Tennis is a multidisciplinary sport that can offer numerous health benefits, including enhanced aerobic and anaerobic fitness, speed, power, flexibility, and muscular strength. The sport also allows players to build up physical and cognitive skills, such as hand-eye coordination, focus, and dedication.
Few sports require whole-body fitness like tennis. Players must demonstrate powerful bursts of energy and enduring strength, as well as substantial levels of overall flexibility and mobility.
Tennis is a demanding sport – training properly is important
For those serious about improving their tennis skills, it is essential to choose exercises that target muscle endurance, strength, and movement. Resistance training, for instance, appears to enhance growth and improve the strength of ligaments, tendons, joint cartilage, and connective tissues inside the muscle.
10 exercises to improve your tennis game
1. Lateral lunges
Also known as a side lunge, this exercise focuses on muscles throughout the lower body, including the glutes, quadriceps, abductors, adductors, and hamstrings. Practising this movement improves lateral mobility, which is highly useful for tennis players.
To complete a lateral lunge, step to your left side and squat back and down with your left leg, keeping your right leg straight, to lower your hips. Push up with your left leg to return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on each side. You’ll feel it exercising your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, as well as a stretch in the straight leg’s inner thigh.
2. Shoulder rotations
The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and tendons that allow your arm to roll fluidly in the shoulder socket. These muscles are often fully extended in serious tennis matches and can make playing impossible if injured.
Your shoulder is capable of two core movements, internal and external rotations. Internal shoulder rotations involve rotating the upper arm toward the front of your body, while external ones require you to rotate it away from your torso’s front side. These exercises can be performed while standing or lying down.
3. Hand walk
This stretch encompasses the entire body and allows for smoother racquet strokes when done regularly.
Bend over at the waist and place your hands in front of you on the ground. Walk your feet up to your hands while maintaining straight legs until you feel a stretch. Then plant your feet and walk your hands out in front of you to a push-up stance. Make sure you only take small steps using your ankles, not your knees.
4. Knee hug
This exercise enhances lower-body flexibility and mobility, crucial for those looking to up their tennis game.
To get more from this stretch, lift one knee to your chest and hold it below the knee with both hands from a standing position. While squeezing the glute muscles, pull your lifted knee towards the chest. Step forward, then repeat on the opposite side, completing 10 repetitions for each leg.
Jump rope and running are two of the best cardiovascular exercises for tennis players. Whole body fitness is essential for those who want to keep up with the sudden energy sprints required when playing tennis.
Aerobic conditioning ensures the heart and lungs work at optimum capacity to pump blood and deliver oxygen to muscles more efficiently. Regular cardio workouts can have significant endurance and speed benefits.
6. Box jump
Tennis games require explosive action to counter fast-flying hits. Box jumps are a relatively low-impact exercise that improves power and speed while allowing you the chance to practice shock absorption.
Swing your arms behind you while bending your knees and pressing your hips back. Explode up into the air from the balls of your feet, swinging your arms up and forward as you completely extend your knees and hips to achieve as much height as possible. Repeat the jumps back-and-forth over the box.
7. Medicine ball toss
This exercise helps increase strength so you can perform more powerful racquet strokes. Medicine ball tosses use the whole body from legs to core and upper body.
Holding a medicine ball below your waist with straight arms, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hips back. Lower yourself into a squat while keeping your arms straight. Jump out of the squat and launch the ball as high as possible. Return to your starting location and go again.
Engage your chest, triceps, and shoulders with the bench press to dramatically enhance your serve during tennis matches. You should start with lighter weights and gradually increase them if you haven’t done this exercise before.
Lie flat on your back on a bench with a shoulder-width, overhand grip on a barbell held above you. Keep your feet on the floor, and steadily lower the bar until it skims the centre of your chest. As you exhale, push the bar back to the starting position fast.
9. Foam rolling
Foam rolling may help with a variety of things, including improving flexibility, decreasing discomfort and removing muscle knots.
Roll over your foam cylinder for compression that relaxes the nerves and muscles, increases blood flow, and aids recovery from exercises and day-to-day activities. Apply the roller to any area of your body that feels stiff and in need of a massage.
10. Trigger point
You can use a tennis ball to quickly target sore or tight areas of muscle in the foot.
To feel the fullest effects of this therapy, stand and place the tennis ball under your bare foot. Roll the ball back and forth under your foot applying pressure to the arch.
Nutrition and diet
Remember, no tennis player who excels in their field relies solely on exercise. You cannot expect your body to perform at its best if you are not feeding it a healthy and nutritious diet.
It’s not always easy to stay motivated, but regular exercise is necessary if you are serious about levelling up your tennis skills.
Try these exercises and nutrition tips to develop your key tennis playing skills and watch how your game improves.