Tennis has become a very physical sport over the last couple of decades.
With so many more players taking up the sport at such an early age, along with the advancements in racket, string and fitness based technology, being in good physical shape has become a more important part of playing the game.
Now, tennis is a game that requires a unique blend of strength, stamina, flexibility, hand-eye coordination and mental strength.
This makes it a very difficult sport to play well, as it is rare to be accomplished in every single area in equal measure.
All of these factors combined with natural talent, technique and tactics and it is easy to see how becoming a professional tennis player is such a difficult thing to do, let alone just beating your friends at your local club!
Whilst playing tennis itself is of course a great way to improve certain aspects of your game, there are certain areas that need to be improved off of the court so they can benefit your performance on it.
For example, having individual tennis lessons with your local club pro will of course improve your technical and possibly tactical skills.
But strength training, endurance training and having the correct workout plans will improve your physicality and stamina far more than playing a few sets of tennis on their own.
It is impossible to improve all areas of your tennis game at the same time.
Therefore, it is beneficial to focus on the things you can control and improve the quickest.
These will have the greatest impact on your game in the shortest amount of time.
And your fitness, specifically your endurance, is one of the most influential things you can improve that will have a very positive impact on your tennis game.
Having greater endurance on the tennis court will help you retrieve more balls, improve your mental clarity throughout a match or training session, improve your cardiovascular health and overall improve your enjoyment of the sport you know and love!
So, how exactly can you give yourself the mental and physical edge of always getting one more ball back in to play?
Becoming hard to beat over a long period of time and sticking around in the points when your opponent is out of breath or mentally exhausted.
Well, that is what we are here to explain!
How Fit do You Need to be to Play Tennis?
This question is one that many players who are just starting out will ask and as with most things in life, there isn’t an exact answer!
If you are a recreational player who primarily plays doubles a couple of times per week, you don’t need to place as much emphasis on fitness.
This is because you won’t be covering as much of the court than if you mainly played singles and the gaps between when you play will give you plenty of time to recover.
That being said, even a low frequency recreational player would certainly benefit from an overall improvement in their fitness levels.
So, it probably comes as no surprise that the more frequently you play tennis and the more intense your sessions are, the fitter you will need to be to perform at your best consistently.
This is especially true if you are not used to playing a cardio heavy sport such as tennis, or a sport that requires you to be able to run around for hours on end.
Yet, tennis is quite a unique sport in terms of the type of fitness that is required.
It’s not that you necessarily need to be an ironman runner to play at your local club, but understanding the type of fitness you need to focus on to improve your tennis will definitely save you time and effort!
What Kind of Fitness do You Need for Tennis?
As we have mentioned, you need a combination of types of fitness to play tennis well.
The focus you place on each type will primarily depend on your game style and your natural physical strengths.
These tend to go hand in hand with your tactical and mental approach to the game and this is ultimately what makes each and every player unique.
With that being said, the main areas to focus on from a fitness point of view is your strength, stamina (or endurance) and flexibility.
Improving your physical strength in terms of muscle building will increase the amount of force you can impart on the ball.
For example, if you have strong, well developed legs and a high level of core strength, you will be able to plant your feet and generate a lot of upwards twisting force as you uncoil to hit the tennis ball.
This is something that all of the top tennis players in the world are able to do through the use of a full unit turn.
Improving your flexibility and range of motion will also improve this aspect of your fitness, since being able to move through a full range of motion allows you to maximise the capacity of your biomechanical movements.
Put simply, if you are sliding on a clay court and you have a good amount of flexibility in your legs, you will be able to slide for longer, be able to get lower and recover more quickly from this movement.
So, improving both your strength and flexibility pose obvious benefits to your tennis game. However, when it comes to endurance, it is not such a clear cut argument.
Sure, having greater underlying cardiovascular health, where you can keep your heart rate at a moderately elevated level for an extended period of time without experiencing significant drops in performance is great for tennis.
If you are able to run around for hours without getting tired, this will obviously help improve your ability to outlast your opponents, hopefully get more balls back in to play and win more tennis matches.
However, when you play tennis you don’t just keep running at the same pace for hours and hours on end. We aren’t running a marathon after all!
By contrast, tennis involves constant acceleration, deceleration, twisting, turning, lunging, reaching, bending, twisting, sliding and other explosive movements.
Being able to perform these movements for hours on end is what defines being fit for tennis.
So, what we really need is a combination of traditional slow twitch muscle endurance, along with the capacity for fast twitch, explosive movements whenever we need them.
This requires a form of training that combines both of these elements to build endurance specifically for tennis.
How to Build Endurance for Tennis
As we have mentioned combining training that improves your endurance, strength, agility, flexibility and hand eye coordination, whilst incorporating tennis specific movements is the key when it comes to performing on court for longer.
So, here are a few of the key areas that you should focus on if you are looking to build your endurance for tennis.
Improving your Overall Cardiovascular Fitness
This may sound like a relatively straightforward one, but lowering your resting heart rate and partaking in regular exercise is a great way to build up your endurance for tennis.
Simply by doing a form of exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat a few times per week, you will be improving your heart health and endurance at the same time.
Whether it is walking briskly, jogging, running, swimming, doing yoga or cycling, any form of regular exercise that gets your heart pumping will help!
This is because as you warm up and your heart rate starts to rise, you will increase the blood flow around your body, boosting the circulation of oxygenated blood to your muscles.
As you start to taper off and cool down, your heart will come back down to its resting heart rate more quickly, especially as it gets stronger over time.
This sort of low intensity endurance training should see you working at around 50% of your maximum heart rate for around 30 to 60 minutes at a time.
Of course, the amount that you train will depend on your existing fitness level, but focusing on this will definitely build up your endurance over time.
As a result, you will find it easier to play an intense tennis point, then recover quickly and be ready for the next one, for a long period of time across the length of a match.
So, simply start by increasing your physical activity, reducing your stress and improving your heart’s health and you will be well on your way to building up your endurance for tennis in no time!
On the other end of the spectrum we have HIIT. High intensity interval training has become very popular in recent years thanks to its fat burning credentials and the fact that it can burn a lot of calories in a short space of time.
However, not only is it good for slimming down your waistline, it also helps build tennis specific endurance!
In a nutshell, HIIT involves performing a range of different exercises for say one minute at a time, then taking a short break in between to rest.
This process is repeated around 5 times before the session is over.
The actual exercises you perform is entirely up to you (or the personal trainer you may be working with), but the overall idea is to keep your heart rate at a high level throughout the workout, making this a great way to improve your stamina at the top end of your heart’s capacity.
This is a great way to replicate what it’s like chasing down a ball multiple times in a tennis point, so it is a great way to build your endurance in a tennis specific way.
HIIT can be done simply by doing intervals of sprinting, using weights or performing resistance exercises.
All of these can help build your strength, speed and stamina at a high intensity, without taking all day too!
Tennis Specific Movement Training
Another fundamental part of improving your tennis specific endurance is to practice tennis specific movement patterns.
Tennis requires a range of quite specific footwork movements, such as cross overs, split steps, diagonal movements, lunges, jumping and quickly stopping.
Therefore, using these movements as warm ups before you play is a great way to prime your body and mind for the training session or match ahead.
Try and incorporate some diagonal lunges, cross over steps and shuttle runs into your workout routines.
These will get your body used to the specific movement required in tennis and improve your endurance whilst you’re at it!
Improving your Diet and Sleep
Finally, improving your diet and sleep routine are important but often overlooked elements of improving your physical endurance in general.
Eating a well balanced, nutritious diet packet with protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables will really help you to have the energy you need to perform in your additional training and on court practice.
Getting at least 8 hours of high quality sleep per night is also a major help when it comes to improving your endurance.
This, combined with getting enough protein and micronutrients in your diet is a key element of recovering from a long day of exercise.
Good quality sleep helps your muscles repair and grow stronger, whilst improving your cognitive ability and your cardiovascular health.
In essence, there are a number of different ways in which you can build your endurance for tennis.
This unique sport requires a specific type of fitness that combines a range of different physical attributes.
So, whilst having an unbelievable cardiovascular system is of course a great help, without the explosive fitness and flexibility needed to perform regular tennis movements, you may find yourself being limited in how well you can play the game.
Therefore, it is important to combine these areas of fitness with regular endurance training in order to get the best out of your training and improve your tennis at the same time!