Tennis is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of strength and power. Tennis players should train the lower half to be able to sprint, change directions, react to a shot, stop their momentum on a dime, transfer that energy, rotate through the hips, and compete to win the point.
To gain strength in the lower half, I think the best implements are barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. These implements will engage the most musculature, train for upper body stability, and allow the legs to train for power and strength. These are movements that can be trained and overloaded over time.
I recommend these movements in the early off-season, fall season, winter, and in-season training regimen. How heavy, how often, and what exercises you are using are determined by the match schedule and your training readiness.
In this article, I will be going over the 7 best lower body exercises for tennis players to help you run faster and hit harder shots!
Table of Contents
Lower Body Exercises For Tennis
Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is by far my favorite variation of the deadlift for athletes. Because of the hexagonal shape that allows the athlete to stand inside the implement, you get to benefit from all the benefits of the deadlift with little risk.
The trap bar deadlift is a great lower body exercise for tennis players because it trains the whole body, strengthens the posterior chain musculature (Glutes, hamstrings, back), and challenges your grip.
Pro Tip: Don’t have a trap bar? Here are 10 Trap Bar Deadlift Alternatives that still work great.
Front Foot Elevated Goblet Reverse Lunge
Tennis is a sport where you sometimes have to wait on the opponent and then explosively respond to the ball. The front foot elevated goblet reverse lunge helps train this pattern. In this movement lower body absorbs an eccentric load and then transfers that force back into an athletic stable position.
In the reverse lunge, once again we see shin angles that are very specific to tennis. This is also a very knee-friendly movement. Once the reverse lunge is complete, I queue players to “drive” back to the starting position with their toes pulled up and knee pulled up, holding at the top of the rep. This is very similar to how sprinters and jumpers train in track and field.
The goblet hold (using a kettlebell or dumbbell) is good for core strength and upper body stability. This movement can be done with dumbbells at the side. I would recommend that as a progression.
Goblet Lateral Lunge
One of my favorite movements for tennis players, the goblet lateral lunge has many benefits. In tennis, we move laterally on the court constantly, getting to a shot, planting the feet, loading, rotating, exploding, and getting ready for the return. Lateral lower body strength is crucial to enhancing performance and decreasing the chances of injury.
In the goblet lateral lunge, we are training flexibility and strength in the adductor, groin, and inner thigh muscles.
At the same time, because of the goblet position, we are training upper body posture and stability. Once the bottom of the lateral lunge is met, I queue players to “drive” back to the starting position. I like this movement because of how specific it is to what we see on the field.
Dumbbell Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
It is also very important for tennis players to train in single-leg movements. As athletes, we know we sprint, hit, and throw, pushing off a single leg. Therefore, we need to train and be strong on a single leg. The dumbbell rear foot elevated split squat is one of my favorite movements for training for strength on one leg.
By having one leg behind you and one leg out in the split squat stance, we replicate the shin angle similar to sprinting. Holding dumbbells will train the grip that we know is tremendously important for our forearms. This movement also reinforces abdominal strength, upper body stability, and upper body posture.
One of the more unique exercises, the curtsy squat is a great lower body exercise for tennis players. Returning shots, especially on the backhand, we often find ourselves in a crossed-over position. This is exactly what the curtsy squat trains.
Hold a kettlebell by the horns, and reach one leg behind and across your body. Keep your posture up, core tight, keep your feet flat, and once you’ve gotten to about parallel, push back up. This is a great exercise to train single-leg, sport-specific angles for tennis.
Nordic Hamstring Curls
Staying healthy in tennis is always the name of the game. One of the best exercises for keeping those hamstrings healthy is the nordic hamstring curl.
Kneel down on both knees (use a soft surface or pad if you have one). Have a partner hold your feet down. Slowly lower yourself to the ground, using your hamstrings to resist the fall and squeeze the glutes. As you approach the floor, do a small push-up, and use your hamstrings to pull yourself back to the starting position.
The kettlebell swing is a fantastic movement for all athletes. This exercise reinforces hip flexion and extension and can translate over to the court in our ability to run, jump, and explode through the hips.
I like this movement for tennis, especially because as tennis players we spend a lot of time in hip flexion, getting ready to return serves. The kettlebell swing reinforces the rapid hip extension we need to sprint and jump. This exercise will help increase performance and also act as an injury preventative.
Remember to always balance your court work with your weight room work. Everything you do in the gym should have a direct carry-over to the court.
Utilizing the exercises I’ve listed above as part of a complete strength and conditioning program will help improve your performance on the court and reduce your risk of injury.
If you found this article helpful, you may also like my article on the 10 best core exercises for tennis players.