Tennis Training Gym Routine – 8 Best Beginner Exercises

Dave Plettl

Dave is a strength and conditioning coach at Florida State, working with the basketball and tennis programs. He is 1 of only 50 CSCCa Master Strength and Conditioning Coaches in the world.

As an old saying goes, “with new levels, there’s new Devils”, and the avid tennis player will sooner or later experience this saying. A tennis player can practice hours upon hours of skill work and reach a certain level, but this “new devil” lurks around preventing the player’s attainment of the highest level.

What is this “new devil”? A lack of strength, or fitness, or BOTH. At the highest levels of tennis, strength and fitness become more and paramount. Even the great Roger Federer has revealed that he does a minimum of 100 hours of strength and conditioning during the off-season.

There is no doubt that strength training comes in many forms and fashions. There are balls, bands, boxes, bars, bells, plates, and numerous machines. Making sense of them all is much too broad for this article, but in my experience, I have used, tested and experimented with many forms of training. The list below contains those that I have found to be simple and easy to implement, especially for the beginner.

It is hard to reveal the 8 best strength exercises for a tennis player without an understanding that the best exercises are usually those that need a lot of technique work. Though I favor doing back squats, front squats and many variations of the Olympic lifts, I understand that those lifts can only benefit those that can properly learn them. Otherwise, they cause more harm than good without proper supervision and coaching. Therefore, I am leaving some of the most advanced exercises out.  Also, many tennis players are not very experienced in the weight room so one list would not suffice and many good ones would be left out.

That said, the list below is only a START; it is for the beginner and requires little or no weight room experience. This post only deals with the beginner list first, my next post will reveal an intermediate list, and then another that will cover an advanced list.

Single Leg Press

In most fitness clubs, there are always a host of machines, the leg press is one of them and provides the beginner with a great leg workout without having to learn a bunch of technique. Leg strength is paramount in tennis. A player must increase the strength in their legs to move more efficiently for longer periods of time. Also, single limb work is very important for tennis because tennis player almost always have imbalances from their racket side to their non-racket side. The Single Leg Press addresses this issue head on. The exercise allows you to develop leg strength without favoring your racket side.


Simply, put one leg up on the platform, where you are most comfortable, then release the weight and begin. As you descend the weight down, be sure to not let your knee bend internally, instead keep your knee directly in line with ball of your foot. Do not allow your knee to go past your toes while descending. Finally, bring the weight down until your knee is at a 90-degree bend, and push the weight to an almost locked out position.

Continue into the next rep without any hesitation or stoppage of the rep. Start with a lightweight, pump out about 8-10 reps, adding weight each set until you do 4 complete sets. The last set should be tough and coming close to failure.


Another machine that improves the strength in the hips of a tennis player. Abductor muscles in the hip/glutes are responsible for increasing the balance, stability, and strength of side-to-side movement that is so important in the sport.


Technically, the athlete sits in the abduction machine and secures the legs against the resistance arms. From here, the athlete pushes the legs outward against the pads until the legs are wide and far apart as possible. Then ease the legs back together, repeat movement. Do not jerk the weight, or relax during the movement at all. Be in control and feel the hip abductor muscles working.

Do 3 sets of 15 reps, making the last set tough and near failure.


The adduction machine and movement is the direct opposite of the abductor one. During a point, the tennis player finds himself or herself going side to side and adductors stabilize the leg before strikes. Adductors are the groin muscles and are frequently under trained and fatigue, therefore the risk for injury is very high.


Technically, the athlete sits in the adduction machine and secures the legs against the resistance arms. From here, the athlete pushes the legs inward against the pads until the legs are together and then, under control, allow the legs to go as far apart as possible, repeat movement. Do not jerk the weight, or relax during the movement at all. Be in control and feel the hip adductor muscles (the groin) working.

Do 2 sets of 15 reps, making the last set tough and near failure.


The low back muscles and glutes are key stabilizers of the trunk or “core”. The hyperextension exercise works the back erector, glutes, and hamstring muscles. All are key for tennis players to rushing to a drop shot or to hit a shot at the net. These are the sprint and accelerator muscle for the tennis player.


Technique for the athlete is to secure the legs under the ankle pads, and the quads against the upper leg pads. Cross the arms behind the head or across the chest. The body is facing outward and toward the ground throughout the movement. Straighten the whole body, including the legs. From this point, lower the upper body toward the ground until the torso is at approximately a 45-degree angle. This will allow constant and consistent tension in all required muscle groups. From here, extend body until it is straight, squeezing the glutes and hamstring at the top of the rep. Each rep should be controlled, especially on the way down, then quicker going up.

Start with a lightweight, pump out about 10-12 reps, adding weight each set until you do 4 complete sets. The last set should be tough and coming close to failure.

1-DB Upright Row

Most of the upper body motions that tennis players perform are anterior focused, meaning, that skills like serving and forehand works primarily the “front” side of the body. Also, these skills are on one side of the body, so with 1-DB Upright Rows, we hope to balance strength levels out from one side of the shoulders and back to the other.


Technically, the athlete will grab one DB; let it hang at the center of the body at waist height. From there, they will raise the DB, driving the elbow up and outward until the DB is just under the armpit. Repeat the movement, under control, feeling the work on the upper back and side of the shoulder.

Do 3 sets of 15 reps, starting light and adding weight each set, making the last set as difficult as possible without losing technique.

DB High Incline Press

Due to volume of work that the anterior side of the upper body gets, we must prepare it, condition it, and strengthen it to better withstand the loads of practice and competition. Therefore, DB Incline Press is a great exercise to strength the upper chest and front side of the shoulders.


Simply increase the angle of a bench, grab two DB’s, lift the DB’s to the top of the shoulders and press them overhead, lower back to the top of the shoulders, then repeat the press. Do not lock out elbow at the top; keep tension on the shoulders throughout movement.

Do 3 sets of 12, start fairly light, and then progress up in weight each set making last set difficult and near failure.

Seated Rows

This exercise is done on a machine, whether it is a cable or leverage machine, there is support for your upper body. This exercise is a great postural exercise working opposing muscle groups need for tennis. Most upper back, shoulders, and low back pain is due to lack of postural support. Seated Rows help to strengthen the upper back to give the player a much better foundation at which to execute forehands, backhands and serves with better stability.


Technically, the athlete sits in on the seat of the machine, firmly places their chest against the pad (adjust the pad to a comfortable height), and then grabs the handles. Now pull the handles toward you, as the weight gets closer, drive your chest up, flexing the upper back muscles. Slowly return the weight back to starting position, and then repeat the rep.

Do 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Add weight each set and try to do two difficult sets.

Weighted Crunches

Of course, our list would need an abdominal exercise to round it out. Starting with a simple crunch is the best way to go, especially when it’s resisted. Many times we treat abdominal muscles differently than other muscle groups. We train other muscles with resistance, go heavier, and are progressive in our training plans, yet with abs, we want to stick with high rep, no weight, and our plans lack any type of progression where strength is concerned.


With our plan here, we want to load the movement, yet keep good technique. So, simply lie down with your back flat to the floor. Grab a 5 or 10 lb plate and extend your arms straight until the weight is straight above your face. Next lift your feet so your knees are at a 90-degree angle to your body. Keep your chin off your chest at all times. Finally, flex your abs, right at the belly button while driving the weight toward the ceiling. Make sure you are using your abdominal muscles only. The movement is a total of approximately 4 inches.

Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Gym Routine Wrap Up

Tennis is an explosive sport, yet one that is very repetitive and lasts for hours at a time. Better strength levels are important to create a higher potential for explosiveness as well as building a better foundation for movement efficiency and overall conditioning.

If a player isn’t strong enough, his or her movement becomes less efficient and therefore taxes the body much more. Making the player much more tired!

As for our list… There are variations of all of these lifts, all of which are very effective. You can use various bands, selectorized machines, and barbells and execute similar movements. However, the key is to start somewhere and develop some consistency and this list is a great start.

The exercises are easy technically, very fundamental, and basic enough to increase strength enough to progress to the next level of strength training. After a month or so of using this list, then we can move on to an intermediate plan. Stay tuned. Happy Training.



  1. Paul

    I don’t have a gym to go to. What alternatives do you suggest for the above exercises to do at home?

  2. Author
    Dave Plettl

    Body resistance and manual is very effective. For single leg pressing I would substitute step ups. Try to find a step or a box that allows you to go up to a 90-degree bend in your knee. For hyper extensions I would look to do hip bridges, both single leg and double. As for upright row and seated row, use chin ups and pull ups. These can be done at an angle so that you don’t have bear the total body weight load. As for the incline presses use push ups with either the upper body elevated (makes load easier) or feet elevated (makes load heavier). Finally for abduction, use side planks for static hold and for reps. This will engage the hip abductors enough to get a bit stronger. Hope this helps!


  3. Gage Gallagher

    I currently teach high performance tennis at Kavion Intnl. located in So. Orange County, Ca.
    I will be taking my Personal Trainer’s Certification with NASM this week. What might you suggest I take next in a college course that would help me to get these kids tournament tough and make me a better coach/trainer as well.
    Anything to help me better train the kids that are serious about their tennis. It never hurts the resume either.

  4. Dave Plettl

    Gage, I have found the best teacher to be experience and/or being mentored by someone that is where you wish to be. You learn hands on, what works, what doesn’t, and how matches and practices unfold and the various performance factors needed to excel. However, that being said, I believe any class that focuses on the nervous system, muscle contraction, and biomechanics to be most helpful in adding depth to your knowledge and understanding of exercise technique, selection and implementation. Most university’s exercise science and physiology departments have a class or two dealing with these areas specifically. Hope this helps!


    1. Dave Plettl

      Thank you Shrunuya, remember it is a rather simplistic plan to start. The exercises are designed for those that are beginners and have no experience in the weight room. It requires no technique work, yet it strengthens key muscle groups needed for tennis. Strength training should be progressive, with a starting point and a place to go. The place to go will be covered in follow up postings. The intention was to start with the basics of strength, not to give a rehab, prehab, “functional” training, or glorified calisthenics routine. An intermediate routine will be coming soon. Happy Training…


  5. Rajesh

    Hi Dave

    I am in mid 30s and have just get introduced to the amazing game of tennis. I have been learning tennis since last few months. I am facing stamina issues specifically with my legs. Can I also start with these exercises or first concentrate on jogging and other mild workouts.
    Based on your experience, can I develop stamina and play decent tennis.


  6. Dave Plettl

    Rajesh, the answer lies in doing both. Focus on simple, rudimentary strength training exercises like the ones listed in the post. Use controlled rep speed and go to near failure on last rep. This will increase strength moderately, as well as adding strength endurance. Which is a great start for someone like you. Sooner or later, with consistency, you can add more complex, total body exercises. Now add some run conditioning as well. Jogging and striding is best to start in order build a good cardio base without adding any joint and tissue irritations. Tempo runs are great choice to start with. An example of a tempo run is as follows… Stride for 45s, jog for 45s, and walk for 1:30. Repeat until you cover at least 18 minutes to start. Then increase total time as you adapt. Eventually you will have to increase intensity and speed with both weights and running. But for now, I believe this to be a great start for you. Hope this helps.


  7. fulya

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for the great plan!
    How many times a week do you recommend this routine?

  8. Dave Plettl

    Fulya, depends on how many other activities you do or how much daily tennis you play. Typically, the best split is to go 2-3 times per week. Try not to ever go back to back days, giving yourself a day or two in between each workout.


  9. fulya

    Many Thanks Dave! I’m playing at least three times a week (coaching, cardio, match). I’ll go to the US Tennis Congress in a month time. So now I’m trying set a workout routine to be as ready as i can possibly be before the event.
    Your recommendation sounds fine for me. I assume I will be scheduling tennis and workout on the alternating days.

  10. Dave Plettl

    That is correct. Use weight training on days you are not practicing tennis. As you adapt and get more advanced fitness levels, then you can progressively add a fitness/strength workout on a practice day.

  11. Jill

    What kind of footwork exercises could be used by someone with knee issues (meniscus surgery)? I do spin for cardio, but was looking for a footwork that was not just running around a court.
    (52 year old 3.5 player)

  12. Dave Plettl

    Jill, there are a few things you can do, most of which is rather simple. Especially considering your knee issues. I would start with simple multi-directional hopping, both with two-feet and single leg. These can be as simple as hopping in place or for a designated distance using patterns like going forward and back, side to side, diagonal, and/or a combination of each. The key is to remain balanced by staying on the balls of your feet, keeping the ankle fairly rigid and firm, and making ground contacts very quick and repetitive, using very little knee bend. You don’t need much space and the change of direction work should help your game some. Also, try to use the speed ladder some, its pretty simple to hop through, run through, and shuffle through using various footwork patterns. Again, stay balanced, stay on the balls of your feet and keep ankles flexed and tight. You can find one online and they usually come with a manual of drills.

    These couple suggestions are simple, basic, and pretty easy to start with. They will lay some general footwork conditioning for harder and specific agility training in the future. Over time you will need to progress to using drills that promote controlling your body’s momentum which is much more specific to tennis. Hope this helps…


  13. Rick

    What would examples of “drills that promote controlling your body’s momentum” be?

  14. Dave

    Rick, handling your body’s momentum is primarily, yet not exclusive to just getting stronger. The overall stronger an athlete gets, the more likely they can handle their body efficiently with the constant decelerating and accelerating needed for tennis. Though, simple strength training is helpful, I would still recommend simple cone drills that are specific for this particular need. Simply take two cones, space them 7-10 yards apart. Shuttle between them 8-10 times in a row using sprinting, sprinting to back pedaling, shuffling, and Carioca drilling. These short shuttles are so good to simply teach and condition the body to handle itself through different speeds, footwork, and changes of direction.

  15. Luxmithan

    There are some things here that i want to ask: Aren’t Free-weight exercises better than using machines? I read once that Free-weight exercises are generally better for building functional strength(strength needed to perform movements people make in everyday life) which is better for athletes. Isn’t a Bulgarian Split Squat better than a Single Leg Press? Because it builds more functional strength and is less dangerous to the knees. Isn’t it better NOT to train the abductors and adductors separately? Because these Muscles aren’t supposed to work separately. They are supposed to work together with the other muscles in the legs. Isn’t it better to end a workout with an explosive exercise? Athletes end their workout with an explosive exercise for some reason and Bodybuilders do the opposite. And finally: Isn’t it better to do isometric exercises for the core? Recent studies have shown that Isometric Exercises are more effective and cause less injury than dynamic exercises. ”The reason why isometric exercises promote greater core muscle strength gains it that the muscles are engaged for a longer amount of time than they are with dynamic moves—adhering to and confirming the principle of time under tension. Dynamic exercises may be physically challenging because they typically involve greater movement, but that does not guarantee they are safe or effective.”, or something like this i read once. First and foremost, your core exercises should include stability movements, exclusively. These include anti-extension exercises like Planks and Rollouts, anti-rotation exercises like the Pallof Press, and anti-flexion exercises like Suitcase Walks. Besides Crunches and Sit-Ups can be dangerous for your lower back over time. Or am i wrong? Also i think you should have written something about proper warm up and the importance of static stretching after a workout because it IS very important.

    P.S. I am sorry for any grammatical errors. English isn’t my native language.

  16. Dave Plettl

    The article is labeled “beginner” for a reason. The goal is to address a starting point for someone who has very little to no lifting experience. To do this, the best introductory plan has always been to be less technical and less coordinative as possible, leaving us with a rather isolatiive and rudimentary protocol to START. I believe some of your choices are great, especially if I could be present to coach the technique and movement pattern. I agree that free weights and multi-joint movements are the best developers and would’ve incorporated more of those exercises in an “intermediate” type of program. For an advanced and experienced athlete, they would need exercises that are much more challenging and holistic than those presented in the article.

  17. Dr.Lily

    Hello, is playing tennis beneficial at old age and what are preventive measures to take into consideration for warming up and also strengthening exercises for female age 55 with regular walking for 1 hour 3 times a week. Also I am informing about duration for training tennis per week.
    Thanks a lot

  18. Dave Plettl

    Dr.Lily, I believe tennis is for everyone and anytime given certain precautions. Given your situation, preventive measures are best taken before and after playing. Firstly, you must be careful to warm up properly and progress into it. Warming up is best when you get your body’s core temperature up by walking or jogging lightly for 5-6 minutes, choose various dynamic stretches for your movement preparation for about 5-6 minutes, be sure to cover all appropriate muscle groups like your hips, legs, torso, and shoulders, and finally take another 5-6 minutes to lightly go through, at half speed all fundamental tennis movement/skill drills. After about 15-18 minutes, then you can play somewhat more vigorous. Please see the warming up posts in this site for detailed warm ups. They are very helpful and thorough.

    After playing, be sure to “warm down” with static stretching each joint and appropriate muscle groups. This type of stretching has shown its greatest benefit for relaxing traumatized muscles and accelerates their recovery. Also, any type of hydrotherapy is helpful, i.e.: various ice baths, ice massages, and ice wraps on stressed or fatigued areas of the body. Hydrotherapy helps with the body’s ability to remove “waste” and allows the body function better for daily tasks after playing.

    Even with good warm ups, warm downs, or hydrotherapy, I would still progress into the length of your activity levels by starting with playing for 20 minutes for 2 days the first week, then see how you feel and if all feels good, then progress to 30 minutes the following week, then maybe add a day the following week, and so on, until you can play with desired intensity for 50-60 minutes for 3-4 days per week. I have see this approach to be safest, accommodating, and flexible for most. Hope this helps………Dave

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