Tennis Players’ Endurance Improves after POWERbreathe IMT

New research shows tennis players’ endurance and strength improves after Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). The research from Pune, India, is in the International Journal of Current Research (February 2018).

What affects tennis performance

The main characteristics of this game are intense bouts of running, such as sprinting to reach a ball. Consequently, breathing is driven to its highest levels. And this induces extreme breathlessness. This affects performance.

In order to continue to play effectively while maintaining a high level of skill performance, breathing mustn’t hinder performance.

Breathing effort in tennis

Playing tennis involves using your breathing muscles in your torso to brace and twist during a racket stroke. Also, experienced players use their inflated lungs to brace the impact of the ball and racket. This helps them to control the release of air from their lungs and optimise the transmission of force. However, breathing muscle fatigue impairs this control. Thankfully though, breathing muscle strengthening training will improve this. Using a device that specifically trains the breathing muscles, the inspiratory muscles, is the easiest way of doing this. These are called Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) devices, such as POWERbreathe IMT. And training your breathing muscles to become stronger can help with a player’s postural control and movement too.

Research into players’ endurance

The research from Pune highlights the fact that tennis matches feature high-intensity, short- duration bouts of extreme activity with a short rest time. And it’s the competition of blood flow between the arms and legs and the breathing muscles which ultimately increases breathing fatigue.

For this study, researchers use the POWERbreathe KH1 Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) device to strengthen participants’ breathing muscles. Furthermore, each participant performed a prescribed protocol for using the device for five days over four weeks. Researchers were aiming to assess the effect of IMT on cardiovascular endurance in lawn tennis players.

Research findings

The findings of this latest research show there to be,

“significant improvement in cardiovascular endurance and strength in lawn tennis players after progressive inspiratory muscle training.”

How to improve tennis performance

POWERbreathe IMT specifically targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, significantly improving performance and helping to eliminate breathing fatigue. And these findings are a result of studies with tennis players who, after IMT, took less time to recover and were ready sprint maximally again more quickly.



Improve your tennis performance with POWERbreathe

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. Research The influence of respiratory muscle training upon intermittent exercise performance Effects of inspiratory muscle training upon recovery time during high intensity, repetitive sprint activity Specific inspiratory muscle warm-up enhances badminton footwork performance  The occurrence of core muscle fatigue during high-intensity running exercise and its limitation to performance: the role of respiratory work

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Why does a tennis player grunt, and is it to do with their breathing?

It’s that time of year when our attention turns to Wimbledon and our hearing can’t help but tune into the grunting noise made by tennis players. So we thought we’d look at why tennis players may grunt. Is it simply a distraction tactic employed to put off an opponent or something more physiological and maybe to do with breathing?

Most fitness instructors and personal trainers recommend breathing out during the exertion or effort of an exercise, for instance when you’re curling up during an ab crunch. So is this the same for tennis, and is the grunt a more vocal way of breathing out on the effort?

You may even have noticed yourself that you inhale just before you do something physical, like lifting the shopping out of the car boot, or maybe even groan as you lift it. We do this instinctively and this inhalation helps to stabilise the trunk. So the same could be true when swinging a tennis racquet to hit a ball.

“Maximising the power of a tennis shot is created by transferring muscular force to the racquet head efficiently. A strong core and trunk is vital for this process because the force transmission starts below the players’ waist. The muscles in the trunk also contribute to racquet head speed by providing a rotational force between the hips and shoulders,” says Professor McConnell, Professor of Applied Physiology at the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University, London.

So does this effort cause a tennis player to grunt? Professor McConnell says it all comes down to breathing technique,

“Efficient breathing is an incredibly important contributor to performance in all sports, but especially in a high-intensity, skill-based game like tennis. Any coach will tell you that the heart of a good stroke is a relaxed rhythm, part of achieving this rhythm is getting your breathing and stroke in tune.” If the player were to exhale as soon as they hit the ball, they would lose the stability and control in their core which could throw them off balance. The solution, it seems, is to control a forceful exhalation.

“Narrowing the opening of your lungs will slow down the rate of airflow from them, while maintaining stiffness in the trunk and control over the breathing rhythm. It is in using this technique that some players feel the need to grunt. Of course this braking action doesn’t actually need to result in audible grunting but it is easier to coach the controlled exhalation if you can hear it. As a result some younger players may well be taught to grunt as a means of breath control,” says Professor McConnell.

So, because playing tennis does involve using the breathing muscles in the torso to brace and twist during a tennis stroke, strengthening those muscles with POWERbreathe will help with postural control and movement as well as the controlling release of air for optimising the transmission of force to the racquet.

Read more about why you should include POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training as part of your tennis training, or if you’re already using POWERbreathe then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear about how you’ve benefited from this breathing training. You can also read more about POWERbreathe for endurance training on our blog.

You can also read more here about Breathing to Improve Your Game in this article by David Ranney.