Center court with coach Naomi Osaka: how to stay fit amid COVID and other tips


Naomi Osaka is seen during a match at the ITC Utsubo Tennis Center in the Nishi district of Osaka City on September 22, 2019 (Mainichi / Tadashi Kako)

Yutaka Nakamura, 49, is the personal trainer of 23-year-old tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is scheduled to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in July. In this edition of her regular series, Nakamura answers readers’ questions from her home in the United States and discusses tips for tackling exercise falls as people stay home for longer periods of time in the midst of life. coronavirus pandemic.

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Question: I am not feeling well in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis. Please tell me an easy way to strengthen my abdominal muscles. (Submission from a 70-year-old reader)

Answer: I mainly recommend doing planks. Hold your body straight while leaning on your elbows in a push-up position for 30 seconds. Your body gets used to the movements that you use frequently, such as sitting at your desk slouching, so it is good to perform different movements while straightening your back. If you have fewer opportunities to go out due to telecommuting and other reasons, your body movements and cognitive processes will only receive the same types of stimulation. This tends to lead to a lifestyle where you only come into contact with the information you want, such as that from YouTube and social media. When you go out, you come across various information. There is a complete difference between information that you access on your own online and raw information that you come across unexpectedly. Therefore, when you are spending long hours at home, it is good to be aware to look for different stimuli for your mind and body. I think going for a walk to snowboard in parks and other places is also a good option.

Q: I’m always torn between resting or training to some extent the day before tennis matches. Please give me some advice on how to get through the night before including what types of meals I should be eating. (male reader in his fifties)

A: Professional tennis players train and train so that their fatigue doesn’t build up, so I think it’s good to move your body. However, we like to avoid exhausting ourselves the next day. For physical preparation, please review everything and check your technical skills such as serves and returns. While it may also be important to just sweat while practicing shooting, I recommend training in match form, while mentally preparing for the real match.

The tennis players I have been involved with finish their training at tournament venues quickly and return home in an instant in many cases. During the period of the four Grand Slam tournaments, players will train in tennis and train successively for approximately 1h30 to 2h on non-match days. There are also cases where they practice tennis after training, as an extension of their warm-up. If you’re not too tired, I think it’s good to move your body even if it’s only for 30 minutes.

When it comes to meals, you should be consuming the same things that you normally eat. Rather than making a change because it’s before a game, I think it’s the option that puts the least strain on your body. Better to avoid the caffeine from the night before, because I think you will be able to sleep better.

Q: I am a veteran tennis player who participates in matches. I kept in the habit of running long distances to train my legs and kidneys. While I can build stamina by strengthening slow twitch fibers, my ability to instantly produce high power has dramatically decreased. I think it has something to do with age as well, but there has been a great deterioration in my fast twitch muscle fibers as can be seen in the responses during the returns as well as in the reaction to the shots coming from the two sides of the court near the net, and take the first step when receiving short balls. Could you give me some advice on the most suitable type of training to strengthen these muscles? (51 year old male reader)

A: I think the ability to produce high power instantly tends to decline more easily than endurance if it is not trained consciously. If you want to strengthen fast twitch fiber muscles, I recommend that you sprint short distances of 10 to 15 meters, and repeat this exercise taking intervals of about 30 seconds, which is about the same time as flows between points in tennis matches. While those who are used to running long distances find it difficult to wait 30 seconds, when pushing yourself you need to take the time to rest and recover, otherwise you will not be able to run at 100% of its power. Otherwise, you will end up doing a workout that builds endurance instead of boosting high power output. In order to run at full speed, first run in a straight line in front of you. However, tennis also involves horizontal movements and changes in direction. So I recommend doing drills like the shuffle-step from the center of the baseline of the court to the sideline of the singles, before running to the service line at full speed. You need to repeat this exercise three times each for both sides.

Q: Baseball pitchers freeze their shoulders immediately after games, but I don’t see tennis players doing the same at press conferences. Don’t tennis players freeze their muscles? (male reader)

A: I think you made that observation because for sports like baseball, players respond to interviews shortly after their games. As with tennis, press conferences take place about 30 minutes to an hour after games are over, and the frosting and cooldown are over during that time in between. Tennis players ice for preventative purposes even if they are not injured, and they sometimes stretch and run lightly after games.

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Exercise of the month: T balance

The hip joints play a central role related to the various movements of the human body and are said to be the part that has the highest performance. Stimulating the gluteal muscles is essential for strengthening the hip joints, and the following exercise focuses on movement in that part of the body.



Yutaka Nakamura is seen demonstrating the first step of the “T balance” exercise, where one stands on his right leg with both hands resting on his waist, in this image provided by him.

First, stand on your right leg and put both hands on your waist. If possible, do it barefoot and maintain a state where your knee joints are slightly bent. Pull both elbows to your sides, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and hold your upper body straight as if to bring your chest forward. Hold this position, inhale slowly and count to three.

With your body still in the same position, count to three as you exhale slowly and lean your upper body forward. If you are barefoot, you can feel your five toes on the floor activated.

Next, keep your upper body in a position parallel to the floor, and inhale slowly and count to three; then breathe out and count to three. In doing this, make sure to keep your pelvis level with the ground so that there is no difference on the left and right side as much as possible. Since both hands are placed on your waist, I think it’s pretty easy to know where your joints are. I think it is difficult to maintain balance at first, so it may be best to do the exercise with your hands resting on a chair, wall or other objects.

After that, slowly bring your body to the first state of standing on your right leg and repeat this cycle five to 10 times, each session lasting about 15 seconds each.



Yutaka Nakamura is seen lowering his upper body while exhaling and counting to three, as part of the “T-balance exercise” in this image provided by him.

An important point to take into account is the improvement of the gap between the left side and the right side of your body. Regarding the movement of players on the tennis court, if you are a right-handed player, your movements for serves and forehands received mainly involve a right-to-left rotation, resulting in a considerable difference between clockwise movements. and counterclockwise. Additionally, your readers may have a specific side that you put weight on and shift your balance when crossing your legs or standing. I think that such habits that arise when playing sports or in everyday life accumulate little by little, this imbalance leading to load and joint pain.



Yutaka Nakamura is seen slowly inhaling and counting to three while holding his upper body in a position at ground level, as part of the “T-Balance Exercise” in this image provided by him.

Please perform this exercise while making a conscious effort to minimize the imbalance on your left and right sides. For example, if you get used to this exercise, I would recommend that you be flexible, such as doing the exercise on the side where you are best five times, and doubling the time and effort on the other side. with which you have trouble doing the exercise 10 times.

(Interview with Hiromi Nagano, Tokyo City News Department. Nagano is a former professional tennis player who has competed in all four majors.)

Profile: Yutaka Nakamura is originally from Tokyo and is currently the strength and conditioning coach of US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021 champion Naomi Osaka. Nakamura has led training programs for many many professionals, including Maria Sharapova, Kei Nishikori, Tommy Haas, Mary Pierce and Jennifer Capriati.


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