What Does Roger Federer’s Comeback Training Regimen Look Like?
The 40-year-old has to be more intentional than ever as he battles back from last year's knee surgery
Before getting under the knife for his third arthroscopic knee surgery in a year and a half last August, Roger Federer spoke directly to his fans on Instagram. He delivered a refreshingly honest assessment of his chances at returning to the court:
“I want to give myself a glimmer of hope to return to the tour, in some shape or form. I am realistic, don’t get me wrong. I know how difficult it is at this age right now to do another surgery and try it…I’ll go through the rehab process with a goal, while I’m still active, which I think is going to help me during this long period of time.”
It’s these days rare to hear a professional athlete — let alone a legendary one who’s been praised for his longevity — acknowledge that A) they don’t have much left in the tank or B) a rehab process might be for naught. The Tom Brady era, after all, has ushered in a generation of overachievers who see no longer see 40 as the end of the line.
But it’s hard to argue with a right knee that’s refused to stay healthy over the last few years, and Federer, in another display of wisdom, has expressed that his focus lies well beyond tennis. In an interview with Jim Courier last September, he said, “This is also for my life. I want to make sure I can do everything I want to do later on.” Like running around with his kids. Or just running, period — he’s done a number of campaigns with sponsor On Running over the couple years, which is based in his home country of Switzerland. The two would be a natural pair, in whatever capacity, once he finally calls it quits.
For now, though, Federer is planning a brief comeback. And while he almost certainly won’t be back in time for Wimbledon, recent Instagram intel indicates he’s got enough bounce to stage a comeback later this summer:
If that video comes across as relatively…lame (it sort of looks like someone’s uncle secured the multipurpose room at a New York Sports Club and started putting himself through drills), keep in mind that Federer was on crutches last fall. Progressing from the operating table to a Grand Slam takes time, especially at age 40.
We’re used to seeing absolutely insane workouts on Instagram, most of them posted by movie stars or influencers. But Federer isn’t seeking total body transformation — he just needs his body to work again. The movements here prioritize agility, stability and mobility. Notice how he isn’t running at hyperspeed through the ladder circuit, or swinging a ton of weight around on his hip twists. He’s aiming for crisp progressions, particularly of the lateral variety, that’ll give his knee the confidence it needs to gnash its way around the court again. In order to inject some strength, he’s also mixing in weighted single-leg squats.
Ultimately, Federer’s regimen is a welcome reminder that “gentle,” low-impact workouts pay dividends, whether you’re an aging athlete or an aging amateur. Of course, when it comes to the actual sport of tennis, Federer can also fall back on otherworldly power and technique, which he shared in another Instagram post here.
If Federer’s expectation for his return were win his 21st major or bust, there’s a very real chance he would flop. But his measured approach, of mind and body, should leave him fulfilled no matter how the farewell tour plays out. He said last November: “Even if I know that the end is near, I want to try and play some more big matches. That will not be easy, but I want to try. Let’s be clear: My life is not going to fall apart if I don’t play another Grand Slam final.”
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