9th January, 2020

How top tennis players stay in peak condition

As Melbourne gears up for the Australian Open, you might find yourself wondering how tennis players stay fit?

As Melbourne gears up for the Australia Open, you might find yourself wondering how tennis players — including our Australian stars like Ash Barty and Alex de Minaur, and some of the game’s legends like Roger Federer — stay fit. What do they do on a day-to-day basis and in the gym to make sure they see results that deliver when they’re on the tennis court?

Even though tennis isn’t a contact sport, it can still be brutal on the body and requires a lot out of an athlete. Matches can take hours. Tournaments take place year-round, without any lengthy rest period in between. In many cases, pro tennis players can spend up to four hours a day training, but that four hours is just playing tennis, on top of everything else they do to stay fit.

1. A healthy, well balanced diet

Tennis players need to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet to ensure their bodies are well fuelled for their heavy training and match workload. 

By ensuring a steady intake of the following nutrients, tennis players are not just fuelled for on-court performance, but recovery as well: 

Omega 3 aids recovery and reduces inflammation – is found in fish and nuts. 

Protein aids in the growth, repair and recovery of muscles – is found in chicken and other red meat as well as eggs. 

Calcium promotes bone development and muscle function – is located in milk, yoghurt and almonds.

Iron transports oxygen around the body is found in red meat. 

2. Working on Your Endurance

Tennis matches can be long. Endurance is required. However, it’s not the same endurance you might need if you were running a marathon. Instead of being able to expend a steady amount of energy for an extended amount of time, you need to be able to expend bursts of high energy combined with brief rest periods for an extended amount of time. Tennis is therefore more anaerobic in nature, because the player is expending a huge amount of energy in a short amount of time, and then returning to rest. 

Because of this, many tennis athletes find HIIT exercises to be helpful. HIIT exercises are all about combining a quick burst of hard work with a rest period, and most HIIT routines require a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2 (or, in other words, work to your maximum capacity for 30 seconds, then rest for 60 seconds). The exercises that you do during that 30 seconds can vary, but a lot of times they’re cardio exercises such as sprinting, cycling or rowing. 

3. Whole-body workouts

Lastly, tennis players have to particularly look out for accidentally working out just one side of their bodies. This not only leads to an imbalance, it also can lead to injury if you’re overworking one side of your body and not the other. Because of this, professional tennis athletes might work on useful exercises that work out both sides, such as kettlebell swings.