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Bioenergetics of Tennis and Conditioning

Athletically, tennis is a very complete sport which requires all bioenergetic systems to produce energy. Aerobic, anaerobic lactic, and Anaerobic alactic are involved at approximately the same level. Bioenergetic systems are our mechanisms for converting macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), which contain chemical energy. It is the breakdown of the chemical bonds in these macronutrients that provides the energy and perform exertion.

Written by: Clement Golliet

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***Clement Golliet is the newly appointed Director of ACE Fitness and is overseeing the fitness component of all ACE Tennis High Performance programs, is the Head Trainer at Toronto Tennis City and ACE Burlington, and offers private and group fitness sessions for ACE and OTA players as required. Clement’s mandate is to help build the new ACE Fitness brand and to offer leading edge training for tennis players in Ontario.

Clement has a Bachelors of Kinesiology from the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) and possesses various certifications in the areas of private training, spinning, T-Rx, performance, and reconditioning. A former high level basketball player and bodybuilder, Clement also has his French Federation Level 3 in kayaking. Before coming to Toronto to work with ACE Fitness, Clement was a personal trainer, fitness, strength, and conditioning coach at Sporting Club Sanctuaire in Montreal for tennis, basketball, and track running. Clement also has professional training in Clinical rehabilitation and experience as a sports teacher in Switzerland.

If you have any questions for Clement, he can be reached here.***

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Athletically, tennis is a very complete sport which requires all bioenergetic systems to produce energy. Aerobic, anaerobic lactic, and Anaerobic alactic are involved at approximately the same level.

Bioenergetic systems are our mechanisms for converting macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), which contain chemical energy. It is the breakdown of the chemical bonds in these macronutrients that provides the energy and perform exertion.

The anaerobic alactic system (phosphagen system: the breakdown of high energy phosphate molecules such as creatine phosphates) provides the ability to produce energy without oxygen during short term, high intensity activities which last for under ten seconds such as weightlifting or the 100-metre sprint. In tennis, every time the player hits the ball – forehand, backhand, or serve – this system is involved.

The anaerobic lactic system (fast glycolysis: the breakdown of carbohydrates to produce energy) also produces energy without oxygen but in this case with the production of pyruvate which can be converted to lactate. This type of energy production is limited due to the high level of pyruvate accumulation during the exertion which decreases the intensity. This kind of exertion lasts for approximately two minutes, such as during a 400- or 800-metre sprint. In tennis, some instances can last from two to three minutes and require a very high percentage of anaerobic lactic energy.

Aerobic (the oxidative system uses primarily fats (Beta oxidation: free fatty acids are broken down) and carbohydrates as substrates (Slow glycolysis : broken down of carbohydrates with oxygen ) is the ability to produce energy with oxygen, during long term exertion with average to low intensity.

During prolonged submaximal effort there is a gradual shift of carbohydrates into fats. Periods of exertion of more than two or three minutes in sports such as cross country skiing, 1,500-metre runs, or other endurance sports would experience this phenomenon. As tennis matches can last up to five hours, tennis can be described as, “a marathon comprised of mini-sprints.” Because of this tennis required significant endurance and a good aerobic system to play at a high level while overcoming fatigue.

It should be noted that no one energy system operates in a vacuum; they all work concurrently at different levels depending on the type of activity (e.g. intensity vs. duration).

To increase your endurance one must incrementally increase the distance or duration of exertion. You should conduct your distance training at an intensity level that is sustainable for a minimum of twenty minutes. Generally it is recommended to sustain an intensity of 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate during cardiobascular training

To conclude, tennis players should train with all three systems to become more effective in matches. Sprinting and interval training at a high level of intensity are often added to tennis-specific training programs. On the other hand, it is also important to work on endurance as it will help athletes increase their stamina in longer matches, though this is most often neglected.

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