Junior Fitness: Build Your Baseline

How to Train for Junior Tennis?

The process for developing strength as a junior tennis player is a long-process and shouldn't be rushed. This
week we'll be releasing some basic junior fitness programmes (that adults may also find useful too), so we thought we'd share our top tips in advance of the release!


Top 7 tips of what to do:

Here are the top things coaches/parents/juniors should do when it comes to starting out with fitness!

1) Attend a Movement Screening
Having a Functional Movement Assessment (FMS) by a professional in order to determine areas of weakness
(things like mobility, stability, etc.), then you can create a tailored plan moving forward.


2) Improve Mobility/Flexibility
If the player has limited flexibility or mobility (as highlighted in the screening), there is no doubt that the chance of injury is higher. You need to have good mechanics and range of motion in all joints. Some players can compensate for a month or year, but eventually the body will weaken and breakdown. Improve these skills before progressing to a loading-
based (adding weights) programme.

Getting a thorough flexibility, mobility, and stability plan for a young athlete should always be the first step.


3) Form Coaching and Correction
Before attempting to lift weights and increase load, athletes need to be able to perform the 6 primal movement patterns – Squat, Lunge, Bend, Pull, Push and Rotate. These fundamental movement patterns are crucial to get right at a young age.

4) Improve Stability
The goal should be to achieve longevity for a young athlete, therefore you need to protect and strengthen those smaller muscles around their joints. Work inner (smaller) muscles first and then progress to strengthen the outside (larger) muscles.

5) Strength Development
The last stage to a good training programme is strength development. Gradual progression is the key. Start with
basic stability and strength exercises specific for tennis and age-level, and then progress them.

E.g. Static Lunge into Walking Lunge into a Multi-step Lunge.

Then once accomplished add load progressively (being strict on load management and consistent screening).

6. Tennis Specificity
It is important to follow training systems that are related to the sport the athlete plays. A junior tennis exercise
program should involve a lot of loading (absorbing and producing force), change of direction and rotation, braking mechanics and flexibility (just to name a few thingts). Athletes need to be able to allow their bodies to adapt to the demands by doing specific exercises to improve and protect their bodies.

7. Seeking out the right expertise
Having tennis coaches, or fitness instructors, prescribing programmes/routines with no strength and conditioning experience is a recipe for disaster. Everyone needs to know their place in the team, whether that be a parent, coach, or trainer. Do not put young athletes at risk if you are not qualified and experienced. Source out a junior tennis training program from a qualified strength and conditioning coach experienced in training tennis. To start, look for a coach who is qualified in strength and conditioning, and also specifically youth conditioning.


Kids should enjoy their fitness journey, and creating a healthy relationship with exercise is something that should be coaches top priority so to not only train positive training habits, but also lifestyle habits.


Top 7 tips not to do:

Here are the 7 most common mistakes coaches/parents/juniors make when it comes to fitness!

1. Skipping/Rushing Warm-Up/Cool/Down Routines
This is my biggest peeve for both juniors and adults, stepping onto a court and doing a service box hitting routine isn't a "warm-up". It has its place, but it should be the very last stage of session/match-play warm-up. A good warm-up routine, a RAMP warm-up, will physically and mentally prime the body for tennis activity and will drastically reduce the chance of injury. The key goals of the warm-up are to; Raise the heart rate and body temperature (improving muscle elasticity and blood flow), Activate/Mobilise the appropriate muscles for the physical demands required for tennis, and Potentiation (warming up the nervous system, reaction/timing, coordination and racquet prep). A well structured warm-up may also aid in helping cope with "pre-match nerves" by offering a psychological outlet.

Cooldowns (static stretching, light cardio work and in some cases protocols such as ice-baths etc) should then used to aid recovery; remove waste product, reduce heart rate and aid with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It will also help muscle(s) relax to pre-exercise state and improve overall flexibility.

2. Hyper Mobility/Flexibility 
Being hyper mobile or hyper flexible without enough stability or strength around joints is a problem.
It is important to strengthen the smaller stabilising muscles that support joints. People get stuck on working the larger muscle groups without stabilising the joint. This leads to joint instability, which increases risk of injury if your joint can’t withstand the load placed upon it.

3. Exercising with Poor Mobility
Having a lack of mobility around joints leads to joint dysfunction and restricted joint movement, this is a common issue you find with injuries like tendonitis. It is surprising to see so many young tennis players, with little or no mobility. We see some players as young as 10 years’ old that can’t/couldn't touch their toes!

4. Skipping "Foundational Strength"

Stop jumping the gun. You cannot build a house (or an indoor tennis centre...) on bad foundations! Having an adequate strength base is crucial for power development, injury prevention, and recovery. There are too many players on court who are not strong enough to cope with the demands, be patient and follow the protocols above. This is one of the main reason we see young players get injured and stop playing. 

5. Copy Cat Syndrome
Like technical drills, copying the new "wow" exercise on Youtube or Instagram and doing it without knowing
the WHY and HOW can cause some serious harm. Master the basics first and foremost.

6. Incorrect Lifting Technique
Not learning the correct technique at a young age is damaging for athletes. This can cause problems for the
future. If you have incorrect form and technique from a young age, it can be very hard to retrain the body to get it right. Always have a qualified coach (this is NOT a tennis coach) analyse your movement patterns, via screening, before beginning an exercise routine.

7. Lifting To Heavy Too Soon
Young athletes should never lift loads (weights, dumbbells etc.) like adults. This can cause long term issues. Even if you think a young athlete can handle it at the time, there is a good chance excessive load will cause long term complications. With excessive loading, the athlete’s technique diminishes and form is compromised. Seek out a Strength and Conditioning Coach for kids that can design a safe tennis fitness program specific to that age.


If you would like more information on how to prepare your child for tennis fitness, contact MPC Tennis and Fitness here and we'll be happy to provide advice and physical support.