Tennis requires a blend of aerobic fitness, strength, power and agility, with the intensity of an average game ranging from just 20% of maximal oxygen uptake, to almost 90%.
The duration of a rally in tennis is the main determinant of exercise intensity (longer rallies = higher intensity). When you then add on the fact that players may be on court for hours at a time, you can begin to understand what it requires to be an elite tennis player.
The short, intense bouts of running that characterise tennis also have much in common with other ‘repeated sprint sports’ such as football, rugby, basketball and hockey where breathing is driven to its highest level leading to extreme breathlessness.
Research shows POWERbreathe improves recovery
Avoiding the debilitating effect of breathlessness may not be a matter of simply needing to get fitter, in fact research conducted at the University of Birmingham showed that training the inspiratory muscles using POWERbreathe improves the rate of recovery during a repeated sprint test. The tennis players involved in the study took less time to recover and were ready to sprint maximally again more quickly after POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).
Research also showed that the demands of breathing during exercise are so high that the vital inspiratory muscles experience fatigue. POWERbreathe IMT helps here too, because strengthening the inspiratory muscles also makes them less prone to fatigue.
Breathing muscles contribute to tennis match-play in a less obvious way too
Tennis involves using the breathing muscles of the torso to brace and twist during a racket stroke. Experienced tennis players use their inflated lungs to brace the impact of the ball and racket, optimising the transmission of force. The ‘grunt’ heard during serve and shot is the controlled release of air from the lungs and this requires fine control of the breathing muscles. Control is impaired by fatigue and improved by inspiratory muscle strengthening with POWERbreathe.