Tennis is a very demanding sport. It requires good tennis fitness, which includes wide range of physical abilities such as strength, speed, endurance, and flexibility. As years go by, even the legends of our sport, for example John McEnroe, often say that tennis has become more physical comparing to old days. Professional tennis players spend more time in the gym than ever. Some players at certain stage of the season even spend more time working on their fitness than hitting tennis balls.
Some of you may think:” Well, Rihards, wake up! I am not a professional tennis player and I just want to hit some balls!” I totally understand that. However, even if you are the weekend warrior playing just a few times per week, you should remember that playing just tennis and not working on your general fitness may lead to an injury… Tennis may look very innocent and easy on your body. Yes, it is not a contact sport like ice-hockey, where your opponent can body check you. However, in tennis it is very easy to pick up niggling or even chronic injuries, if we don’t take care of our body fitness wise.
Good physical abilities are very important for successful tennis career in any level. And all it takes is simple fitness plan and determination. I know that playing tennis is far more enjoyable than grinding it out in the gym, however you don’t need to do a lot. For example, I consider fitness as one of the strongest components in my game and all I do is I follow really simple fitness routine on regular basis. I love breaking down my opponents in long three set matches. I need endurance for that. So I run long distances in medium pace twice a week for 30-40 minutes. I like being active with my feet, whether it is offence or defence. I need good footwork for that. So I use a jumping rope twice per week for 10-15 minutes. I use a lot of spin on my groundstrokes and my serve requires a lot of power from both – lower body and upper body. So 4 times per week, after every session of running or jumping a rope, I spend 10-20 minutes strengthening my whole body. I start with a lower body and move up to the core and upper body. I don’t lift heavy weights and I don’t go crazy with my workouts. I just do it consistently, one day focusing more on strengthening my lower body, next day on strengthening my upper body. Primarily, I use my own body weight. I do different kinds of sit ups, lunges, planks, crunches, push ups and pull ups. I do just a few sets with 10-20 repetitions for each exercise. Oh… And, of course, I do daily 5-10 minutes long dynamic warm up before my practice and 5-10 minutes long stretching when I am done. You see… Nothing fancy! Approximately 30-45 minutes (sometimes a little bit longer) of fitness four times per week keeps me fit and able to compete with professional full time players! Okay… I may add some interval training and do more sets of strength training, when preparing for my tournaments, however for the most of the time I do this and feel fine!
It is not that difficult. However, some of you may still think: ”Rihards, that is too much! I don’t have that much time! 4 times per week… I have work, family, favourite TV show…” But it is your health! Even if you are not a professional tennis player, general work outs are necessary for your wellbeing. If you play just tennis, you get some cardio. In my opinion that is not enough and you need additional cardio training, but we can live with it. However, you still need some strength and flexibility training, right? By the way, majority of scientific papers say that it is recommended to have at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio training per week plus two strengths and flexibility training sessions.
I have an offer for you! A shortcut! Let’s say that you play tennis twice per week. Try adding two more fitness sessions. Do one 30-40 minutes long cardio session (I suggest running, but you can also cycle) per week and a short strength training mainly focusing on core and lower body. Other day use a jumping rope for 10-15 minutes and do another short strength session focusing on core and, this time, upper body. Make sure you leave at least one day in between these fitness sessions. And you should never forget dynamic warm up before exercising and stretching afterwards. By following this simple plan, you can improve your wellbeing, play better tennis and significantly reduce chances to get an injury.
P.S. I know that nowadays it is very popular to say that running and other standard fitness methods are not helping our tennis. Some experts say that all fitness drills have to be tennis specific. Yes, I agree that there should be tennis specific exercises. Many of them. However, I am a big believer that we all have to have strong general physical base. And tennis specific fitness should be added on top of that!
P.S.S. Scroll down, leave a comment and tell us what you think!