Want to swing like Serena or hit an ace like Coco? To really up your tennis game, there are a few key workouts you’ll want to incorporate into your fitness routine in order to improve your flexibility, endurance, balance and power.
Varying your workouts is crucial to optimizing your performance and preventing injury in any sport, and tennis is no different. Forget about lasting an hour-long match if you haven’t been getting in your cardio. And don’t even think about lunging or jump-serving if you haven’t stretched lately. Tennis GOAT, Serena William credits cardio above all else with keeping her at the top of her game. Speaking to Vogue in February 2022, the 23-time Grand Slam winner explained that while she primarily focuses on cardio, she also rotates HIIT workouts, stretching, and strength training into her at-home routine.
“My favorite type of cardio is running, but my body has to be fit to be able to run or else my knees will hurt,” she told the outlet. “After playing tennis for so many years, you just wear and tear down your knees, so the elliptical has been growing on me, too. I’m basically trying to do cardio every single day–even if it's, like walking a few miles, it still counts.”
Whether you’re looking to get Wimbledon-ready or just to dust your doubles’ opponents the next time you hit the court, here are five workouts to reinvigorate your tennis game.
The Exercise: Tonal Cardio Exercises
Backed by Williams, Tonal is an at-home smart gym that offers a wide range of cardio exercises, from low-impact options to “Unstoppable Strength and Sweat” classes that alternate strength training and high-intensity cardio. Essentially, it’s a wall-mounted personal trainer, with a workout to target every body part at every endurance level. Williams swears by the cardio classes to improve general endurance on the court, plus the app offers guided multi-week programs and live classes.
The execution: Try out a range of classes and see which appeals to you the most. Be sure to listen to your body — there are plenty of modifications available. If investing in a home gym isn’t on your to-do list, hit the treadmill or elliptical (or try one of Williams’ favorite cardio exercises and dance!) for 30 minutes, building up from 2-3 days a week to as many as you can manage.
The Exercise: Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
PNF is a stretching technique that’s used to improve range of motion on and off the court by stretching and contracting a muscle group against resistance. It’s a great way to achieve better flexibility, which is indispensable when lunging to return a ball. These exercises are best performed with a partner or trainer.
The execution: For a good hamstring stretch — which is crucial for protecting your lower back — lie on your back with one leg raised. Have a partner gently push the raised leg towards you, while you contract the muscle and apply pressure in the opposite direction, attempting to push your leg back to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
The Exercise: Lateral Banded Walks
Resistance bands help to tone your muscles, and walking with them does double duty as it strengthens your hips and legs while simultaneously improving your balance.
The execution: Step into a resistance band and set it just above your knees before squatting and crab-walking side-to-side, making sure to keep your back straight and arms in front of you or holding a light weight for balance.
The Exercise: Torso rotations
Tennis fans know that a good game often hinges on the tiniest of movements, albeit delivered with power. Core strength is key for maximizing that power by allowing energy to travel from your lower body to your upper body as well as keeping you balanced. Torso rotations are an excellent way to build core strength.
The execution: Anchor your resistance band at chest height. Set feet hip-width apart and stand perpendicular to the anchor, bending your knees slightly. Take the band in both hands and extend it out directly in front of you, activating tension on the band and in your muscles. Square your hips as you rotate from your torso back towards the anchor. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.
The Exercise: Medicine Ball Throws
To improve your forehand and backhands, you need to focus on strength. Medicine ball throws are key to achieving core and upper body strength, which will help you to exert your power during your next doubles match by targeting your chest, shoulders and biceps.
The execution: Set your feet hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball in both hands (start with a lower weight while mastering the movement). Lower into a squat and throw the ball down as you squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips upwards, extending through your legs. Catch the ball and repeat for 2 to 3 sets of ten.