Emerging American tennis star Taylor Fritz is known for her big hits on the court. He pulled off the fastest serve in the 2020 US Open at 147 mph and will look to top that when this year’s tournament kicks off in New York on Monday. The power to crush a ball at this speed is generated by lower-body strength, says Gena Ball, a Los Angeles-based strength and conditioning trainer with the American Tennis Association who works with Mr. Fritz. “You want to use the larger muscles in the body, the legs, to produce the initial power flow through the trunk, shoulders and hands,” she says.
Tennis requires an athlete to be strong, agile, powerful and coordinated. “These are a lot of short, quick movements that you need to be able to repeat for hours,” says Ms. Ball. “You really don’t take more than four steps in any direction. You need power to be able to hit any ball from any location on the pitch. It is often the difference between winning and losing.
The type of physical power needed in tennis comes from the ability to perform force-based movements quickly, says Ball. Even if you are not an athlete, training to build power is important. As we age, the muscle power of our body decreases. “Being more powerful increases our reaction time, which can help us recover if we trip or fall,” she says. “And exercises that help build power improve bone density, which may reduce the risk of fractures in older people.” This eight-exercise workout is designed to help build strength and power. At first, focus on good technique rather than heavy weight, and gradually increase the weight as you master the exercises. Many of these exercises will also increase your heart rate, providing a cardio workout.
Crouch to press
Why: This exercise builds strength and power from the lower body to the core and ends in the upper body, says Ball. “The squat to press is a functional movement for everyday living, but it will also help improve vertical force production, which is necessary for good tennis serve,” she says.
How: Begin standing with dumbbells at shoulder height. The palms should face each other. Squat down, sit on your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you push up to a standing position, press the dumbbells directly above your head. Maintain a high spine and try to generate power from the hips to support the weight above your head. Shoulder stability at the top is important. If you feel wobbly, reduce the weight. Complete two to three sets of 10 reps.