Cardio Tennis Drills for Beginners and Advanced Tennis Players

Cardio tennis drills are an exciting form of drills that can be performed in groups regardless of skill level.

When played at a high level against an opponent with whom you are equally matched, tennis can give anyone an outstanding cardiovascular workout. However, if you are a beginner player or having trouble finding opponents that will make you run for an hour or more, you might not feel like you are getting much of a workout when you play.

You need a set of cardio tennis drills, which are gaining in popularity as people seek varied forms of exercise and a new wave of athletes begins to take up tennis.

Let’s face it—tennis can be very static if the rallies in which you engage do not last very long. You hit back and forth 3-5 times, then stop, then pick up a ball, then bounce to serve again, etc. There can be much more standing-around time than actual movement unless you are at a level where rallies last a bit longer.

That’s why many players are turning to cardio tennis drills to improve their fitness level and have more fun on the court as well.

Here are a cardio tennis drills that have proven helpful to many. These drills have been screened and are actually taught to tennis coaches and teachers.

Some of the drills call for foam or low compression balls, both of which are easily available at sporting goods stores. Such balls slow the game down a bit and ensure more control, thus boosting the chance of a prolonged drill. All of these drills are designed for just two players. Many more cardio tennis drills can be found online for groups or teams:

Cardio Tennis Drills: WARM-UP

Cardio Tennis Drill #1: MINI TENNIS WITH BODY BUMP (5-10 minutes):

Cardio tennis drill mini tennis with body bump

Using foam or low compression balls if available, players start on the service line across from their partners, who are at the service line on the other side of the court. They rally but first receive the ball by blocking it with their body. The ball must first bump off a body part (chest, head, knee, foot), then bounce to the ground, when it is then hit back over the net. This is an excellent warm-up exercise that creates more movement as the ball bounces off the body and a quick stroke must be taken. As players are forced to get their bodies in front of the ball, they move even more than usual.

Cardio Tennis Drill #2: MIRROR (5-10 minutes):

On opposite sides of the net, the players stand at the “T” on the service line. Holding their racquets in front of them in ready volley position, one player calls out where he will begin to run, calling out “up”, for instance, as he runs toward the net. As that player advances, the player on the opposite side must act as a mirror for him. As the first player then calls out “left” and shuffles to his left, the mirror player moves to his right to act as a reflection of the first player. Each player takes about 60 seconds to direct the action while the other player serves as the mirror. After a few rounds of this warm-up, both players will definitely feel a burn and will be doing plenty of heavy breathing. It’s a great and fun warm-up.

Have you exerted yourself yet? Good. We have only just begun. Now that the warm-up is finished and your blood is running, it’s time to discuss actual drills.

Cardio Tennis Drills at the Baseline

Cardio Tennis Drill #3: UP AND BACKS (10 minutes):

Cardio Tennis Drill #3: UP AND BACKS

Players start on service line and rally, but with each alternate shot, they must move toward the net and take the ball out of the air as a volley. As soon as they hit their volley, they must sprint back to the service line as the partner moves forward on the other side of the net to take his volley.

The players alternate hitting volleys and retreating to the service line. This creates a rally of constant motion, up and back, providing much more movement than the average, stilted rally.

Cardio Tennis Drill #4: MAXIMUS: APPROACH, VOLLEY, OVERHEAD (10 minutes)

This drill is great to work all of the leg muscles used in tennis and get the heart rate up in a hurry. One player will be the feeder, the other the runner. The feeder should have a couple of balls next to him on the baseline, in case some of the runner’s shots go awry.

This is a six-ball sequence:

  1. The feeder hits a deep ball which bounces close to the baseline and pushes the player back behind the baseline.
  2. The feeder then hits a drop shot just over the net, forcing the runner to scamper up near the net.
  3. The feeder then hits another deep ball over the runner’s head, who must let the ball bounce before hitting it (no retreating volleys).
  4. The feeder then hits a ball fairly deep that induces a swinging volley from the runner, who has advanced part way to the net.
  5. The feeder then hits a ball in the air that can be hit easily for a normal volley, as the runner continues to advance toward the net.
  6. The feeder finishes the drill with a sky-high ball that the runner must hit as an overhead smash, either letting the ball bounce or not.

The feeder never leaves the baseline. This drill is not a rally. It is one player directing shots that another retrieves. By the end of this little sequence, the runner can certainly feel the burn in his legs. It is then his turn to torture his partner with the same order of shots. After 10 minutes, both players will be ready for a break.

Cardio Tennis Drill #4: SIDE TO SIDE (10 minutes)

This drill also has a feeder and a runner. It will work the muscles used to move laterally like few other drills. Each player should spend at least five minutes as the runner. The feeder stands at the net with several balls in his pocket. He hits a ball to his far left, within the singles lines, waits for the player to hit that ball, then hits another ball down the middle of the court. That second ball can be the one returned from the runner or a ball that has been removed from the pocket. The point of this drill is not to start a normal rally. It is to make the runner move quickly from one side of the court to the other.


After the runner hits the second ball, the feeder hits a third ball to his far right. He follows with another ball down the middle and a fifth ball to his left. After hitting five balls in succession, the runner will be gassed. You can either have the runner take a short break and then chase down five more well-placed balls, or you can alternate feeder and runner. To get the maximum effect from this drill, it is best if the runner does at least three consecutive sweeps across the court and back before becoming the feeder.

Now that you have spent about 45 minutes on the court, you are probably feeling more tired than you ever have been on a tennis grounds. That’s good! That’s the point! That’s cardio tennis. Now you need to end your cardio tennis drills on a fun point with a relaxing and satisfying cool down.

Cool Down After Cardio Tennis Drills

Cool Down After Cardio Tennis DrillsMost players love to cool down by hitting overhead smashes, even if this shot rarely presents itself in a match.

There’s something intensely satisfying about whaling away at a ball and crushing it into the other court. For this cool down exercise, the feeder needs to hit sky-high balls that will require the runner to move back a bit from the net.

Because this is a cool down, the runner should allow the ball to bounce before smashing it over the net.

Even though you are tired, do not forget your good form for this shot. Be sure to point at the ball as it is in the air, then make sure that it is well above your shoulder when you strike it, at about the same point that you would strike a ball during your service motion.

There’s a reason why cardio tennis drills are spreading like wildfire. People love tennis, but they also want to get in better shape more quickly. Cardio tennis drills accomplish that by compressing an hours-long, grueling tennis match into 50 fun minutes of exercise. Enjoy!

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