Healthy Tennis Routines – What the Pros Do
Obviously, physical health is paramount for professional athletes. If an athlete wants to stay at his or her best, they have to work hard to maintain peak physical condition almost all the time. While the rest of us may struggle with diets and exercise, struggling with such things isn’t an option if you’re a pro athlete.
As a result, athletes face pressure to keep up with the competition. Sometimes, that can lead to poor decisions. Just ask Maria Sharapova, who tested positive for a banned substance at a drug test leading up to the 2016 Australian Open. The decorated tennis star was subsequently banned from competition for two years, which was later reduced to 15 months.
Doping is clearly never the answer, but what can tennis players do legally to help keep them in top shape? Sharapova cheated with the intention of getting an edge on the competition. While all athletes are constantly seeking an edge, most choose to take the legal route. Here are a few tennis-specific routines that players can use to stay in shape without having to resort to performance-enhancing drugs.
Lower Body Workouts Are Key
While many may think tennis is a game that requires plenty of upper body strength, the real key to endurance on the court is keeping the lower body and core as strong as possible. There is no shortage of leg workouts tennis players can do consistently in order to help build up and maintain that strength.
Keeping both legs at the same level is of utmost importance. Tennis players need to be able to move quickly in either direction in an instant, and one leg lagging behind the other would certainly be a hindrance to that. It’s definitely more difficult if the player is coming off of an injury to one of their legs, and in that instance, more work may be required. Working out both legs equally is a must in all cases.
An exercise called tennis-specific lunge is a nice workout that translates nicely to the court. This exercise not only improves leg strength, but core muscle strength, too. If you’ve done lunges, you know they’re rigorous, but rewarding.
There are a number of different lunges you can do to improve your game. Other workouts like leg press, calf raise, partial squat and hamstring curls can help keep the legs feeling mighty.
Don’t Ignore the Core
As mentioned previously, core strength helps with endurance, as well. Getting your hips turned quickly is a key in the sport and building up your base is a necessity.
Pro tennis players haven’t always dedicated themselves to rigorous weight and strength training. Back in the 1980s, seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe infamously declined to dedicate much, if any, of his off-court time to staying in shape. Instead, he simply played tennis as often as possible in order to keep himself fit.
A player with a strong core can hit the ball harder and control the ball better. Obviously, those are important traits if you want to be among the world’s best. If your muscles are conditioned to handle the rigors of running, cutting and hitting the ball, you won’t be as easily fatigued.
Crunches and sit-ups can only go so far. If you’re serious about maintaining a stable core, exercises like rotational chops are more useful. Most good gyms will have a machine with elastic bands for you to use. To properly do a rotational chop, stand perpendicular to the machine with the elastic band in both hands. Slowly rotate your arms and body – as if you’re swinging a baseball bat – before ultimately finishing as if you’re nearly on one knee. Do this between six and 15 times before turning around and doing the same thing facing the other direction.
Upper Body Still Matters
While tennis is a game that requires a strong base, having strength in the upper body certainly isn’t a hindrance, either. If you want to have a power aspect to your game, building up your chest, biceps, triceps and forearm muscles is a must.
Top athletes like Roger Federer or Serena Williams don’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure, they’re quite toned, but you don’t have to look like a bodybuilder in order to succeed in the sport. Just look at former player Andy Roddick, who owned one of the fastest serves in the history of the sport. He’s fit, but he’s not Paul Bunyan.
Bench press remains the best chest-specific workout out there, and it also helps the forearms. Dumbbell curls are a great way to build up the biceps. Pull-ups, lat pull-downs and even the simple push-up can go a long way toward helping those arms and chest strengthen.
There are plenty of legal ways tennis players are able to keep themselves in shape. You don’t have to cheat to get ahead of the game. Focusing your initial efforts on strengthening the lower body is of utmost importance. Once that area is more established, moving on to the upper body and core is the next step.