Tennis Strength and Conditioning

Knowledge is Power.


Knowledge is power. In the last ten years, researchers have learned more about what works and what doesn’t work in performance enhancement than ever before. In strength and conditioning there are training methods that have been rigorously tested and proven to be superior then other methods.8

Djockovic pumped

Literally thousands and thousands of persons have been experimented upon using the scientific method. The great news for players and coaches is there is no need for trial and error in physical performance enhancement as we know exactly what program you should follow.
The new challenge is to filter the useful from the useless information. If you see 10 different ‘ experts’ you will get 10 different programs. Players need to practice what works and stop wasting your time with that which doesn’t. This is what 10S specific training is about.

    1. For example you want to hit a harder forehand, backhand serve and move faster. Dr Bill Kraemer has shown (results below) you need to stop the traditional workouts and start periodizing training.

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The Power Benefits of 3 different groups below. Kraemer Et Al.Maryln lifting
The primary findings of this investigation were that a high-volume, periodized, multiple-set resistance training program elicited superior 1) increases in upper and lower body maximal strength, 2) increases in muscular power, 3) increases in lean body mass, 4) decreases in percent body fat, and 5) increases in tennis serve velocity when compared with a low-volume, single-set circuit program in competitive collegiate women tennis players during 9 months of training.

A tennis coach/player who completes a periodized program will have a significant hidden advantage over other players. The modern day challenge is to apply the right information from the right persons (many ATP and WTA players don’t get the right information).

Do you periodize your training?

  1. Prevent Injury.

It’s hard to play or practice if you are injured. Injury prevention is important in the modern game of tennis. Dr Frank Jobe , Dr Maniche , Dr Noyes and other physical medicine experts have shown which exact exercises you should perform to prevent and or rehablitate shoulder, back and lower extremity injuries.11,12,13 Kraemer et al have shown how to prime the hormonal system and protect it from adverse stress reactions.


Four exercises were consistently found to be among the most challenging exercises for every muscle. These shoulder exercises consisted of 1) elevation in the scapular plane with thumbs down, 2) flexion, 3) horizontal abduction with arms externally rotated, and 4) press-up. This study documents that the minimum for an effective and succinct rehabilitation protocol for the glenohumeral muscles would include these exercises.” Jobes et al

‘The results of this study support the hypothesis that the combination of multiple-injury prevention-training components into a comprehensive program improves measures of performance and movement biomechanics’. Noyes et Al

Irrespective of sex, age, duration and degree of severity of back trouble, or of pre-existing sciatica or pathological findings upon X-ray of the spine, patients obtained a favorable result from the training program. Manniche et al

The influence of the stress of tennis play and practice onthe endocrine system was also evident in the cortisol results Kraemer et al


Do You Perform the following exercises?

□ Jobes protocol ( er, haber full cans, row plus, sa)

□ Manniche protocol (back ext, reverse hyper )

□ Neuromuscular Assessment of landing,

Unfortunately very few players are exposed to this knowledge to protect their body from injuries (therapist average annual pay $77, 000). A tennis coach who integrates this knowledge into their training will protect his players from injury and have a hidden advantage on the court.

The Big Picture

elephant 5 bliind men


When Darren Cahill was asked in 2010 what he would do differently if he could do it again with Leyton Hewitt he said the emphasis would be on strength and conditioning.


Huge gains can be made in the strength and fitness of tennis players as this is poorly understood and planned compared to other sports. Poor planning is easily observed at tournaments by comparing the reps, sets and rest periods used by a player and comparing it with what has been shown to be a peaking protocol.


For example at last years US Open Andy Murray performed these exercise, weighted chin up less than 6 reps, overhead throws med ball less than 6 reps emphasis speed, incline bench press 60 lbs heavy less than 6 reps, chest pass less than 6 reps….) while most others where performing high reps (12 or more) and short rest (hypertrophy period).

He was performing a peaking program. The rest of players who were trying to peak ( or at least maintain) at the end of the US open series were still in the preparation or fundamental stage of Strength and Conditioning


In fact it is uncommon to see peaking workouts performed by players outside the top 10 at the gyms at any tournaments. It seems that many players ( especially females) avoid heavy resistance exercise although these prescription should be used for peaking and are an essential stage of periodization.


Kramer on why periodization superior.

“This was most likely due to the ability to recruit more fast-twitch

motor units with the inclusion of the heavier loading (i.e.,

4–6 RM) (13,28,29). Training studies in men have shown

that individuals exposed to heavier loads during training

experienced greater improvements in maximal strength performance”


These heavier workouts are seldomly performed demonstrating a poor application of periodization at the highest levels in the gyms of the four slams (prevailing theory they make you slow).

The 10s Specific training is a basic primer in strength and conditioning as it applies to Strength and Conditioning.


The leading association for strength and conditioning in the world is known as the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The NSCA recommends the design of any strength training program begins with a needs analysis. The basic needs of a tennis specific program are


  1. Prevent injuries using latest clinical findings


  1. Develop Power to allow for increased pace, heaviness (spin) of ball, increased speed to the ball and recovery from the ball


  1. Develop Tennis Specific Energy Systems that will allow to last 19-25 minutes of highly focused tennis ( greater then 800 changes of direction and 800 strokes)



Each of the three fundamental needs of a Tennis Specific Program will be developed upon in the following sections.



  1. Prevent Injury.


Prevention is the best medicine.”


With the advent of the power tennis game there has been an epidemic of injuries to the professional tennis player. While it makes commonsense to reduce the length of the tennis season to allow for recovery and a preseason, it is also important that players get stronger to play tennis rather than play tennis to get strong.


Players need to make sure they are doing everything in their control to prevent injuries and periodize their season to allow for maximal performance. This requires building an athletic base that is perfect for day in and day out performance requirements of the game of tennis.



First Line of Defense; Be Brilliant at the Basics, Warm Up , Stretching and Cool down.



As a first line of defense against injuries all players need to be brilliant at the basics of preventative medicine. Philosophically a paradigm shift from treating to preventing injuries should be emphasized.


Review of Your Player for the following components


Movement Preparation □   – Stretch down    □    and Ice □ . (KISS)


In the 90’s eighty percent of Australian Olympic swimmer (world champions) had shoulder pain.17 When a medical team reviewed their training methods it became apparent that the athletes were shortening their warm up, stretch down and not icing their shoulders when painful.


A simple medical intervention comprising of a proper warm up, stretch down and icing protocol reduced the number of injuries 60 percent from 80% to 20%. Simply the athletes weren’t being “brilliant at the basics”.


All players should warm up, stretch down and ice any ‘problem’ areas to promote regeneration. The importance of these treatments can not be underestimated and it is surprising how many players skip one or more of these essential areas ( Andre Agassi – stretch down).


Each coach should have a protocol for a warm up (movement preparation), stretching down and icing to promote regeneration. Additional methods of regeneration such as massage, foam rolling, visualization, hydrotherapy, biofeedback and other forms of recovery can be very useful.


Dynamic warm ups prepare players better than static warm up.17 Dynamic warm-ups address warming up areas in the body where a tennis player is prone to injury with exercise that activate the muscle known to be at risk..


Today leaders in the Field such as Mark Verstegen at Athlete’s Performance call these types of dynamic warmups movement preparation as the dynamic movements include prehab exercises, activation techniques (including post activation potentiation) and end with some specific movement patterns the athlete will use in their sport.


When athletes sprint times are recorded after doing a dynamic warm up they are superior (faster) compared to sprint times after static stretching. The advantage is the player shows up on the court ready to go rather than getting themselves warmed up in the first 15 minutes (Dementieva vs the other girls).


It is very important to learn to be able to start fast as it gives you a hidden advantage not only in the beginning of matches (Winning Ugly) but in making practice more efficient (5 x 2 x 15mins = 150 mins per week) .



Movement Preparation Review Your Player



  • core warm up
  • lower body
  • upper body
  • prehab specific to player
  • tennis movt specific to player
  • focus/ reaction
  • Post Activation Potentiation


( when you systematically review players warm up you will find that they can be improved by adding one or more of these elements)

After each training session static stretching should be performed to allow for the muscles to be cooled down and flexibility to be maintained or gained. All muscles should be stretched particularly those known to shorten because of their repetitive use in tennis for example Posterior Capsule in the shoulder and hip and the mobilizing muscles (see below) of the human body.


Stretching Post Ex. Review your player

  • Gastrosoleus □ • Iliocostalis lumborum □ • Hamstrings □ • Upper trapezius □ • Adductors □ • Levator scapulae □ • Iliopsoas □ • Suboccipitals □ • Rectus femoris □ • Pectoralis major and minor ( Use evaluation from USTA and muscle function testing)

(posterior capsule of shoulder and hip should also be looked at)


Other techniques to promote regeneration such as massage, cryotherapy, and recovery nutrition are a big part of contact sports recovery and can be used for players who are going thru hard preparation or a prone to injuries (get from latest Journal of Sports and conditioning).


Specific ice massage, cold immersion and foam rolling protocols are very useful in curtailing injuries and also help rule out serious injuries that need further evaluation.


Foam rolling for End of day Review your Player


  • Achilles tendon, triceps surae and tibialis anterior
  • ITB, Adductors (groin), Hamstrings, Quadriceps
  • Gluteals and deep hip rotators
  • Low back, Obliques, Rectus Abdominus
  • Thoracic Spine (ext), Rib Mobility
  • Pectoralis , Anterior deltoids, posterior shoulder
  • Triceps/Biceps/ Forearm Flexors and Extensors
  • Levator Scap/ Suboccipitals





Second Line Of Defense; A Balanced Body


Despite the increasing importance of strength and conditioning when players are in the gym their programs seem to be more heavily influenced by pop culture and body building programs then scientific knowledge of performance enhancement (probably because a qualified expert would be prohibitively expensive ).


Mike Mac Millan Professor of Orthopaedics at University of Florida described these gym programs as the ‘mirror syndrome workoouts’. People work out all the muscles they see in the mirror neglecting those they don’t see.   Unfortunately many of the workouts performed on the ATP and WTA are more influenced by the mirror then performance enhancement.


Review your Players Work Out (or my workout)


  • For every Bench Press do they balance with rowing exercise
  • For every abdominal situp do they balance with back extension ex’s
  • For every Squat exercise do they balance with Hamstring’s
  • Do they perform prehab know to work, Jobes ect



Mirror based workouts do not build a balanced tennis player. In players these workouts emphasize the anterior muscles that generate power and neglects posterior aspect the muscles that absorb this power (deceleration and stabililty).


Mirror workouts simply predispose players to injury because they are building an anterior dominant body rather the posterior dominant body recommended by physical therapists. (look at dorsal muscles).


In the TST programs we emphasize balancing the body from the onset with a smart prescription of exercise influenced strongly by evidence based physiotherapy techniques.


Functional ‘chain’ training is performed rather than building specific muscles. We are more interested in how the kinetic chain functions in the player than how individual muscle looks or works in isolation. We are focused on enhancing the performance of the actions involved in tennis.


The kinetic chain of the tennis player is made up of three primary links.


Figure 1 Kinetic links


Link 1- Lower Chain- comprised of pushing and pulling muscles

Link 2- Core Chain- comprised of pushing, pulling and rotation muscles

Link 3- Upper Chain- comprised of pushing and pulling muscles



Each chain is continually assessed and balanced with training. The goal in training is to optimize the function of the each of the kinetic links.




The prescription of exercise in the TST begins in the lower chain as biomechanically force is generated from the ground up. On evaluation of players lower chain the pushing muscles are often found to over power the pulling muscles . The quads are stronger then then hamstrings as demonstrated by stronger squatting ability then deadlifting ability.



To optimize the function of the lower chain we must balance the strengths of the anterior and posterior chain by evaluating strength ratios between opposing muscles. Based on this evaluation we train the muscles in the gym for symmetry in function.


It’s quite simple to execute in the gym. For every squat type exercise balance it with a deadlift type exercise using similar resistance first in your workouts. Often deadlift type exercises have been omitted (their bad for your back) creating a potential weaklink.






Lower Chain Anterior


Structural Exercises Lower Chain




Triple Extension




Core Stabilization


Single Leg Squat

Lateral Squat

Step Ups


Triple Flexion/Pull



Erector Spinae

Core Stabilization

Dead Lift

Single RDL

Good Morning

Russian Drops



A player wants to constantly keep their Upper Chain strong by keeping the anterior and posterior strengths of the chain balanced. On evaluation the pushing muscles tend to be stronger than the pulling muscles. The player’s pectoralis major and anterior shoulder muscle tend to be stronger than their latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and posterior cuff muscles.


This is demonstrated by a stronger bench and front raises then row and YTL type exercises. In fact many player do not perform any specific exercise for the posterior cuff which are the most important muscles in the overhead athlete.


From the onset the TST protocols evaluate the Upper Chain’s strength ratio and then work on balancing the chain. It’s quite simple. For every bench type exercise we perform a rowing type exercise first. There is also an emphasis on developing the posterior cuff thru YTW type exercises to complement anterior deltoid work.



Upper Chain


Structural Exercises For Anterior Upper Chain Structural

Exercise For Posterior

Pectoralis Major

Pectoralis Minor

Anterior Deltoid


Core Stabilization

Standing Cable Press

Bench Press





Latissimus Dorsi


Posterior Deltoid


Core Stabization


Standing Cable Pull


Row Horizontal

Row Low

Row Hi




On evaluation of players conditioning program you will find many players overwork the anterior aspect (the abdominals) and underwork the posterior aspect the erector spinae. The abdominals tend to overpower the erector spinae.


Additionally on evaluation you will find the oblique opposite the serving arm is overdeveloped.



From the onset of training we evaluate the strength ratios between the core flexor and extensors. A balanced prescription of exercise is given to each player that emphasizes developing the core more like a brace thru stabilization exercise (special exercise for serve).


All too often erector spinae are weak because back extension and reverse hypers are simply omitted ( they are bad for your back)?????The answer again is quite simple for every abdominal exercise perform a exercise for the erector spinae(priority principle).




Core Chain Anterior


Structural Exercises Core Chain




Rectus Abdominus

Serve Obliques Ipsilateral

Serratus anterior

Hip Flexors

Core Local Segemental Unit

Trunkal resist to flexion/Rotation

Planks Abdominal?oblique



Erector Spinae



Serratus Posterior


Core Local Segmental Unit

Trunkal resistance to extension rotation

Planks Extension Oblique





Although the idea of balancing the three kinetic chains is a simple and logical approach to training balance it is often overlooked in program prescription (need physio and strength coach working side by side).


Kinetic chain integrity is often compromised in the player. The dysfunction begins with a poorly prescribed exercise program. A now compromised chain is further aggravated by the highly repetitive nature of tennis (Agassi 2000 balls a day from 5-10 years old). Finally the excessive focus on power production while neglecting power absorption further exacerbates the function of the chain. Imbalances lead to injuries and or sub optimal functioning of the kinetic chain.


Power is lost when there is lack of balance or weaklinks in the body. Furthermore in an anterior dominant body the tennis players posterior muscles will reflexly slow down the movements by sequential breaking. This breaking action serves to protect the body from injury.


Sequential breaking (the opposite of sequential acceleration) is a natural reflex to protect the body from injury. The players body is telling them it is unwise to accelerate because they have poor brakes. Some studies have shown working the posterior muscles first inhibits this an increases power.


By balancing the strength in each link we remove this block (governor) and power will be gained. The goal of TST is to enhance power by building strong links in the chain.



Prehabing the Weak links in the Chain.


You are only as strong as your weakest link.


There are common patterns of injuries that the tennis player will sustain to their kinetic chain. In the TST system we assess and treat these ‘weaklinks’ in the musculoskeletal system with prehabilitation exercises from the onset. A paradigm shift of the medical team from treating in injuries to preventing injuries is warranted.


Figure.1 Rodger Federer has suffered very few injuries as more time has been spent on preventing injuries




Dr Vladimir Janda the father of physical medicine showed there are two different types of muscles in your body. Some muscles work more to stabilize the joint and are know as stabilizers. Other muscles work to move the levers of the body quickly and are known as mobilizers.



Stabilizers muscles lie deeper are harder to activate and tend to weaken. Mobilizers work to generate large forces, are easy to activate, overworked and tend to tighten. A list of the stabilizers and mobilizers is given below.


Stabilizer Muscles (need to strengthen) Mobilizers (need to be released)
Lower Extremity


VMO,    (closed chain exercise)

Gluteus Medius, (monster works)

Gluteus Maximus (triple extension/rotational squats)






Rectus femoris





Transversus Abdominus, Planks MD

Multifidus, Back extension?reverse hype

Serratus Anterior, Push up Plus

Quadratus Lumborum, Single leg stability

Deep Neck Flexors Stabilizer exercise



Rectus Abdominus,






Lower Traps, Y’s

Rhomboids, T, W, L

Teres Major, Horiz Abd, ER

Infraspinatus, Horizon Abd ER

Subscapularis IR- lift off



Pec Minor,

Levator Scap,

Upper Traps,

Pectoralis Muscle



It is very important to address potential imbalances between the stabilizers and mobilizers early on by evaluating these muscles with relation to how they function in a tennis player strokes.


For example if the coach and physiotherapist examine a tennis player from the ground up we can understand how the balance between stabilizers and mobilizers can be upset and intervene preventatively.


There is a sequence of kinetic linkage that maximizes power in the modern tennis strokes and it occurs from the ground up. Simply the modern strokes starts with triple extension of both lower extremities (chain 1)where energy is funneled to rotation of the hips (chain 1).


The movement of hips creates a separation angle in the core and now trunkal rotation adds more energy which is transmitted to the next link the upper Chain. From the core energy flows thru the scapulothoracic articulation to the arm where more energy is harnessed thru horizontal adduction, long arm internal rotation and coupling of wrist action.


The movement starts distally with large muscles in the first two chains and moves sequentially to the small muscles in the wrist in the upper chain. The force development of the modern strokes is analagous to a whip where the end moves much faster than the base.

Law of momentum state as the mass of segment gets progressively smaller the velocity increases (whip get thinner and picks up speed) and snaps in the hands to the racket (bounce a tennis ball off medicine ball).


Below is an example of a pitcher’s sequential movements occurring at increasing speeds as we move from the ground up.