4 Grand Slam Exercises to Turbo Charge Your Tennis

4 Grand Slam Exercises to Turbo Charge Your Tennis

We all know that tennis is a game of finesse, technique and skill. Hitting a ball with pinpoint accuracy while gracefully moving around the court requires athleticism, flexibility and coordination. There are however, other attributes of the modern game that players must develop if they want to reach the next level. And these are attributes that can be worked on in the weight room as well as on the court. 

What are these attributes? Strength and Power

Strength is the foundation of all physical sports. Power is a product of strength.

Here are 4 exercises that will have you striking fear into whoever is across the net.

The Deadlift

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The deadlift is the ultimate test of strength. And it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is pick something heavy off the floor. The brilliant thing about deadlifts is that you can’t do a half-rep or cheat. You can either lift it or you can't. In terms of athletic application, the deadlift is a total body movement that strengthens the glutes, hamstrings quads and back muscles. The deadlift also develops motor control and core stability, making it an ideal exercise for all athletes. 

This is how you do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. The bar should be over the middle of your foot. 

  2. Hinge forward at the hips as far as you can, you should feel the tension in your hamstrings and glutes.

  3. Squat down towards the bar, you should feel some tension in your quads now.

  4. Grip the bar with your arms touching the outside of your quads and a double overhand grip. 

  5. At this point, your hips should be lower than your shoulders and your back should be flat. Your eyes should be facing down. 

  6. Take a breath into your stomach and squeeze your core.

  7. Begin the pull by pressing your feet into the floor, imagine you are trying to push the floor away from you.

  8. When the bar gets to your knees, think about driving your hips towards the wall in front of you.

  9. Stand up straight and lock the rep out. Do not hyper extend or shrug the weight! 

  10. Return the weight to the floor in a controlled manner and repeat. 

Bench Press

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You might think that the bench press is all about the chest, but when it’s performed properly it can cover the upper body. Your lower body also plays a significant supporting role. The muscle groups that are hit the hardest are your chest, shoulders and triceps. But your lower body has to be set up in such a way that it provides you with a solid base to push off from. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lie back on the bench and take a grip just wider than shoulder width apart. 

  2. Tuck your feet as close to you as possible and squeeze your glutes.

  3. Arch your back so that only your upper back is in contact with the bench, your next point of contact should be your glutes. This position has to be maintained throughout the set.

  4. Un-rack the bar and allow it to travel out until it's over the middle of your chest. 

  5. With the bar in your hands imagine you are trying to bend the bar in half, this should tuck your elbows in at an angle. You should also squeeze your upper back tightly.

  6. Take a deep breath into your belly and lower the weight down to the bottom of your pecs, the bar should finish on your sternum and it must touch it! No half reps allowed! 

  7. When you begin to press, drive your feet into the ground and press the bar back up and towards your face so the bar moves in an arc.

  8. Before you perform another rep quickly assess your arch and glute activation before going again. 

Medicine Ball Throw

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This exercise is simple but extremely effective. The key to the Medicine Ball Throw is ensuring your hip drop is short and explosive. Do not think about dropping your hips in the same way as you would when squatting. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Hold a medicine ball at chest height with your grip on the side of the ball so your elbows are pointing out to the side

  2. Drop your hips slightly and then, in one explosive motion, snap your hips forward and throw the ball as far as you can. Fun!

Wood Choppers

Rotational power is a key part of athletic performance in tennis. Your ability to produce rotational force plays a key role in how much power you can generate in your shots. In order to generate rotational power, you must be able to keep your spine neutral whilst performing a movement. Woodchoppers are just the ticket when it comes to doing exactly that.

Here’s how they work:

  1. Attach the rope handle to a cable or band and set it to lower chest height

  2. Grab the handle with both hands, walk away from where it is attached until you feel tension in the cable/band and extend your arms out in front of you until your elbows are just shy of locking out

  3. Ensure your body is facing forward before moving on to the next step

  4. Create tension in your core, imagine someone is going to punch you in the stomach and rotate your torso away from the cable/band attachment

  5. As you rotate your arms should naturally follow and should always be in line with your lower chest

7 Steps to Eating Like an Athlete

7 Steps to Eating Like an Athlete

If you want to improve on the court - or even if you just want to get a little healthier - you'll need to pay close attention to your diet. What you eat, how much you eat, when you eat and a whole lot more comes into play if you want to improve your tennis.

Your aim should be to enhance performance whilst promoting overall health and well being. 

Here are 7 tips on how you can eat like an athlete and take your performance to new heights...

(Also see my recent post on exercises every tennis player should do for some gym inspiration!)

Eating to fuel performance

Your pre-workout/competition meal has to provide your body with as much energy as possible without causing any digestive issues that have a negative impact. This is a tough balance to strike, but your best fuel source for the body is carbohydrates. Pasta, rice and potatoes are good examples, and are best eaten before you get started playing.

Another important food type is protein, which needs to be in your system prior to activity to help prevent the break down of muscle (catabolism). However, usual sources of protein like chicken and beef require a lot of energy to digest, so they are not ideal choices pre-tennis.

Your best bet before playing is a whey protein shake or a low-fat Greek yoghurt. Fat and fibre should be kept to a minimum, as they reduce the bodies ability to use carbohydrates as fuel. Think of it as filling your car with the maximum amount of fuel and then deliberately putting a blockage in the line between the engine and the fuel tank - fat and fibre are the blockages that you want to avoid. 

Thinking About Your Protein Intake

Everyone knows that protein intake is vital for physical performance and development. Where most people go wrong is thinking that more protein = more muscle gains. This isn't necessarily the case. A healthy range for protein intake is 08g-1.2g per pound of bodyweight.

Protein's key role within the diet of an athlete is the growth and repair of muscle. And it's not only body builders that need to worry about growing and repairing muscle. Muscles drive athletic performance regardless of the sport, so keen tennis players should think about protein intake, too. 

Intra-Workout fuel

Tennis matches and training sessions are a marathon, not a sprint. If you need any proof of that, just think back to the record match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, which lasted for 11 hours and five minutes over three days.

Don't think that those guys didn't eat plenty while on the court!

If long training sessions and competitions are the norm for you, think about what you should be consuming during your activity. Stay away from solid food and stick to isotonic drinks that are high in carbohydrates. Another option is to dilute two drinks with water and add some sea salt, which will ensure you are hydrated and fueled for peak performance. 

Which brings us to...

Hydration

Staying hydrated is vital to maintaining performance levels - a 2% drop in fluid levels can lead to a 10-20% drop in performance levels. To stay hydrated, make sure you drink water steadily throughout the day and not just before you start playing. If you try to consume too much water before you perform you will feel bagged up and wont perform at the level your are capable of.

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Hydration is key to every single bodily function. Did you know that you can go 3 weeks without food but only 3 days without water? 

Look After Your Gut

The gut is now commonly referred to as the second brain thanks to recent research showing that it contains over 100 million brain cells. To ensure that your gut is functioning in a healthy and productive way, try to include sources of probiotics in your diet. These are things like yoghurt and pickled vegetables, which are ideal for promoting gut health. 

Have a Plan

If you're feeling pretty intimidated by this list so far, don't worry. Point six is that you should have a plan. When you train to improve your tennis, you plan ahead, thinking about which drills and skills you are going to focus on.

So why should your diet be any different?

You can plan your meals in as much detail as you like. You could even batch cook a certain number of meals for the week to save time.

Interested in trying a tennis coaching session with Top4Tennis? Here's a look inside a typical one-to-one session.

So why not try sitting down one evening and writing down what your meals are going to be for the next week? This will help to ensure you stay on track with your diet and eat the right foods at the right time.

Listen to your body

Your body is a highly sophisticated organism. If you are constantly having digestive issues or gut distress or any kind of diet-related issue, then your body is trying to tell you that something you are eating isn't agreeing with you.

This may sound like an obvious thing to say. But you'd be surprised at the number of athletes who have a 'suck it up' mentality. In this instance that mentality is a hindrance. Stopping to take stock of what could possibly be going wrong is the best plan of action. 

4 Exercises Every Tennis Player Should Work on in the Gym

4 Exercises Every Tennis Player Should Work on in the Gym

Taking your tennis to the next level requires hours of practice on the court, working hard on your technique, your groundstrokes, your footwork, your volleys and your serve. It's a big ask.

But with all of that, it's easy to forget that tennis is a sport that places an enormous demand on the body, too. To play the game well you must have excellent coordination, skill, power, strength, mobility and conditioning - not to mention a strong mental game. 

If you are really serious about improving your game, you will also be spending some time in the gym to work exclusively on your physical abilities. The demands of modern tennis are increasing with every new season and if you want to be competitive, you'll have to take physical training seriously. That means having a detailed training plan, executing your exercises with perfect form and doing so consistently, day after day, week after week.

Before long you'll start to notice the difference. You'll be playing harder for longer, outlasting your opponents and outpowering them as much as you are outplaying them. 

To get that perfect tennis physique, you'll need to be performing exercises that are going to carry over to your performance on the court. This post will focus on exercises that improve your core strength and speed.

Bird Dogs

This exercise is fantastic for your abs and your lower back health. To see the full benefit you must stretch your legs and arms as far as you possibly can, this is what challenges your abs to maintain balance. 

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This is how you do it:

  1. Set up by getting on all fours and looking down at the floor to maintain a flat back (neutral spine).

  2. Begin the exercise by stretching your right arm out in front of you and your left leg behind you as far as you can. Return and repeat with your left arm and right leg.

  3. Once you are at full extension make sure you give your abs an extra squeeze.

  4. Your head should remain facing down throughout the movement. 

  5. Try to go for 30 seconds at a time with 30 seconds break in between, then slowly increase the time as your core grows stronger.

Round the World 

The key to this exercise - as with most of the exercises here - is to keep tension in your abs and perform the movement in a controlled manner. This will help build your core stability and develop the foundational strength you need to hit shots with power from the baseline.

Here's how to do the Round the World with an exercise ball:

  1. Place your forearms on an exercise ball with your legs extended behind you and your weight on your toes.

  2. Actively press your forearms into the exercise ball, engage your core, squeeze your glutes and drive your toes in to the ground. This will make you solid as a rock.

  3. Begin to slowly make small circles by moving the ball with your forearms, the rest of your body should be rigid and you should be squeezing your abs - just imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach, brace for impact! 

  4. If the circles are too hard then move the ball backwards and forwards.

  5. Once you have got the hang of small circles, progress to making bigger circles.

Prowler/Sled Push

This exercise is all about explosive power. Over time it will accentuate your leg drive, boosting your speed across the court and most importantly, your acceleration off the mark. Working with a weight sled can really help your ability to make up the ground when it matters. 

This is how to do it:

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  1. If your gym has a prowler, place it somewhere you can get a good 20-30 yard sprint in without any obstacles. If you don't have access to a prowler then use a box and place a weight plate on top of it.

  2. Put your hands on the prowler/box and keep them relatively straight without locking out your elbows

  3. Push the prowler/ box by driving your legs as hard as you can, your feet should strike the ground on your forefoot

  4. Turn and repeat for as many rounds as you can manage

The Lopsided Carry

The lopsided carry is all about boosting your core strength. It will also improve your stability, grip strength and shoulder balance. Aim for 20 steps in total to begin with, and repeat this exercise 3-5 times.  

  1. Make sure you have a clear path to walk along in the gym.

  2. Get two kettlebells/dumbells of different weights.

  3. Pick the heavier one up and extend it fully above your head with one arm, pick up the lighter weight in the other hand and hold it by your side.

  4. Before you begin to walk, engage your core and squeeze your glutes.

  5. Begin walking along your route, maintain tension in your abs throughout whilst breathing in a controlled manner.

  6. To make this more challenging try raising one leg up to 90 degrees and holding for a few seconds every second step, alternate between both legs along the route. Tough but effective! 

We'll be back soon with some more exercise suggestions to help you improve your tennis!