Physical conditioning is a huge part of becoming a better tennis player.
These days with modern racket, string and apparel technology, along with many slower courts and the game being taken up by more athletic players in general, being fit and strong is all the more important.
But going into the gym and throwing weights around is hardly a great way to get yourself into shape in any sense, let alone for a sport as physically taxing as tennis.
As you start to improve your tennis, it will become apparent how important being fit, flexible and explosive are when playing the game.
This is because tennis generally is a game of starting and stopping, moving in different directions (backwards, forwards, side to side and diagonally) and sprinting all over long periods of time.
However, as noted by the GOAT himself Roger Federer, tennis is played over lots and lots of intense bursts, so you need a different type of fitness to a marathon runner.
This can actually makes tennis quite difficult to train for.
You may be thinking, how can I be fit, strong, explosive, have endurance and be flexible all at the same time?
Surely something has to give here?
Well, we have put together a range of exercises to deliver you the best tennis workout plans possible.
The purpose of a warm up before any physical exercise is to raise your heart rate, get blood flowing through your muscles and activate the core muscle groups you will be using.
This is a key of tennis practice that is often overlooked by players. However, if you do not warm up properly you can leave yourself at risk of injury, as cold muscles are tighter and prone to tearing.
Think of it like a squash ball. If you bounce it straight away without warming it up first, it will be hard and pretty much unusable.
It will hardly bounce and be completely rigid. However, if you spend time gradually warming it up, it will become more supple and able to perform as you would like.
Your muscles work in the same sort of way as this. You need to warm them up properly to get the best performance out of them as well as to avoid injuring them.
Here at TheTennisBros.com, we believe the best tennis workout plans should include dynamic movements.
These prepare the body for the exercise that you are about to perform, raise your heart rate and activate the appropriate muscles ready for play.
So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite dynamic warm-up exercises that you can perform on court to get you optimised for tennis today!
Start with Light Cardio
Warming up with some light cardio exercise is a great way to ease yourself into your warm-up and get ready for your tennis practice or match.
Jogging around the court or warming up on the treadmill will help pump blood into your legs, loosen off your arms and shoulders as well as raise your heart rate.
Skipping is also a great way to achieve the same outcome.
Either skipping around the court or jumping rope, these exercises will give you a great stretch in your arms and legs and make sure you are ready to perform some more strenuous exercises.
When skipping, be sure to start off slow and keep a good even rhythm, tuck your elbows in (this also helps with internal rotation, a very important movement in tennis).
These movements are a key part of developing the best tennis workout plan, as they lay the foundations and set the tone for your session.
Perform these properly and with the right intensity and you’ll be raring to go!
Most of the focus when warming up should be on your legs and shoulders, with some attention be paid to the arms and wrists.
This is because these are the largest muscles in the body, and the ones you will be using most during a tennis session.
Therefore, walking lunges, lateral lunges and multi-directional lunges are a great way to get a good stretch into your legs and replicate the movements you will be making when reaching for a ball.
Be sure to keep your knee in line with your second toe when performing a lunge, as this keeps your hip, knee and ankle in alignment.
Also, take it slow to begin with and gradually lunge deeper as you warm up. This is a taxing exercise so don’t over stretch yourself too early.
Bear crawls and spidermans are also fantastic exercises to engage your core and warm up all parts of your body.
Both of these are floor based exercises so make sure it is safe to perform these where you are warming up.
To perform a bear crawl, get into a kneeling position and get on your toes with your knees raised up off the ground.
Your arms should be outstretched and you can then walk your hands and toes towards the other side of the court.
A spiderman works in a similar way, except for you will be closer to the ground and moving your opposite arm and leg at once.
Another great dynamic warm up exercise is shot shadowing.
You can use your racket for this, but you are basically mirroring your tennis shots in mid air to practice the movement patterns.
You can twist on your forehand and backhand, get down low for a volley and jump into your big serve. These are all great ways to get warmed up and ready for play!
Footwork drills really help with agility and prepare you for quick movements around the court.
There are a lot of different drills you can do here, but we have put together some key ones to include in a great tennis workout plan.
A simple drill is to have a partner stand around two meters away from you with their arms outstretched and a ball in each hand.
Your partner will then drop one of the two balls and you must pick it up or catch it before it bounces twice.
This is a great way to work on moving forwards quickly, getting low and improving your reaction speed.
If you really want to improve your foot speed, the On Your Toes footwork guide is the perfect training partner for you!
Another great footwork drill is to use a ladder to practice shuffle steps.
Laying a rope ladder on the ground, you can perform various footwork drills along its length.
Start with running through the ladder with two feet in each box, to help improve your quick forward steps.
You can also use sideways steps through the ladder steps to work on lateral movement.
Finally, a very popular exercise with a ladder is to start at the side of the ladder, going with one foot in and one foot out of the ladder.
This helps train your sideways steps whilst moving forward at the same time, which replicates a split step and moving forward into the net.
Working out from home is a great way to stay consistent with your health and fitness and should always be included when compiling the best tennis workout plans.
Home workouts tend to consist of bodyweight exercises and can make the most of limited available space.
The following should form the basis of your home workout plan.
With No Equipment:
- Bodyweight squats
- Press ups
- Close grip press ups
- Sit ups
- V sits
- Lateral lunges
- Calf raises
- Squat jumps
- Hip bridges
- Hip thrusts (single and double leg)
- Wall sits
- Tennis shot shadowing
- Bent over rows
- Lateral raises
- Overhead press
- Arnold press
- Front squats
- Weighted lunges
- Floor chest press
- Weighted calf raises
- Goblet squats
- Weighted lateral lunges
- Romanian deadlifts
- Clean and press
When working out in the gym, it is important to only use weights you can handle comfortably and perform exercises with proper form.
Using weights that are too heavy and moving outside of normal planes of motion can cause serious injury.
Also, when using weights and resistance machines it is important to work through a full range of motion to maximise the benefit of the exercise.
This will help you to build strength through all phases of the movement and improve your tennis most rapidly.
The best tennis workout plans should include compound exercises, those that engage multiple different muscles at once and really help to tax your nervous system and build overall strength and in the most efficient way.
There are also some more muscle specific exercises you can perform, which isolate some of the most used muscles in tennis.
The squat is the cornerstone of leg based exercises. It engages all of the leg muscles when performed correctly and also helps strengthen your core and challenges your balance.
The squat will help improve your posture too, as it is much easier to squat with full range of motion with sound posture than with muscular imbalances.
Now there are a few different variations of the squat that you can do in the gym to build strength in your legs.
Having stronger legs will help you be more explosive on court, as well and adding more power to your shots and simply means you will tire less easily.
The back squat really helps you load up the barbell with some weight, adding to the resistance you will feel when performing the exercise.
Place the bar on your upper back, roughly in the middle of your shoulder blades whilst holding it in position.
Make sure this is a comfortable position for you, your feet are shoulder width apart and you have your head facing forward.
Whilst engaging your core, imagine sitting down on a chair behind you, making sure you keep your knees facing outwards and not letting them buckle in.
When you get to the bottom of the movement, drive your legs back up and stand up tall, pushing your hips forward.
The front squat works in a similar way, but requires more postural integrity and tends to be loaded up with less weight than the back squat.
Here, you will hold the barbell in front of you, balancing it on your upper chest near your collar bones.
Holding the bar in place and making sure not to lean back too far, squat down whilst keeping your back straight.
You may feel the urge to fall forwards if you are off balance, so make sure to put your weight through your heels and the balls of your feet equally.
The split squat is also a good strength builder that will test your range of motion.
Here, you position yourself in a lunge position, with your back foot on a raised surface such as a box or bench.
You can either have a barbell across your back or hold dumbbells.
You then lower your back knee as low as you can, stretching both legs and maintaining balance throughout the exercise.
Be sure to stay stable when split squatting, especially if you are using heavier weights.
The deadlift is a fantastic compound exercise for building all round strength. It challenges you to have great alignment and strength through your legs, back and core.
With a bar placed on the floor (or slightly raised) squat down until your legs are at a 90 degree angle.
Grab the bar in a comfortable and strong grip, keep a straight back and drive up with your legs, lifting the bar and thrusting your hips forward.
It is important to keep your shoulders back and really make sure you are using your back muscles rather than rounding your spine, as this can cause serious injury if not performed correctly.
Romanian deadlifts are a great way to train your hamstrings and calves.
Holding the bar out in front of you, slowly lower it to around ankle level, pushing your glutes out and keeping your back straight.
You should feel a gradual stretch in the back of your legs. This is a great way to build balance in your leg muscles, as the stronger quads and glutes tend to do a lot of the work.
The overhead press is a great way to build strength through your shoulders, which are integral to having a strong serve and groundstrokes.
Holding the bar at shoulder height, drive it up above your head whilst keeping your core engaged and the weights slightly in front of your face.
This exercise builds strength in your shoulders and upper back.
It is important to keep your muscles warm and stretched before and after playing or workout out in order to reduce the risk of injury.
Whilst warming up and cooling down, make sure to wrap up warm and stretch statically and dynamically to keep your muscles supple and stop them from seizing up.
If you find you have sore muscles after playing, you can take magnesium to restore them and reduce the pain.
More specifically, you should use resistance bands to build strength in key areas and movement patterns that you use when playing tennis.
Stretching your arms, wrists and shoulders through internal and external rotation is a very important exercise, along with resistance squats, lunges and lateral movements.
Static stretching and cooling down properly after a workout or tennis session are great ways to lower your heart rate more gradually, whilst keeping your muscles supple and allowing the blood flow to circulate more naturally.