Tennis Workouts & Fitness Training

Some of the tennis-specific exercises my trainer and I incorporate into various workout routines to help improve overall strength, power, endurance, on-court movement– and to prevent common tennis injuries.

Note: A fellow tennis fanatic who’s also a blogging expert (and knows how much money I spend on tennis!) recently urged me to create “affiliate links” for the ticket sites I have been recommending for years. This way, if you end up buying through a link above, you won’t pay a penny more but the website may give me a small commission versus giving it to Google Ads or another referring site — which, in turn, helps support my tennis obsession and The Tennis Congress, a passion project I do on the side of my regular job. I appreciate the support!

Like my “Reminders to Self” page, this constantly-updated page organizes some of the tennis-specific exercises my trainer and I incorporate into various workout routines to help improve overall strength, power, endurance, on-court movement– and to prevent common tennis injuries. Each exercise title below to see a video or description. As I outline in a post on “The Art and Science of Fitness Training for Tennis,” I vary my workouts constantly, depending on specific goals throughout the year and timing of the USTA competitive season.

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As an ISSA-certfied and iTPA CTPS (Certified Tennis Performance Specialist) myself, the most important advice I can give to anyone serious about their training is the following:

Every single player is different, so we all need to develop customized workout programs tailored to our individual goals, needs, athletic backgrounds, and overall health and injury profiles. Ideally, this is done under the supervision of a top-notch certified personal trainer– preferably, a trainer certified by the International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA).

If you cannot afford to invest in a trainer on an ongoing basis, I strongly (strongly) urge you to invest at least in a few sessions with an iTPA-certified coach to help you chart your course in a way that safe and effective for you.

If you’re eager to get going and want some guidance on building your own training routine, I strongly recommend:

USTA’s Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2d Edition) by Mark Kovacs and Todd Ellenbecker. Mark and Todd are globally recognized leaders in the science and practice of tennis-specific fitness training.

SOURCES: Sources and videos for various exercises are linked when possible or noted in parentheses. “iTPA” short for International Tennis Performance Association. “Magnus” is short for Magnus Expand Human Potential, located at CourtSense in Tenefly and Bogota NJ. “Gallegos” is short for NYC-based trainer Jay Gallegos.

If no video is linked to exercises, I haven’t found one yet but will try to post one at some point.

DYNAMIC WARM-UP EXERCISES BEFORE WORKOUTS / COURT TIME 

I am religious about doing a dynamic warm-up before workouts, on-court practices and matches. The old-school gym coach idea that you should do long, held stretches before sports has been debunked by research: today, there is broad agreement that doing dynamic movements before intense activity–whether lifting weights or playing sports–will help athletes perform better and avoid injury. Deep, static stretches should only be done AFTER your workouts; doing them before can increase risk of injury and hinder performance (see background herehere, and here).

Dynamic movements prepare the body for intense activity by elevating the heart rate, raising core body temperature to get muscles warm, and activating production of joint-protecting synovial fluids among other benefits. Below are several exercises I incorporate, mixing it up just to keep things interesting.

The most important thing to do is get your heart rate up through gentle movements that progressively expand range of motion. I recommend picking and choosing the things you like best. Aim for an absolute minimum of 5 minutes total (10 minutes preferred)– to the point of developing a “light sweat.”

Dynamic Warm-up Exercises to Choose From:

Change it up every once and a while by incorporating some of the following:

  • Knee Hug to Forward Lunge
  • Hip Dynamic Flex
  • Lunge & Twist
  • Leg Cradle
  • Alternating Side Lunges (with arms up)
  • Navy Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises (PDF)
  • Heel walk (10 reps)
  • Toe walk (10 reps)
  • Knee to Chest walk (10 reps)
  • Hamstring Handwalk (10 reps)
  • Straight Leg March (10 reps)
  • Alternating Lunges w/Upper Body Rotation (10 reps)
  • Lateral Lunge (10 reps)
  • Spiderman Crawl (10 reps)
  • Sumo Squat Walk (10 reps)
  • Cheerleaders (10 reps)
  • 10-Yard Movement Sequence (2 reps, 3 sets)

Don’t forget including some upper-body in dynamic warm-up, e.g.:

One final note: Mini tennis is NOT an adequate substitute for a good physical warm-up. However, you can make your mini-tennis more physical by following this great advice from Jeff Salzenstein: “Pump up your mini tennis warm-up.”

I. CORE STRENGTH & STABILITY

  1. Basic Plank
  2. Modified Plank with Lunge (Gallegos)
  3. Modified Plank with Perpendicular Leg Reach (Gallegos)
  4. Bosu Plank with Lateral Leg Raise (Gallegos)
  5. Single Leg Walkout with Knee In (Gallegos)
  6. 1-Legged Jump with Walkout and Plank (Gallegos)
  7. Overhead Extension with Lateral Leg Raise (Gallegos)
  8. Core Circuit (iTPA)
Rotational
  1. Chataranga with Lunge and Core Twist (Gallegos)
  2. Medicine Ball Perpendicular (Side) Throws
  3. Medicine Ball Variation (Magnus)
  4. Medicine Ball Throw on Step360 (Gallegos)
  5. Side Lunge with Upper Body Rotation (Gallegos)

II. UPPER BODY STRENGTH & STABILITY

  1. Incline Stand-Up/Sit-Down with Shoulder Stabilization (Gallegos)
  2. Cable Overhead Side Bend and Reach (Gallegos)
  3. Pullup Variation for Tennis Players (Gallegos)
  4. DB Front and Lateral Raises*  *Overhead raises are not recommended by iTPA for tennis players due to risk of injury
  5. DB Lateral Raises (on Bosu ball to add instability)
  6. Push Ups with Side Plank
  7. Bent-over Y, T, W, L Raises
  8. TRX One-Arm Reach Back (Gallegos)
  9. Cable Standing Mid-Pulley Row
  10. Bent Over Row (12 reps x 3) (iTPA)
  11. Kneeling Lunge Lat Pulldown (12 reps x 3) (iTPA)
  12. Cable Open Stance FH and BH (each side) (8 reps x 3) (iTPA)
  13. Shoulder Prehab Circuit (12 reps x 3) (iTPA)

A tennis player should be… “FAST in the feet, EXPLOSIVE in the legs, POWERFUL in the core, LOOSE in the arms & mentally STRONG in the head.” 

Allistair McCaw, McCaw Method Sports Performance Training 
III. LOWER BODY STRENGTH, POWER & STABILITY

  1. Basic Squats
  2. Bosu Ball Squats
  3. Single Leg Squats
  4. Don Chu Scorpion Step Ups
  5. Crossover Dumbbell Step-Up (see #2 on linked page)
  6. Lateral Jumps onto Decline Bench (Gallegos)
  7. Pliometric Jumps from Deep Squat onto Benches (Gallegos)
  8. Dynamic Stretch and Balance with 2 Bosu Balls (Gallegos)
  9. DB squat
  10. DB Jump Shrug (iTPA)
  11. Barbell Squat (iTPA)
  12. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
  13. DB Lateral Lunge (each leg) (iTPA)
  14. Core Circuit (iTPA)
  15. Lateral hops over hurdles (Jez Green/Andy Murray variations)
  16. 1-Leg Double Lateral Bound with MB (Magnus/CourtSense)
  17. 1-Leg MB Chest Pass with Rotation (Magnus/CourtSense)

IV. MOVEMENT (Tennis-Specific Speed & Agility)

  1. Split Step Training Drill (1 rep x 5 sets) (iTPA)
  2. Lateral Cross-Over Drill (6 reps x 2 sets) (iTPA)
  3. Resisted Forehand Drill (4 reps x 3 sets) (iTPA)
  4. Resisted Backhand Drill (4 reps x 3 sets) (iTPA)
  5. RH and BH Open Stance Medicine Ball Toss (5 reps x 2 sets) (iTPA)
  6. 4 Cone Speed-Agility Drill (McCaw Method)
  7. Stay Low Shadow Swings Around Cones (McCaw Method)
  8. Lateral Shuffle with Crossover Step (iTPA)
  9. Lateral Hurdle Crossover (McCaw Method)

V. INJURY PREVENTION/ “PREHAB” (I do 3x/week)

  1. Monster Walks” with tubing (iTPA)
  2. External cable rotation with tubing or cable. Hold 2 seconds at end of range of motion. 10-12 reps, 2 sets
  3. Wrist and Forearm Strengthening
  4. Ankle Mobility (helps prevent variety of problems including calf strains, achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis)
  5. Calf Strengthening
    1. Single-leg calf raises on stairs or platform (without weight to warm up, with weight when warm)
    2. Occasionally build in quick up (concentric) and slow down (eccentric)
    3. Towel/box calf raises

VI. ENDURANCE

  1. Don Chu Scorpion Step Ups
  2. MK Drill (iTPA)
  3. Spider Drill (iTPA)

VII. FLEXIBILITY (Dynamic & Static)

  1. Wharton Dynamic Flexibility Movements (Download App and see Book and DVD)
  2. (Dynamic) Modified Plank with Lunge (Gallegos)
  3. (Dynamic) Pullup Variation for Tennis Players (Gallegos)
  4. STATIC (iTPA-recommended):
    1. Lying Hamstring Stretch
    2. Lying Knee to Chest Stretch
    3. Figure 4 Stretch
    4. Pretzel Stretch
    5. Butterfly Stretch
    6. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
    7. Cross-Body Stretch
    8. Pec Stretch
    9. Sleeper Stretch
    10. Posterior Shoulder Stretch
 

 

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