Tennis is one of the few sports that can be enjoyed by athletes of all ages. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy game. To compete at a high level at any age, you must regularly enhance your physical fitness and athletic ability.
To formulate a training program for tennis, you need to consider how the game is played. A typical point in a match involves several “emergencies,” which you must respond to at a moment’s notice. If you fail, you will lose the point.
Looking at the structure of a point, you must be able to serve, swing, sprint and change direction quickly. And you must maintain your performance over the course of multiple sets. Given these requirements, your tennis regimen should aim to develop strength, power, speed, endurance and mobility.
Strength and Power
The best tennis players in the world tend to be quite lean, and they don’t have hulking muscles. Rafael Nadal is one of the few exceptions.
You don’t need to be overly concerned with building large muscles. Focus on full-body strength and power exercises. As a matter of fact, you can stick to mostly bodyweight movements to achieve your results.
You can try this Bedroom Bodyweight Workout for starters. It will strengthen your whole body, increase power and enhance durability so you can stay injury free.
Tennis swings and serves require the body to move in a coordinated and fluid motion. If you have tight muscles or mobility issues, your technique may falter and you may increase your risk of injury.
The best way to enhance your mobility is to perform a dynamic warm-up before every workout, practice or game. This ensures that your muscles are ready for activity and enhances your range of motion for athletic movements.
When you are finished, spend five or 10 minutes cooling down. This involves static stretching and/or foam rolling the major muscles you used while playing tennis, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes, chest, calves and upper back. Here’s a sample lower-body stretching routine that’s designed for runners but is also appropriate for tennis players.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the average tennis point lasts only 6.36 seconds. However, the average match is approximately 1.5 hours. So, you need to employ a hybrid training approach to cover the short- and long-term aspects of a match.
Developing your anaerobic energy system will give you the energy stores needed to power serves, swings, sprints and changes of direction. The energy is fast acting but limited.
The best way to enhance your anaerobic system for tennis is with high-intensity speed or practice drills. The sample drills listed below will develop that system, while also enhancing your speed and improving your footwork. Make sure to recover between sets for three to five times as long as it takes to complete the drills so you can perform each set at maximum speed.
The aerobic energy system helps you recover between points and sustains your performance for the duration of a match.
The traditional go-to option to develop this system is jogging. However, this isn’t the best option, because running at a slow pace for a long distance may actually impair your speed.
Try Tabata and Fartlek training. These methods will more efficiently enhance aerobic conditioning and make you faster on the court.
Kovacs MS. “Applied physiology of tennis performance.” Br J Sports Med. 2006; 40:381–385; discussion 386.