Tennis, when played well, is a game that requires full body strength, agility, and coordination. A good player must be light on his or her feet and able to shift, lunge, stop, turn, and shift their weight in a moment to execute a shot. The power of a shot doesn’t primarily come from the arms, as you might think. Instead, it’s in the coordination of your weight shifting, the shoulder turning, trunk coiling, and the arm swinging to make contact at the precise moment. The sum of every movement timed just right generates the momentum needed to power your shots. Your arm alone will never come even close.
This level of athletic strength and agility requires not only practice and training in tennis but also considerable strength and fitness training. In other words, don’t play tennis to get fit– get fit to play tennis. A beginner must build a foundation of strength and agility in key places throughout the body: the upper body, lower body, forearm, wrist, rotator cuff, and core.
Tennis Fitness Exercises: A Primer
All good workouts start with a proper warmup. For beginners in tennis, the warmup should consist of arm, leg, and back stretches and light aerobic activity. Your body needs this light warmup time to get the blood flowing to your muscles and to loosen up your joints. Stretching your muscles before use helps prevent injuries and gets your body ready for exercise.
Weight training for tennis players is intended to strengthen your entire body. Resistance should be at about half or less of your personal maximum. Work with a professional trainer to design a beginner’s workout program tailored to your specific needs in the following areas:
1) Upper Body Workout
The upper body workout will focus on your biceps, triceps, chest, and upper back muscles. This is essential to your posture, form, and balance. Remember, your goal is for your entire body to work together in the most efficient way possible.
2) Lower Body Workout
The lower body workout will focus on all the muscles in your legs and buttocks. This is your base that supports you in everything you do with your body. It’s the key to better balance, stamina, and athletic stability. It will also give you the leg strength and agility you need to improve your footwork on the court.
3) Forearm and Wrist Exercises
Playing tennis gives your wrist and forearm extensive engagement and action, which can result in injury, especially in beginners. Exercising your wrist and forearm stretches and strengthens them to prevent injury and improve your control of the racquet. Keep these exercises light, but regular.
4) Rotator Cuff Rotations
Another key area for every tennis player is your rotator cuffs. Like the wrist and forearm, rotator cuff rotation exercises will improve your control of the racquet AND prevent injuries. For both the wrist and forearm and the rotator cuffs, only light weights should be used. Even for advanced players, no more than 5 lb weights are recommended.
5) Strengthening Your Core
Core muscle training is essential to every athlete. It gives your body a strong foundation for every activity and physical feat. Your core is your abdominals and lower back muscles. Exercises for your core train the muscles in your lower back, abdominals, hips, and pelvis to work in harmony with each other. This gives you stability, better balance, and reduces your risk for injuries while playing.
Tennis Fitness Training: The Periodization Factor
Tennis players do fitness training throughout each season to keep their bodies strong and at peak fitness for tennis. However, fitness training is broken into three parts and spread across the season. These parts are foundational strength, maximum strength, and power/endurance. Fitness training for beginners should focus on the first part of the periodization cycle: foundational strength. Playing tennis alone only uses certain muscles so foundational strength training should target the entire body.
Greatness Starts With a Strong Foundation
Many beginners try to mimic what they see on tv or in other more experienced players. However, what you can’t see is the hours of sweat, hard work, and training that got them to that level. Greatness starts with a strong foundation and a champion is built from the inside out. Work with your fitness trainer to develop a workout routine customized for your needs. Start with this guide to tennis fitness exercises for beginners.
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