Probably no sport can top tennis for the range of fitness required to play at an advanced level.
Despite the sight of those two old guys with guts who tap the ball around on your club court, tennis does indeed demand an athlete’s top physical condition in order to compete.
If you want to challenge the best in the sport and win tournaments, you’re going to have to get into awesome shape to have enough in the tank to win long, close matches. And to do that, you need a menu of excellent exercises for tennis.
Tennis summons many aspects of fitness in each tough match, from strength to speed to agility to flexibility. And, don’t forget the endurance needed to last for hours on a hot, steaming court. Tennis players are strong, fast, quick, agile and flexible and they can outlast just about any other athletes.
Don’t believe me? Watch a Nadal-Djokovic rally sometime and picture baseball players or football players or even basketball players being able to keep up. Another proof would be this test: the next time that you watch a pro match, notice how many times players do the splits, how often they dart back and forth across the court, how much energy they have even after three hours on the court, giving more effort than many athletes can muster even at the start of a competition.
Need more proof of tennis fitness topping all other sports? Watch a slow-motion video of a player hitting a ground stroke. You will see muscles rippling in legs and arms unlike any you have seen before.
Finding a listing of the best exercises for tennis can be challenging because so many aspects of fitness need to be improved that narrowing them down to one list is nearly impossible. For instance, tennis players do not want to get too cut because all of that tightness in their muscles will not be advantageous during a match.
They also do not want to only do exercises that build endurance because they have many explosive movements to perform in the course of a match. In the same way, they don’t want to simply build fast-twitch muscle because they must play at a high level for several hours.
With these caveats, here is a sampling of the best exercises for tennis:
Exercises for Tennis #1:
Lunges are great exercises for tennis players because they will often go to a full or partial lunging position when trying to reach a shot. The higher level you play, the more lunging you will be doing as your opponent artfully places the ball all over the court, both short and long. Single-leg exercises like lunges are wonderful for strengthening knee and ankle joints, and helping to limit lower body injuries.
The benefits for a tennis player are obvious: perhaps only basketball and soccer match the amount of stress placed on the ankle as tennis does. For your workout, perform five sets of 10 lunges per side. Use a barbell or dumbbell to increase resistance if going weightless is too easy for you.
Exercises for Tennis #2:
X-band walks are also great for the legs of a tennis player, and many top pros use them quite often. They go something like this: stand with both feet on a resistance band (easily available at any gym or sporting goods store) and hold an end in each hand. As you cross your hands over, the band forms an X-shape. Pull it tight and step to the right 10 times, then take 10 steps back to the left, keeping tension on the band.
These types of lateral movements are common in tennis, and X-band walks will help your glute muscles to fire correctly. As you do these exercises, you will see that when you are not wearing bands and running on the court, your legs will feel light and free. You will get to many more shots than you used to reach.
Exercises for Tennis #3:
A type of exercise called Glute Bridges also come highly recommended for tennis players. Most athletes do not get the full benefit of strong glute muscles, but tennis players need them often during a match. These muscles build quickness like few other can, improving explosion.
Remember that quickness and speed are different; think of quickness as speed in a very short and small space, precisely the type of physical attribute that you will need as a tennis player.
To do a glute bridge, lie on your back with knees bent to 90 degrees, heels on the floor. Push your hips off the ground as high as you can and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings. Pause for a second, then lower again. Once you have reached the point where you can do three sets of 12 reps, you can make glute bridges more difficult by placing your feet up on a bench, then doing them one leg at a time. This movement is a wonderful exercise for tennis.
Exercises for Tennis #4:
The medicine ball is a staple in the strength training of many top players. When you do an Internet search in hopes of gaining secrets to the Nadal and Federer workout routines, you will see lots of clips involving medicine balls. That’s because they are fantastic for many tennis movements.
Here is one way to incorporate the ball into your exercises for tennis: hold a medicine ball in both hands and stand perpendicular to a wall, a few feet away. Explosively twist your body and throw the ball as hard as you can at the wall. Be sure to squeeze your core muscles as you thrust your arms forward.
Do five sets of five reps per side and use a moderately heavy ball. You will feel the benefit of this movement immediately as you train your chest, shoulders, triceps and core muscles, the type of full-body workout that all tennis players need. As you work with the ball, try to generate as much speed and power as you can. As you continue with this exercise, your throws will get faster and faster and your bounces back will get longer and faster as well.
Find out what the pros know already: the medicine ball is the bomb for tennis.
Exercises for Tennis #5:
Chin Ups – For tennis, having a strong upper back and shoulders is important, too, yet these muscles are rarely worked as much as they should be. One of the best exercises for the upper back is the good old-fashioned chin-up. Find a bar at your gym or club or put one in at your house, and using a closed grip with your palms facing you, perform five sets of eight reps if you can. If not, use a resistance band to help you get up and over the bar.
Chin-ups have been used for a very long time to build a powerful set of muscles in the shoulders and upper back, making them a great movement as part of your exercises for tennis. You will notice results quickly as your serve increases in speed thanks to chin-ups.
Exercises for Tennis #6:
Y Raise- Another great exercise for tennis is called a Y raise. These exercises strengthen the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers, two muscle groups that are strained early and often while playing tennis. To do a Y raise, lie in a prone position while holding two light dumbbells. Raise your hands straight up in front of you while keeping your elbows straight.
Pause for a second, and then lower, then repeat the raise. You can also do these Y raises on a big ball so that you can get a better range of motion and not arch your lower back. Once you do a few of these raises, you’ll understand why very light dumbbells are a necessity. Anything more will unnecessarily strain your rotator cuff and you’ll be on the sideline for a time.
With this list of six top exercises for tennis, you will be well on your way to becoming a stronger and fitter player. Many of these same exercises, or derivatives of them, are done by top players all over the world. You might not reach that level, but you will become one of the strongest players in your town, and that will lead to more victories than ever.
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