Novak Djokovic is currently the number one tennis player in the world as ranked by the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He is also thought by many to be the fittest in the sport, as well as the fittest athlete on the planet. So, how did he manage to achieve this level of greatness, even though only as recently as 2010 he was collapsing while playing due to, what many thought, was poor conditioning?
Novak Djokovic’s problems with gluten
In his book “Serve to Win: The 14-Day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence”, he reminisces about the many moments when his body simply gave up in the middle of the match. He and his trainers knew something was wrong, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on what the main cause was and wrongly attributed it to either allergies or asthma, or simply due to poor conditioning. After a while, they found out that he had dairy and gluten intolerances and that his nutrition regimen was the reason he was experiencing difficulties on the court. His diet was quickly re-adapted to his intolerance and the problems went away.
He was sure that his misdiagnosed condition had cost him some championships where he couldn’t compete in optimal condition, particularly the 2012 Australian Open in which he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He also considers this the lowest point in his career, but since then it has cemented his resolve to approach the fitness component of his training. This helped him achieve the levels of sportsmanship, once his nutrition was put in order.
He started training for 14 hours per day, which included practicing every morning and afternoon, lifting weights, running or riding a bike and lots of mobility work. The constant traveling did not impede much with his training regimen. One example is that he continued his practice even in Abu Dhabi, in its scorching heat and high humidity
While his training regimen and diet advice may not make a lot of sense for a regular athlete, Novak offers some advice that might apply to the overall fitness population as well and can have a tremendous impact on your overall level of fitness, athletic ability and quality of life. The new training and diet principles that he started following have had a huge effect on his game and efforts to achieving top level status in world tennis.
What we’ll explain in this article is Novak’s advice on foam rolling, stretching, yoga, how his use of the “egg pod” helps him with his overall fitness and the minimum dose of effective workout one can complete in about 20 minutes or less.
Modern life has created sedentary lifestyles, however humans have evolved to endure great physical exertion, so it’s no wonder that you feel a lot happier after you’ve finished exercising. It’s the same rush of dopamine your ancestors felt. Let’s try and make it a lifestyle!
The Novak Djokovic Training Routine – Stretching and Achieving Real Flexibility
Before starting the match, Djokovic does a routine consisting of thorough body warm-up and stretching. He begins with either a light run or a bike ride until his body warms up sufficiently and then starts a dynamic stretch routine. The dynamic stretch is different from the static stretch in that in static stretching you are supposed to assume a fixed position and hold that position for a certain amount of time, whilst with a dynamic stretch you are trying to simulate a movement done in everyday life. The way he does that is by doing a 5-minute jog or riding a stationary bike, after which he proceeds with 10-15 reps of the following list of exercises, with no rest between them
- Inverted hamstring
- Squat thrusts
- Jumping jacks
- Reverse lunge with backward reach
- Lunge with side bend
- Walking high knees
- Low side-to-side lunge
- Walking high kicks
Being a top level athlete means you are surrounded by a team of people following you around, making sure that you are functioning at the optimal rate to deliver the best results possible. A part of the team is a masseuse with which he works daily and whose massages help him with his muscles recovering faster after a grueling match
Unfortunately, this is not the case for the vast majority of athletes, let alone regular people. However, using a foam roller onto different muscles of your body can have a similar effect in regards to the loosening up of connective tissue around the muscles and lowering the stiffness, which in turn increases the overall mobility of your muscles and joints.
Here’s another list of exercises which he recommends. Do each exercise for 20 seconds and pause additional 10 seconds on any problematic areas you might encounter:
- Calf roll
- Glutes roll
- Lower-back roll
- Upper-back roll
- Hamstring roll
- IT band roll
- Quadriceps/hip flexors roll
- Shoulder blades roll
Yoga – entering the spiritual dimension
Djokovic is also a yoga practitioner and highly recommends it. You need not be an expert at it to reap the benefits. Just do some of the most basic poses to help you loosen up your body and relax. You can do that post-workout or before you do to sleep. We have chosen the following poses that will give you a good stretch in all parts of your body and make you much calmer and relaxed. You should hold each position for 30 seconds and gradually increase that to a minute. Take deep breaths while you are doing them
- Downward dog
This list doesn’t include any strength movements or conditioning work. For those who have a tight schedule and want to add strength training in their workout routine, we’ve got you covered later in this article, but first a bit more exotic “tip”:
The “Egg” Pod
We’ve all heard of the millions of things celebrities use to look young and fit. Most of the time it’s a specific diet and training regimen regulated by a team of personal trainers and nutritionists, although some celebrities come up with all sorts of ludicrous ideas. These of course cost a huge amount of money and are beyond the reach of regular people. One such thing is the CVAC fitness pod
That’s one part of his training rehabilitation that he rarely mentions, but has received a lot of publicity because he uses it frequently. He says it increases his endurance and performance abilities in a natural and faster way.When he says “natural”, he means without illegal substances such as steroids or any other kind of chemical, although the cost of the “egg” is something one would call a nature walk.
According to some sources, Djokovic spent the bigger part of his 2011 down time in this odd-looking chamber about the size of a small car. By the looks of it, he surely isn’t claustrophobic. The pod itself tries to simulate the effects of a vigorous training session, while adding oxygenated blood to the body and removing the build up of lactic acid and other waste products that accumulate within the body during training
It works by simulating training at a high altitude by compressing the muscles with a vacuum pump and valves controlled by a computer. It’s been proven to be far more superior in comparison to the hyperbaric chambers used by athletes in the past few years. The pod conditions can be adjusted as per the athlete’s needs to simulate any training they want or need. It helps the body absorb twice as much oxygen as blood doping and it isn’t illegal. These pods have still not be banned by the ATP, but whether their usage will be permitted in the future is yet to be seen.If you are willing to try them out, you can find them in luxurious fitness clubs and rehabilitation facilities, but they are by no means cheap.
A minimal dose of effective training
Most of the recreational players would benefit from a “minimal” training style. What follows is a detailed description of this type of training that will satisfy your training needs and does not need any additional fitness equipment. Time of completion can be about 15 minutes and it is ideal for those who are too busy.
Time: 2 minutes
The goal is to alleviate stiffness in joints and muscles, improve mobility and increase tissue quality.
Myofascial release on both quads, IT band and hip flexors, lasting 30 seconds. If you are pressed for time, only do the tightest spots and those that you know will most likely influence your gym performance. The majority of people who spend a big part of their day sitting need to roll their hip flexors and quadriceps. This is top priority.
Next, the majority of people also have a tight IT band, so it is the next area that needs to be rolled on a foam. You might wonder what an IT band is. It is an acronym of Ilio(hip) and Tibial(shin bone). It is a band of fascia running directly from the outside of the thigh for the length of the femur and inserting just below the knee
Mobility and Dynamic Warm Up
Time: 3 minutes
After tissue work, the goal is to proceed with a couple of sets of mobility and activation exercises serving to improve the movement patterns
- Perform 10 reps of glute bridges and squeeze your glutes for 5 seconds at the top of the movement.
- Perform 6 reps of reverse lunges with your arms overhead for both legs – it is considered one of the BEST hip flexor exercises
- Hand walks (6 reps)
- Walking quad stretch , 6 reps with each leg and squeeze your glutes for 2 seconds
One needs to focus on what muscles need to be stretched and mobilized the most when taking the upcoming workout into consideration. Glute bridges, for example, activate the glutes and stretch the hip flexors. Lunges and all their varieties also mobilize your hip flexors, as well as prepare your body for the workout, activating firing patterns. Hand walks activate your entire body, provide a good stretch in the lower back, hamstrings and calves, while the walking quad stretching makes sure your hip flexors and quads are relaxed and loose before starting some faster movement pattern.
Warm up and neural activation
Time: 3 minutes
Goal: Full body warm up and neural activation
Skipping rope, consisting of fast skipping for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of slow skipping, then repeating the fast skip again, totaling 3 minutes. In the fast phase, you should move the feet and the rope as fast as possible. You can include side to side switches like a professional boxer alternating his lead legs, butt kicks, shuffles and high knee raises for the last 5 seconds. In the slow phase, move at a slower pace and do it as any regular rope skipping.
This type of training volume and duration increases the neural activation and slightly increases the body temperature, warming up the body just enough for the upcoming workout. It simply makes you ready for action. If you exceed the workout past 3 minutes, you would start to slow down and the quality of the movements will decrease and you would be basically doing metabolic conditioning