If you want to play your best tennis and avoid injury you must keep your body primed and your mind sharp. Effective Tennis Warm Up exercises and stretches can get you right in the mood to play your best!
Why is it Important to Warm Up before Playing Tennis?
Whether you’re an experienced tennis player or you’re just starting out, a good warm up before a match or a training session is essential for performance and injury prevention.
One common mistake that many players make is that they don’t pay enough attention to their warm up – which is understandable as everyone is eager to get on court and start hitting balls! On our Tennis Vacations we often get asked ‘How should I warm up before a tennis match?’ or ‘How can I avoid getting injured when playing tennis?’ In this Tennis Warm Up blog, we’ll talk you through a proper warm up routine that not only prepares your body physically, but prevents injury but also helps you focus mentally and get you in the right frame of mind for your match.
Step 1 - Cardio Tennis Warm Up
Cardio is the perfect way to start your tennis warm up. 3-5 minutes of cardiovascular exercise before playing tennis helps to raise your heart-rate, increase blood flow and boost your energy levels. Here are a couple of exercises that we love, to get our blood pumping before tennis.
1. Jogging – begin the session with a gentle jog around the court to get the blood pumping around your body.
2. Jumping Jacks – 1-2 minutes of jumping jacks will help activate your major muscle groups and prepare your cardiovascular system for the intense demands of a tennis match.
3. High Knees – 30 seconds to 1 minute of intense high knees. This will elevate your heart rate and warm up your leg muscles.
Step 2 - Tennis Specific Stretching
Once you’ve got your heart rate going, the next crucial part of your Tennis Warm Up is stretching. Stretching is also crucial for preventing injuries and improving flexibility. Stretching further increases blood flow to the muscles and makes them more elastic and ‘stretchy’. This allows you to move much more freely on court, have a further reach and gives you a much wider range of motion allowing you to hit those ‘djokovic-esque’ backhands!
Dynamic stretches like arm circles, leg swings, and trunk rotations are particularly effective in preparing the body for movement on the tennis court. Whilst static stretches like calf stretches and lunges are very effective in increasing elasticity on the muscles.
Another benefit and arguably the most important benefit of stretching in your Tennis Warm Up is injury prevention. Avoiding injury is absolutely vital to improving as a tennis player. Whether it be a sprained ankle, a torn hamstring or just a cramp, injuries can put you out of training and matches for weeks, months and sometimes even years, halting your progress as a player. Some injuries such as a tennis elbow can be extremely difficult to get rid of at all. Check out our ultimate tennis elbow guide for more information. Doing simple exercises before playing tennis are invaluable in the long term. Also, take a look at our Tennis Injuries Blog here.
Step 3 - Mentally Preparing for your Tennis Match
We often talk about physical preparation but preparing our mind is equally important for success in a tennis match. Whether you’re nervous for your Tennis Match or maybe not fully engaged and focused on the match ahead, using simple mental preparation techniques can calm our nerves, get us ‘in the zone’ and focus our minds. Being focused will bring countless benefits to your game, such as improving your decision making, reaction speed, and your emotional control throughout a tense and narrow match.
A couple of great mental preparation methods that you can use in your Tennis Warm Up include positive self-talk, visualisation, and breathing techniques.
By repeating positive or motivating words to yourself during your Tennis Warm Up you get yourself into a good, positive frame of mind for your match which will lift your nerves, encourage you throughout the match, and increase your confidence meaning that you’ll feel more relaxed and ambitious in your play. An example of what you could say to yourself could be something as simple as ‘I can do this’ or ‘I’m ready’ which just get you in the frame of mind for the game ahead, or even the next point. Try this before you next play tennis and let us know how well this works for you.
Before a tennis match, visualisation can be a powerful tool to help you mentally prepare and excel on the court. Close your eyes and imagine yourself executing the perfect serve – the precise toss, explosive power, and accurate placement. Visualise yourself effortlessly moving around the court, anticipating each shot with lightning-fast reflexes. By imagining these scenarios in lots of detail, you are priming your mind to perform at its best when it’s game time.
Using visualisation can also help you manage nerves and anxiety before a match. Picture yourself feeling calm and composed as you step onto the court. Imagine breathing deeply and slowly to control any pre-match jitters. Visualise overcoming any obstacles or challenges that may arise during the game with confidence and resilience. By rehearsing positive mental states beforehand, you can cultivate an inner sense of belief in your abilities and approach each point with clarity and focus.
Before your next tennis match or on one of our tennis holidays, take a few moments to close your eyes and try this technique and you’ll be amazed by how much it impacts your mental game.
If you struggle with nerves before a big tennis match, then using breathing techniques are a great way of settling those nerves. Before stepping onto the tennis court, taking a few moments for a breathing exercise can make all the difference in your performance. Deep breathing exercises not only help to calm and focus your mind but also prepare your body for the physical demands of a match.
One effective technique that we recommend is called diaphragmatic breathing.
– Simply, inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to rise as if filling it with air.
– Then exhale slowly through your mouth, imagine releasing any tension or stress from your body.
– Repeat this cycle several times, allowing yourself to relax and enter a state of mental clarity.
Next time you’re performing your tennis warm up for a much-anticipated tennis match, or maybe on one of our tennis holidays, try a couple of these mental preparation techniques. You’ll feel more focused on each point and more confident to take on challenging scenarios in the match. In a tennis match you have 25 seconds between each point, so use that time to slow down, and mentally prepare for the next point.
Step 4 - Tennis Specific Exercises
Shadow Swings – stand in the middle of the court with your racket and mimic hitting your groundstrokes, your serve and your volleys. This helps to warm up the specific muscle groups that you will be using during the match as well as helping muscle memory.
Throwing/Catching exercises – before actually starting to hit, just throwing and catching a tennis ball over the net to your partner is a great way to get your eye in and improve your coordination before even picking up a racket.
Here’s a of great warm up game that we love to play on our Tennis Vacations:
1. Get yourself into pairs and grab 1 tennis ball
2. Find a service box (or equivalent sized area)
3. Throw the ball up to shoulder height somewhere in the area
4. The ball can only bounce once, try to move your partner around
If you’ve been on one of our Tennis Vacations before, you may remember our 3 stage Tennis Warm Up. To begin our first session on our tennis holidays we always start with these 3 steps.
Get into pairs and stand about a metre either side of the net. Touch the ball over the net aiming for a drop-shot type feeling. Try to keep your racket very still and focus on your footwork. This helps to engage and focus you ahead of the game. Beginning with this touch warm up also gets us practising the touch skills needed for drop-shots and volleys.
Move back to the service line and start hitting with your partner from there. The key here is to have a short backswing and have a long follow through. Make sure you are still keeping your feet moving.
Go back to the baseline now and hit with your partner cross court. Increase the pace of your racket and try to hit the ball high over the net and try to find some sneaky angles.
The reason we recommend this 3 stage warm up is to practise different types of shot that we will play in a tennis match. It also gives us a focus and structure to our warm up instead of just an aimless ‘knock-up’ that we see so often in club tennis. Make sure to practise some volleys and serves as well so you’re fully prepared to play your best tennis!
Next time you step on court, remember to follow our 4 simple steps to an effective Tennis Warm Up:
1. 2-3 minutes of cardio to get the blood pumping
2. Dynamic stretches to increase flow and flexibility
3. Prepare yourself mentally, using Visualisation, Positive Self-Talk and Breathing Techniques
4. Tennis Specific exercises including Shadow Swings, Throwing and Catching exercises, and hitting – practising groundstrokes, volleys and serves.
Whether it be on one of our Tennis Vacations, or in a vital singles match at your club, take a few extra minutes to prepare yourself physically and mentally before your next match, and see the difference in your performance. By incorporating dynamic stretches, cardio exercises, and specific tennis drills into your warm-up routine, you can improve your agility, flexibility, and reaction time on the court. Your body will thank you!