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Five ways tennis can keep you fit

Have you been inspired by the likes of Andy Murray and Serena Williams to pick up a racket this summer but not sure how to get stuck into training? Don’t worry. Former GB tennis player and coach Mark Petchey is on hand to help.

Playing tennis stretches your mental concentration, boosts your social circles and builds your confidence as you learn new skills. It’s also an effective (and fun!) way to get into shape. Keep reading as Mark Petchey shares five practical fitness tips and workout suggestions to help you get match fit for your tennis holiday.

1. Aerobic endurance

Lengthy workouts that exercise large muscles groups in a rhythmic manner are considered aerobic exercise. Playing a game of tennis will naturally help build your aerobic endurance but there are certain tennis training routines that’ll help too.


  • Hit the ball cross court (diagonally) to your practice partner for four shots.
  • After four shots move to the other corner of the court and hit the ball cross court from there.
  • Continue to alternate for stretches of 30 to 60 minutes to train your aerobic tennis endurance.


This kind of training will aid weight loss and help build your mental concentration, as to get maximum benefits you need to keep the ball in play!


2. Anaerobic endurance

Shorter workouts of high intensity are considered anaerobic exercise. These exercises use more oxygen than your body can supply, so your body has to use energy from other sources stored in your muscles. The word anaerobic translates as ‘living without air’ and the speed of tennis rallies often means players have to move across the court without time to breathe.


  • Have your practice partner pass you 10 balls; alternating between your forehand and backhand side.
  • To connect with the balls, you’ll need to sprint the whole length of the baseline as fast as you can.
  • Rest for 45 seconds and repeat.


Try not to practice drills that last more than two minutes at a time or your aerobic system will kick in.


3. Power

The quicker you are, the better you’ll be at tennis. Similarly, the stronger the power in your leg muscles, the better your tennis game will be. All good players can hit a ball well but the reason some players are more successful than others is down to their explosive speed of movement across the court. Plyometrics (a.k.a. jump training) is one of the top ways to develop your optimum speed-strength ratio.


  • Have your practice partner pass you 10 balls; alternating between your forehand and backhand side.
  • To connect with the balls, you’ll need to sprint the whole length of the baseline as fast as you can.
  • Rest for 45 seconds and repeat.
  • Line up five mini-hurdles (approx.1 metre apart) like rungs on a ladder.
  • Stand sideways to the first hurdle (at the bottom of the ‘ladder’).
  • Jump sideways over each mini-hurdle landing on both feet.
  • When you jump the last hurdle, land on one leg before pushing back to repeat the other way.


Mastering this type of quick sideways movement will massively improve your tennis game.


4. Core strength

Your core muscles help protect you from sports injury as well as allowing you to operate with more rotation and energy, making it easier to put pace on your shots. Core strength helps you keep your balance whilst moving your racket quickly through any given shot. One of the best, and most popular, exercises for strengthening your core off court is the plank exercise.


  • Hold a strong plank on your hands for 30 seconds before dropping down to rest.
  • Repeat three times.
  • If the move is too tough for your wrists you can hold a plank resting on your elbows and forearms.
  • For a more challenging workout, start in a push-up position then bring your left knee up to touch the outside of your right elbow.
  • Return to the full plank position and then repeat with the right leg.
  • Repeat this five times for each leg.


Planking will also improve shoulder stability and strength, which is important for serving.


5. Speed and agility

Tennis is measured in split seconds; your ability to react quickly to a tennis ball coming at you will dictate how good your return shot is. Your speed and ability to change direction is imperative to your game. You’ll need to move at a full sprint then slow down within a couple of steps so you can balance enough to hit the ball.


  • Have your practice partner stand a couple of metres in front of you, arms held out wide (to form a cross) with a tennis ball in each hand.
  • Your partner then drops either the right or left ball and you have to sprint and catch the ball after one bounce.
  • Your partner can keep moving back from you until you eventually have to run flat out to grab the ball in time. This exercise will really help your reaction times.


Mark Petchey is tennis ambassador and consultant for Neilson Holidays. Find out more about how you can play tennis on holiday