How to Improve Mobility in Tennis

22 de April, 2020

Author: Esteban García Giménez

Tennis is a sport that requires to make split-second decisions. It requires players to reach their full potential and make high precision movements- even the slightest execution mistake can make them fail. No matter your level of competition, during fitness training you can improve one of the most important aspects of all: mobility.


The importance of mobility

Mobility is an important ability mostly forgotten during tennis fitness training. When we say “mobility” we are talking about the player’s ability to move along the court and get into position to hit the ball. The goal of any tennis lesson should be that the player uses a good stance to hit each ball. It does not matter if the ball is far or close to the player, if it is part of a twenty shot rally or the first shot following the serve, if it is right when the match starts or three hours later: a player needs strength, endurance, speed and coordination to get into position. We need to work on each of these skills in the gym or on the court, and at the same time, they should also be integrated as a whole to be improved on the tennis court, along with other skills that provoke changes in our motor engram. Speed, endurance and strength are useless if the player is in a poor position to hit the ball.


Coordinated movements

In order to acquire complex coordinated movements such as moving along a tennis court, specially at the beginning, we will need engrams. Learning processes take place in the central nervous system. They are some sort of movement and technique mental construction. Then, the engrams, patterns or blueprints are translated into movement. There are two types of engrams: motor and sensory. The sensory engram is what we know as feed-back. It gathers all necessary information to modify – or not, our movements and is closely linked to our previous experiences. The motor engram originates from a specialized motor-action that is performed several times, creating patterns of movement. Those patterns determine how we move our bodies through space – or rather, on the tennis court. Motor and sensory engrams work together complementing each another.



In order to improve tennis mobility of professionals players on court, we use several methods that have given excellent results along the years. The objective is to use medicine balls, resistance bars and a punching pad, or do shadow drills instead of using a racket and a ball. The goal is to reduce stimuli in order to simplify the movements (sensory engram). There are other factors, such as the length of each drill, the intensity and the weight of the medicine ball that can help us reach physical objectives- strength, resistance, coordination, etc. If we use the right technique to do repetitions, our footwork technique improves (motor engram). That is why we have to work on mobility during fitness training—outside tennis sessions. This should not replace the coach’s work but complement it.



We can see Uruguayan tennis player Pablo Cuevas performing a mobility drill with a 35 oz medicine ball. The objective is to catch the ball before it bounces, if possible, at the impact point. The fitness trainer throws the ball up in the air in any direction. In a fast movement of just milliseconds, the player has to “read” the direction of the ball and, taking small or big steps, get into a position adjusted to the ball. The player has to make adjustments in all directions.



Beatriz Haddad Maia performs this drill with a resistance bar and a punching pad. The goal is to move as fast as possible to hit the pad. The fitness trainer changes the distance and height of the pad so that the player has to make sudden adjustments constantly. It is very important to perform the right technique- marking the split step, keeping the feet wide enough apart and lowering the center of gravity to maintain optimal stability.



We can see Guido Andreozzi doing exercises that integrate coordination, mobility and strength. First, he has to sidestep to move along the cones at high speed (coordination). He has to grab the medicine ball in mid air and move fast to get to the ball with good support for an open or close backhand – as indicated. For an open backhand, the player will have to slide on the clay court to get farther (mobility). The player needs adequate balance in order to stop to perform an explosive movement and throw a 70 oz medicine ball as fast as possible (strength).


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