Developing fundamental movement skills in tennis players

12 de February, 2021

By: Nicolas Paccione

Nowadays, when it comes to building an efficient workout for tennis players, several
factors must be considered. Not only it is important to work towards the improvement of
tennis skills (serve, backhand, volley) and physical skills (strength, endurance, power,
speed) but also towards the improvement of the fundamental movement skills (mobility
and stability), which are necessary to foster the safe development of the first and second
skills mentioned.

By safe development we mean that the training of the movement skills positively impacts
on performance –as movement quality improves– and on the incidence of injuries -as it
decreases as the season finishes.

Optimum Performance Pyramid:

From Movement Fundamentals to Sport-specific skills:

This picture depicts the importance of fundamental movements –at the base of the pyramid– as the basis to foster the development of movement skills –in the middle of the pyramid– and of technique and sport skills –at the top of the pyramid. Following this approach, we design a tennis player’s training based on movement acquisition.
In our everyday work, we meet tennis players that have strong specific skills but lack proper fundamental movement patterns – limited joint mobility, stability, flexibility, among others.
This causes several alterations and compensations that, in turn, lead to a reduction in both performance and motor control, and increase the risk of certain injuries.

Mobility vs. Stability: Which body structures are designed to carry out each of them?

This picture illustrates what Grey Cook and Michael Boile call the “joint by joint” approach, and makes reference to the primary need for stability and mobility of each joint.
According to this approach, certain joints need to be more stable –which means they are able to resist movement and having higher motor control–, whereas other joints need to be more mobile –they have a greater range of motion and flexibility. Therefore, if one of them cannot perform its function properly, the nearby joints will suffer the consequences.
A case in point is the interaction between hip and dorsal spine. We know these two areas have a primary function: mobility. During tennis, one of the movements in which these articulations are involved is the backhand stroke –which requires rotation. What happens if the so mentioned joints are not able to perform the twist that is needed to hit a backhand? Most probably, another part of our body that is not prepared for such a movement will do the rotation. This is one of the most common causes of injury.
Our role as kinesiologists and tennis fitness trainers is oriented not only to the development of our students’ sport-specific skills –such as getting more power in serves and improving reaction time–, but also to the strengthening of their fundamental movements with a view to reduce INJURY risk factors and help them boost their tennis performance.


    • Cook, G. (2010). Movement. Functional Movement Systems. California: On Target Publications.
    • Peña, G., Heredia, JR., Segarra, V (2014). Functional Movement Screen (FMS) a la palestra: ¿Qué nos dice la ciencia?. G-SE.
    • Martínez, Antonio (2015) Perfil preventivo deportivo: Una herramienta de valoración funcional