Tennis as a Legitimate Muscle-Building Workout

Medically reviewed by — Research analysis by Alex Eriksson

A typical game of tennis features a lot of explosive movements as well as the need for endurance, so it is safe to say that it’s similar to a cross-training workout. The simple fact that pros such as Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can record speeds of up to 140 miles per hour on a regular basis for their serves consistently over two hour matches is an impressive feat.

By looking at these aforementioned players’ frames, again it’s safe to assume that as much as contemporary fitness fads like high intensity interval training (HIIT) and dance cardio classes are good, there’s a certain total body sculpting aspect to tennis. Add that to the fact that the sport also focuses on flexibility, balance, and footwork, and it becomes a viable anabolic workout.

In terms of anabolic movements, some of the first exercises that come to mind are rows, presses, and curls; basically everything included in Justin Grinnell’s article on Muscle and Fitness. However, it’s easy to forget how tennis is a great and fun activity for people who want stay in shape.

So whether the plan is to build muscles, or improve stamina, or even achieve a toned physique, there are specific guidelines when it comes to excellent form. In addition to giving you tips on transforming fat into muscle, here at Anabolic Health, we will also provide a handful of reasons on why tennis is a legitimate full body workout.

It Improves Flexibility and Stability

Just like any other sport, tennis requires players to warm up and stretch to prevent injuries and increase their range of motion. While some opt for traditional stretching methods, others integrate yoga and Pilates aspects. For one, the ancient Indian practice helped Andy Murray recover from a potentially career-ending back surgery last year. Also, something like a rocker or wobble balance board helps athletes in terms of core stability.

It Makes You Light on Your Feet

The aforementioned Rafael Nadal is a prime example of a tennis player who has the physique, power, and speed of an elite athlete. However, his muscular build isn’t a hindrance to his speed on the court, his impeccable footwork, and his fast reflexes. Tennis website Play Your Court even published a video of one of his practice sessions at the Monte Carlo Masters. The video shows how nimble he is across the court regardless of his muscular frame because of the many movement-based drills he goes through everyday in training.

It Builds Leg and Arm Strength

For some pros the best way to build leg strength is by taking the simplest route and putting in the roadwork. For instance, Caroline Wozniacki took part in the famous New York City Marathon as a way to challenge herself and get in better shape. When it comes to the arms, the important thing is to cultivate lean strength rather than bulk. With this, athletes should generally focus on low weights with high reps and sets.

Ultimately, although this isn’t your quintessential anabolic workout, the sport has certain qualities, benefits that make it a worthwhile endeavor for almost everyone. Other than the ideas of developing core muscles, improving agility, and building overall strength, tennis is – at its core – a fun racket sport to play with a friend, a family member, or just about anyone you meet on the court.​

Alex Eriksson (Research Analysis)

Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research-backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.

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