Tennis Fitness: Tennis is a physically demanding sport. To excel, you must have agility, strength, power, flexibility, and endurance. And having a great racket game isn’t enough to survive a grueling three or five-set match.
As previously stated, you can perfect any tennis shot in the book, but you will be disappointed if you lack the physical level required to produce the hit when it matters most. Many players leave a lost match wondering what went wrong. Tennis requires speed, agility, and endurance. All the world’s top tennis players have significant levels of all three.
Tennis requires anaerobic fitness, which is the capacity to sprint in short bursts repeatedly, as well as power and flexibility. Without these, you would struggle to compete against an opponent on the tennis court and enjoy the sport in general. Your focus may weaken as you begin to get weary. Tennis fitness is vital since it allows you to retain your attention throughout the game and can offer you a mental advantage.
A high level of tennis fitness will also help you avoid injuries. Tennis injuries can be caused by a lack of strength, flexibility, muscle imbalances, overuse, and fatigue. So, now that you understand why fitness is vital in tennis and the various components that comprise tennis fitness let’s look at some tennis-specific examples.
Only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, and the majority give up within two weeks due to unrealistic expectations. Setting goals when sitting in a warm room, sipping eggnog and eating cookies is easy. However, many people’s goals are unrealistic because they begin by doing too much and cannot maintain that routine for very long.
Instead, take the opposite approach and make that habit so simple and easy to maintain that it would be absurd not to. A 10-minute speed and agility routine are recommended for the average tennis player. It may not appear to be much, but two hours of speed and agility training over a month is significant. You will undoubtedly improve your movement if you work purposefully and intensely during these sessions.
In comparison, set a 30-minute goal 3-4 times per week. The average tennis player who isn’t used to this level of training fatigues after a week or two, takes a few days off and never returns to his routine (maybe next year). Begin small, establish the habit, and then progress! Small, seemingly insignificant positive habits accumulate over time, resulting in large gains.
Dynamic stretches are essential for warming up before a match because tennis players move quickly across the court with little rest while exerting physical force. Tennis requires a full body stretch because it works for all major muscle groups.
Stretching: Dynamic vs. Static
Stretching is advised before participating in any sport, including tennis. Tennis injuries can occur if you do not stretch properly before playing the game. Tennis players frequently experience elbow, forearm, wrist, and shoulder pain, so upper body stretches are especially recommended.
Dynamic stretching is recommended before a workout to warm up the muscles and prepare them for physical activity. Static stretches are performed by holding the movement for several seconds, whereas dynamic stretches are performed by repeating the stretch. Enter and release the stretch multiple times to warm up the muscle when performing dynamic stretches.
These are the best tennis stretches to do before you play. Cooling down with static stretches after playing tennis is also advised to maintain a normal heart rate and promote relaxation after a strenuous workout.
- Simple Hamstring Stretch
- Standing Quadriceps Stretch
- Low Lunge Twist Stretch
- Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
- Towel Calf Stretch
- Anterior Shoulder Stretch
- Tennis Elbow Stretch
- Jogging with Progressive Arm Circles (jog or backpedal)
- Knee-to Chest Tuck (maintain proper posture)
- Lunge with reach back (focus on balance)
- Side shuffle (Push off inside leg, swing arms across body)
- High step with trunk rotation (same side)
- Three-way jumping jacks (x 10)
- Inverted hamstring (flat back, hips square)
- Lateral lunge (push hips back)
- Leg swings (Forward, Backward, Sideways 10 times each)
- High knees (Knees up, toes up)
- Butt kicks (knees down, slight forward lean)
- Inchworms (hips up, knees straight)
- Sprint 50/75/100% (proper running form)
Intermittent bouts of high-intensity point exchanges characterize a tennis match, usually lasting from 4 – 10 seconds, and short recovery bouts between points, usually lasting 10 to 20 seconds. Players are allowed 25 seconds between points and 90 seconds on a changeover. With this in mind, a cardiovascular training program should be specific to the above parameters. Jogging for the sake of keeping your conditioning up for the sport may, in fact, actually be somewhat detrimental. This article aims to show you how to get more out of your workout by putting in less time on the treadmill, bike or elliptical.
Recent studies have shed light on the dark days of long steady-state cardiovascular training. As you’ve probably seen in fitness magazines, the recent trend of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) conditioning is beginning to replace the old-school idea of spending long hours on the treadmill. HIIT is defined as short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by longer rest periods. A typical work-to-rest ratio is about one to three. As an example, imagine sprinting on a treadmill for 15 seconds, then jumping off and resting for 45 seconds before repeating. This would typically last about eight rounds or 2 minutes of all-out running. HIIT workouts emphasize quality over quantity, making them ideal for when you don’t have time for a full workout or a trip to the gym.
However, before beginning a high-intensity practice, you should undergo a physical or visit your doctor to ensure that the severe nature of this regimen is appropriate for you.
A tennis strength training program should aim to develop “highly innervated muscles with explosive ability” so that players can serve with greater speed, put “more weight” on the ball (due to improved use of ground reaction forces), cover more area on the court (because they are more agile and fast), and feel like they “float” on the court all day and week (Verstegen, 2003). However, it is critical to dispel some myths about strength training, such as the notion that this type of training will make players slower, less agile, or tight. Only ill-conceived strength training programs will result in this. Indeed, several studies show that among Olympic athletes, weightlifters have the highest levels of power and are second best (after gymnasts) in terms of flexibility (Jensen & Fisher, 1979).
Consequently, tennis players, like all athletes, benefit from a full-body workout. The following are great all-season exercises for tennis players of all skill levels, whether you’re playing outside in the summer or under a dome in the winter. Here are some proven exercises you can do at your gym without a lot of professional instruction.
- Bench Press: The bench press is a powerful compound movement that engages the chest, triceps, and shoulders, all of which are important components of powerful tennis serve. Few exercises are as effective at building upper body strength as a properly executed bench press.
- Goblet Squat: Squats are a fundamental lower-body exercise, and goblet squats are an excellent variation for both beginners and advanced athletes.
- Box Jumps: Box jumps are low-impact exercises that prepare tennis players for explosive jumping and diving movements. It also improves your ability to absorb the shock of returning to a standing position, which is critical for avoiding foot and leg injuries. They work the glutes, quadriceps, core, and arms, making it a well-rounded exercise for tennis players.
- Lateral Lunge: Lateral movement is an important part of the game, but many traditional strength programs overlook it. That is the awesomeness of the lateral lunge. Lunges work the glutes, hip abductors, knees, hips, and the rest of the lower body. After you’ve mastered the basic movement, you can increase the intensity by adding dumbbells or a barbell.
- Medicine Ball Slams: A full-body exercise that focuses on the abdominal muscles. The force with which you slam the ball translates into stronger core muscles and more powerful swings on the court. Medicine ball slams also require little to no weight training skill and pose little risk of injury, even when tired.
Agility is a key characteristic for success in tennis because it allows you to change direction quickly while maintaining balance and control in high-pressure situations. Being agile not only allows you to get to the ball faster and better prepare for shots, but it also allows you to maintain proper balance while hitting the ball. The following tennis agility exercises can be done while holding your racquet and should be done at full intensity. Concentrate on acceleration, movement speed, and deceleration.
- Set up a standard agility ladder, and run through it with high knees, focusing on pulling your knees to your chest.
- Set up two cones about eight feet apart. Run by them, staying low enough to tap the top of the cones with your hand as you pass them.
- Set up hurdles a few feet apart across the length of the court, and sprint over them as fast as you can.
- Set up two cones about four feet apart. Run two ovals around them, then continue your run across the length of the court.
- Skip rope (regular jumps, split jumps, side to side (down the line), forward and back (down the line), hip twists, high knees, one leg jumps.
Tennis coordination is frequently lacking in tennis players. Improving the connection within the neuromuscular system is critical for improved hand-eye/foot-eye coordination, ball tracking, and movement response time (reaction). The ability of a player to take prep or adjustment steps is one area where there is great most benefit from focusing on this area. Players frequently take either small, lazy steps or large, powerful steps. Taking small, controlled steps while maintaining a wide base is essential for getting in the right position to make contact with the ball.
If you improve your reaction time, your anticipation improves (ability to read the play or shot). This is because once a player is highly reactive and coordinated, they can focus on more than just the ball, read body language better, and almost have more time (think being in the moment and everything seems like slow motion). It’s encouraged to push a player’s reactive training beyond what they can handle. The overloading of a drill’s sensors stimulates the nervous system and challenges the response time, resulting in rapid improvements in reaction time. It is critical to only train 5-10 minutes of reactive drills. Other key elements must be followed in order to achieve the best results.
- Ball Drop: Request that a friend stand 5 meters away from you with a bouncing ball in their hand. They must drop the ball at random from shoulder height. Your goal is to catch the ball before it bounces off the ground again. This drill is excellent for improving coordination and reaction time.
- Split Step: Place a friend 5 meters away with a tennis ball in each hand. Your friend must raise both hands to shoulder height and drop one of the balls randomly. Your goal is to catch the ball before it bounces off the ground again. Return the ball to your partner immediately and resume the drill. It’s one of the most effective tennis reaction drills for improving reaction time, agility, and decision-making.
- Blind Reaction: Position a friend with a tennis ball 10 meters behind you. They must toss the ball at random toward you. When you hear the ball bounce off the ground, you must spin around and catch it before it bounces again.
Recovery is critical to ensuring that the body positively adjusts to the rigors of exercise. Training adaptations happen following recovery, not during training. If recovery is inadequate, the body does not strengthen and the chance of injury increases. Excessive exhaustion and injury are indicators that you are not giving your body enough time to recuperate from the demands you place on it. There are numerous recovery methods available, including foam roller self-myofascial release, massage, percussion guns, various hydrotherapies, electrical muscle stimulation, and compression therapy. Proper nutrition, sleep, and rest days are also essential. Your weekly calendar should always include at least one relaxation day.
It is critical to set reasonable goals to improve your tennis fitness. You’re not going to go from feeling exhausted or hitting weak backhand strokes in the second set of a match to playing like a pro in the fifth set deciding game in weeks.
Tennis-specific fitness takes time to develop, but you can set minor goals that add up to show an overall improvement in all of the characteristics described above. Do not be discouraged if you do not see a difference within a few days; it may take several months for your efforts to be rewarded. However, if you stick to your tennis fitness plan, you will reap the rewards and become a better tennis player as time goes on.