Tennis strength and training exercises are directed to a number of distinct but interrelated physical aspects of the sport. Tennis is primarily a game of short, dynamic bursts of running action and lateral movement, separated by brief recovery intervals. These anaerobic features of the sport are coupled with game and practice situations where the player might be active for two to three hours at a time, a circumstance that requires the promotion of cardiovascular endurance.
The mechanics of the tennis serve and the various types of volleys executed by a player place an emphasis upon the development of balance and coordinated movement, to both move laterally and to deliver effective shots from a variety of positions. Tennis does not require overwhelming upper body strength, but the ability to combine shoulder and arm strength with an effective core muscle structure (abdominal, gluteal, groin, and lumbar muscles) is required to strike the ball with power.
As with any sport, a proper tennis exercise program will be periodized; the competitive, pre season and off season periods should be identified with training organized accordingly. As tennis is a sport that is played year round by many athletes (the tennis year is often divided between the outdoor and the indoor seasons), elite players will identify those competitions or those periods of the year in which they will seek to achieve their competitive peak, with other periods designated as the off season, or periods of recovery and rebuilding.
It is in the preseason that a tennis player can pay most particular attention to cardiovascular training, to develop endurance. Exercises such as running, cycling, indoor cardiovascular machines, and swimming all achieve the necessary goal for the tennis player. A failure to develop a reasonable level of endurance will limit the ability of the player to recover between rallies and between the sets of a match. Where the cardiovascular training takes the form of running, the athlete can also achieve a degree of acclimatization to the heat of outdoor competitive tennis. Tennis not only taxes the body's ability to maintain a healthy fluid level through the exertions of competition, the outdoor surfaces typically radiate additional heat into the player's environment, a circumstance which accelerates the dehydration of the athlete. Acclimatization to warm weather tennis can occur within approximately 10 to 14 days of the commencement of warm weather training.
Pre season anaerobic fitness can be developed in a variety of methods for tennis. Footwork exercises that replicate the length and the intensity of court movements are ideal. The shuttle drill is one such device, where the player moves in distances that replicate the distance from baseline to net and back in a number of sequences; the drill can also be executed moving laterally, sideline to sideline, or backwards. Tennis training is also ideally suited to ladder drills, which are similar to hopscotch, the children's schoolyard game. Ladder drills require the player to move explosively from square to square, all while maintaining balance and focus upon the next part of the drill. Given that tennis court surfaces are often constructed from hard and unyielding material, continuous play presents a greater risk of stress injuries to the feet or lower legs of the athlete. Hard running drills of this nature can be performed on any softer surface.
Core strength exercises will contribute to the effective delivery of a serve and the making of a return. Exercises that include the simplicity of sit ups and abdominal crunches, to more involved Swiss ball routines, where the body's own mass is the resistance provided to the muscles, are all effective.
In tennis the body is subjected to a significant range of movement. In a single sequence of shots, a player may be required to run in every direction, lunge from side to side, and to reach up or jump to play overhand shots. Stretching and the development of maximal joint flexibility is essential to tennis success. Of particular importance is the preservation of the range of motion in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist of the player's dominant hand, as these joints in particular are subjected to the repetitive stresses in every swing of the racquet.
Increased muscle mass is not usually a desired goal in a tennis player, as increased mass may hinder the important qualities of quickness, balance, and lateral movement. Tennis players will use strength training to maximize shoulder strength and to ensure that they have a reasonable balance between all muscle groups. Circuit training, with the emphasis upon high repetition, low weight routines, is commonly employed to achieve this result.