anaerobic or lactate threshold is the highest level of intensity you can maintain for a sustained length of time (before blowing up and going into full muscle depletion or in the case of tennis, making mistakes). For tennis, threshold training is about pushing for a series of shots and/or patterns with intensity just prior to a point where things start to breakdown. It is about training at a level of discomfort in response to difficult situations. For tennis, threshold training is not just working to hit the ball harder but working to hit the ball harder for an extended length of time or through a multiple number of shots. There are a series of specific threshold training tennis drills to increase your ability to sustain a high level of performance, execute at a higher level of efficiency, handle more pressure, hit with higher tempo and pace, etc. Here are 10 examples.

  1. Reflex Volleys – Quick, up tempo volley exchanges from inside the service line are a great way to develop your hands for doubles and to clean up any flaws in your volley technique.  Keep the ball in play and have another ball ready in hand whenever there is a breakdown or mistake. Options include maintaining an exchange while moving up from mid-court, moving back and moving up and back.
  2. Rapid Fire – Hit a continuous series of groundstrokes (or swinging volleys) with quick feeds (very little recovery between shots).  This drill or exercise promotes active feet, relaxed and fluid swing patterns and intense focus.
  3. Overhead Count Down – Hit a series of overheads (touching the net with your racquet after each shot). Start at 20 (or a designated number) and count down every time you make the shot (and count up every time you miss) until reaching 0.  For difficulty, establish a requirement to hit to a specific target area or bounce the overhead to (or over) the back fence (after only one bounce).
  4. Play Inside the Baseline – Maintain a groundstroke rally standing just inside the baseline. Learn to maintain a rally regardless of the incoming shot without standing on or past the baseline.  The drill promotes active feet, quick hands, early ball recognition, etc.
  5. 7-Ball Drill – Start each point with a cooperative rally of seven (or designated number of shots). This drill promotes shot tolerance, consistency, patience, focus, hitting for rhythm and managing pace.
  6. Depth (Target) Count – Continue hitting (with a live-ball rally) until you and then your partner by turn hits a specific number of shots to a defined target area.
  7. Attack and Defend – Establish a live-ball rally pattern with defined target areas and two roles, one to attack and the other to defend.  In the attacking role, work to sustain a relentless series of offensive shots to the defined target area. In the defending role, work to neutralize the pace and get the ball back in play.
  8. Crosscourt/Down-the-Line – Maintain a continuous rally where one player hits crosscourt and the other hits down-the-line.
  9. Hit and Move – Maintain a live-ball rally with the requirement to hit and then move to touch a specific target (such as cone or sideline) with your feet or racquet. There are a number of different directional patterns (up and back, side-to-side, etc.) and a number of different shot combination options.
  10. Ten-Ball Volley – Hit 10 cross-court volleys (or designated number of volleys) in a row to a specific target area (with a live-ball volley to groundstroke exchange).  Alternate corners and roles (with your hitting partner). For difficulty, place a barrier to hit over and/or narrow the target requirement.

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