Tennis requires a wide range of skills, including anaerobic bursts with aerobic recovery between points. And focusing on one aspect of your game—like strength, endurance, or agility training—isn’t enough. A robust tennis workout plan will not only improve your fitness and fundamentals: it can help reduce the risk of injury.
Even when you know how important it is to train, though, you may struggle to find a tennis workout plan that works for your current goals, skills, and fitness level.
So what kind of workout plan allows you to train most effectively without spending hours in the gym each day?
Best Tennis Exercises to Include In Your Workout Plan
Before you can choose the right workout plan, you need to know what types of exercises train different parts of your body and aspects of your game.
Types of Exercises to Strengthen Muscles and Tendons
Muscle and tendon exercises are vital to a healthy workout. Strength training can play a major role in reducing injury risk, and the right exercises can increase power and explosiveness on the court.
Let’s start with our personal favorite: squats.
Squats are one of the most common strength exercises you’ll find in tennis workouts, and for good reason. When you use proper form, you’re working out your lower and upper body while simultaneously developing better body control.
Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees as you lower yourself down into a squat position—as if you are about to sit in an invisible chair. Remember to keep your back straight to avoid injury. Your hips should end up even with your knees so your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds before rising. If you’re doing body weight squats, you can place your hands behind your head, cross your arms over your chest, or extend your arms straight out in front for balance.
As with most strength training, start with lower weight (or just your body weight) until you have perfected the form. When you’re ready to increase weight, do so in small increments so you don’t lose your form. Hold the barbell just below and behind your neck for a traditional squat, or hold the weight in front of your body and just above the chest to perform a front squat.
Different strength training exercises require different types of movements and may place greater strain on certain parts of the body. When selecting exercises to strengthen muscles and tendons, try to incorporate at least one option from each of the following.
- Deadlifts, hinges, swings (hips)
- Squats, lunges (knees)
- Pushups, dips, presses (upper body, pushing)
- Rows, pull-ups (upper body, pulling)
- Walking, running (endurance, footwork)
If you’re relatively new to strength training, you may want to consult with a coach or trainer about the appropriate amount of weight to put on the barbell for your current fitness level.
Looking for a little more variety? Check out our list of tennis strength training exercises.
Types of Exercises to Increase Flexibility
Flexibility training is about much more than static stretches. Introducing yoga into your exercise routine can benefit flexibility as well as strength and balance. There are dozens of ways to practice yoga, some more physically intensive than others, making it easy to get started and scale up as your flexibility improves. Join a class at the gym or find a trainer on YouTube and practice in your own home—whatever works for your schedule.
Here are two simple and effective poses you can use to get started.
Downward-facing dog. Keeping your heels firmly planted on the floor, bend at the hips and touch your hands to the ground. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings when you do this, and hold it for 15-30 seconds.
Head-to-knee forward bends. Sit on the floor with one leg bent toward you, the other extended straight. Now try to bend your body so that your torso—and eventually your head—is touching your extended leg. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your head to your leg yet—just go as low as you can. Be sure to listen to your body and go at your own pace. Overstretching, like trying to lift too much weight, can result in strains, pulls, and other injuries.
Flexibility training increases range of motion and reduces injury risk. If you aren’t interested in yoga, consider the following flexibility exercise alternatives:
- Side twists, carioca (dynamic stretches that mirror on-court motions)
- Leg raises, lateral arm raises and holds (static active stretches that require the strength of an opposing muscle group to stretch the desired limb)
- Toe touches, side lunge and holds, calf raises (static passive stretches that are best used after a workout)
Types of Exercises to Increase Speed and Agility
Speed and agility exercises do much more than just increase on-court quickness. Many agility drills are useful in improving acceleration, explosiveness, footwork, and balance (essential components in your on-court performance).
And because agility drills can increase speed—and vice versa—you can train for both speed and agility with just a few core exercises.
Leg raises and handstands aren’t often associated with agility training, but the two both serve to strengthen muscles while improving balance. And what could be more beneficial to fast, controlled movements and sudden changes in direction than strength and balance?
To do a leg raise, stand on one leg with the other extended in front of you as straight as possible. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.
If—like most adults—you aren’t confident in your ability to do an unassisted handstand, practice by doing a handstand against a wall before trying unassisted.
To focus primarily on sprint speed, find a smooth running path (around the track, at a park, or around your neighborhood). Start at a slow jog for about 5-10 minutes. Then, change to a sprint for the next 30 seconds. Now switch back to a slow jog and repeat the sequence. This form of speed training mirrors the short bursts of energy you need in a match while also improving overall endurance. Be sure to return to a slow recovery jog for another 5 minutes or so once you’ve completed your sprints to allow your body to recover. If you have a gym membership, you can achieve the same exercise on a treadmill or elliptical, gradually increasing speed and incline. Other common speed drills and agility exercises include:
- Shuttle runs
- Lateral skaters
- Four ball pickup
- Ten stroke intervals
Check out our list of tennis agility drills for more ways to increase speed and improve footwork.
Tennis Exercise Equipment You’ll Need
Many tennis drills can be completed using only your body weight (or just a tennis racket and balls). If you have a more robust workout routine—or if you are recovering from an injury, like tennis elbow—you may want to pick up a few other simple pieces of equipment.
A twist bar (flexbar) is commonly associated with recovery from wrist, arm, or elbow injuries, but studies have shown it can be a powerful addition to any tennis workout plan.
Other useful equipment includes:
- Exercise band (strength and flexibility training)
- Physio balls (strength, flexibility, and stability exercises)
- Rubber band (grip strength)
- Yoga mat (flexibility)
- Free weights (strength training)
- Cones (off-court speed and agility training)
Bringing It All Together to Create the Best Tennis Workout Routine
The very first thing you need to do when creating a tennis workout plan is to know your goals. This will inform what exercises to include in your routine.
Are you training for competition, increasing overall fitness, or working on one aspect of your game?
Next, create a list of exercises, warm-ups, and stretches designed for tennis players. You’ll want to include at least one or two exercises that target each of the following fundamental aspects of tennis fitness:
And remember, you don’t have to fit all of these tennis exercises or all muscle groups into every workout. A great workout plan should establish a weekly schedule that includes all the training you need (as well as the rest your body needs to recover and avoid injury).
For each drill you select to include in your workout plan, consider the number of sets and reps/set. You’ll typically want to do 2-4 sets of each exercise, with 10-15 reps/set. Doing less could limit gains, and doing more could lead to overtraining and increased injury risk.
If you find your form is struggling on later sets/reps, reduce the weight or number of sets/reps so you can maintain proper form throughout.
Include rest time in your workout plan: typically 20-25 seconds of rest between sets is recommended to mirror match play.
Consider how often you are on the court and how much time you have to commit to a workout routine. If you are doing agility and flexibility drills on the court, your off-court workout might focus more on conditioning and strength training.
Plan around upcoming competitions (periodization). Identify tournaments and key dates and plan how you’ll scale your workouts for the 6-8 weeks leading up to the next big event. You might do several weeks of strength and conditioning workouts largely off court, then shift to agility and power drills that have you spending more time on the court.
If you struggle with tennis injuries, it’s best to work with a professional to develop a routine specifically designed for your body, skills, goals, and needs.
Here are a few tennis workouts you can use as a baseline. Just remember to revise each to fit your needs.
The Serena Williams workout consists of a few hours of tennis practice, followed by additional cardio and strength training at the gym, or a run around her Los Angeles neighborhood. She also engages in Pilates and hot yoga to simultaneously let loose while building up her muscles.
Andy Murray’s flexibility routine uses gyrotonics: a form of Pilates that focuses on rotating the body in order to develop core strength and increase flexibility.
If you’re more focused on footwork and court strokes, try adapting Rafael Nadal’s workout. In addition to his on-court drills, he uses resistance bands to work his shoulders and rotator cuffs, which is more effective than free weights. And he utilizes a “vibrating platform” at the gym that’s designed to contract muscles 30-50 times per second.
Consistent Exercise Improves Performance
The surest path to better physical fitness and on-court performance starts with a clearly laid out workout plan. Consistent but varied exercises that allow you to target specific muscle groups, boost cardio, increase flexibility, improve power and explosiveness, reduce injury risk, and lead to a better performance on the court (and less pain or soreness when you’re done working out).
Learn more tennis fitness tips with our guide to tennis workouts.