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eeping Fit

Strength Training For Tennis

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series

Replace the chest cross, pullover, lateral raise, biceps curl and triceps extension exercises with the bench press, seated row, overhead press, and pulldown exercises. These provide a more comprehensive upper body workout that may have more practical benefit in terms of power production.

Table 2 presents a more advanced tennis strength training program. These exercises should be performed in the same manner as the basic program exercises, namely, one set of eight to 12 well-controlled repetitions.

Table 2. Recommended advanced exercises for conditioning the major muscle groups.

Machine Exercise Target Muscles

Leg Press
Hip Adduction
Hip Abduction
Calf Raise
Bench Press
Seated Row
Overhead Press
Low Back
Rotary Torso
Four Way Neck
Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals
Hip Adductors
Hip Abductors
Gastrocnemius, Soleus
Pectoralis Major, Triceps
Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Deltoids, Triceps
Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Spinal Erectors
Rectus Abdominis
External Obliques, Internal Obliques
Neck Flexors, Neck Extensors

Specific Strength Exercises
While both the basic and advanced strength training programs should provide excellent tennis conditioning and reasonable injury protection, you should take one more step to address particularly vulnerable muscle groups that experience significant stress during tennis play.

Shoulder Rotator Muscles
The first of these smaller and frequently injured muscle groups is the rotator cuff complex that surrounds and stabilizes the shoulder joint.

The shoulder rotator muscles lie beneath the large deltoid muscles, and enable us to turn our arm in various positions. Rotating our arm backwards, called external rotation, uses the teres minor and infraspinatus muscles. Rotating our arm forwards, called internal rotation, involves the subscapularis muscles. Keeping our arm within the shoulder joint structure is the primary function of the supraspinatus muscle. Together, these four muscle groups surround the shoulder joint, providing both structural stability and the ability to produce forehand, backhand, and serving movements.

The good news is that these four relatively small muscle groups respond very well to proper strength training. The bad news is that most people do not perform any specific exercises for their rotator cuff. This is unfortunate, because rotator cuff injuries occur frequently in tennis players and typically require a long recovery period.

Although the standard strength exercises offer some conditioning benefit, you should definitely do at least one workout per week for the shoulder rotator muscles.

The best means for specifically training the rotator cuff muscles is the rotary shoulder machine, a dual-action exercise that provides full-range rotational resistance for both the external and internal shoulder rotator muscles.

If this machine is not available, you may also strengthen these important muscles with resistance bands. Simply attach the band to a door at waist level, stand with your left side toward the door, keep your left elbow against your left side, and pull the band across your midsection using your left hand. This works your left internal shoulder rotator muscles. Next, keep your right elbow against your right side and pull the band away from your midsection using your right hand. This works your right external shoulder rotator muscles. Repeat these two exercises standing with your right side toward the door and using the opposite hands.

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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