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!