From André Agassi's "Open: An Autobiography" Chapter 10
I see from Gil’s face that he’s been expecting me... He walks me over to the weight racks and tells me that many of the exercises I’ve been doing are wrong, dead wrong, but the way I’ve been doing them is worse. I’m courting disaster. I’m going to hurt myself.
He gives me a fast primer on the mechanics of the body, the physics and hydraulics and architecture of human anatomy...
It’s amazing, Gil says, how many fallacies there are about the human body, how little we know about our own bodies. For instance ... The step-ups you’re doing, the exercises where you hold a heavy weight on your back as you walk upstairs? You’re asking for a catastrophic injury. You’re lucky you haven’t already ruined your knee.
It’s all about angles, Andre. At one angle, you’re engaging your quad. Fine, great. At another angle, you’re engaging your knee, putting loads of pressure on that knee. Engage that knee too many times—it’ll break off the engagement.
The best exercises, he says, exploit gravity. He tells me how to use gravity and resistance to break down a muscle, so it will come back stronger. He shows me how to do a proper, safe bicep curl. He walks me over to a dry-erase board and diagrams my muscles, arms, joints, tendons. He talks about a bow and arrow, shows me the pressure points along a bow as it’s pulled taut, then uses this model to explain my back, why it hurts after matches and workouts.
... Bottom line, he says, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to have a short career. Big-time back problems, knee problems. Plus, keep doing curls the way I saw you doing them, you’re going to have elbow problems...
I tell him about running with Pat on Rattlesnake Hill, how I feel I’ve hit a plateau. He asks, How much do you run every day?
I don’t know.
Have you ever run five miles in a match?
How often in a match do you run more than five steps in one direction before stopping?
I don’t know anything about tennis, but it seems to me that, by the third step, you’d better be thinking about stopping. Otherwise you’re going to hit the ball and keep running, which means you’ll be out of position for your next shot. The trick is to throttle down, then hit, then slam on the brakes, then hustle back. The way I see it, your sport isn’t about running, it’s about starting and stopping. You need to focus on building the muscles necessary for starting and stopping.
I laugh and tell him that might be the smartest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about tennis.