Archive for February, 2010

Random Thoughts on Kettlebell Training for Tennis

Posted in Xtreme Tennis Conditioning, Z.S. conditioning, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by zenithstrength

I had the privilege of observing part of the Russian Kettlebell certification and participating in a free workout at the Koret Center in San Jose over the past weekend.

As strength coach and athlete, there are several reasons why the kettlebell is a great tool to use in the quest of improving ones athleticism, such as becoming more explosive and increasing power output. I’ll touch on a few reasons why the kb swing improves those specific qualities, but there are books and published studies about the efficacy of kettlebell training that I recommend you check out.

The first reason is that the kettlebell swing is relatively easy to teach. This allows the strength coach working with the athlete to produce results faster, which leads to quicker gains in the weight room as there is less time spent teaching technique and more time spent training.

Secondly, it incorporates movement patterns that athletes need to groove, such as sitting the hips back, which is very similar to “athletic ready position”. I can’t tell you how many athletes come in and can’t get into the correct ready position usually due to a flexibility and awareness issue.  Kettlebell swinging can be used to improve mobility in the hips due to range of motion needed in the hip flexors and extensors to sit back deeply and “pop” the hip to activate the gluteals and hamstrings. Once this movement is grooved it is much easier to progress the athlete to other lifts such as the trap bar dead-lift.

The swing also strengthens the hip complex which is used in all forms of movement. Regardless of the sport that you participate in, hip strength factors into force production, movement efficiency, and lack of hip strength will result in a higher risk of injury to the low back or knees.

I briefly explained some of the benefits of the kb swing but there is also a conditioning component from swinging that will improve athletes and weekend warriors alike.

In my opinion, kettlebell training should be a staple in the strength and conditioning program. Although the kb is simple and beneficial tool, it isn’t the end all, be all exercise that some push it as. It is a great tool that should be used along with other great tools such as body weight training, sleds, and traditional lifts like dead-lifting and squatting. Remember that each modality has strengths and weaknesses, but the ultimate goal when training athletes is to get them more explosive on the field of play and there are many ways of getting the job done.

Here’s a video of Jason swinging the Beast demonstrating the proper technique to sit the hips back and “pop” the hips to swing the bell.

In Strength,



Random Thoughts from the SAP Open

Posted in Xtreme Tennis Conditioning, Z.S. conditioning, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2010 by zenithstrength

The past week I had an opportunity to check out Pete Sampras and Fernando Verdasco play an exhibition to open up the tournament. I was also fortunate to receive box seats to attend the final with Andy Roddick and Verdasco.

Here’s a few things I noticed during my time there:

Firstly, Pete’s  exhibition against Verdasco confirmed that training the right way and putting the time in can be an equalizer. Pete put up a good fight against Verdasco in the second set. He lost 6-3  7-6 , but can still crack his serve and the base of his game is still there. However, it was clear that the biggest difference between the two players was Verdasco’s superior conditioning.  Pete was slower, his footwork wasn’t sharp and his conditioning was suspect. It would have been interesting to see what could have happened had Pete trained harder. I think the match would have gone 3 sets and he might have pulled it out.

The final with Roddick and Verdasco showed how important fitness and training is in today’s game. Tennis pros are so skilled that the playing field has leveled. However, the difference between most pros and the guy’s in the top 10 is their training regimen. Both Roddick and Verdasco are well-built athletes.  They crush the ball off their ground strokes and their movement is explosive. They both have huge serves, although a lot of their power is generated due to impeccable timing; having strength in the lower body to transfer force through the shoulder is necessary to serve big.

Since Verdasco has started working with Gil Reyes he has climbed into the top ten and is a legitimate threat to win a grand slam. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Verdasco’s talent combined with his training protocols have catapulted him as a contender. What is more interesting is that Gil uses training tools that are considered different and extreme in tennis circles and you can’t argue with the results.

At Zenith Strength we work with many top tennis juniors and use protocols that aren’t new but are on the cutting edge for the sport. Implements such as sled drags, prowler sprints, kettlebells, band work, and traditional lifts such as squatting and dead-lifting to improve speed, explosiveness and strength. Hopefully there will be a new trend in tennis training. One that involves movements that have been neglected and avoided for too long.

It’s a matter of time before Verdasco wins a Grand Slam barring any serious injuries and people will start to take notice and change their training regimens.

You either join the pack or get left behind and dusted by faster, stronger, and mentally tougher athletes.

In Strength,


Becoming Mentally Tough

Posted in Xtreme Tennis Conditioning, Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by zenithstrength

Mental toughness is essential for success on the “playing field”. Having great athleticism and a high skill level in your sport doesn’t guarantee success if you aren’t mentally tough

In my opinion, mental toughness starts in the training room. If you’re training hard and being tested and pushed to your physical limits you are going to become tougher.  This also gives you an edge over your opponent who is  slacking off in the training department relying on practice sessions to get in shape.

Here’s a finisher I used to get my athletes mentally tougher.

Use these finishers with discretion as you want to avoid CNS burnout and remember to train the specific energy system required for the sport.

The tougher athlete responds appropriately during competition and brings the intensity needed to succeed.

Train Hard!

Shyam Soin

Sunday Rant

Posted in Z.S. Training with tags , , , , , , , on February 7, 2010 by zenithstrength

There are times when you just need to get stuff off your chest. This may anger some and may enlighten others. Zach Evan Esh, a coach who I look up to and admire for his body of work as a strength coach and business man says it best.

Check out his blog.

Zach pretty much covers everything that is wrong with fitness in America.

From my experience, the majority of people are  looking for a shortcut to get results.  From taking steroids, (another hot topic issue), to looking for best program (see p90x) guaranteeing results in 3 months, people are constantly searching for the path of least resistance.

Seriously, what happened to putting in the work to get better. It takes time to build something;  years of training to get stronger. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear that. Train hard and you will get stronger, faster, and in better condition. Work hard and you will become a mentally tougher athlete.

This  means lifting heavy using compound movements. Squats, deadlifts, chins; using sandbags, and kettlebells or your bodyweight to change things up.  Get as far away as you can from stationary machines and work on getting stronger and you will be a better athlete.

Here’s an example of bringing the right attitude and intensity to a training session.

Achieving something great is not easy.

Train Hard!