Tennis – The 10 best exercises for prehab and rehabilitation


Tennis is a fast action sport requiring great power, stamina and flexibility. It attracts sports men and women of some of the highest calibre and is a great spectator sport both live and on television. Due to the demands of the sport, injury is not uncommon. The most well know tennis injury is of course tennis elbow, but the back, shoulder, wrist and ankle are also prone to injury. Strategies to reduce and prevent injury are vital in all sports, especially in tennis. Here are some great exercises to help prehab or rehabilitate ready for a great match of tennis:

Exercise 1. Thoracic rotation

This is a great warm up exercise. It helps loosen the shoulder, neck and spine through a gentle rotation. Having a good range of motion in this exercise is key to having the flexibility to reach a wide range of shots and being able to generate power on the ball.

Exercise 2. Windmill

Another great warm up exercise with a focus on getting the back looser through a large range of flexion and rotation. Start slowly and build up the momentum as you warm up.

Exercise 3. Wide lateral alternate hop

Tennis involves lots of varied movement in all directions, especially side stepping and lunging. This exercise can be done as a gentler warm up exercise, or as a larger hopping action to build strength in this movement pattern.

Exercise 4. Resisted scapula control in closed chain against wall

This is an excellent stability exercise to work on strength in the supporting muscles of the shoulder blade and rotator cuff. Having good muscle control here will help look after your wrist and elbow as well. An important exercise to consider in the recovery from a lot of upper limb injuries, or to help prevent them in the first instance.

Exercise 5. Resisted Pull downs in stand

Another exercise using a resistance band. This sequence helps to develop strength with your shoulder in the overhead position – excellent for perfecting those smash shots!

Exercise 6. Resisted high row with external rotation

The final exercise with a band for the shoulder. This targets strength in the rotator cuff as well as working on upper limb stability.

Exercise 7. Wrist extension with dumbbell

The muscles affected in tennis elbow are in the wrist and forearm- they then travel up with the tendon inserting at the side of the elbow. They can become irritated from overuse, especially in tennis, where a lot of high velocity actions are required in the upper limb. Working on slow controlled muscle strength in the wrist helps keep the wrist and forearm strong and able to withstand more of the higher impact tennis shots.

Exercise 8.  Lateral lunge with medicine ball

Great for building strength in the lower limb, particularly targeting the gluteal and quadricep muscles. Choose a weight that is suitable to your ability. This can also be done just as a bodyweight exercise or with dumbbells / kettlebells as a replacement for the medicine ball.

Exercise 9. Reverse lunge into explosive hop

This is a great exercise to replicate the action of dashing to the back of the court before having the explosive action of coming forward, back into position. Practicing this will develop the strength needed for this tricky action and get you returning the ball with aplomb rather than limping off court with an injury.

Exercise 10. Lateral hop and hold

Similar in respect to some of the other lateral exercises (numbers 3 + 8), but with a focus on the balancing action to ensure you develop good stability as well; another important aspect of fitness.

The above exercises are recommendations to consider for tennis and are undertaken at your own risk. If you require any further guidance or assessment of an injury we recommend booking in with one of our physiotherapy team, who would be more than happy to help.

Steve Canning

Clinical Director & Senior Physiotherapist

Steve is the Clinical Director and a Senior Physiotherapist at the White House clinic and has worked at the clinic since 2005. He qualified with a BSc in Physiotherapy from Sheffield Hallam University in 2002.

Steve Canning

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