Energy Systems Needed In Tennis

Rallies in tennis averaged 10 seconds of duration with 17 seconds of recovery

The proportion of total match time spent in actual play is around 20 %

This leaves us to think about the energy systems integrated in the fractionated process and that what you should focus on more for your training program.

Nowadays we would all agree that tennis is a sport that relies heavily on alactic energy production.  Points are mostly short whilst the intensity and power of the energy wanted is tremendous.  The non-playing time of 25 or 90 seconds between points or change overs depends immensely on the ability of the aerobic energy system to replace phosphocreatine stores.  For that reason, tennis isn’t only an anaerobic sport, but rather an alactic-aerobic sport.

1/ Anaerobic Energy Systems


​The alactic or creatine phosphate system (ATP-PC):

  • This system produces ATP for about 10 to 12 seconds very rapidly due to the shortness of its chemical operation of all 3 energy systems.  A stored phosphocreatine molecule is combined with an ADP molecule to produce ATP.  This chemical reaction is anaerobic and does not require O2.  This alactic system has the capacity to produce ATP rapidly for power. However it is only capable of maintaining it for a very short duration before it stops due to giving out of phosphocreatine.

  • The lactic system:

  • This system is capable of producing ATP for between 60 to 90 seconds. The energy created comes from glycogen (sugar stored in the muscles) or blood glucose (sugar in the blood stream) and the lactate is produced.  The entire procedure is manifested without the need for O2.  Lactate produced in the muscles and bloodstream changes the pH balance to shut down as a result the lactic energy production.

  • The reason to fatigue, as opposed to what many used to think, is not the accumulation of lactic acid, rather, it is the increased acidity in your tissues, due to the buildup of hydrogen ions, that contributes to the sensation of tiredness.

However, lactate levels vary greatly between tennis players according to the effort spent and intensity of movement patterns.

+ Recommendations for training +

Players with different styles require different physical training programs; you don’t train a serve and volley type of player like a baseliner. And within certain styles of play players may perform patterns that require more physical demanding movements that can result in higher lactate accumulation.

Even though the anaerobic system is the most used in the game, players have to develop their aerobic fitness level which will enable them to recover better between points.

Coaches should be focusing on improving players’ aptitude to recover between repeated bouts of high intensity exercises that are similar to the real on court intensity.

Prior to competition, be ensured that you train on your agility, acceleration and power.

2/ Aerobic Energy System


The aerobic energy system is to be relied upon to produce ATP for long periods of time with the usage of O2. This system is able to produce ATP for so long but it lacks power due to his dependence on oxygen. It is the slowest at producing ATP compared to anaerobic energy systems.

The accumulation of effort in a tennis game demands a very solid level of endurance as duration of play continue on. So a well-constructed aerobic base is necessary to enable players to maintain their high tennis performance over the long periods involved in match play (3-4 hours) and consecutive days during tournaments or matches within the same day (singles and doubles).

These energy systems should be co-ordinated accordingly within the overall training planification.

Example of the work needed from these energy systems during a training planification of a 12 week cycle prior to a competition phase

1st Mesocycle : Weeks 1-5

In the first preparatory phase of a training schedule, you should be working on your aerobic base to improve its efficiency and longevity. The training should be on a weekly basis with no rupture including 3-4 distance runs of 5-6 km performed at an intensity of 70-80 percent of maximum heart rate.

Instead of increasing the distance, the time taken for the 5-6 km run should be assisted  and bettered during this period.

2nd Mesocycle : Weeks 6-8

This period should include the preparation of maximum intensity abilities alongside recovery.

During this period, interval training sessions will replace the long distance runs (i.e. 5-6km fartlek run manifested by sprints of 30 seconds duration and alternated with slower running of similar duration for better recovery).

For the following weeks, additional and more versatile interval sessions should be conducted on-court.

The exercises will consist of tennis specific movement patterns performed at high intensity for 15 to 45 seconds, with 1:2-3 work/rest ration (incomplete recovery).

3rd Mesocycle : Weeks 9-12

This mesocycle should be concentrating on developing agility, acceleration and power based activities to be well prepared for the competition intensity alongside racket and stroke shadowing drills.

The work / rest ratio should be 1: 4-6 with 100% maximum intensity for 5-10 seconds and 2 to 3 sets per session of 5 to 6 reps.


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