I joined, for the first time, a summer tennis league this year. I do a small amount of weight training still and would like to focus my lifting sessions more toward functional lifts that might correlate directly to tennis.

My first crack at this has been to focus on more twisting style ab exerices (russian twists, for example), work in more tricep lifts at heavier weights/lower reps for explosions on overhead shots (e.g. the serve), and more forearm exercises.

What else should I consider here? Note that I am looking for lifts only and not general tennis training advice.

  • With any sport, core strength is going to be key. Even with weight exercises be sure to focus on core. I like a Full 360 Degree Plank Routine for all athletes done every other day. Good luck.
    – csi
    May 19, 2011 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


As far as lifts go, it is important to keep your muscles balanced or you could wind up with some bad injury. That said, the general principle I've been able to pick up on from different weight lifting sites is this:

  • Low reps/high weight builds strength
  • High reps/low weight builds tone (and some say size)

My guess is you want the strength for that extra force on all your strokes. I tend to favor a whole body weight routine, so something in the 5x5 style workouts will do well for you. The benefits you'll see are:

  • Increased leg strength to help you move around the court with a lot less effort
  • Increased core strength which helps in every area (most of your real strength comes from here)
  • Increased arm strength with its obvious application to swinging the racket

I personally do the Strong Lifts 5x5 program and find it is easy to follow, designed for a beginner like me, and doesn't keep me in the weight room for hours on end. You also have the option of the Pendlay 5x5 program. While the exercises differ a little bit, the following are common attributes of the strength training programs:

  • 5 sets of 5 reps--helps build strength without overworking the muscles
  • Progressive loading--you start really low, and you'll go up in weight every time you do an exercise, with advice on what to do when you can't get all 5x5 lifts in
  • Weight lifting is 3x /week and the time spent is generally less than an hour
  • Emphasis is on strength, not size.

I'm three weeks in to the program, and just got to the milestone of squatting the amount of weight I lost since last year. It's a good feeling when that amount feels substantial, but you know you can do more. Yes, you'll be doing squats in every workout. The squats build just about everything--legs, core, and arms (but more of the other two).

Is there a real danger in over building one side of your muscles and not the other? I'd say yes. I have a friend who in high school was a bench press fiend. He'd bench pretty hard but never do any rows. It got to the point where his chest muscles were stronger than his own skeletal structure. During a basketball game, he threw the ball in and collapsed to the floor in pain. The verdict from the doctor was that he over-trained his chest without balancing his back muscles, and as a result separated his sternum. It was a painful recovery, but he started a more balanced routine after that.

For your planned workout, I'd say the russian twists are a good idea--anything that builds your core will help. I'm a bit concerned about the emphasis on triceps/forearms. Your overhand is going to need a strong chest and core, and your backhand is going to need a strong back and core. I'm thinking a whole body workout is going to give you better gains than focusing on just a couple parts. In martial arts we learn that we punch with our hips, and our arms are just the extension of our core strength. The same principle applies in tennis.

  • Understood. I am just looking for central areas to focus on while everything else becomes supplemental - for instance how a football player (which I used to be) focuses 1/2 of the lifts on things involving hip/lower body explosion (squats/cleans) and lifts that emphasize pressing since creating separation with your arms is key in line play and in shedding blockers... with the other half of the workouts being supplemental for the rest of the body (or so was my experience). Both 5x5's seem fine for increasing general strength, which I'll probably roll with. Thanks.
    – whaley
    May 23, 2011 at 23:22

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