Tennis fitness

Fancy a game of tennis? If you’re after a body of steel then your answer should be yes.

Tennis is a brilliant game and for a number of surprising reasons. For starters, it’s enormous fun. Secondly you can do it with friends and enjoy a bit of catch-up all at the same time and thirdly, it can help you build a rock-hard body, toned legs and firm arms.

That’s right, tennis may appear civilised, but in reality it’s anything but. As anyone who has played the game will tell you, tennis is a sweat-inducing, muscle burning, full-body workout. You only need to look at the incredible physiques of Venus Williams or Mark Philippoussis to see that.

“Tennis is a great workout,” says Mike Hetherington, a professional tennis teacher at Cooper Park Tennis Centre, Double Bay, in Sydney.

“It pretty much works your whole body. Tennis players have good legs and bottoms and their shoulders are great, too.”

If that hasn’t convinced you, then think about this. Your average game of tennis burns up roughly 500 kilojoules in 15 minutes. That equates to 1000kj in 30 minutes, 150kj in 45 minutes and close to a whopping 2000kj in just 60 minutes. Accordingly, just a couple of casual games a week and you’ll soon see the difference. Not only that, but your aerobic capacity will go through the roof, your hand-eye coordination will improve, as will your balance. So, who’s for a game?

playing by the rules
Traditionally tennis is played with two or four people. The idea is that you hit the ball over the net and between one another for as long as possible. If the game is played by the rules (and that’s entirely up to you) the ball should land within the white lines. If you’re playing doubles you only need worry about the white line behind you. If you’re playing singles, however, the ball cannot go past the white line behind you or into the sections on either side of the tennis court.

It sounds simple enough but when you’re just starting out (and actually even when you’re pretty good), it can be tricky to get the ball to go exactly where you’d like it to. The good news about that is that if the ball lands on the line it’s considered to be in. Excellent.

The main aim of tennis is to get more points and therefore win, but there’s much more to it than that. Like having a blast, for example.

“Tennis makes you fit which is great,” says Hetherington, who has competed throughout Australia and the US. “It’s a social game as well and it’s great for anyone from five to 85. And it involves plenty of adrenaline. It’s a great challenge to hit the ball and keep it going and when you do it’s extremely satisfying.”

doing it right
If you like the sound of all that then you might want to have a lesson. Sure, you can hop on the court and just bash the ball about, but it will be more satisfying if you pick up a few basics, and an instructor can show you how.

If you have a lesson one of the first things you’ll learn is how to hold a tennis racquet properly.

“You can pick a racquet up and have a go, but you won’t do it right,” says Hetherington. “You have to learn the swing pattern.”

The swing pattern includes the back swing, the follow through and the contact point. “With good instruction you can pick it up pretty quickly,” says Hetherington.

“You learn a bit each lesson and you pick up even more the next time round.”

And don’t worry about coordination. “We see plenty of people who aren’t the best when it comes to hand eye coordination, but we can definitely teach them how to play and well. It just takes a little bit longer,” says Hetherington.

you will need
Before you hit the court you’ll need to look the part. That means a tennis skirt or dress for women and shorts and shirt for men. Clothing should allow plenty of give and fabrics that keep sweat away from the body are perfect. Tennis gets hot.

Of course, you’ll need racquet. Beginners should make sure they look for racquets that are lightweight and oversized.

“The larger the frame, the easier it is to hit the ball,” he explains. “And the lighter the racquet, the easier it is to swing so you have more control.”

A good-quality racquet will cost between $80 to $150, but get advice before you purchase. “Don’t just grab one off the shelves,” says Wolford. “You need the one that’s right for you.”

You’ll also need specifically designed tennis shoes. These will have a non-marking sole and will provide cushioning and, in particular, ankle support.

And finally, don’t forget tennis balls. They’re about $10 for three.

stretch me
Before you hit the court, warm up for five or 10 minutes (a quick walk or a gentle jog will do the trick) and then perform some basic stretches. Tennis players frequently damage their wrists and forearms so ensure you work on this area. Also, stretch your shoulders and mid-back, your thighs both rear (hamstrings) and front (quadriceps) and your calves. Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and push yourself to the level of discomfort only. If you experience pain stop immediately and check in with a GP or physiotherapist to ensure you’re not injured.

learning the lingo
If you’re going to play tennis, or pretend you do, there’s a few important terms you need to know. Learn these and you’ll be a smash hit on any court.

• serve This is the overhead shot that starts every point. For it to be a success, the ball must land in the other player’s service box.
• ace The term used when a serve is successful – meaning the other player has not been able to return it.
• deuce This is when the score is tied at 40-40.
• game This is where the points are tallied. It goes like this – 15, 30, 40 then game. Games make sets and sets make a match.
• love A scoring term used when the score is zero. You can shake your head and act disappointed when you hear this.
• rally When the ball is hit back and forth over the net. When this happens it’s time to get up on your feet and cheer. Well, at the end of the rally anyway.
• baseline This is the line at the end of the court. Simple really.
• alley The area that runs between the singles and doubles sidelines.
• break point This is when the player receiving the serve has a chance to win the game on the point. Very exciting stuff!
• volley When a player hits the ball before it bounces it’s called a volley.

A mans workout

If you’re a regular Aussie bloke looking to get in shape, we’ve got good news.

When it comes to shifting fat and gaining muscle, it seems men have won the lottery. Thanks to their physiological make-up, men (the lucky buggers) can do both quicker and with less effort than women.
This is largely due to the fact that women tend to store fat on their hips and thighs, while men more commonly put it on their middles.
A little padding around the butt and thigh area might not be the stuff dreams are made of, but it’s entirely natural. Women are designed (physically speaking) to bear children and that means they need to store a little excess fat to support a child if needed. Men have no physiological need to store excess fat. Accordingly they are able to shed it easier.
“It’s a scientific fact that a beer belly is easier to get rid of than thigh or bottom fat,” says Professor Stephan Rossner, director of the Obesity Research Program at Luddinge Hospital, Stockholm.
“A beer belly is easier to mobilise and responds more quickly. Women don’t have the ability to shift weight like men do. That’s just the way it is.”

thinking it through
Studies have also shown that men are one step ahead of women when it comes to sticking with a diet or exercise program. Why? Because once they decide to shed fat and gain muscle, they do it.
There’s also the fact that men have often been raised on exercise.
“Men are encouraged to get involved in sport when they’re young,” says Katy Try, head trainer at Golds Gym in Sydney.
“If people exercise when young it’s much easier to reactivate that when older. If you have had no exercise history it’s harder to get started.”
Unfortunately it seems that many Australian men (women too, but we’re not focusing on them today) are finding it very hard to get started. At this point in time about 65 per cent of men (and yes, 55 per cent of women) are considered overweight. If you’re a bloke, and you’re part of that group and would like not to be, don’t panic – there are ways and means. As we said earlier, being a man means losing weight and gaining muscle shouldn’t be that hard for you. If it does get tough you can comfort yourself with this thought – it’s harder for women!

making a move
Of course, even men need to do it right. That means watching what you eat and getting plenty of exercise. By exercise we mean cardiovascular workouts (think walking, jogging or playing footy) and resistance training such as lifting weights. If you can, you should get some cardiovascular exercise every day. Weights can be performed anywhere from three to five times a week.
But don’t get too caught up with exactly how much weight you’re lifting, says Try.
“Correct technique helps build the muscle, not just the actual weight,” she says. And for those blokes who worry only about the “mirror muscles” it’s time to rethink your workout. Your exercises should be more balanced. “Many men tend to worry about the muscles they can see and forget about the others, but that’s not a good idea,” says Try.
Kelly Baker is a fully qualified personal trainer.
hey fellas

10 reasons why men should be working out

  1. It will help lower your blood pressure.
  2. It will decrease your chances of coronary heart disease.
  3. Your energy levels will go through the roof.
  4. You can greatly ease lower back pain.
  5. Your body will be a lean, mean fighting machine (or closer to it anyway).
  6. Stress levels will drop.
  7. You’ll lose fat.
  8. You’ll build strong bones.
  9. You will rev up your metabolism, meaning you can get away with eating more.
  10. It’s fun. Really.


  1. Dumb-bell shoulder press.
    Hold a dumb-bell in each hand and sit on a fitball or bench. Plant your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Once you’re comfortable, push your weights up over your head until they almost touch. Slowly lower to about ear level and then repeat. Ensure you don’t lock your elbows at the top of this movement and keep steady. Form counts! 
    Gives you: sensational shoulders.
  2. Triceps kickback 
    Rest your left lower leg on a weight bench. Grasp a dumb-bell in your right hand. Lean forward at the hips and place your left palm on the bench. Bend your right elbow so your upper arm is parallel to the floor, palm facing in. Straighten your arm out behind you. Slowly return to the starting position and then repeat. Don’t forget your left arm! 
    Gives you: buff backs of arms
  3. One-arm dumb-bell row 
    Stand with your right lower leg resting on a weight bench. Grasp a dumb-bell in your left hand. Lean forward at the hips and place your right palm on the bench. Drop your left hand down. Then pull your left arm up until your upper arm is parallel to the floor and your dumb-bell is near your waist. Gently lower and repeat. Both arms please!
    Gives you: Gorgeous upper back.
  4. Dumb-bell chest
    Press Lie on the bench with your feet flat. Push your weights up so that your arms are directly above your shoulders. Lower the dumb-bells until your elbows are just below your shoulders. Then, push the weights back up. Move with control and don’t allow your elbows to lock or your shoulder blades to come off the bench. 
    Gives you: an amazing chest.
  5. Ball crunch 
    To get in position, rest your back (all the way from shoulder blades to tail bone) on the round curve of the ball. Ensure your head, neck and also shoulders are above the ball. Your knees should be bent and feet flat on the floor, roughly hip-width apart. Once you’re ready to get going, cross your hands across your chest. Then, curl up and forward. Hold for a second at the top of the movement and then gently lower. 
    Gives you: killer abs.