How To Warm Up For A Tennis Match

How to Warm Up for a Tennis Match

Warming up for any physical activity is absolutely necessary to avoid injuries.  Your tennis warm ups are a prerequisite to a great practice session, match or friendly hit with your spouse.

By getting warmed up, you also take time to get your head in the game and be fully ready to play.

Do you have to warm up?  Nope.  But you’ll likely have more success on the court if you do.

Let’s discuss options for how to revamp your tennis warm up routine!


Basic Tennis Stretches

These dynamic stretches and warmups are designed to be done anywhere no matter the time of day without any required equipment.  Goals of stretching are to get your heart rate up, increase range of motion, and reduce risk of injury.

If you built your own DIY tennis court on your property and have a home gym, you could stretch/warm-up with equipment since you won’t be traveling far to the court.

These are great stretches to loosen up your body and prevent injury.

#1 Arm Circles

This basic move is super simple and has a tremendous impact.

The shoulders can take a beating on the tennis court with game after game of serving.  But your groundstrokes also use the shoulders a lot as well.

Warming up the rotator cuff helps to present many common tennis injuries.

As the video recommends, extend your arms to your sides and do small rotations forward and backward.  Doing them for 30 seconds should warm up your shoulders nicely.

#2 Lateral Shuffle Steps

Unless you’re a serve and volley player, tennis is a game primarily played laterally.  When you’re hanging out on the baseline chasing down crosscourt shots, your hips, knees and ankles will need to be ready.

Take some time to mimic the movements you’ll be doing on the court.  

For side steps, take one full step to the right with your right foot, plant it, then bring the left foot in. Do the same on the left side. Repeat this back and forth across the baseline for a minute or two.

Start slowly and increase your pace as you feel looser. 

#3 Trunk Rotations

Trunk rotations help out with the twisting movements you ask your body to perform when hitting forehands, backhands and serves.

They’re simple to do and just require a small area where you have access to the ground.  Using a yoga mat rather than directly on the ground may be more comfortable, but it isn’t necessary.

As the video instructs, sit with your legs extended out in front of you.

Cross one leg over the other, place the opposite elbow on the knee, and rotate to look back behind yourself.

Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and then switch to the other side.

#4 Hip Circles

With your hands on your hips, lean to the left and slowly begin rotating your hips in a clockwise direction.  Remember the hula hoop days of your youth!

You might feel a bit silly doing this, but it’s a great way to loosen up your hip joint.

Switch directions and rotate counterclockwise after a bit so you don’t get off balance!

#5 Heel Toe Walk

Cyclists often use this movement to warm up before a long ride as they do absolute wonders for your ankles, shins and calves.

A heel-toe walk is when you step forward and land with your heel while keeping your foot raised, and your legs nice and straight.  Hold for 5-10 seconds.

Roll forward and go up to a heel raise (on your toes). Roll forward and place the opposite foot forward and repeat.

Placing your hands on your hips will help you keep your balance. Lean over slightly until you feel the muscles in the back of your calves begin to stretch.

Repeat three to five times per side until you feel appropriately stretched out.

#6 Dynamic Elbow and Wrist Stretches

Ever heard of tennis elbow?

It became a generalized term people would use to describe just about any elbow pain, but it’s a real condition that you can actually get from playing tennis.

Try this 4-way elbow and wrist combo stretch to keep your tennis warm ups going!

#7 The “World’s Greatest Stretch”

It’s ridiculously easy to throw your back out at any age and the motions of tennis can lead to damage if you aren’t careful.

The “World’s Greatest Stretch” is a great way to open up your hips and improve mobility, but it shouldn’t be the first stretch you do.  Make sure you’ve done the first 6 before doing this one.

  • First lunge forward with your right leg.  Keep your back (left) leg straight.  Squeeze your glutes.
  • Next drive your forward/right knee out to the side for an added stretch of the hip.  Just like in the first step, keep the back/left leg straight with your toes on the floor.
  • As you’re balanced with your right knee forward take your right hand and cross down to the ground pulling your shoulders forward for a stretch in that direction.  Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Then take your right hand and up and back pulling twisting your back for a stretch in the opposite direction.  Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Repeat the same steps with your left side.
  • Perform the stretch five times per side.

How to Mentally Prepare for a Tennis Match

Tennis Player On Knees

In tennis the mental preparation is just as important if not more important than the physical preparation.  Your tennis warm up routine is crucial from both a physical and mental perspective.

You’ve trained your body, have the tennis skills to be in competitive matches, and have warmed up physically for your match. What do you do to be mentally prepared?

You go through a mental checklist so that nothing can psych you out. Here are some steps for how to put yourself in the best mental shape to be successful on court.

Consider Your Strengths

In your head, think about all the things that got you here.

You’re up against an opponent who’s put in the same amount of time and effort to hone their skills.

They got here on their abilities so now it’s time to remind yourself of what got you here.

What are your strengths?

You get the idea. Mentally hype yourself up to understand that you deserve to be here, your capabilities will be put to the test, and you will be victorious.

Focus on Your Game

Focusing To Serve

If someone is a huge server and the first game goes by in a flash, you might think to yourself, “what do I do now?”  Well, you continue playing.

Your return game will kick in as you get more used to their serve.

They’ll play their game and you have to play yours.

Both players have skills coming into the match that are not dependent on the other.  

Don’t worry about them or their game.  Just focus on how you’re going to play, how you want to structure each point to take advantage of your strengths, and how competitive you are.

Focus on yourself. Don’t be intimidated by what you see across the net.

Don’t Assume an Outcome

Play the match.

Don’t let rankings or assumptions take it from you if you’re the lesser player.

Don’t let your guard down if you’re expected to win.

#1 ranked players lose to #15 ranked players.  It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen.  If we all assumed that the #1 player would win, why should the match even be played?

Play each point.  If you play your best, you should be proud of yourself not matter the outcome.

It’s impossible to win every match you play, but it’s not impossible to control your reactions and understand when you have left it all out on the court.

Keep Your Cool: Bad Calls Happen

Mental preparation keep your cool

We’ve all been there… you hit a smoking backhand up the line and your opponent calls it out.

What do you do? Throw a fit?  Nope.  You find a way to move past it.

It’s going to happen.

Pick your battles.

Understand that when you go into a match things are going to happen that don’t exclusively benefit you.

Unlike the pros, we don’t have cameras catching our balls from every possible angle.  There won’t always be a mark to check in order to confirm the call.  You just have to roll with it.

Keep playing your best.  Breathe.  Don’t retaliate with a questionable call of your own.  Just keep playing.

Warming Up is Key for Every Match

From the physical to the mental, tennis warm ups are a key component to success on the tennis court.

Take the time to gradually ready your body to perform at its best.  It’s worth 5-10 minutes to reduce the likelihood of injury.

Make mental preparation a part of your routine as well.  It’s time to ready up for every single match going forward.

Even if you’re practicing solo with a tennis ball machine, go into every playing situation with similar preparation.  It’ll pay off in the long run.