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Strengthening Various Muscle Groups


Basic Strength Training Exercises for Overall Muscle Conditioning

During the past few years, endurance athletes in a number of sports have added resistance exercises to their training programs to boost their muscle power. Scientific studies have linked resistance training with a reduced rate of injury in athletes. It fortifies leg muscles and strengthens weak links' in athletes' bodies, including the often-injured hamstrings and shin muscles, as well as abdominal and low-back muscles.

Resistance work also improves tendon and ligament strength and increases bone density, which decreases the risk of injury.

Strengthening Various Muscle Groups

All parts of the body can benefit from building strength, players should key on these specific areas:

Table 1 Basic Strength Training Exercises for Overall Muscle Conditioning for Tennis & Golf
Nautilus Exercise Muscles Addressed Effect on Swing Dumbbell Exercise
Leg extension Quadriceps Power production Step-up
Leg curl Hamstrings Power production Lunge
Leg press Quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles Power production Squat
Low back Erector spinae Force transfer-lower to upper body Back extension (bodyweight)
Abdominal curl Rectus abdominis Force transfer-lower to upper body Trunk curl (bodyweight)
Rotary torso Internal obliques, External obliques Force transfer-lower to upper body Bench press
Chest crossover Pectoralis major Swing action Bench press
Super pullover Latissimus dorsi Swing action One-arm bent row
Lateral raise Deltoids Swing action Lateral raise
Biceps curl Biceps Club/racket control Standing curl
Triceps extension Triceps Club/racket control Overhead triceps extension
Super forearm flexion Forearm flexors Club/racket control Wrist curl
Super forearm extension Forearm extensors Club/racket control Wrist extension

Table 2 Changes Experienced by Players Following Eight Weeks of Training
Factors Strength training only (N = 52) Strength training only and stretching (N = 25) All participants (N = 77)
Club/racket head speed (mph) +2.6 +5.2 +3.4
Body weight (lb) -0.7 +1.0 -0.2
Percent fat -2.3 -1.7 -2.0
Fat weight (lb) -4.6 -3.0 -4.1
Lean (muscle) weight (lb) +3.9 +4.0 +3.9
Mean blood pressure (mmHg) -4.4 -4.8 -4.5
Muscle strength (lb) +56 +56 +56

After eight weeks of strength training, the players in these studies made significant improvements in their driving power, as indicated by faster club/racket head speeds. As shown in table 2, the players also replaced four pounds of fat with four pounds of muscle, increased their muscle strength by almost 60 percent, and reduced their resting blood pressure by more than 4 mmHg. Even more impressive, the players who also strength trained and did stretching exercises experienced twice as much increase in club/racket head speed as well as a 30 percent improvement in overall joint flexibility.

These results should be compelling for players who want to play better, look better, feel better, and avoid injuries. It is encouraging to note that all the players who completed the strength training program remained injury-free throughout the entire tournament season. Furthermore, most reported a higher overall level of play, with less fatigue and more energy than they had experienced in many years. Clearly, sensible strength training is beneficial for both the player and the game.

The basic program of strength exercise is simple, short, and easy to complete. We recommend that players do one set each of 13 exercises, for a total of just 13 training sets per session. Use a resistance that permits between 8 and 12 repetitions performed at a controlled speed through a full movement range. When 12 repetitions are completed in good form, increase the weight load by 5 percent or less. The entire strength workout should take about 25 minutes, three days a week. The latest studies have shown about 90 percent of the benefit can be realized from only two strength training sessions per week, however, which is good news for time-pressured people and active players.

With these facts in mind, here are your basic guidelines for a beginning strength training program:

  • Perform one exercise for each major muscle group for overall and balanced muscle conditioning.
  • Perform one set of each exercise.
  • Use a resistance that lets you complete between 8 and 12 repetitions.
  • Increase the resistance by 5 percent or less upon reaching 12 good repetitions.
  • Perform every repetition at a controlled speed, typically two seconds for the lifting phase and four seconds for the lowering phase.
  • Perform every repetition through a full range of joint movement (as long as you do not experience discomfort in doing so).
  • Strength-train two or three nonconsecutive days per week.
  • Keep a record of each workout to monitor your training progress.

Generally speaking, this program should produce noticeable changes in your muscle strength and body composition within one month. After two months of training, you should be about 50 to 60 percent stronger on your exercise weight loads. You should also replace up to four pounds of fat with four pounds of muscle, which should help you look, feel, and function much better than before you started training. Your fat/ muscle changes can be assessed best by body composition tests, typically performed with skinfold calipers. You also should notice firmer muscles in your legs, arms, and upper body, in addition to more slack in your waistband.

We recommend that your strength training program become a standard component of your lifestyle. Even when you achieve a high level of muscle conditioning, regular strength training is necessary to maintain your physical capacity and performance ability.