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Tennis Specific Strength Training Secrets To Enhance Your Game & Prevent Injury

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 03 February 2016
Hits: 8069

Across the globe, tennis is a game in which many people readily participate in. Whether at a recreational, social, competitive or professional level, the game involves various complex movement patterns, moving in all directions that include a great deal of strength, speed, power, balance and endurance. Just by watching a game of tennis at a professional level, one can really appreciate the great amount of strain that is put on the body, especially when games last upwards of 3 hours. Unfortunately, as with most sports where this is long standing time of physical strain, comes a high risk of injury. There are many factors that can predispose a player to wrist, ankle, knee, hip spine, shoulder and elbow injuries such as differences in bio-mechanics and poor physical condition, equipment, weather conditions, muscular and structural or postural imbalances and repetitive movement strains on joints. In the general population, there is approximately about five injuries per 1,000 hours of participation, and 33 injuries per 100,000 tennis players require hospitalization ( Thus, the importance of strength and conditioning for injury prevention is overwhelming. However it must be specific to you, the sport and your weaknesses otherwise the conditioning program will create your injury! And on top of that you are unlikely to play well without the best conditioning methods and techniques. This article we will look specifically at the role of conditioning to improve performance and why just using a random approach to strength and conditioning will set you up for injury and poor performance.

How To Add Up To 15km/hr To Your Serve!


There is many things to consider when trying to develop a formidable serve as a weapon.

Obviously technique, practice, ball toss and even your physical genetic make up play a role in determining your overall service power. But there is one common movement to both male and female players with big serves and that is ........ the ability to produce explosive internal rotation of the shoulder.

It is in this action that approximately 40% of the raquet velocity is produced at impact. This is also true within the forehand to generate the heavy top spin used by players like Rafael Nadal. So all you have to do is lots of shoulder internal rotation work right? No.

Unfortunately it is not that easy. And also this is where many shoulder problems with rotator cuffs will begin to surface. The rotator cuff muscles are quite small and are predominately stabilizer muscles needed to provide stability to the shoulder and the ability to decelerate the arm so you don’t throw your arm out! The power really comes from the legs, through the entire body and out through the arm. If you improve your squat you will go a long way to improving your serve as the timing of the muscles used in a squat is very similar to the service action. When a player serves well, they use both of their legs to drive up to give a higher hitting point, but also enabling a much more explosive shoulder over trunk rotation to strike the ball harder.

Watch the video below to see what perfect squat technique is, and the various exercises you need to use to gradually improve your strength and power.

Internal Rotation & Rotator Cuff Injuries

Anyone who has played a lot of tennis would be very aware of the forces applied through the shoulder and how easy it can be to develop a serious injury.

Of all the joints to injure this is definitely the most complex, as there is just so many potential factors at play, and the fact that tennis requires explosive movements in all directions means you have to look after your shoulders or you will pay a big price. I will not go into detail of all the little things to do for your shoulder in terms of rehab or injury prevention as this article is more about performance, but if you do currently have an existing shoulder injury you will find our special report on shoulder injuries essential.

Click the image below to see more.

Other great articles to read are below

As for developing more explosive power with internal rotation, the use of power training is required. However this type of training comes at a high risk if you do not have adequate stability so make sure you are certain your body is up to the challenge before rushing to this.

If you are not sure go back and read the articles above and adopting the exercises we show you in these articles before attempting the explosive exercises shown below you prevent injury and allow optimal ability to explosively rotate. If you ignore this step like so many people do, in particular amateur players you are now a high risk of developing an injury and consequently not playing at all! The Tornado ball (medicine ball on a rope) is by far the best piece of equipment for delivering awesome power as it relies on the speed and force for it to work. The faster and more powerful you are, the better the exercise result. 

How To Do The Tornado Ball Wood-chop

  1. Standing with your back to a wall feet a comfortable distance apart knees bent.
  2. Holding the rope with both hands.
  3. Draw your belly button inwards rotating from the trunk chop the ball horizontal against the wall on either side of your body as fast as you can.


Improve Your Leg Drive & Improve Your Ground Stroke Power & Consistency

We have mentioned this already so far and a lot throughout this website but it is really the secret to your game.

Leg drive is what provides the power!  Not just for tennis players, but for boxers, javelin throwers, shot put, hockey and even golf. Pretty much anything that needs a throwing action needs significant leg drive with perfect timing and coordination. It is referred to as the Kinetic Chain that produces a flow of energy through the body from little toe to the racquet. Watch how low a professional player is when they hit a ball at impact and in their back swing versus an amateur player who tries to use their arms to do all the work. We already mentioned how the squat helps to generate power for the serve but does the squat help the ground strokes in the same way?

Well yes and no. Let me explain.

The stance in ground strokes versus serving are different, even a forehand to a backhand has a slightly different position and timing to it. In many cases it is more of a lunge than a squat. In ground strokes the back leg and hip are the first part of the chain. They begin trunk rotation and drive the torso upward and forward. This enables the trunk and the arm to build raquet speed. Without the leg drive minimal power is produced. Exercises that then target leg strength on the back leg moving into an explosive rotation are where you need to focus. Firstly you need to be sure you can complete basic lunges and multi direction lunges with loads before progressing to faster versions.

Once you have done this you can progress to many more complex and specific exercises to fully integrate the body. Watch the video below to see ideas of how to do this.

Exercises To Improve Your Speed, Agility & Endurance On The Court

Make no mistake that balance and stability is so important to a tennis player. In fact it is important to everyone, for without stability you cannot move correctly.

In order to cover the court as fast as possible, but remain well balanced with the head position in order to hit a perfect shot, the skills of balance, speed, and agility must be practiced and perfected over and over and over. When your centre of gravity or mass is lower to the ground you are well balanced and almost immovable. 

In tennis nearly every movement is begun with what is known as a “split step”, when the player makes a small jump into the air. At the top of the jump, the player can make a decision as to which way to move, forward, backward etc. When the player lands, the first step is the slowest and shortest. Meaning that if you can find a way to make this first step faster you are one giant leap forward in terms of your speed around the court. Using exercises with speed ladders, hurdles, cones that require this split step while emphasizing “keep low” will develop an incredible strength and ability to move fast, using split second reactions and skills.

Agility drills are great for helping the tennis athlete to improve these skills.


There are many different hurdles or plyometric exercises you can use, they just have to have a focus on lateral movement and keeping low. You will find stacks of more ideas found in the this article - 25 BEST agility exercises to improve your ability to change direction in sports


The days of using traditional strength training exercises, (which by the way are based on body building principles) to improve your sport are over! These exercises serve to make you big and look good, but not move fast, efficiently and in ways specific to your sport. You must use an approach that takes into account ALL of the necessary skills to your game, what your weaknesses are have a program to correct and improve them. We spend considerable amount of time working with many athletes and also in rehabilitation to deliver these programs and provide people with the education that is somehow lost in the community about how to train correctly.

I also encourage you to watch our detailed video on the Complete Sports Conditioning Assessment as this will give you a great idea as to exactly how we prepare Elite Tennis players for competition. And alongside this is a video explaining how to implement a program for various stages of a season.

If you live in the Melbourne area and would like to know more about our Tennis Specific Program please fill in the form below to schedule a Free Consultation to discuss how we can help take your game to new heights.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 14 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specializes in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.


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