Why You Need To Build Single Leg Strength For Tennis

john-fornander-4r9ccbdqteg-unsplashWhy You Need To Build Single Leg Strength For Tennis


Rianna Poskin, CSCS


(Image from:Photo by John Fornander on Unsplash)

Have you ever thought about the strength that is required to start and stop over and over again in a game like tennis? Athletes need to change direction in split seconds! Have a look at the following images to see what I’m talking about!


Roger Federer Link:https://images.app.goo.gl/nScZwJg5EXstQDh88

Have a close look at Roger Federer’s feet. When he slams on the breaks he has to do so controlling the stop, the deceleration, with a lot of strength so that he doesn’t get injured. In this picture he is absorbing a lot of force on the left leg preparing to then explode as he positions himself again for the return.


Serena Williams https://images.app.goo.gl/1WYuPqMWhFfYhXaEA

In this photo of Serena Williams we can imagine how this will play out. She’s going to plant the left leg while she tries to position herself to return the ball with power and precision.

In order to create force we need to have ground contact and control. Serena is not only looking to create force, she’s looking to absorb force! That single leg needs to be strong enough to do this!

Nitto ATP World Tour Finals - Day Three

Dominic Thiem:(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Lastly have a look at this perfectly positioned foot and knee position while Dominic Thiem separates his upper and lower body! Dominic is not twisting his knee, he is rock solid in a great “1/4 squat”.

Loren Landow once said that “you want to be able to do all the right things from the wrong positions”!

Tennis is a game that requires so many skills that puts you in crazy positions! For this article we’ll focus on how agility and change in direction is paramount to the athlete’s performance, but also the ability to stay free from injury.

This is where single leg strength comes in!

Here’s the progression to build single leg strength even if you don’t have any equipment to work with:

Progression 1: Bodyweight Squat


  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. If the athlete needs to turn their feet slightly out, that is ok.
  • Brace the core, and maintain good posture.
  • Push the butt back first, sink the hips to descend until hips are parallel to the knees.
  • Drive through the heels to return to standing.
  • Use the glutes to extend the hips.
  • Engage the side glute muscles in order to keep the knees from collapsing inward.
  • Once the body weight squat is perfect the athlete can progress to the Split Squat.

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Progression 2 Split Squat:

split-squat-top-position split-squat-bottom-position

  • Begin in a standing position with core braced.
  • Step one foot forward into a split-stance.
  • The athlete can lower the back knee to check their alignment.
  • The 2 knees should be around 90 degrees in their bent position.
  • Balance on the toes of your back foot.
  • Keep both toes pointed forward.
  • Keep the front knee behind the toes.
  • Maintain good posture as the athlete rises and lowers through the split squat.
  • Drive through both legs to maintaining a flat front foot.
  • Perform a designated amount of repetitions on one side and then switch sides.
  • If the athlete cannot maintain good form allow them to rest before completing the set amount of reps.
  • If the form looks bad from the beginning the athlete can build up more leg strength by regressing back to the body weight squat.

Progression 3 Skater Squat:


  • Stand on one leg with the opposite leg just slightly behind the body.
  • Brace the core and maintain good posture.
  • With the athlete’s weight in the heel of the standing foot, perform a squat by pushing the butt back, hinging at the hips, and bending the knee.
  • The back leg will track behind with a slight knee bend until the shin and foot nearly touch the ground.
  • Descend until the hips are even with the knee on the supporting leg.
  • Drive through the heel to extend the hips and return to standing.
  • Repeat designated amount of repetitions on the same leg before changing sides.
  • If the athlete cannot maintain good form allow them to rest before completing the set amount of reps.
  • If the form looks bad from the beginning the athlete can build up more leg strength by regressing back to the split squat.

Once you build up your single leg strength, then incorporate deceleration drills.

Something as simple as jogging forward and then transitioning to backwards jogging in good low positions can help with deceleration. After a few times going forward and backward always finish in a complete stop to overemphasize the control required to stop safely.

On a separate day use a side to side shuffle as the drill to work on lateral change in direction. Again always stop in good positions.

Finally the athlete can work on stopping in good positions on a single leg.

It is really important to develop single leg strength and work through the progressions safely in order to make sure that the end goal, developing athleticism and decreasing injuries, is met.

With a little extra intention and a great plan, more fun can be had!

If you’re a coach and want incorporate a warm up that works on strength, speed and power please learn more here!

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30 Minute Home Workout (Equipment Needed)

Are you at home? Do you have 30 minutes? Here’s something to try! 1-2-3-4 Workout!
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Always check in with your healthcare provider before starting a new program.
Equipment needed:
1. A smile! ????
2. Mini band
3. Dumbbells
4. Bench, barbell, plates
5. Medicine ball (sport ball)
Here’s the Breakdown for the Workout:
1 Round: Dynamic Warm-up
-Jog on the spot
-Side Lunge
-Reverse Lunge
-Open the Gate
-Hip Openers
-Arm Circles Back
-Arm Circles Forward
-Leg Swings
-Single Leg Deadlift
-Hip Hinge Wide Arms
-Quad Stretch
2 Rounds:
- Quadruped Hydrants
- Plank Resisted Arm Taps
3 Rounds:
- Resisted Squat jumps (Dumbbells)
- Chest pass
4 Rounds:
- Bench Press
- Split Squats
- Quadruped (hover) Pull Through
Finish: 90/90 Breathing
Pick your reps and weights according to your ability. Keep power reps low. Seek professional guidance from a strength coach for proper programming and coaching!
Have Fun!
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Navigating Risk in Extreme Sports: 2 Big Wave Case Studies


Extreme sport may seem crazy to some, but to others there’s a method to the madness!
I go deep into navigating risk with Doctor of Performance Psychology, John Coleman.
John talks about how each and every time you go out into a risky situation there’s a sequence that can be used to determine if it’s a good idea or not.
The 5 parts of this sequence is explained on The Youth Sport Podcast Episode 11 Part 2: Planning, Awareness, Flexibility, Motivation and Humility.
Here’s an example of risk navigation using the legendary Hawaiian surfer Eddie Aikau as an example.
The first part is planning
Author Stuart Holmes Coleman says in his book “Eddie would go, The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero”:
Part 1: Planning “Like a dedicated student of oceanography, he had studied each surf spot, noting how and where the waves broke, how deep the reefs were, what direction the swells came in and how the weather affected them.”
If the conditions don’t look good after all of the planning, Part 2 and 3 come in: being Aware and being Flexible, in order to navigate risk that could be life threatening.
When participating in Extreme Sport the athlete has to assess their own fears in order to assess whether the risk is manageable based on the athlete’s acquired skill.
“We all have some fear, and it’s tough to admit to that. But the fear would be more a matter of cautious decision-making. There were some waves you wouldn’t take off on, and those would be waves you knew were going to drill you to the bottom. It was the kind of fear that made you careful.”
“Eddie then realized he had to return to the scene of the accident and face his fears. Including his fear of death.”
“As a legendary surfer once put it, big waves were not measured in feet but in increments of fear.”
With John Coleman being a mental performance coach he knows how important it is to make sure that mental training is integrated into the overall training of extreme sport.
“Surfing became a metaphor for his life: Eddie had to regain his balance and find the natural flow, or he was going to wipe out all over again. In this way, he rediscovered the danger and thrill of riding mountainous waves.”
What’s amazing is that John has called his Mental Performance Training program: FREE FLOW!
The last 2 Parts of Navigating risk according to John’s sequence is Motivation and Humility.
What is the motivation behind the activity? If it is about the ego, you’re in trouble!
If it’s about Humility, carry on!
“He says that many of the big-name riders who followed Eddie didn’t possess his sense of humility and courage.”
“Like Eddie, Jose was very humble and didn’t like boastful people. Jose had a reputation of being fearless in the water and on land, but he was still a man of flesh, blood and nerves. He didn’t seem to recognize that fear is an integral part of living, as Eddie would soon discover, and to deny it was to flirt with death.”
“Some guys who get into the culture of big-wave riding aren’t really doing it because they want to- it’s more of a status thing. Though that would never occur to Jose. He wasn’t doing it to reassure himself, he was doing it because he liked to do it. Peter was the same way, and it was fun for him- he didn’t do it for the cameras or the rest of that crap. Nor did Eddie, who surfed big waves for the simple thrill of it, even when no one else was around.”
And now, the Why! Why do Extreme Sport athletes do what they do?
“For a few moments, the outside world just falls away, eclipsed by the ocean’s green wall. The other competitors, the judges, the concerns that weigh on your mind on land. Everything is suddenly cleansed at the end of the tunnel. Crouched inside, you keep your eyes on this light, making sure you don’t get sucked up the face of the wave or axed by the lip. Psychedelic surfers of the era compared the feeling to going back to the womb or seeing a glimpse of the afterlife. This exciting yet serene experience is what surfers live for. When he finally emerged from the tube during the last minutes of the finals, Eddie must have felt a profound sense of peace as he burst out of the darkness and into the light.”
If you missed Part 1 of the “Master Class” assessing risk, wonder and high performance with Dr. John Coleman, you can check it out here: http://backtobasicsblogger.com/episode-11-youth-sport…/



Here’s my second example of Navigating risk using Big Wave surfer Kai Lenney as my next example:

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30 Minute Lunch Workout!

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Thanks for your support!

Today’s workout:

A. Single leg hip lift + Bird dogs + A’s

B. DB Squat jumps + groin stretch (t-spine rotation)

C. Squat/hammer curl/press + 1/2 kneeling DB chop + Down dog/ plank flow

D. Breathe

Always check in with your healthcare provider and if you have pain don’t do it!!

Rock your day my friends!!

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30 Minute Home Athlete Workout

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This workout is brought to you by Lululemon. I am part of the Lululemon Collective. I receive commissions when you shop through my link: https://lululemon.prf.hn/l/7R0m8Wn

Shopping for your loved ones and yourself helps me to bring free content to everyone! Thanks for your support!

1. Always check in with your healthcare provider before beginning any new workout program

2. If you have pain don’t do it!


Dynamic warm-up

2 rounds: Quadruped hip hydrants + Side plank + T’s

3 rounds: Snap down lateral push + Spider-Man stretch

3 rounds: SLDL + Plank row + Skater squats + Tiger (bear) crawls

Let’s do this!!!

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30 Minute White Board Workout

img_429630 minute White Board Workout!

Before beginning any new exercise program please consult with your healthcare provider. If you have any pain, don’t do it!

This workout is from my LIVE Instagram and Facebook session. I had initially scheduled a 20 minute workout and then it turned into 30 minutes!

This workout is brought to you by Lululemon. I am part of the Lululemon Collective and receive commissions when you shop through this link! When you shop for your loved ones and yourself you help support me to bring new content for everyone to enjoy! Thanks for your support!

Now it’s time to sweat! Let’s GO!!!!

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How to incorporate breath work into training sessions simply and easily!

Yogi black woman practicing yoga lesson, doing Ardha Padmasana exerciseHow to incorporate breath work into training sessions simply and easily

by Rianna Poskin, CSCS

Image from my affiliate Lululemon

I was so blown away from reading James Nester’s Book “Breath” that I wanted to write up a few “take aways” to help you out. I encourage you to go and get this book and tell me what you loved about it in the comments below!

The first 3 things that stood out the most to improve our respiratory system were the importance of these things.

2 things: proper posture and conscious breathing often come up in many types of practices such as pilates and yoga.

The 3rd thing that stood out was “chewing“! Yes chewing! James Nester talks about how our respiratory system can benefit from chewing properly!!! Our face structure has changed since human beings were “hunters and gatherers”. Now that we eat softer foods like smoothies, soups, cooked vegetables and softer meats, we don’t have to work as hard to break down our food. This has led to less “good” stress on our face which has led to a changes in our bones and our soft tissue which has a correlation with our airway and respiratory system. Quite fascinating!

Conditions that improve simply from incorporating proper breathing techniques are:

  1. Scoliosis
  2. ADHD
  3. Asthma
  4. Sleep Apnea
  5. Snoring
  6. Athletic Performance
  7. Crooked Teeth

Each condition was improved by different researchers with different practices. There have been some amazing people helping others for many years and each condition is properly described in the book.

Nester discusses our 2 ways of breathing: mouth breathing and nasal breathing.

To sum up his research: mouth breathing is bad, and nasal breathing is good.

Here’s why: “Nasal breathing allows sinus’ to release nitric oxide, a molecule that plays an essential role in increasing circulation and delivering oxygen into cells. Immune function, weight, circulation, and mood can all be heavily influenced by the amount of Nitric Oxide in the body.” – Nester

“Nasal breathing increases Nitric Oxide sixfold which means we can absorb 18% more Oxygen” -Nester

Since we breathe on average 25,000 times per day without thinking about it, it might serve us to put some extra thought into this practice in order to get the best benefits from it!

“By focusing on nasal breathing we force air against the flabby tissue at the back of the throat making the airways wider and breathing easier. After awhile the tissues and muscles get “toned” to stay in this opened and wide position.” -Nester

Therefore, try and breathe through your nose as much as possible!

Here’s a few A-ha moments that I had:

  • The “Framington Study” showed that the greatest indicator of life span was lung capacity
  • We need to take FULL breaths, full inhale/full exhale which allows for us to change our lung capacity for the better at ANY stage of our life.
  • Moderate exercise like walking and cycling, has been shown to boost lung capacity by 15% (when performed consistently/regularly)
  • What our bodies really need isn’t more air, it’s more Carbon Dioxide (you’ll have to read the book to understand this one!)
  • The lungs are the weight regulatory system of the body, for every 10 pounds of fat lost in our bodies, 8.5 pounds of it comes out through the lungs!

For my athletes:

There were many references to athletic performance benefitting a proper breathing program in Nester’s book. Here are 2 references that show how impactful breathing can be in athletic performance:

1. A choir conductor changed the way elite runners at Yale breathed, which led to 12 Olympic medals, most gold, and broke 5 world records.

2. A swim coach used breath training which led to their team winning 13 gold medals, 14 silver and 7 bronze medals while setting world records in 11 events.

If an athlete wants to get an edge on their performance, breath could be the missing link!

Finally what is the ideal breathing pattern and how to do it? I’ve attached my “Lunch and Learn” about this topic at the end of this post to show you a few easy ways to incorporate breathing techniques into your daily life and in strength training.

Here’s what the ideal breath looks like:

5.5 second inhale

5.5 second exhale at rest for 5.5 breaths/minute.

“An engine doesn’t have to be in tip top condition to work, but it gives a better performance if it is” Stough

If you are a coach or phys Ed teacher you can easily incorporate breathing into your training sessions or classes. Simply follow the exercises that I demonstrate at the end of my video to gain the benefits of breath work without making it a big deal with your athletes and students!

Keep those lungs healthy! Happy breathing!

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Teach your youth athletes this before that!


Why we need to teach Deceleration before Acceleration:

With so much emphasis on speed sometimes we forget that we need to be able to stop! Many injuries are caused from “non contact” injuries when an athlete stops quickly in order to change directions.

I watched a young girl blow out her knee in her “injury prevention warm-up”. Yikes! The warm-up was designed to help the athlete decrease her risk of injury and sure enough she increased her risk of injury doing it because it wasn’t progressed or coached.

I watched a young hockey player plow into the goal post at full speed only to have the entire arena hold their breath to see if he was going to be able to get up unharmed…that stuff makes me shiver… it’s so scary.

Where does the fault lie? No one wants their athlete to get hurt doing something that they’ve designed.

Something that we should always think about is “why are we doing this” and “are we doing this well”?

Let’s talk about action steps rather than dissecting what’s not working.

In order to help our athletes we have to go back to basics. Athletes need to understand how to position themselves in order to keep their body safe, while also making them as athletic as possible!

“Deceleration” drills should be introduced before working on “acceleration” drills. There’s no sense in sending a race care driver out on the track if she/he doesn’t know how to stop or turn! They’ll hit the gas and then run right into a wall! What good is that million dollar car if it is crumpled in a pile of metal in the corner?

Think of our body in the same way! What good is our body hurt and in pain? This is exactly what we want to avoid!

Therefore, we can work on a few deceleration drills with our athletes and groove good “stopping” patterns and then progress them so that our athletes can then change direction well.

First of all, a coach can have an athlete run forward and stop well at a designated spot. Once all of the athletes look good, then you can progress them, while always emphasizing a controlled stop to finish the movement.

Here are a few drills that you can do with your athletes:

In order to easily incorporate “stopping” and “change in direction” drills into your practice you can simply add them in at the end of your warm-up.

Move through your different dynamic movement patterns and then have your athletes take a few strides forward and then come to a complete and controlled stop. Have everyone do this together so you can visually see the control of the stop at the same time. Once everyone is comfortable doing this forward, add one change in direction to back pedal and then stop.

Work on lateral movements in the same way. In order for your athletes to come to a complete stop while preparing to change direction, they can practice stopping in what Bobby Smith calls the “sway stop”.

Here’s what the sway stop looks like:


As you can see the body is aligned in the best possible position to control the forces pushing in one direction. In order to absorb the lateral force, and then transfer it athletically to explode in the opposite direction the athlete learns how to “lean”. They absorb the force in a great way which sets them up for explosive speed while decreasing their risk of injury.

Teaching young athletes how to control their body will help them decrease their risk of injury while helping them develop athleticism that can transfer to their sport. This allows them to quickly change directions, stop and start to move with the play, and explode in order to be a dangerous player to contend with!

Here’s a quick drill for your athletes to get used to what this “sway stop” should feel like on both edges of the feet as the body moves from side to side:

Once this side to side movement looks good in this “skier drill” your athletes can start working on how to move laterally (side to side) and stop in the sway stop position. Once they can control the stop they can be progressed into more challenging drills to help them move well while decreasing their risk of injury!

Do you want more information? I’ve designed an entire course for Youth Sport Coaches to learn how to incorporate strength and conditioning into youth sport practices in order to improve their athlete’s performance while decreasing their risk of injury.

Click here to learn more!

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How to help young athletes run faster!

Everyone wants their athlete to run fast! In order to help young athletes we have to talk to them in a way that they understand. Playing games is a great way to teach kids without them knowing!

One game that I really like is a simple balancing drill. Better yet, a “balancing game”…call it a game and it’ll go over better!

If you were to ask a kid to “dorsiflex” their foot, they might look at you like you’re crazy! If you play this sock balancing game and then ask the kid to hold their foot the same way they did when they were balancing the sock, it might go better!

The set up is really easy. All you need is something light, like a pair of socks, to balance. In order to balance the sock on the thigh or on the foot they have to be parallel with the ground. This will help when you start talking about how to hold the body in order to produce the most power when sprinting.

Have a look at this video to understand how to do the drill.

The Sock Balancing Sprinter Drill:


Once your athletes master this balance drill you can add on another “game”. This game helps to coordinate the sprinter form with the movement in order to create a fluid and powerful athlete!

The Single Leg Balance Sprint Drill (Game):

  • Begin in the “Balance Single Leg Sprinter Stance”.
  • The coach will call out a number between 1 and 3.
  • The athlete will respond by switching their raised leg the amount of times the coach calls out.
  • If a coach calls out “1”, the athlete will switch to the opposite leg and hold the leg high up in the air working on their balance.
  • If a coach calls out “2” the athlete will switch the raised leg 2 times, which will return them to the same leg raised as when they began.
  • Continue to call out random numbers until you detect fatigue and poor form from the athlete.
  • Cue the athlete to keep their ankle, knee and hip at 90 degree angles.
  • Cue the athlete to brace their core.
  • Allow you athletes to rest and repeat for a few rounds.


These 2 games can be added into any warm-up! If you want my simplified warm-up that can help develop speed and strength you can get it free here:

Have Youth Strength And Conditioning tips sent right to your inbox! My FREE gift to you is my 9 week simple speed and strength program that can be implemented right away! 

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What is an athletic position?

When working with young athletes one of the first things that we can teach them is how to get into an “athletic position”. Watch the following video to understand what that looks like…

If a young athlete can learn to put their body into the right position to be able to react quickly they’ll be one step ahead as they build their speed and strength.

One cool concept that is simple to understand is that “joint position dictates muscle function”. What this means is that when our joints are positioned in certain ways our muscles can either work better or worse.

The “athletic position” sets the joints in a great way in order to have the muscles ready to adapt when called upon.

Sport is more than just being fast and being strong. There are so many qualities that make a good athlete. Having your athletes able to react faster than their opponent will give them the advantage even if the opponent is faster and stronger!

Here is a fun drill that you can use in order to help your athlete understand being “ready” in an athletic position and how it will dictate whether or not they can respond fast enough to make a difference in their sport.

The star drill:

  • Create a box with 4 cones 5-10 yards apart.
  • This box can be used from the grid during the warm-up.
  • The athlete will stand in the middle of the box in a good athletic position.
  • The coach will call out different cones “top right”, “back left”, etc, for the athlete to explode towards and then return back to centre.
  • Perform this game for a designated amount of time and then rest or have the athlete perform an “active recovery” exercise.
  • Repeat this activity after adequate rest.
  • The better conditioned athletes won’t require as much rest, those looking to build their conditioning will require more rest.
  • This game can be progressed by calling out multiple cones for the athlete to move towards before returning to centre.

Movement Benefits:

  • Agility
  • Conditioning
  • Visual Acuity

You can get creative in so many fun ways to help your athlete get set, get ready, and explode! Here’s a few other examples to have fun at your next session:


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