Fundamentals of tennis fitness training - fitness conditioning

Having the ability to recover well and stay physically ‘up’ during a tennis match is a matter of doing the right training.


In tennis you repeat hundreds of quick, short, explosive moves over long periods of time, sometimes several hours in a long three-set match. The 2012 Australian Open Men's Final, between Novak Djokavic and Rafael Nadal was a gargantuan display of physical power, agility and endurance, the two players slogged it out for a gruelling 5 hours 53 minutes. Conditioning your body with intermittent cardiovascular training will have you bouncing around between points whilst others may be fading away.

Tennis players need more than just power and strength, they also have to have the endurance to sustain long rallies and long matches. Thus they need to do tennis conditioning to help them develop their endurance. To develop your endurance, ideally you should do a 30-minute cardiovascular activity 1-3 times a week. The level of intensity depends on your fitness level. For beginners, the level should be lower.

Here are a few recommended exercises to improve your tennis fitness conditioning. Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before performing these.

NOTE: It’s not advisable to do lengthy cardiovascular exercise before any match.

Rabbit runs

Perform this on a tennis court. Begin on the baseline, sprint as fast as you can to the net and shuffle backwards. Perform these sprints at maximum intensity 10 times and rest for 2-3 minutes before starting the drill again. Repeat 2-3 times. Perform this drill 1-2 times per week. Record your time and see if you can improve over a few weeks.

Slow, long distance run

This is a great drill to do at the end of an on-court session or at the end of a gym-session.

Run for 20mins at 70% of your maximum intensity/speed. This can be done on a treadmill or around an oval. Perform this 1-2 times per week.

Triple threat circuit!

The perfect way to end a strength session in the gym or to perform indoors when it’s a wet day. This workout is done in a circuit format.

Pick three difference pieces of cardio equipment e.g. rowing machine, treadmill & stationary bike. Complete 3mins of work on each machine with a 1min rest in between changing from one machine to the next. Perform this sequence three times. Record your distances for each. Keep a record of your results so you can aim to improve over time.

Martin Method 1.2km MAS

You’ll need a stopwatch/timer for this one… and maybe a friend to hold your hand at the end!

Mark out 10m, 20m & 30m on a tennis court or oval. Run to the 10m marker and back, run to the 20m marker and back and then run to the 30m marker and back. You need to get one foot over the line. Do not stop and rest at each marker at each end. You need to change direction at each marker as fast as possible and keep running. Make sure you alternate what foot you are pushing off each end. All running is forward facing. Complete 10 sets (total of 1.2km) without stopping (continuous running). When finished the 10 continuous sets, stop the timer and record your time. 

Have questions or want to learn more about how you can achieve your optimum physical fitness? Then why not get in touch with me here.

Mark Jones