Take it to the gym - an intro into strength training for tennis


Take it to the gym - an intro into strength training for tennis

Whether you’re a weekend warrior spending a few hours a week on court, or a top level junior looking to make it pro - a strength program may benefit your tennis performance. In this blog post we are going to discuss why and introduce a few basic strength training principles.

Tennis is a game that is constantly evolving, with rallies getting longer and hitting getting harder. As a result training methods have had to adapt, to produce players that can run faster, hit harder and last longer. No longer do players opt for quantity over quality with long grilling hours spent on court, 1000 ball serving practices and 12 mile runs to improve their game. 

So how do we get stronger, faster, fitter and reduce our risk of injury? The answer is simple - strength training. 

Just like any other athlete or sports person, a tennis player needs to have a strong physical base to perform at their peak. Natural skill and talent are not enough in todays game. Hard work and grind on court but also in the gym are necessary to succeed at any level. 

What do we mean by a “strong physical base”? The ability to perform a 200kg squat? Be able to do 200 press ups in a minute? No, we have to be relevant and relative to the specific demands on court.

Unlike contact sports such as rugby or American football, a tennis player rarely has to move or resist a force larger than that of their own bodyweight. They rarely need to exert maximal force like that of a shot-putter or high jumper. Nor do they need to maintain pace like that of a marathon runner.

Instead a tennis player needs to be able to properly control their body’s linear, lateral and multi-directional movement for short sharp sprints <12m. Be able to produce sufficient force to make balls and win points but not over exert themselves or “peak too early”. They need to perform both these tasks over undetermined time frames ranging from 1-5hours.

These are the specifics we have to consider when producing a strength program for a tennis player.

How we transfer these needs into a gym situation can sometimes cause conflict between tennis coaches and physical trainers. One thing to remember is that when we say “strength training” we aren’t referring to Arnold Schwarzenegger style bodybuilding, or insta-fabulous resistance band workouts.

As previously discussed we have to be relevant and relative when it comes to building our strength program. For most intermediate gym goer’s we can start our program general, e.g. mixing strength exercises (back squat/bench press) with assistance exercise (walking lunges/dumbbell flies). 

For example, Workout 1: A) Back Squat (5repsX4sets) B) Dumbbell Chest Press (8-12repsX3sets), Workout 2: A) Trapbar Deadlift (5repsX4sets) B) Dumbbell Single Arm Row (8-12repsX3sets). Then when you have earned it, you can progress by adding new stimulus and training methods, e.g. contrast training - Workout 1: A) Bench Press B) Medicine ball Chest Throw, Workout 2: A) Weighted Lateral Lunge, B) Lateral Jump. 

The NSCA's fitness training guide gives us good guidelines when programming for strength

The NSCA's fitness training guide gives us good guidelines when programming for strength

Be mindful of rep and set range. Yes tennis is both an aerobic and anaerobic sport, but when it comes to our strength sessions this doesn’t always apply. 20 reps of a resistance banded squat at 40% effort with 10 seconds rest in-between is unlikely to improve you basic strength. 

3-6 sets of 3-6 good quality reps at 70-85% effort will challenge the respective muscle groups, resulting in increased muscle strength. The same applies to rest time. Yes you do only get short recoveries in a match, but adequate rest time between sets when it comes to strength training is imperative. Between 2-5minutes is usually recommended. 



To sum up we have come up with 5 do’s and don’t of strength training for tennis:

DO! Ignore the “fluff”: don’t waste precious time with insta-fabulous exercises.. that bosu ball squat burpie ab crunch is going to do little for your on court performance.

DO! Build a strong athletic base before you specialise your exercises. For example work on your trunk strength before jumping straight into medicine ball power drills.

DO! Program. Have a structured program for each 4-6 week block. It will keep you focused, and allow you to track progress.

DON’T! Overtrain. 2-3 good quality strength sessions per week is plenty. Listen to your body, it will tell you when your pushing too hard - and when your not!

DON’T! Mistake conditioning with strength training. Be educated with your exercise choice and rep/set range and rest times.


Stay tuned for our next post, where we will look in more depth at the different training phases and how you can apply them to your gym routines.  

If you would like any more info or advice on the above topic, please don't hesitate to contact us here at TennisFIT. We are more than happy to help and can make individualised training programs that suit your needs.


Relevant reading:
Foundations of Fitness Programming, NSCA - https://www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Tools_and_Resources/FoundationsofFitnessProgramming_201508.pdf
Applied physiology of tennis performance, M S Kovacs - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2653871/#!po=16.0256
Basic principle of strength training and conditioning, John M. Cissik -  http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/chalmers/PDFs/Basic%20principles%20of%20strength%20training%20and%20conditioning.pdf
Tennis anatomy, E. Paul Roetert, Mark S. Kovacs
How the Tennis Gods Move, Daniel McCain




Balance one of the most important thing in tennis. 

MyLocalPitch’s 5 top indoor tennis venues in London

MyLocalPitch’s 5 top indoor tennis venues in London

Tennis is one of London’s most popular grassroots sports to enjoy around the capital. London is lucky to be home to many fine indoor and outdoor tennis facilities which offer one-off games or club memberships. 

MyLocalPitch, the leading search and booking portal for grassroots sports, enables tennis players to quickly find and book the most convenient court through the site or app. 

Check out five of MyLocalPitch’s favourite indoor grassroots tennis venues if you’re looking at picking up a racket for the first time, dusting off the racket after an extended break or keen to find a new venue to play at.

Islington Tennis Centre - 6 indoor courts
Islington Tennis Centre has six superb indoor tennis courts available for online booking. The venue’s closest tube station is Caledonian Road and there is free parking for those arriving by car. There are also changing rooms onsite for tennis players.

Westway Sports Centre - 8 indoor courts
Westway Sports Centre is home to eight stunning indoor tennis courts. The facility is close by Latimer Road tube station and drivers should note there is pay-and-display parking available. Changing rooms are onsite too. 

New River Sport and Fitness - 4 indoor courts
New River Sport and Fitness is based in Haringey and the best tube station is Wood Green. This grassroots venue has four indoor tennis courts, free parking and there is also a bar onsite.

Harrow Leisure Centre - 14 indoor courts
Harrow Leisure Centre boasts of an amazing 14 indoor tennis courts. The venue is based in north west London and there is free parking or the closest station is Harrow and Wealdstone Overground. Changing rooms have been installed here.

Hazelwood Sports Club - 6 indoor courts
Hazelwood Sports Club is home to six indoor tennis courts, which can be booked online. Free parking is available for drivers or Grange Park and Winchmore Hill are the best stations (National Rail). Changing rooms are accessible for tennis players.

For more information on grassroots sports be sure to explore MyLocalPitch.com