Tennis and other racket sports professionals have served up some tremendous serves in recent years, with the fastest ever hit topping out at 163.4 mph and serves in the 150 mph range becoming attainable goals. Seeing the kind of explosive power the pros can pack into their swings may leave you mystified as to how you can achieve that kind of serving speed for yourself. But if you’re putting all of your training into building your arms and shoulders, you may be neglecting one of your most important muscle groups. Core exercises are one of the essential items in any conditioning routine.
Along with perfecting your footwork, conditioning is among the best ways to improve tennis game. If you choose the right exercises, that is.
So to take your game to the next level, make the following moves a part of your regular regimen.
1. The Trunk Rotation
A large percentage of the force of a serve is generated by the twisting actions of the legs, hips, trunk, and shoulders. So while this is happening, the muscles of the core are both generating force and helping you to maintain the stability that you need to make solid a solid impact.
That makes trunk rotations one of the best tennis exercises for conditioning. There are a few variations of the exercise, but the simplest is the bodyweight trunk rotation.
- Start by laying on your back on an exercise mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders and upper body firmly against the floor as well.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and slowly rotate your knees to one side while maintaining control of them. Your feet will shift but should remain on the floor. You may stretch your arms outwards and press them into the floor to help maintain balance during movement.
- Hold the position for 3 to 5 seconds, and then engage your core to repeat the movement in the opposite direction. Hold for another 3-5 seconds. This is one rep.
Repeat the exercise for a set number of reps, remembering to stay focused and breathe normally during the entire exercise. Once you’ve mastered the basic bodyweight trunk rotation, you can graduate to using weights or elastic bands to increase the resistance as needed.
2 The Bicycle
We’re not talking about taking your literal bike out on the trail. Instead, bicycles are a classic core building exercise that goes like this:
- Lay on your back with your fingers interlaced behind your head. Keeping your lower back pressed against the floor, draw your knees up to your chin.
- Extend one leg outward. While doing so, twist your torso and try to touch your knee with the opposite elbow.
- Repeat the movement with the opposing leg and elbow. This is one rep.
Bicycles can be a tricky exercise for beginners. Try to keep both shoulder blades off the floor, with only your lower back resting on the ground.
3. Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises work a lot like classic situps but in reverse. Your upper body remains stationary while you raise your legs upwards toward you.
- To begin, grab an overhead bar like a chin-up bar with a firm, overhand grip.
- Tilt your pelvis forward, bringing your knees upward as though you were going to touch your own elbows. Round your lower back as much as possible to increase the activation of your lower abdominals and reduce the amount of work being done by your hips.
- Hold the position for a count, and then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position. This is one rep.
There are multiple variations of the leg raise that can increase the intensity or target specific abdominal groups. Master this basic movement first before attempting more difficult versions.
Improving Your Game With the Right Core Exercises
Delivering a powerful serve requires the coordination of your legs, hips, abdominals, shoulders, and arm. Practicing these core exercises not only lets you increase your raw power output but gives you the physical stability you need for all of the body parts to work in concert.
But strengthening your core is only one aspect of building a strong racket sport physique. To make sure that you’re developing all your necessary muscle groups evenly, check out these five top workouts for building a court-ready body.