Tennis is a very physically demanding sport that requires a significant amount of stamina and endurance. If you're looking to increase tennis endurance, remember, not all endurance exercises are created equal. The type of movements your muscles are required to perform in a tennis game will vary greatly from that of most other sports. Running a marathon requires you to maintain a steady pace over long distances, but in the average tennis game, you will repeatedly perform dozens of short, explosive movements that require you to start or stop your momentum at the drop of a hat. In order to develop proficiency in these types of short burst movements, you'll need to adopt an approach to endurance training that is somewhat "tennis-specific." Below are some highly effective exercises you can use to work on tennis endurance.
1. Spider Drills
If you've ever watched a spider creating its web, you'll notice that it will start from and return to the same point, no matter which direction it decides to extend its web. The spider drill mimics this type of movement, as you will always return to your original starting point before going to the next point during the drill.
Stand at the center mark, directly on the baseline, facing the net. Start by turning to your right and sprinting along the baseline until you reach the singles sideline. Touch the sideline with your foot and then immediately return to the center mark. Do the same thing with the singles sideline on the opposite side of the court, quickly returning to the center mark again. Next, sprint diagonally to your right until you reach the corner where the right-hand singles sideline meets the service line. Touch this corner with your foot, return to the center mark, and then sprint diagonally to your left until you reach the corner formed by the left-hand singles sideline and the service line. Return again to the center mark, and then sprint straight ahead until you touch the point where the center line meets the service line (a.k.a. the "T"). Once you have returned to the center mark from this point, you will have completed the drill.
Your ability to quickly decelerate and stop your momentum is just as important as your ability to burst forward to begin the sprint. You'll need to become proficient at both elements of the drill, as this will train your muscles to mimic the movements that you'll frequently perform during a real tennis match. Developing this type of control over your momentum will prevent you from stumbling or overshooting your stopping points, which can often make or break a point during tennis matches. Spider drills help to develop stamina in your quadriceps and hamstring muscles, both of which help to create (and stop) explosive movements.
2. Short, High-Intensity Sprints
During a tennis match, your muscles actually perform movements that are more anaerobic in nature than aerobic. This means that the ability to consistently create bursts of explosive movement is paramount to developing endurance for demanding tennis matches. High-intensity sprints are one of the best exercises you can perform to improve your stamina for multiple short-burst movements. Sprint as fast as you can for roughly 15 seconds, and then rest for about 45 seconds before repeating. Keeping your rest periods short will help to maintain the proper work-to-rest ratio needed to train appropriately for high-intensity tennis matches.
3. Lunges and Planks
In order to develop optimal movement and endurance, two of the most important areas of the body to train are your legs and your core. Although there are a myriad of exercises that can be done to train both areas, hardly any beat basic lunges for your legs, and planks for your core. For lunges, use relatively light dumbbells and vary the direction in which you lunge with each set. For example, you may start out lunging directly in front of you for 15 reps, but on the next set, turn 45 degrees to your right and lunge in that direction for 15 reps, then 45 degrees to your left for another 15 reps. Keep your rear foot stationary, using it as a pivot foot for each direction of your lunges. This will work your muscles in a manner that simulates the demand placed on your legs in an actual tennis match.
For the planks, you will need to position your body similar to a push-up, facing the floor with legs fully extended, but resting on your elbows instead of your hands. Your goal will be to hold that position, using only your elbows and toes for support, for at least 30 seconds before resting. Make sure to keep your head lowered, looking straight down, to avoid straining your neck. Performing several sets of this exercise will strengthen your core, which is absolutely critical for maintaining proper body control and endurance on the court.
Endurance is not developed after only one exercise session; you will need to consistently apply these tips in order to incrementally increase your stamina over the long haul. Just be patient with yourself and commit to diligently applying the tips above, and you will begin to notice a significant difference in your ability to perform at optimal levels for longer periods of time.