Five Components of Physical Fitness in Tennis
Depending on how you play it, tennis can be a relaxed, tap-and-giggle activity or an extremely grueling challenge. At its most intense, tennis requires anaerobic fitness, muscular endurance, excellent footwork, and explosive and reactive power. To get in shape for tennis, create different workouts to specifically target these areas of physical fitness.
Tennis points are high-intensity bursts of activity that generally last less than 30 seconds, making them anaerobic. This requires you to be able to work at 80 percent or more of your maximum heart rate during the course of a multi-hour workout. If you play a less intense doubles game, you’ll still raise your heart rate, most likely keeping it in your aerobic heart rate range, despite the frequents starts and stops. However you play tennis, create workouts that mirror the demands of the game, using repeated bursts of activity followed by a recovery each time.
Endurance is your muscles’ ability to work over time. After several muscle contractions, your muscles deplete their stores of adenosine triphosphate, which help muscles contract. You must then burn glycogen to create more ATP so your muscles can continue contracting. This creates lactic acid, which can cause cramps. After each tennis point, your muscles begin replenishing the ATP you’ve just depleted and removing lactic acid. Train your muscles for tennis using roughly 50 percent of your maximum intensity to perform exercises for 60 seconds, followed by a 60-second break.
To make a strong first step to the ball, you’ll need explosive power. This is the power you use to make a quick movement in one direction. Train explosive power using exercises such as deadlifts, squats, box squats and box jumps. Consider lunges and side lunges as a warm-up.
Tennis is a high-impact sport that requires you to bend down and push up off the ground. You also use your core to turn backward and forward. This coordination of more than one muscle or muscle group creates reactive, or plyometric, power. Examples of this include jumping during serves and overheads, and bending your knees and pushing up during ground strokes. Plyometric exercises include sprints, bounding, skipping, depth jumps, shock jumps, reactive squats, Russian twists and kettle bell swinging.
Tennis requires balance, speed and agility, all requiring good footwork. Long-distance running uses low-twitch muscle fibers and calls on your body’s aerobic energy system. More appropriate footwork training includes dashes, sprints, spider drills and using a rope ladder. These types of exercises and drills recruit the same muscle fibers and use the same energy demands as tennis points.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.