Be the Fittest Player on the Tennis Court

If you've ever wondered just how your favorite tennis pros got so fit, STACK expert Joe Lopez shares their exercise secrets.

Tennis

Tennis players are among the fittest athletes in the world. Just look at their skills and capabilities: the power to hit a ball 130 mph and return it with a flick of the wrist, the agility to quickly change directions, endurance to play marathon matches, and the hand-eye coordination of a baseball player. (Get inspired by James Blake.)

Want to rule the court next season? Complete the following exercises as part of your overall workout once a week.

Plyometric Training

Because of the power needed for the sport, plyometrics are excellent for tennis players. Start with a box 12 inches in height.

Speed Jumps - 2x20 

Maintain as little ground time as possible. Jump up and down off the box. Spring up as fast as you can.

Depth Jumps - 2x20

Fall off the box and land on both feet. Immediately spring back up onto the box, using just your ankles and lower legs to land in a squat position with your knees and hips flexed.

Depth Jumps with Reaction - 4x10

Same as Depth Jumps, but with a partner bouncing a tennis ball to your right or left. The goal is to react as quickly as possible and catch the ball on no more than one bounce.

Bounding (forward and side to side) - 4x10

Run with the biggest stride you can manage. When side-to-side bounding, take your strides on 45-degree angles and reach your feet out as far as they can go. Spring into each new stride by quickly flexing your ankles.

Shock Landing - 2x10

Like Depth Jumps, fall off the box, but this time try to "stick the landing" like a gymnast.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope forces the muscles of the lower leg to react quickly, creating a spring-like effect known as the stretch shortening cycle. Tennis players should focus on a single ground strike per rope rotation. Complete the following jump rope routine twice a week.

  • 100 jumps
  • 50 single leg jumps moving side to side
  • 25 double unders. Bring the rope around your body twice each time you jump

Running

For cardiovascular endurance, work up to an hour of cardio where your heart rate is 70% of your max. Do this four times a week.

Strength Training

Complete the following tennis-specific strength workout twice a week.

For the manual resistance drills, place your arm in an abducted position with your elbow flexed to 90 degrees. Internally rotate from the shoulder and have a partner press on the back of your wrist and forearm. Slowly externally rotate against the manual resistance.

  • Stabilization rotator cuff drills - 4x12 each arm

For these drills, start in the same position. Your partner should attempt to shake, rattle, and vibrate your arm while you attempt to stabilize it and keep it in the original position.

  • Lateral concentric and eccentric medicine ball throws with footwork - 4x10 each side

Bounce on the balls of your feet like you are waiting to return a serve. Then shift your feet into position as if you were returning the serve with your forehand. Throw the medicine against the wall at waist height and catch it as it bounces off the wall. Work both your forehand and backhand sides.

Flexibility

Yoga is a great tool for tennis players. Use these yoga poses to stretch four times a week after practice.

Cow Pose - 30-second hold per arm

  • Reach behind your head while flexing your elbow and internally rotating your shoulder
  • You can grab on to the back of your shirt
  • Reach as low as you can on your back
  • With the opposite arm, externally rotate your shoulder and clasp your hands together in the middle of your back
  • Keep your chest lifted and eyes up
  • Don't collapse at the waist
  • If you can't reach your hands together, grab your shirt with both hands or use a strap

Downward Facing Dog - 30-second hold

  • Push up into plank position with your arms extended
  • Spread your fingers wide
  • Lift your hips high into the air without sliding your hands or feet towards each other
  • Keep your heels as close to the ground as possible
  • Squeeze your lats by using your arms to frame your head as if you were squeezing your ears with your biceps

Pigeon Pose - 30-second hold per leg

  • Press up into plank with your arms extended
  • Kick one leg up in the air behind you and sweep it between your hands
  • Internally rotate your hip so that your outer thigh is on the ground between your hands


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: TENNIS | STRIDE