Prepare to dominate on the court with these 11 exercises.
Break out your racket and sneakers and get ready to spend the summer on the tennis court. Tennis is an elegant sport, combining raw power with precise agility. The best players work hard both on and off the court, and a training program geared specifically for tennis can help you develop the speed and strength you need to put your best foot forward.
To successfully wield a racket, you need to be quick on your feet, able to change directions at the drop of a pin, have lasting endurance and a fierce swing.
A great tennis player has speed, agility, endurance and strength, and those skills take time to develop both on and off the court.
Whether you’re an amateur player or going pro, the following movements will help you build some of the primary muscles used in tennis, including your quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, abdominals, shoulders, upper back, chest and arms. They will also keep you agile and moving across the court safely.
SPEED, AGILITY and LEG STRENGTH
Side shuffle – Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves
The side-shuffle movement will help you move quickly across the tennis court.
Place your feet shoulder-width apart, hinge slightly at the waist, and bend your knees slightly. Facing forward, shuffle to the side across your workout space without crossing your feet, and then shuffle in the opposite direction back to your starting position. Stay low in your legs and light on your feet.
For practice that emphasizes the cross-rotational movements you experience on the court, you can perform the shuffle from side-to-side, forward and backward, and in a zig-zag pattern. Try arranging three cones in a row on each side of your shuffle area. Number them 1-6 with odd numbers on one side (1, 3, 5) and evens on the other (2, 4, 6). Then shuffle between the cones at variable distances. For example, move from cone 1 to cone 6, from 3 to 4, 3 to 2, etc. This will keep you continually switching directions as you would during a real tennis match.
Jump squats – Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings
Jump squats will help you develop the muscles necessary for a strong push-off.
From a standing position, sink into a squat. Hold for a moment, and then press through the balls of your feet and jump straight up as high as you can. As you land, absorb the impact by bending your legs. In one smooth motion, sink back into a squat and repeat. Keep your chest upright throughout the movement. Coordinate your arms to swing back as you lower and decelerate and pull upward to explode.
Bodyweight lunge – Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings
Lunging develops strength and balance to help you confidently dash around the court.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step forward with one foot until your front knee bends at a 90-degree angle and your back knee nearly touches the ground. Keep your posture erect throughout the movement. Push back with your front foot to return to a standing position and repeat on the opposite side. If you feel pain in the front knee, focus on lowering your body by bending the back knee.
Instead of just lunging forward and backward, try “going around the clock.” Choose a random number on the “clock” and lunge in that direction. For example, lunge with your right foot to the 2 o’clock position and then return to the center. Then lunge with your left foot to the 7 o’clock position, etc. Lunging in all directions is more representative of how you might move during a tennis match and can give you a better-rounded workout.
Treadmill or outdoor interval training – Metabolic efficiency
Interval training, which involves alternating bursts of intense exercise with periods of recovery, can help improve your endurance and speed.
Warm up with a light jog for 10 minutes. After you’re warmed up, run at a strenuous pace for a 30-second sprint. Follow this work period with one minute of recovery at a slower pace. Continue alternating between the work pace and recovery pace for a total of 12 minutes. Walk for five minutes to cool down. You can also do interval training on an elliptical for an alternative to running that is easier on your joints.
Cross-body crunch – Core
The cross-body crunch is a compound ab movement that will strengthen your core.
Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and arms behind your head. Curl up, bringing your right elbow and shoulder across your body. At the same time, raise your left knee to meet your right elbow. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Medicine-ball rotational throw – Core
This movement helps build explosive strength and engages the muscles responsible for trunk rotation.
Grab a medicine ball with both hands and stand with your side a few feet from a wall. Wind up for the movement by turning your shoulders away from the wall, and then quickly twist your shoulders and upper body back toward the wall, releasing the medicine ball. Catch the ball as it bounces off the wall and repeat the motion.
ARMS, SHOULDERS and CHEST STRENGTH
Biceps curl to shoulder press – Biceps, chest, shoulders
This compound movement combines a biceps curl with a shoulder press in one fluid motion.
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your elbows tucked to your sides, curl the weights up until they are against your chest. Then press the weights toward the ceiling until your arms are fully extended, rotating your forearms throughout the motion so your palms face away from you at the top of the movement. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position and repeat.
Dumbbell floor press – Triceps
The dumbbell floor press engages some of the muscles used to power your tennis swing.
Lie with your back on the floor and your feet on the ground. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, start with your arms fully extended above you. Lower the weights until your upper arms touch the floor, keeping your elbows tucked closely to your sides. Raise the weights back to the starting position and repeat the movement.
Dumbbell flyes – Chest
This chest-expanding movement will help you put thrust into your tennis serve.
Lie with your back on a bench and your feet on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells above you with your arms nearly fully extended (keep a slight bend in your elbows). Keeping your movement controlled, lower your arms to your sides until they form a T with your body. Squeeze your chest muscles as you raise your arms back to the starting position and repeat.
MOBILITY & FLEXIBILITY
Yoga – Whole body
Yoga is a relaxing and effective way to improve your mobility and flexibility.
In tennis, shoulder mobility is particularly important. Try a variation on the yoga pose Gomukhasana called Cow Face Arms to loosen up tight muscles in your shoulders and upper back. In a kneeling position, reach your left arm behind your back. Bend your elbow and reach up so your hand is between your shoulder blades with your palm facing away from you. With your right hand, reach up and over your right shoulder. Clasp fingers with your left hand, or grab a towel between your two hands if you can’t reach. Hold the stretch and focus on opening your chest and releasing shoulder tension. For full-body stretching, try attending a weekly yoga class at your gym.
Foam roll – Whole body
Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release, is a method of applying your bodyweight on top of a foam roller before or after your workout to do several beneficial things for the body, including warming up the muscles, increasing blood flow to the muscles and pinpointing areas of tension needing release. Self-myofascial release is absolutely an important part of any training program, especially for a sport like tennis.
In order to get started, begin by identifying a target muscle or area of soreness and position that muscle group on top of the foam roller. Roll the tender area over the foam until the tension releases – holding for a few seconds on the tight spot, then moving around it with a fluid roll. You can adjust the intensity by applying more bodyweight, or by lifting your bodyweight off of the foam roller. For tennis, you may want to give extra attention to your shoulders, back, quadriceps and hamstrings to make sure those muscles stay relaxed and limber, and you can do this before and after your match or training session. (Learn more about foam rolling here.)
Looking for more in-depth training? Small group training or a one-on-one sessions can be helpful, because a certified personal trainer can lead you through a routine specifically designed to help you improve your fitness for tennis.
Supplement your on-court practice with these strength, endurance and agility movements, and you’ll be well-positioned to give your opponent a challenging match.