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Making the "difficult look easy" is the recipe for success and why "movement rather than muscle" is what we need to train.

January 28, 2018

I love this time of year. Summer in Melbourne. The beach. The sun. The TENNIS!!!!! And boy have there been a few upsets and injuries in the past few days.


When my good friend, tennis coach Brett Hillier, asked me to write a tennis related blog post for his website www.tiptoptennisworld, I thought, hmmm, injuries........

Such a hot topic right now!


There is much debate in the strength and conditioning world about how to train an athlete for success and "strength" is generally the go to solution. The stronger the better, the greater the effort, right?


 But is it really the answer?


During the quarter final post match interview, Courier asked Federer whether, like Nadal, he would sport a sleeveless shirt?? The crowd roared with laughter at the anticipation of Federer's answer.


I don't think so. Replied Federer, smirking.


Why? Asked Courier, smirking.


I don't have the arms. Replied Federer, smirking.


And I thought to myself. Yes, but you do have the moves. And boy can you move and oh can you at least break a sweat??? Me. Smirking.


Is effort or effortlessness the key to success?


Federer displays movement fluency and genuine control which is the non cognitive ability to "grade" and "time" muscle activity depending upon the task. This is critical for efficient energy expenditure. That's why he appears so fit and robust even at 36. Look at most facial shots, like the one above, and there is a clear sense of calm, control and ease.


In contrast, Nadal, 30 and and Murray, 31, appear to be working exceptionally hard all the time. They are both constantly "switched on" which is clearly exhausting. Those big muscles use a lot of fuel, so if you can't switch them off when they are not needed, you soon run out of gas. Effort will only compensate for fluency short term. To be a real winner, it's neuromuscular programming and not muscular size that counts.


So next time you are at the gym, think about the kind of work you need to do to be really successful on court. Make sure you engage in neuromuscular programmes which include low threshold (mobilisers) and high threshold ( loaded movement drills) exercises and  perturbation challenges such as warding patterns. Oh and forget the bicep curls and planks. They might help you look uber cool in a tight fit sleeveless tee but that just won't translate to hitting those winners on court.


So if you will excuse me, I will sign off from this blog and make myself comfy for the final tonight! May the best mover win!





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