Tips for Tennis Players: Optimizing Performance and Staying Healthy

From the HSS Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center

Bring your best game to the court this summer - and all year round - while preventing injury. The Hospital for Special Surgery Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center brings you the following tips to optimize your performance and walk off the court feeling as good as you did when you walked on:

  1. Make sure you have the proper equipment. Wear supportive, properly fitted tennis shoes. Use a tennis racket with the proper grip size that is not too heavy or strung too tightly.
  2. Warm up before getting on the court. Warming up helps lubricate the joints, allowing them to move more freely and easily. Warm muscles are also more flexible and contract more rapidly. Your warm up exercises should be gentle and gradually build in intensity. Take a brisk walk, ride a stationary bike, perform some light calisthenics, or any exercise that gets the blood flowing. If playing a match, practice some light tennis for 5-10 minutes with gentle hitting, serving, and volleying.
  3. Stretch your muscles. The best time to stretch is after warming up. Stretch the muscles gently for 15-20 seconds without bouncing. Never stretch into pain. Perform three repetitions of each stretch.
  4. Practice speed and agility drills. Tennis requires a lot of quick movement, footwork, and changes of direction. Practicing speed and agility will improve your ability to get in position to make the shot.
  5. Work on your endurance and conditioning. Tennis matches can last for several hours. Better physical fitness will improve your performance on the court and reduce the chance of injury. Begin aerobic exercise such as jogging or cycling for 20-30 minutes, three times a week, increasing time and intensity gradually as fitness improves.
  6. Strength train. Strength training reduces the chance of injury and improves your tennis game. It will allow you to hit the ball harder, move faster, improve power and quickness, and make you more explosive on the court. Strengthening exercises for both the upper and lower body are important. Three sets of 10 repetitions performed 3-4 times per week is best, but not on the same day or the day before tennis competition.
  7. Build your core stability. Good core stability is important for all tennis strokes. This is the ability to control and stabilize the trunk in relation to the lower limbs. The core also functions to allow the transfer of forces from the lower body to the upper body and racket. Core stabilization exercises focusing on the abdominal, lower back, and hip musculature should be part of your training.
  8. Watch your early racket preparation. Make sure to prepare for ground strokes by having your racket in the proper position. The racket should be back and the racket face oriented properly to avoid undue stresses to the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints.
  9. Use the Split-Step to prepare to receive a serve or return any shot. This is a slight hop followed by lowering oneself into the ready position on the balls of the feet. Knees should be slightly bent, shoulder width apart. This allows the legs to store elastic energy and then explode like a rubber band.
  10. Cool down after you play. Do some stretching after playing, and use ice for 10-15 minutes several times a day if you are experiencing any pain or soreness.



The information provided is for general educational purposes only and should not to be interpreted as a recommendation of a specific plan or course of action. Exercise is not without risk, and this or any other exercise program may result in injury. As with any exercise program, if at any point during your workout you begin to have pain, feel faint or experience significant physical discomfort of any kind, you should stop immediately and consult a physician. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.



Lee Rosenzweig, PT, DPT, CHT
Rehabilitation Department
Hospital for Special Surgery


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