In tennis, most points are won – or lost – on the break down of the footwork in a close match. This means that extra effort is needed to get to a ball quickly so can maintain control and hit a good return. For this reason, leg strength is crucial, and should come primarily from movement exercise – not weight equipment. Weights are best used for developing arm strength.
This tennis-specific yoga sequence focuses on strengthening the core, quads, and glutes while opening the hamstrings and hips.
If you’re used to doing squats, then this yoga version of the basic squat will feel all too familiar, and will have your thighs and buns burning.
- Stand with your feet together. Bend your knees and lower your hips as you raise your arms overhead.
- Focus on sitting back into your heels. Tuck your tailbone in and engage your abs, keeping your spine straight. Relax the shoulders as you gaze up toward the ceiling. Hold for five breaths.
Twisting the torso to one side increases flexibility in your spine, but since you’re still in a squat, you’ll feel this in your legs as well.
- From Fierce pose, exhale to cross your right elbow over to your outer left knee. Press your palms together and actively push your bottom elbow against your thigh to lift and rotate your chest up, increasing the twist. Pull your right hip back slightly, making sure both knees are parallel.
- Stay for five breaths, then inhale as you press into your feet and lift your torso, rising back into Fierce pose. If you can, refrain from straightening your legs to keep your quads and glutes engaged.
- Exhale to cross your left elbow over your right outer knee, holding for another five breaths on this side.
Open Side Fierce
This variation of Fierce offers an even deeper twist, and since your legs are in a low squat, it’s a killer move for the lower body.
- From Side Fierce on the second side, inhale and rise back up into Fierce, and as you exhale, cross your right elbow over your left thigh, planting your right palm on the floor beside your left foot. If you can’t reach all the way, just allow your fingers to hover in the air, as close to the floor as possible.
- Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, stacking your shoulders, and gaze at your lifted palm. Make sure both knees are parallel. Hold for five deep breaths.
- Press into your feet, inhale to rise back up to Fierce, and exhale to repeat this pose on the right side, holding for another five breaths. Then rise back up to Fierce pose and straighten the legs (ahhhhhh).
Give those quads a break and stretch out the backs of your legs with this standing forward bend variation.
- Separate your feet hips-width distance apart. Inhale to interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist.
- As you exhale, fold forward at the hips. Keep your legs straight and press your navel toward your thighs to encourage a straight spine. Fold as deeply as you can, pressing your weight forward into your toes. Stay here for five breaths.
We’re not done working your quads and glutes. This wide squat variation will also tone your core and upper body.
- Take a step open to the left so your feet are about three to four feet apart. Point your heels in, bend your knees, and squat down so your quads are parallel with the floor. Tuck your tailbone in, keeping your shoulders stacked over your hips.
- Raise your arms in the air, bending your elbows so they are at 90 degree angles, opening your palms away from you.
- Keeping weight back in your heels, hold this pose for five breaths.
Extended Standing Straddle
This pose looks like a walk in the park, but it’s actually really challenging, and one of the most effective poses you can do to strengthen your core and legs.
- From Goddess pose, straighten your legs and turn your heels outward, bringing your feet parallel. Inhale to extend your arms straight above you.
- With strong legs, exhale as you hinge at your hips, keeping your back straight, but stop when your torso is parallel with the floor. Focus on drawing your belly in, and shift weight forward toward your toes. If this causes too much strain on your lower back, bring your hands to your hips or thighs for support. Stay here for five breaths.
It’s time to stretch out those tight inner thighs and hamstrings with a Wide-Legged Split.
- From the previous pose, fold forward and place your hands on the floor below your shoulders. Walk your feet away from each other as far as you can, keeping the soles of your feet planted firmly on the mat.
- Stay on your hands or lower onto your forearms. If you’re really flexible, lower onto your shoulders and rest one cheek on the floor. Hold like this for five complete breaths.
If you suffer from tight hips and a lower back, you’ll welcome this pose with open arms.
- From Wide-Legged Split, place your hands on the floor (if they’re not there already) and walk your feet in so they’re hips-width distance apart. Take a peek at your feet and see if you can press your heels out, bringing your feet parallel.
- Press your elbows against your inner knees and lengthen through your torso. Hold like this, or for a deeper lower back stretch, release your hands to the floor, and walk them away from you, lowering your chin to your chest.
- Hold for five breaths and then stand up.