Slide board training to improve tennis player’s performance

Modern strength and conditioning coaches can choose various equipment in order to improve 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 – a slide board. A slide board was introduced to the world of fitness in 1990s, but never became famous compared to other pieces.

The slide board – sometimes called a lateral exercise trainer – looks a lot like a large smooth mat with blocks on each side which an athlete has to push off, stopping in that way the sliding movements. An athlete wears cotton socks booties which allow him to move on the slippery surface. Improving lateral movement is beneficial for all athletes who are competing in sport where the side-to-side motion and change of direction are used.

Slide training is 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 activates primarily hip extensors for prime movers while hip-knee-ankle stabilizers give support to the movement. The posture muscles of abdominals and back remain tightened in order to support the body in a forward-leaning position. Sliding involves continuous movement functioning therefore primarily as aerobic and muscular endurance exercise. Finally, the slide board lateral training is mostly beneficial for improving change of direction, but also for the balance, agility and 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 played with less than 2.5 m movement (most slide boards are from 2.4m – 3.05m),
  • an average of 4 changes of direction made during a point,
  • over 1000 changes of direction made during a match,
  • 70% of movements are lateral

Our first goal with the 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 season and the other one is for hard and indoor part of the season.

Today we are discussing how we use 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 forehand, uses not only his right leg, but also his left leg as some kind of a brake to stop sliding. 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 brake to help him stop after sliding. We also added lateral resistor on the ankles. This is our progress so as to put more emphasis on hip external rotators 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 biomechanically correct position while sliding. He inhales just before stopping and strongly exhales after pushing off a bumper.

Slide boarding has so many common features with tennis movement 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.