If you'd like to see how you compare against the top tennis juniors in the country, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has created a fitness protocol to test kids who wish to participate in the USTA's national training program. Knowing what areas of fitness the USTA tests will help you know what exercises you should do to help you jump higher, run faster, move more quickly and develop more strength.
Leg strength is very important to tennis, and the USTA tests juniors in their ability to run dashes, jump high and make quick, side-to-side movements. You can build leg strength with exercises that use your body's weight to challenge your muscles. You begin squats in a standing position, then move down by moving your buttocks backward while bending your knees. Keeping your upper body straight, you lower and raise yourself with your upper and lower legs. Lunges are similar, except you lower yourself by taking a wide step straight ahead or to the side. Calf raises simply have you raise yourself on your toes, hold for one second, then lower yourself.
You can hold dumbbells or use resistance bands while doing these exercises to increase the stress you put on your muscles so they'll grow bigger. Perform six to eight repetitions of each exercise, and repeat three times during your workout.
Jumping is very important to your serve and overhead, so the USTA measures the vertical leap of prospective national training program participants. To improve your jumping ability, use explosive power and reactive power exercises. You can stand in front of a box that is knee height or lower, then jump straight on top of the box with both feet. Stand next to the box or bench and put one foot on it. Using the leg on the box, push yourself up as high into the air as you can. Stand on the box and jump off, bending your knees downward when you hit the floor, then jump as high into the air as you can as soon as your feet touch the ground. Perform eight to 10 of these exercises per set.
Sprint Training Exercises
Tennis is a very tiring sport, causing you to breathe hard in between points. This does not mean you should do aerobic exercise, however. According to Dr. Jack Groppel, a master professional with the United States Professional Tennis Association, aerobic exercise trains different muscle fibers than you use in tennis, so you should get your cardio workouts with faster exercises than jogging or using a treadmill. Use sprints and dashes to work on your speed and cardiovascular strength. The USTA trains its juniors by having them work very hard for 30 seconds, and then take a 90-second rest to recover. The 90-second rest period helps you train your heart and lungs to recover quicker for a tennis match. Sprint across three tennis courts, then walk slowly back. Do "suicide" line drills for 30 seconds, then recover for 90 seconds. Work with a coach or your parents before you do sprint training to make sure you are in shape for this hard type of exercise.