Tennis legend John McEnroe once said that you can’t get fit simply by playing tennis matches. While you might not train with the dedication or intensity of these elite athletes, the principles are the same – doing work off the court will help you on it.


Get the most out of your training

When approaching training as a beginner, you should have a process or routine and a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Tennis is a sport that calls upon a whole range of muscle groups, movements and motor skills. Your training should target all of these areas, which we’ve outlined here.



Benefits for tennis:

  • helps you get in the best possible position to hit a shot
  • improves your ability to react on court
  • allows for good movement patterning and lower body motor skills, which helps with covering the court

Training tips

Ladder drills

Use a combination of footwork and stepping patterns, these will improve your coordination, engagement, and foot movement.

Open drills

Get a partner to stand inside the baseline at one end of the court and direct balls at different heights and positions to the other end (where you are). You need to practice focusing on your footwork to position your body around the ball in the appropriate position to play the shot; you don’t even need a racquet.

Reactive lateral movement

While moving along the baseline, push off as quickly as you can in the direction of wherever  your partner directs the ball and play the shot



Benefits for tennis:

  • helps you get to the ball more quickly to then set up and execute shots
  • encourages you to be more offensive and take control of a match
  • makes you a better retriever

Training tips

Power work in the gym

Try sone lower body exercises such as leg presses and squats.

Activities that mimic areas of play that require speed

For example, sprints (for pushing off and retrieving shots) and agility ladder runs (for quicker, more economical footwork).


Core strength

Benefits for tennis:

  • a lot of power and movement generation (especially for multi-directional sports like tennis) comes from the core
  • aids in a better serve and execution of shots
  • helps with injury prevention, especially lower back injuries (which are common among beginners)

Training tips


You should be on a mat, lying on your back with your feet flat and knees bent; try to lift your shoulders up and forward towards your knees, have your arms extended and bring your clinched fists over your knees. Beginners should aim to go slowly, and control their movements.


Beginners should aim for a 30-minute session once a week; once you become more confident with the movements and engaging your core, you can progress to longer sessions (studios often offer 45-minute and 60-minute sessions as well) and more times per week.



Benefits for tennis:

  • gives your shots more heft
  • improves the force generated in your legs, helping you push off and up more effectively; equals more speed and a better serve

Training tips

Sprint work

From a standing start, push off hard into a sprint; this improves the effectiveness of your first step on court.


Start in a semi-squat position with arms high in the air, then forward-thrust as you bring your arms down to jump forward. Concentrate on fully extending your hips and knees and aim for a balanced landing; your head should remain still throughout the exercise. Bound up to the net from the baseline, or across the court from the tramlines.


Circuit training

Benefits for tennis:

  • good for improving cardiovascular health and conditioning
  • addresses all the main muscle groups, which is great for beginners
  • adds essential variety to your workout for enjoyment, and can be performed anywhere – the gym, on court or in the park

Training tips

Set up a circuit

This could incorporate push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, squats, sprinting or exercise bike; aim for a mix of cardio and strength exercises, for 4–8 exercises per circuit, and for 3–6 circuits, beginning with 30 seconds for each exercise at a good intensity and increasing the duration of each as you improve.

Cardio Tennis

Taking part in a Cardio Tennis workout with its mix of tennis drills and cardio and strength exercises is great from an aerobic point of view, helping to improve your endurance and allowing you to play at least a couple of sets in singles.

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