Muscles Engaged While Playing Tennis

young couple playing tennis outdoor summer
Friends playing a game of tennis. (Image: ATELIER CREATION PHOTO/iStock/Getty Images)

Playing tennis involves a series of complex movements that begins with your feet and ends with you hitting a ball with a tennis racket. Tennis is very demanding on your body. It requires a well-trained muscular system for strength, power, endurance and speed. Whether you play tennis for recreation, in local tournaments or on the professional tour, just about every muscle in your body is engaged, some more than others.

Tennis Power Chain

The power behind every shot in tennis is generated through a series of body segments or links referred to as the kinetic chain. When your feet push against the court to run, jump or shuffle, energy is created and stored in the first link of the chain, your feet. The power is then transferred in sequence to the major muscles in the remaining links -- your lower legs, upper legs, hips, trunk, shoulders, upper arms forearms and finally to the last link, your hand.

Major Lower-Body Muscles

Your calves -- the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles -- are the first major group of muscles engaged. The gastrocnemius is the largest muscle at the back of your lower legs, and the soleus is a smaller muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius. In the next kinetic link, your upper legs, the major muscles engaged are your hamstrings, at the back of your thighs, and your quads, a group of muscles at the front of your thighs. The power and energy is then transferred to the major muscles in the next link, the gluteus maximus and medius, which are your butt muscles.

Major Trunk Muscles

Your abdominals, obliques, latissimus dorsi and erector spinae are the main trunk muscles engaged in the next link of the kinetic chain. Your abs consist of the rectus abdominis, your six-pack muscle, that runs from your ribs to the front of your pubic bone, and the transverse abdominis, which wraps around your midsection like a belt. The obliques are located along your sides, and the erector spinae is an important muscle group that runs along your spine. The latissimus dorsi muscles, commonly referred to as your lats, are the largest muscles in your back. These muscles work with your abs to help support your torso.

Major Upper-Body Muscles

The upper-body kinetic links include the major muscles of your chest, shoulders, upper back and arms. The pectorals are the main muscles engaged in your chest, and the muscles of your shoulders include the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles, a group of four muscles that support the shoulder joint -- the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis muscles. The main muscles used in your upper back are the rhomboid and trapezius muscles. The next link includes the major muscles in your upper arms, your biceps and triceps, and toward the end of the kinetic chain are the flexor and extensor muscles in your forearms.

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