Slide Board Training to Improve Tennis Player’s Performance
By: Dalibor Sirola
Modern strength and conditioning coaches have a variety of training tools to choose from in order to improve the athleticism of their athletes. Some of this available equipment is more or less beneficial, but, in my opinion, one piece has been omitted for years – the slide board. The slide board was introduced to the world of fitness in 1990s, but it never became as famous when compared to other pieces of equipment.
The slide board – sometimes called a lateral exercise trainer – looks like a large smooth mat with blocks on either side which the athlete has to push off, stopping on each side to end the sliding movement. The athlete wears cotton booties which allow them to move from side to side on the slippery surface. Improving lateral movement is beneficial for all athletes who are competing in sports where a side-to-side motion and frequent changes in direction are used, including tennis, hockey, football, basketball and more!
Slide training is a closed kinetic chain exercise where multiple muscles and joints work simultaneously, applying stabilizing forces to the joints, and simulating one specific athletic movement – change of direction. Pushing off the bumper primarily activates the hip extensors for prime movers while hip-knee-ankle stabilizers give support to the movement. The postural muscles of the abdominals and back remain tightened in order to support the body in a forward-leaning position. Sliding involves continuous movement, functioning therefore primarily as an aerobic and muscular endurance exercise. Finally, the elements of lateral training involved in slide board training are mostly beneficial for improving change of direction, but also help in improving balance, agility and overall endurance.
Slide board for tennis players
Why should we use the slide board for athletic improvement of tennis players? If we analyze the game, the answer is obvious:
- 80% of strokes are played with less than 2.5m movement (most slide boards are from 2.4m – 3.05m)
- There are an average of 4 changes of direction made during a point
- Over 1000 changes in direction are made during an entire match
- 70% of movements are lateral
Our first goal with slide board training is cardio endurance in specific lateral movement. I personally like to use the slide board in 2 different ways: one is for preparation for the clay court season and the other one is for the hard court and indoor part of the season.
Here we are discussing how to use the sliding movement during preparation for the clay court season. In the following video pay attention on how the tennis player is moving on the clay court when he has to defend.
In this video you can notice how Milos Raonic, after hitting his forehand, uses not only his right leg, but also his left leg as a brake to stop the sliding motion. This is the key to the efficient clay court movement where you need a lot of time to use your back leg to assist the stopping before the change of direction occurs. This is the point where we can effectively use the slide board.
In the following video I encourage Milos to use his back leg as a brake to help him stop after sliding. We also added a lateral resistor on the ankles for increased difficulty. This is one of our progressions which puts more emphasis on the hips external rotator muscles.
He has his hands together for better control of unwanted movement of the upper body because our goal is to hold his shoulders, hips and torso in a bio-mechanically correct position while sliding. He inhales just before stopping and strongly exhales after pushing off a bumper.
Slide board training has many benefits and features which transfer over to the game of tennis and specific tennis movements and that is why the proper use of the slide board for lateral conditioning in tennis can help you achieve better results in a short period of time.
Add the slide board to your training today and develop leg speed and explosiveness with your clients, athletes and more!
Dalibor Sirola ________________________________________________________________________________________
Dalibor is the founder and creator of the Sirola Training Method, which through continuous development and improvement has proved to be very successful in the training of both recreational and professional athletes from various sport disciplines. Dalibor has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness, rehabilitation and physical performance industries. He started his career working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer while attending the University of Zagreb, Croatia in the Faculty of Kinesiology, and has gone on to work with some of the top tennis players in the world, including Ivan Ljubicic, Andreas Seppi, and Milos Roanic, the highest ranked player in Tennis Canada history