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View Full Version : Was Weight Training the key to Agassi's Longevity??


VictorS.
07-23-2006, 08:10 PM
It always makes me wonder why some tennis players' performances drop off so significantly in their mid sometimes early 20s. I have grown up a fan of many sports and I've witnessed Michael Jordan at his best at age 28-29 and even dominating in his early 30s. I've seen great track athletes such as Michael Johnson, Donovan Bailey, and Carl Lewis break world records into their late 20s and even early 30s. I've seen Jerry Rice play top-notch football well into his 40s. And even this year we saw Steve Nash win the NBA MVP award in his early 30s. Now Agassi has proven a tennis player can succeed in his late 20s and early 30s.

My question is this: why can't anybody duplicate his success? Some may say it's because of the long grind of the tennis season. I personally think that's a cop out. Top players are in a position to pick and choose what tournaments they want to play and I've even seen guys like Lleyton Hewitt take 3-4 months off at a time in thie middle of the season just to "rest." I think much of it lies in strength training. Now we all know that most of the players these days do lift weights. However Agassi is the one guy on tour that I can think of that seems to approach weight training much like a football or basketball player would....really pushing himself physically trying to improve.

It's proven that much of the aging of an athlete's body is due to muscle loss. Weight training is the one thing we can do to maintain our muscle mass. In fact, weight training can actually add muscle mass so in a sense it can reverse the aging process.

Alexandros
07-23-2006, 08:14 PM
It might have something to do with tennis being much more reliant on the player's reflexes than those sports you've mentioned. A person's reflexes are at their best in their late teens to early twenties. Which would also explain why Agassi has done so well at his age since he has unbelievable reflexes and the deterioration would be less pronounced than with others.

VictorS.
07-23-2006, 08:18 PM
It might have something to do with tennis being much more reliant on the player's reflexes than those sports you've mentioned. A person's reflexes are at their best in their late teens to early twenties. Which would also explain why Agassi has done so well at his age since he has unbelievable reflexes and the deterioration would be less pronounced than with others.


You may have a point here. But then how would you explain some of the great baseball players who have performed well into their 30s: Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds (obviously some may attribute his success to other sources but thats a diff. thread), and Cal Ripken. And I would even argue that being a point guard in the nba requires exceptional reflexes.

And what about Blake's improved reflexes at age 27? This guy wasn't seeing the ball this well four years ago, that's for sure. In fact, he's one guy on tour right now that I would put in a similar category as Agassi in regards to physical fitness. I honestly don't have a clue to what his physical training regimen is, however I wouldn't be surprised if it includes a heavy dose of weights.

emcee
07-23-2006, 08:23 PM
Well you can cross Jerry Rice off that list. Most top WR's are good into their mid 30's and Jerry Rice from age 35 or so to 42 was just record-padding time. He could run routes and he could catch but he had no speed. You don't lose hands and route-running abilitiy with age...

Sorry, kinda off topic but Jerry Rice is sooo overrated.

Alexandros
07-23-2006, 08:24 PM
Being an Australian, I know nothing about the skills required for baseball but I would suggest that generally speaking catching a basketball requires less fine motor skills and has a much lower potential for something going wrong than hitting a tennis ball.

TennisProPaul
07-23-2006, 08:30 PM
It always makes me wonder why some tennis players' performances drop off so significantly in their mid sometimes early 20s. I have grown up a fan of many sports and I've witnessed Michael Jordan at his best at age 28-29 and even dominating in his early 30s. I've seen great track athletes such as Michael Johnson, Donovan Bailey, and Carl Lewis break world records into their late 20s and even early 30s. I've seen Jerry Rice play top-notch football well into his 40s. And even this year we saw Steve Nash win the NBA MVP award in his early 30s. Now Agassi has proven a tennis player can succeed in his late 20s and early 30s.

My question is this: why can't anybody duplicate his success? Some may say it's because of the long grind of the tennis season. I personally think that's a cop out. Top players are in a position to pick and choose what tournaments they want to play and I've even seen guys like Lleyton Hewitt take 3-4 months off at a time in thie middle of the season just to "rest." I think much of it lies in strength training. Now we all know that most of the players these days do lift weights. However Agassi is the one guy on tour that I can think of that seems to approach weight training much like a football or basketball player would....really pushing himself physically trying to improve.

It's proven that much of the aging of an athlete's body is due to muscle loss. Weight training is the one thing we can do to maintain our muscle mass. In fact, weight training can actually add muscle mass so in a sense it can reverse the aging process.

agassi had a great fitness trainer that lived with him

agassi also had his own plane that really helped reduce the wear of travel over his career

one fact that is strange:

agassi said in an interview that he has only had about 2 massages in his life.
it seems agassi does not like to get a massage, or stretch

i can promise you, if agassi had a 2hr massage a day like federer he would have done even better in his career, and might still play even longer.

you woner why federer always looks so loose, well its because of his daily 2hr massage, and his massage therapist travels with him

VictorS.
07-23-2006, 08:33 PM
Well you can cross Jerry Rice off that list. Most top WR's are good into their mid 30's and Jerry Rice from age 35 or so to 42 was just record-padding time. He could run routes and he could catch but he had no speed. You don't lose hands and route-running abilitiy with age...

Sorry, kinda off topic but Jerry Rice is sooo overrated.


Jerry Rice's best season statistically was 1995 as far as total yardage is concerned. That would put him in the 33-34 yr old range during that time. Obviously this is all debatable however for him to have a season at that age is quite remarkable. And I think if you were an athlete....it would be wise to look into what he did to maintain such an illustrious career. Weight training, Hill Sprints, Plyometric and agility drills, stretching, etc etc. I honestly respect the hard work that tennis players endure to get where they are....but i'm wondering compared to the other sporting athletes....are they doing just as much?


Another thing I forgot to mention was Zinedine Zidane's MVP World Cup performance at age 34. Now there's a sport that requires speed, agility, stamina, and toughness and certainly quick reflexes.

Alexandros
07-23-2006, 08:34 PM
And what about Blake's improved reflexes at age 27? This guy wasn't seeing the ball this well four years ago, that's for sure. In fact, he's one guy on tour right now that I would put in a similar category as Agassi in regards to physical fitness. I honestly don't have a clue to what his physical training regimen is, however I wouldn't be surprised if it includes a heavy dose of weights.


I can't believe his reflexes have improved as he has aged - that should be medically impossible. He has improved his shot production on his backhand and tweaked his technique and possibly developed a better 'eye for the ball' but his reflexes are not better than they were four years ago.

Also, Blake doesn't strike me as a guy who does a lot of weights, he doesn't seem particularly thick around the chest or arms.

OrangeOne
07-23-2006, 08:40 PM
Was Weight Training the key to Agassi's Longevity??

I have too much respect for physical training in many forms: strength, aerobic, flexibility, etc etc - to deny that it played a part. I'm sure it did.

BUT - I'd say his longevity is due moreso to the following:

a. Raw Talent. Aside from amazing shot-making, I'd include in here having an excellent tennis brain, and possibly his biggest strength - having possibly the best 'timing' the game has ever seen. I'd also throw in here his ability to adapt his game over his career.

a. Desire. He wanted it, so much more than many others. Now part of his desire probably came late in his career - from his perspective that he 'wasted' some of his youth (skipping W & the AO often, for example). Some of it was no doubt fuelled by his immense natural talent (ie. it helps to know that you have the capacity for greatness in the first place, someone who never cracks the top 20 / never wins a GS probably can never know the same true desire as someone who knows that, when at their best, they can beat anyone). Irrespective of the rationale, I feel his desire & commitment are a large part of the story.

c. Genetics. To last in a mainstream professional sport beyond 'the average', and do so at the highest level, you need to be born with .0000001% genetics (or better :)). In cycling terms, it's referred to as "choosing your parents well", because cycling is even more genetically dependant than tennis (there's less skill required, it's much more dependant on sheer aerobic capacity - probably moreso than most sports other than running). Anyways - to get back to the point - he was genetically lucky, very lucky that his body could last so long (possibly very lucky his body could endure serious weight training for so long too!). Sure - he's had his share of problems - especially in the last few years - but most players break down long before the mid-30's. If you scanned the average ex-pro's shoulder, back, knees - i don't think you'd find too many "excellent specimens" post-career, far from it in fact. At the start of their career.... well they're amazing specimens.

OrangeOne
07-23-2006, 09:01 PM
agassi said in an interview that he has only had about 2 massages in his life.

it seems agassi does not like to get a massage, or stretch

i can promise you, if agassi had a 2hr massage a day like federer he would have done even better in his career, and might still play even longer.

With all due respect, it confuses me when people so far removed from a situation make such comments.

I believe in sports massage, I do. I know what the studies say. If I was trying to make it pro (ha!) or if I knew someone who was, there's no doubt in the world that I'd get / I'd recommend they get regular, full massages. As often as they can! Preferably by or under the direction of a qualified sports physiotherapist. Or two...

BUT: I also believe that people are unique, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for everyone. The people who are in the top billionth of the world in their sport - like Andre - maybe sometimes they react a little differently to certain things. Andre has been ludicrously successful, and has been so under the advice of many, many skilled people.

Ok - so maybe he didn't get massages. While studies show for most people massage is beneficial, maybe he's unique? Or maybe he was joking in that interview? Maybe he Gil or someone else designed a specific stretching program for him. Maybe he's devoted to ice baths & post-match IV's! Maybe it was part of his lifting regime (remember that when you're working one group of muscles - you're almost always stretching another group). Maybe he is dedicated to a version of Yoga or similar. Maybe he's genetically very flexible, and the focus on his work has been to control that. Maybe he's one of the few people for whom regular massage is a bad thing, etc etc etc.

Without trying to cause offence, I'm slightly surprised that you feel happy to rate your own, reasonably simplistic advice, above the 10's and 100's of elite professionals who would have been involved in various ways in keeping Andre on a court and maximising his potential. You really think that someone as meticulously prepared as Andre, with literally unlimited financial resources, wouldn't have investigated and evaluated advice as basic as regular massage?

scotus
07-23-2006, 10:03 PM
I would say that weight training served both to improve and destroy his career.

We all know that his physical regimen helped him stay in tip-top shape. But I think Andre's career-ending sciatica might be a result of trying to lift too much weight.

He claims to bench press well over 300 lbs. Now think of how much he would squat or dead-lift. You can easily get sciatica from these exercises if you go for that extra load, especially on one-legged squats.

BaseLineBash
07-23-2006, 10:11 PM
All of the above, along with and more importantly, commitment, abnormal eyes and amazing coordination.

travlerajm
07-23-2006, 10:43 PM
I think Agassi's longevity has more to do with two things>

1. He's very good to begin with, so that even though his physical abilities eroded, he could still compete at the top-5 level in his 30's.

2. He kept his motivation longer than most top guys. Guys like Sampras, McEnroe, Borg, and Becker seemed to suffer from burnout. Other guys like Rafter and Edberg lost their motivation to fight back from from serious injuries.

superman1
07-23-2006, 11:13 PM
The #1 reason for his longevity is his talent. No one sees the ball like Agassi. No one times the ball like Agassi. No one is as good as him off both wings.

Even in the French Open when his back was in agony and he couldn't even move, he still took it to 5 sets by just standing in one place and clubbing the ball to the corners to make Jarkko work for it.

Agassi definitely did things the hard way. He'd have a few more Slams on him if he worked on his fitness in his youth. He could run with the best of them and he hit the ball like no one else, but it took him years to figure out that particularly with his game, the stronger the better.

TN1
07-23-2006, 11:39 PM
I think one major thing hasn't been commented on yet. The surface!!!! Not many athletes sprint/cut/stop/resprint on concrete. Look at how quickly tennis shoes run out compared to all those other sports you listed. I am pretty sure the demand on every body part in the lower body is pretty bad for tennis. Mostly all those other sports you listed play on much softer surfaces, something that isn't going to destroy your joints in the same time period.

Also, tennis relies on one person. You get to do all the serving, all the running, and such and such. All the other sports you listed are team sports. You know if you are getting old and you can't sprint as quickly anymore or jump as high, you might have a plan B. Like Jordan did in his older years. When he was younger he would just dunk on you, but when he got older he just killed you with the unstoppable fad away. I guess you can apply the same to Agassi on how his style has changed but I am sure his footspeed and agility has dropped and there is nobody else around to help him hide that on a court.

Also, to answer your question. I am sure weight training doesn't hurt a tennis player. I weight lift alot and it's helped me alot in my game. Maybe Agassi is onto something.

VictorS.
07-24-2006, 07:30 AM
I think one major thing hasn't been commented on yet. The surface!!!! Not many athletes sprint/cut/stop/resprint on concrete. Look at how quickly tennis shoes run out compared to all those other sports you listed. I am pretty sure the demand on every body part in the lower body is pretty bad for tennis. Mostly all those other sports you listed play on much softer surfaces, something that isn't going to destroy your joints in the same time period.

Also, tennis relies on one person. You get to do all the serving, all the running, and such and such. All the other sports you listed are team sports. You know if you are getting old and you can't sprint as quickly anymore or jump as high, you might have a plan B. Like Jordan did in his older years. When he was younger he would just dunk on you, but when he got older he just killed you with the unstoppable fad away. I guess you can apply the same to Agassi on how his style has changed but I am sure his footspeed and agility has dropped and there is nobody else around to help him hide that on a court.

Also, to answer your question. I am sure weight training doesn't hurt a tennis player. I weight lift alot and it's helped me alot in my game. Maybe Agassi is onto something.

This is a very interesting thread. All of you have really brought up some really good points: the individual aspect of tennis, the unforgiving court surfaces, Agassi's desire and will at his age, etc etc. Overall, I just find it very strange how commentators and probably even the players and fans view guys like Hewitt, Roddick, and Federer as the "elder statesmen" on the game. They obviously are veterans of the game. However in almost any other sport you can name....soccer, basketball, football, etc....at age 23, you haven't entered your prime yet.

This is obviously all speculation because I've never really seen tennis pros train however I know for a fact from my college experiences and from going to the gym that football and basketball players hit the weights on an almost daily basis. And I think that's probably why their bodies are able to hold up into their 30s.

tomahawk
07-24-2006, 07:43 AM
Sure I think his weight training regiment has some part of why he's been in the game for so long. But the one thing I feel that people aren't mentioning is that Agassi has had one roller-coaster of a career and has never been able to focus for his entire career. You can see that in his career. I think you can see the comparisons between Agassi and someone like, say Pete Sampras. Sampras maintained his focus for 7-8 years and dominated the game. Agassi would have up's and down's and could never maintain a single focus on tennis, always distracted by celebrity. Of course that faded as he got older but still I feel like if Agassi would have had the same type of focus as a Sampras or Borg he would have won more Grand Slams (10+) and have closed the gap between being one of the top 10 of all time to becoming one of the top 5 of all time.

emcee
07-24-2006, 09:34 AM
Jerry Rice's best season statistically was 1995 as far as total yardage is concerned. That would put him in the 33-34 yr old range during that time. Obviously this is all debatable however for him to have a season at that age is quite remarkable. And I think if you were an athlete....it would be wise to look into what he did to maintain such an illustrious career. Weight training, Hill Sprints, Plyometric and agility drills, stretching, etc etc. I honestly respect the hard work that tennis players endure to get where they are....but i'm wondering compared to the other sporting athletes....are they doing just as much?


Another thing I forgot to mention was Zinedine Zidane's MVP World Cup performance at age 34. Now there's a sport that requires speed, agility, stamina, and toughness and certainly quick reflexes.

There were probably some other WR's who probably retired once they couldn't play well (i.e. play with ANY speed) but Rice didn't. Then he had 6 mediocre seasons just to pad his stats. By the end of his last year he couldn't be one of the top 3 Seattle (I think?) WR's...a team known for horrible, flakey receivers. By that time, he couldn't pay any team to take him.

I think people like Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss could play into their 40's like Rice and put up similar numbers from 36 on out. Most of them play until around 35 or 36 anyway. Unlike Rice, they retire while they're still good.

rod99
07-24-2006, 12:05 PM
one of the reasons for agassi's longevity was that he took a few years "off" earlier in his career and thus, had more left in the tank until his mid-30s. he basically didn't play in '97 and he only played 2 grand slams/year from 1988-1990 and didn't play all 4 grand slams in a year until 1995.

The tennis guy
07-24-2006, 12:17 PM
Overall, I just find it very strange how commentators and probably even the players and fans view guys like Hewitt, Roddick, and Federer as the "elder statesmen" on the game. They obviously are veterans of the game. However in almost any other sport you can name....soccer, basketball, football, etc....at age 23, you haven't entered your prime yet.

This is obviously all speculation because I've never really seen tennis pros train however I know for a fact from my college experiences and from going to the gym that football and basketball players hit the weights on an almost daily basis. And I think that's probably why their bodies are able to hold up into their 30s.

Today, most tennis players do weight training, men and women.

Why tennis players have shorter career than other sports?

One, tennis is individual sports which requires serious training at early age. Even though Hewitt, Federer, Roddick are only 23, 24, they have played tennis SERIOUSLY for more than 10 years already. When they were 10-12 years old, they were not like baseball, basketball kids just playing for fun. You don't even need to play football at that age to be professional later.

Two, tennis is year around travel sports. The around the globe travel takes its toll on players body and mind.

Midlife crisis
07-24-2006, 12:35 PM
[QUOTE=The tennis guyWhy tennis players have shorter career than other sports?

One, tennis is individual sports which requires serious training at early age. Even though Hewitt, Federer, Roddick are only 23, 24, they have played tennis SERIOUSLY for more than 10 years already. When they were 10-12 years old, they were not like baseball, basketball kids just playing for fun. You don't even need to play football at that age to be professional later.[/QUOTE]

When my son was ten years old and pitching, I was contacted by a college recruiter, who was making his rounds at the little league fields. I subsequently received several follow-up calls and emails.

By age ten, most kids who are destined for playing pro baseball are playing year round, and train probably 2-4 hours a day through the school year. They attend week-long, month-long, and summer-long live-away baseball camps. It's no different than tennis, and potentially worse because throwing a baseball hard is one of the more stressful and potentially damaging things any athlete, much less a young, developing kid, could do.

sureshs
07-24-2006, 12:49 PM
I think one major thing hasn't been commented on yet. The surface!!!! Not many athletes sprint/cut/stop/resprint on concrete. Look at how quickly tennis shoes run out compared to all those other sports you listed. I am pretty sure the demand on every body part in the lower body is pretty bad for tennis. Mostly all those other sports you listed play on much softer surfaces, something that isn't going to destroy your joints in the same time period.


Not basketball, though

The tennis guy
07-24-2006, 12:56 PM
When my son was ten years old and pitching, I was contacted by a college recruiter, who was making his rounds at the little league fields. I subsequently received several follow-up calls and emails.

By age ten, most kids who are destined for playing pro baseball are playing year round, and train probably 2-4 hours a day through the school year. They attend week-long, month-long, and summer-long live-away baseball camps. It's no different than tennis, and potentially worse because throwing a baseball hard is one of the more stressful and potentially damaging things any athlete, much less a young, developing kid, could do.

I know what you said. You don't send your 10-year-old to academies like tennis kids do these days.

guernica1
07-24-2006, 03:40 PM
Agassi's fantastic hand eye coordination, superior vision, quick feet and ability to play from the baseline and do less running than just about any other player I've seen is the secret. Also he's naturally blessed with just a body that has held up to the rigors of 18 odd years of pro tennis.

The lifting helps but many if not all players lift these days but very few have Agassi's eyesight which I've read before was just insanely high quality.

Midlife crisis
07-24-2006, 04:05 PM
I know what you said. You don't send your 10-year-old to academies like tennis kids do these days.

Yes, you do, if you think your child has the ability to make it as a professional baseball player. However, even short of that, with the popularity of baseball compared to tennis, it is easy to find several hours a day of training, year round, for a child baseball/softball player very nearly equal to what they would get at a dedicated academy.

alan-n
07-24-2006, 04:14 PM
Weight training has nothing to do with tennis players longevity. The players could play well into their 40's if they could afford not winning tournaments to pay the bills. Basketball players and baseball players don't have to do EVERYTHING, you could be a defensive specialist or a pinch hitter. Versus a tennis player that has to do EVERTHING and that role doesn't change.

So in conclusion, yeah the tennis player can play well into their 40's, but no one wants to watch you when your rank falls out of the top 10 in the world. In basketball you can be the 150th best basketball player and it wouldn't matter since you have a team to cover for your lack of abilities.

VictorS.
07-24-2006, 06:41 PM
Weight training has nothing to do with tennis players longevity. The players could play well into their 40's if they could afford not winning tournaments to pay the bills. Basketball players and baseball players don't have to do EVERYTHING, you could be a defensive specialist or a pinch hitter. Versus a tennis player that has to do EVERTHING and that role doesn't change.

So in conclusion, yeah the tennis player can play well into their 40's, but no one wants to watch you when your rank falls out of the top 10 in the world. In basketball you can be the 150th best basketball player and it wouldn't matter since you have a team to cover for your lack of abilities.

I keep hearing this argument. Steve Nash has been the best player in the NBA the last two years in a row. He's in his mid 30s. He plays a position which requires the most speed, quickness, and agility. It requires endurance....basketball players run over 7-8 miles in a game. Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in the world in his mid-30s. There are countless baseball players (alex rodriguez for example) who play very well into their 30s. In tennis, there are none except maybe agassi and a few other guys. Santoro is actually in his late 30s...he's still as speedy and crafty as ever and he definitely seems to be able to hold up in long matches. I wonder what his secret is.

NamRanger
07-24-2006, 07:00 PM
His mechanics help out alot too. All of his strokes are compact, and utilizes his entire body to generate power (meaning less strain on a certain body part, such as elbow, shoulder, that other players have trouble with). The only thing that had stopped him for awhile I believe was a wrist surgery.

BaseLineBash
07-24-2006, 07:18 PM
His mechanics help out alot too. All of his strokes are compact, and utilizes his entire body to generate power (meaning less strain on a certain body part, such as elbow, shoulder, that other players have trouble with). The only thing that had stopped him for awhile I believe was a wrist surgery.
True, but Andre didn't always use strokes as compact as he does today.

RMac
07-24-2006, 07:38 PM
Sorry, kinda off topic but Jerry Rice is sooo overrated.

One of the funniest things I've read in a while. It's impossible to be overrated at something when you're the best ever at that something.

Sorry, just had to respond to that.

Anywho....I think the best methods of training are relative. Relative to your body and the training of your peers. Players of a previous era concentrated on technique and mechanics, with maybe a little bit of cardio thrown in because that's what everyone else was doing and nobody knew anything different.

NamRanger
07-24-2006, 07:44 PM
True, but Andre didn't always use strokes as compact as he does today.


Of course, but in general Agassi's strokes have always been more compact then the average stroke of his day (especially when he first started playing).

The tennis guy
07-24-2006, 07:50 PM
Yes, you do, if you think your child has the ability to make it as a professional baseball player. However, even short of that, with the popularity of baseball compared to tennis, it is easy to find several hours a day of training, year round, for a child baseball/softball player very nearly equal to what they would get at a dedicated academy.

I watched training for kids in baseball and tennis at academies. The intensity level is night and day.

quest01
07-24-2006, 07:51 PM
I think retiring at the age of 36 will be the norm in tennis soon. You will see more players retiring at around 34 to possibly 39 very soon because players take weight training and physical conditioning much more serious now then before. I donít think it has much to do with the age but more with the number of years on tour that breaks a player down. There are many tennis players that can compete at a high level at the age of 35 but itís playing for 15 straight years on tour that will eventually persuade a player to call it quits. You canít really compare tennis with other sports such as baseball because tennis is much more of a physical sport. Itís definitely a sport where players retire earlier compared to other sports.

Agassiís ground strokes are a reason why he was able to stay on tour as long as he has. He has very simple strokes, such as a short forehand and backhand swing and I think that contributes to his longevity on tour.

emcee
07-24-2006, 07:57 PM
One of the funniest things I've read in a while. It's impossible to be overrated at something when you're the best ever at that something.

Sorry, just had to respond to that.


To be overrated at something, lots of people have to think you're the best ever at something. Did you not think he padded his stats at the end of his career and stayed in the game until NO TEAM wanted him and the SEAHAWKS kept him on the bench?

tlm
07-24-2006, 08:00 PM
Weight training is the key to agassi staying around that long.