Exercise alone won’t help you to become a great tennis player. Being able to bench press a lot of weight or run a marathon are signs of your overall fitness but they aren’t useful on the court. Tennis matches are played in short bursts of action and you need to train your body to go fast and be strong for short periods of time throughout a match. Plyometric exercises provide a key element of functional fitness that can help you elevate your game to the next level.
Benefits of Plyometrics
Plyometric exercises help tennis players build explosive power and speed. This lets them accelerate quickly when trying to get to a ball and apply sudden force when hitting the ball down the court. According to a study by the Cincinnati Sportsmedicine Research and Education Foundation, plyometric exercises also help tennis players with the deceleration to change directions or slow their momentum to accurately hit a ball while moving.
Lower-Body Plyometric Exercises
Jumping exercises will help you build explosive power in your legs. You can do power jumps by leaping onto a bench, exercise box or other secure point and then leaping back down to your original spot as quickly as possible. You can also do leaping exercises to improve your lateral movement when moving from side to side on the court to return shots. You can stand at the side of the box or bench and step onto it and immediately to the other side, or you can leap over the obstacle sideways and jump over it again as soon as you land so you return to your original spot.
Core Plyometric Exercises
Medicine ball exercises help tennis players build up their core muscles, which are critical to rotational movements used in serving and ground strokes. For example, the abdominal muscles contract to stabilize the spine when a player arches her back into extension before hitting the ball during a serve. You can perform situps while holding a medicine ball behind your head, hold the medicine ball with two hands and mimic the motion of ground strokes with an emphasis on torso rotation, or squat and throw a medicine ball into the air before catching it.
You can combine plyometric exercises with other types of workouts to build a routine that creates functional speed and power for tennis. Olympic lifts such as the clean, jerk and snatch involve accelerating and decelerating muscles rapidly, mimicking the start-and-stop motions used by tennis players while moving around the court. Strength exercises that are done on one leg also build functional fitness since most tennis shots are hit with at least one foot off the ground.
Plyometric exercises place strain on the muscles and joints. It’s important to start with a low level of plyometric exercise and build up to higher levels over time. Start with low-level exercises such as jumping rope before moving on to more demanding plyometric exercises such as box jumps or depth jumps. Older tennis players or people with existing leg injuries should use caution and consult with a physician before engaging in any plyometric leg exercises.
Richard Manfredi has more than a decade of professional writing experience, both in the media and at a corporate level. Since 2003, he has worked in the public relations industry, creating and executing campaigns for technology and entertainment companies. Manfredi is also a journalist who has worked for the "Orange County Register," as well as several online publications.