When it comes to strength and conditioning for tennis players, not only does a good strength training program help to reduce on-court/off-court injury, but it enhances your match day performance. Add more power to your shot and improve your game by using a combination of these strength training techniques.
Why should tennis players do strength training?
There was a time where strength training and lifting weights at the gym wasn’t even heard of among tennis players. Now that the game has become much more fast-paced and requires explosive, powerful striking, it has become a standard routine in every tennis player’s overall match training and fitness regime.
Strength training is important for tennis players for two reasons:
- It helps to increase power during play as well as match endurance.
- Iit is a form of injury prevention. Tennis is a physically demanding sport, with a lot of jarring and impact on the ankles, knees, shoulders, and elbows.
You’ve probably heard of the term ‘tennis elbow’ and may have even experienced it yourself. The painful condition is caused by the tendons in your elbow becoming overloaded, due to the repetitive motion of the wrist and forearm when swinging at and hitting the ball. This repetitive stress on the joints leads to an increased risk of injury, which can be reduced through proper strength and conditioning.
By incorporating total-body strength training through the use of free weights, body weight, machines, and resistance bands, you can correctly learn how to use your body for functional training, preventing the risk of injury through poor posture and repetitive strain injury.
In tennis, there’s a lot of strain and dependence on the kinetic chain – the sequence of muscles and joints affecting one another during movement. Our core is central to this chain since it is one of the main force transfer points driving movement behind hitting and receiving the ball. To have their kinetic chain working effectively, tennis players need to consistently train their core muscles to generate the power and balance needed during a game.
7 strength training exercises for tennis players
There are five main muscle groups that greatly benefit from a strength training program, especially for tennis players. The elbow, wrist, upper body, core, and lower body.
Elbows and wrist exercises for tennis
For the joints at risk of repetitive strain injury – the elbows and wrists – tennis players need to incorporate conditioning exercises to strengthen these areas and increase muscle recovery post-match. As touched on earlier, the kinetic chain is based on the principle that every joint in the human body is connected.
When one point in the chain is weakened, another link should be strengthened to offset the imbalance. When it comes to elbow and wrist pain, as it relates to repetitive movement in tennis, the focus should be higher up in the arm; specifically, the rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is responsible for the shoulder’s internal and external rotation, which also allows the forearm to move forwards and backwards. To reduce the risk of strain and injury in any of the shoulder, elbow, or wrist joints, follow these conditioning exercises:
1. Wrist flexor stretch
Stretching one arm straight out in front of you, grasp the hand with your opposite hand and slowly pull the wrist backward until you feel a stretch along the bottom of the forearm. Hold for at least 15 seconds before switching arms.
2. Tennis ball shoulder massage
Lying on the floor on your side, place a small tennis ball in the area just outside the shoulder blade and raise your forearm with palms facing away from the body up at a 90-degree angle.
Slowly lower the forearm to the ground and then back up again, repeating this movement for about a minute each side.
The upper body is responsible for the majority of your movements in tennis. From serving the ball to hitting and receiving; you’re engaging the chest, upper back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.
3. Machine chest press
- Seated on a chest press machine, grab the handles with a palms-down grip and lift your elbows so that your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Press the handles forward until your arms are extended, then slowly bring the arms back toward you, keeping the chest engaged.
4. Bicep curls
- Standing with a dumbbell in each hand and down at arm’s length, begin to curl the arms while contracting the biceps. Pause briefly as you squeeze the biceps.
- Slowly lower the arms back down and then repeat. Aim for 8-12 reps.
Core exercises for tennis
A good core workout for tennis players involves rotation of the torso since a lot of power is driven from rotating the body as you aim for the ball. The best exercise for this would be a Russian Twist.
5. Russian twist
- Start by sitting on the floor with legs extended out in front but knees bent, feet planted on the ground.
- Slowly lean back while keeping the core engaged. You should feel a point where your core is firing to keep the body balanced.
- From here, take the medicine ball and slowly bring it across the body to your right hip, all the while keeping the body as stable as possible. Briefly hold the position before taking the ball over to the left hip, repeating for another 10-15 reps.
Lower body exercises for tennis
The leg muscles are responsible for generating the force behind quick, explosive movements across the court as well as the power behind your serve. Since court action puts a lot of strain on the calf muscles, strengthening these will help absorb the shock of impact. In tennis, you rely on shifting body weight and moving laterally around the court, so it’s equally important to build abductor strength.
6. Calf raises
- Standing on the edge of an aerobics step platform with heels off the side, slowly raise your heels so that you are standing on the balls of the feet, as far up as you can feel a stretch in the calves.
- Hold the position for a moment before slowly lowering back down so that your heels are below the edge of the platform.
7. Lateral band walks
- Taking a resistance band, place it just above the ankle, wrapped around both legs.
- Positioning legs shoulder-width apart, move into a half-squat position and begin by stepping one leg out to the side making sure your knees don’t cave in, then bring it back to start position before repeating with the other leg. Aim for 10 reps.
General strength training benefits
Whether you’re an athlete or not, strength training offers an abundance of benefits to enhance your overall health. Also known as weight or resistance training, using your body to move and bear weight leads to improved health, fitness, and strength.
Many people may shy away from using weights since it’s often associated with bodybuilders or hardcore gym goers; not to mention it carries the risk of injury if the right form isn’t applied.
But regular strength training should be part of everybody’s overall fitness program since it’s directly correlated with increased health, stronger bones, healthy weight maintenance, and improved posture. With correct application and proper form, it’s not only safe but also plays a major role in preventing injury and chronic diseases.
No matter your age or level of fitness, incorporating a degree of strength training into your daily fitness regime will be optimum for your health. As stated by Dr Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge:
“Exercise strengthens the entire human machine – the heart, the brain, the blood vessels, the bones, the muscles. The most important thing you can do for your long-term health is lead an active life.”
Strength training is your first line of defence against poor bone and heart health, as well as poor mobility. It also improves cognitive function, increasing your overall mood and happiness and is a powerful antidote to anxiety and depression.
Begin your tennis strength training program
For assistance with a strength training regime as a tennis player, speak with one of our experienced personal trainers. Our team can advise you on great workouts to become a stronger, better tennis player. Find your local Perth gym here.