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Relying on dumbbell exercises can hinder your tennis performance.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Speed, power and quick reflexes are the bread and butter for all levels of female tennis players. Being able to change directions quickly and to strike the ball without getting injured or suffering excessive fatigue enables you to last the entire match, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours. Although dumbbell training can increase muscular strength and endurance, it doesn't guarantee you will be able to move quickly around the court or swing the tennis racket with accuracy and power, says speed coach Randy Smythe.
Movement, Not Muscles
Traditional dumbbell training tends to focus on muscle groups rather than full-body movement. Training every major muscle group independently of each other doesn't mean they automatically know how to coordinate together to move efficiently in a match. In tennis, no single muscle group works in isolation, and how you move on the court is dictated by your nervous system -- the command center of everything you do, says licensed massage therapist Todd Hargrove of Better Movement.
Pushing Versus Snapping
Lifting dumbbells won't put power into your swings and serves. Although the tennis serve and swing are different than boxing punches, they both require a snapping motion rather than a pushing motion, according to boxing expert Johnny Nguyen. The dumbbell chest press and shoulder press are pushing exercises, which require your muscles to be under tension constantly as you lift and lower the weights. However, snapping requires your muscles to be relaxed right before you swing and immediately after you hit the ball so you can produce more powerful movements repetitively. The biggest difference between both movement patterns is time. In tennis, you don't have several luxurious seconds to decide where you move or how you're going to hit the ball.
Because of the shape and grip location of the dumbbell, it's difficult to perform rotation exercises in a standing position that closely mimics the dynamics of torso, shoulder, wrist and hip rotation, which are common in tennis. Although dumbbell exercises can strengthen your rotator cuffs and hip muscles, it doesn't mean the muscles can move well in performing the backhand or lateral shuffle. This is based on the SAID principle -- specific adaptation to imposed demands -- which states that your body adapts and improves specifically on what it's trained to do, says Hargrove. Lying on a bench and doing a one-arm dumbbell chest press will only make your shoulder muscles strong in the supine position. However, the strength you gain doesn't transfer to the standing position and swinging motion. A better way to train would be to perform medicine-ball throws and elastic band chops and lifts.
Any Benefits at All?
Dumbbell exercises can be part of your off-season training to build foundations of strong ligaments and tendons, according to Sports Fitness Advisor. As the training and competition seasons get closer, the workout should put emphasis more on tennis-specific movement patterns and performance rather than just lifting weights and training muscles. If you really want better muscular definition in your arms and legs, blend dumbbell exercises -- squats, rows, shoulder presses -- with mobility, power and speed drills in your regular routine.