It goes without saying that the best way to improve your tennis game is to play consistently, but carving out time to make a trip to a tennis court is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes the weather may be prohibitive, and other times it's just the hectic pace of everyday life that squeezes the playing time right out of our schedules. So how do you make the best of it when you're unable to get out on the tennis court? Below are some handy tennis drills you can do at home to help keep your game sharp, even when you're off the court.
1. Shadow Swinging
Most of us are familiar with the term "shadow boxing", where a boxer will practice his/her punches in front of a mirror to perfect their form. The same principle can be applied to your tennis strokes as well. Stand in front of a mirror (leaving room for your swing, obviously) and practice your groundstrokes, both forehand and backhand. Feel free to swing at a slightly slower and more deliberate pace, so that you can assess every aspect of your stroke. Take note of important technical details such as foot placement, hip and shoulder movement, and proper weight transfer during the swinging motion. If you have a decent grasp of the difference between good and bad form, you will be able to properly analyze your stroke and pinpoint any areas where you might need to improve. You can even take things beyond shadow swinging if you've got access to a wall and some space. Read Five Seasons member Mark Wright's blog post about "Tennis for One" here.
2. The String Catch
This drill will really help you refine your "finesse" when it comes to handling your racket and judging ball velocity. With racket in hand, toss a ball up in the air with your free hand, and attempt to "catch" the ball on your racket strings, with as little bounce as possible. Your goal is to completely stop the momentum of the ball to where it ends up resting on your strings, almost as if the racket is a "safety net" that catches the ball. Most of the time you will need to lower your racket in sync with the speed of the falling ball in order for you to catch it without it bouncing off the strings. This drill will help you understand the "soft touch" needed for more specialized shots such as drop volleys. If you've never done it before, it will definitely be challenging at first, but becoming proficient at this simple drill will do wonders for your hand-eye coordination and overall dexterity.
It is no secret that the most successful tennis players in the world routinely work out with weights in order to target and strengthen certain muscles that are frequently used during game play. If you have a basic pair of dumbbells, you can do the following exercises to help improve your strength and athleticism:
- Dumbbell rows: Great for strengthening your rear shoulder and upper back muscles, as well as your biceps.
- Dumbbell squats: Builds your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, all of which help you to execute explosive movements on the court.
- Crunches and planks: Both of these exercises build the critical core strength that you need to stabilize your body when performing a wide range of movements.
- Push-ups: Much of the power behind a strong forehand can be attributed to the tricep, chest, and front shoulder (anterior deltoid) muscles, all of which are targeted and strengthened by regularly performing push-ups.
- Plyometric jumps: Will help you to perform explosive movements from a static position, a critical factor during matches.
- Dumbbell curls: Strengthens the biceps, which will help improve your swing speed.
4. Stretch, Stretch, Stretch
Flexibility is an absolute must if you want to be a solid tennis player. Top-ranking, ultra-flexible tennis pros may stretch three or four times a day, averaging 30 minutes per stretching session. Not only does stretching increase flexibility and strengthen your connective tissue, but it also helps to prevent injuries.
5. Practice Your Ball Toss
Your serve is one of the most important parts of your game, and it is the only stroke in tennis that is completely within your control. Most pros will tell you that a good serve comes from a good ball toss, so practicing your serve toss is an extremely worthwhile drill to perform. Make sure to use visualization, so that you treat each ball toss as if it's actually happening on the tennis court (even though you may be in your living room). It may even help to place some masking tape on the floor to create a mock "baseline" for your practice.
6. Become a Student of the Game
Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of player development. If you want to excel at playing tennis, you must study the players who have achieved greatness in the game. Watch videos of seasoned pros and study their playing habits. Take note of how they vary their approach based on who they're playing against. Read online tennis guides, study various tennis strategies, and learn from those who have years of experience under their belt. This is more of a mental exercise, but any accomplished player will tell you that the mental aspect of tennis is the most important element to develop.
Using the above tips can help you not only improve your tennis game, but also build your confidence as a tennis player. Many times it is the dedication that you show off the court that determines your on-court effectiveness. Put these tips into practice, and watch your tennis game go to the next level!