Novak Djokovic, the twelve-time Grand Slam winner, is arguably one of the fittest players in the sport at the moment. From a strong physique to full-splits flexibility and immense endurance, his physical training shines through in every performance. Rafael Nadal, often regarded as the greatest clay court player in history, follows intensive training on and off the court. The Spaniard trains for six days a week for six-and- a-half hours during the off-season. To get to the top, a modern tennis player needs agility, speed, power, and endurance in equal measure.
Flexibility, power, coordination, stamina– training for tennis involves a multi-focus, goal-driven program. Tennis players need rotational strength, lateral speed, and shoulder stability. So muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints must all be conditioned to maximize performance. Flexible and well-built muscles provide more resistance to injury. The main targets are the major muscle groups that strengthen the entire physique. Some of the important muscles engaged are the rotator cuff, rhomboid and trapezius, pectorals, deltoids, glutes, quads and hamstrings. The core muscles–abs and lower back– are also key to tennis training. Here are some exercises to achieve the fitness standards of professional players.
Instead of intense muscle-building routines, tennis workouts should be short, explosive and well-rounded. Begin with a short warm-up session of stretching, jogging and skipping. This will open up your shoulders and hips, and improve side-to- side movements.
Exercise 1: Bench Split Squat
Place your foot on top of the physio ball or bench ball. Put the other foot forward in a split squat posture. Squat on one leg with bodyweight or with dumbbells in your hand. Place your weight on the heel; put your shoulders back and the abs engaged. You need to maintain this position through the spine throughout the exercise. Do three sets of this exercise of ten reps each leg.
Benefits: Improves quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.
Exercise 2: Scapula Push-Up on Forearms
Start with a forearm plank posture with your elbows under the shoulders and your hands open. Draw in the stomach to the spine. Keep your lower torso a few inches to the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Complete the exercise with a reverse movement and fully extend your back upwards. Perform twelve reps.
Benefits: Strengthens transverse abdominals, shoulders, obliques.
Exercise 3: Rotational Cable Row
First load the hip closest to the machine by squatting down. Retain the posture with your chest upwards and abs engaged. Let your body coil with your arm crossing over in the direction of the machine. From this position begin the rotational movement by pushing through your ground and with your foot placed close to the machine. Keep driving through the foot, hip, abs, and the other shoulder while you change your stance into a standing position. Do three sets of eight reps in each direction.
Benefits: Improves the rear hip drive and core rotational strength and prevents shoulder injuries
Exercise 4: Medicine Ball Rotational Lunge
Hold a medicine ball with both of your hands extended in front. Stand on one leg with your other leg raised to hip height and your knee bent at an angle of 90 degrees. Lower the raised leg by changing into a reverse lunge. Bring your upper body to the side of the front leg and rotate back. Press the back leg to the starting position. Do again with the reverse leg. Perform twelve reps on each leg.
Benefits: Helps in hip and knee stabilization and strengthens spinal rotators, quads, glutes.
Exercise 5: Split Stance Curl-to- Press
Begin with a split stance posture, putting your foot on a bench. Use your other leg to push upwards onto the toe while squeezing the glutes. Retain this position. Keep your head straight, your shoulders down, and your abs engaged while performing the lift. Perform a dumbbell curl now and press the weight over your head. Do this exercise for three sets of ten reps, reversing your legs.
Benefits: Increases strength in the biceps, forearms, and shoulders.