Chase Rubin: Top Cross-training Sports for Tennis Players

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Chase Rubin is a health and fitness advocate based in Philadelphia, and is an avid tennis fan and player. He provides tennis instruction to the city’s inner-city youth, and his program has produced more than 20 athletes who have received scholarship offers from top NCAA Division I schools. His techniques include cross-training, which helps develop endurance, agility, and lateral movement. Today, he writes about sports which could also serve as excellent cross-training activities for tennis players.

Swimming

Much has been said about the health benefits of swimming, especially its effects on cardiovascular endurance. Swimming helps improve your blood circulation and teaches you the proper way to breathe. In addition, it is ideal for tennis players as it involves the muscles you use whenever you serve or make an overhead shot, particularly in the arms and core. The repetitive nature of the crawl stroke, in particular, builds muscular endurance against minimal resistance.

Basketball

Even if you couldn’t dunk or hit a three-pointer to save your life, the sheer legwork involved in basketball will help develop your agility, leg strength, and lateral movement – three skills that every serious tennis player should possess. If you don’t believe me, try playing man-to-man defense on a guard in a half-court setup. Martina Navratilova, for one, was a basketball player in her youth, and it shows in her precise lateral movements on the clay or grass court.

Soccer

Soccer, whether played on a regulation pitch or a seven-a-side field, is always a good cross-training activity for tennis players. It helped develop Rafael Nadal’s on-court endurance as the usual match is ninety minutes long. Soccer also develops footwork, helping you respond to shots quickly. Ever noticed how competitive soccer players are judged by how fast and how often they run up and down the field? A tennis court will seem like a short distance after you’ve played a game or two of soccer.

Sand Volleyball

Sand volleyball is one of my favorite cross-training sports. For one, it’s harder to move around and gain some elevation when you’re playing on sand. Thus, it forces your fast-twitch muscles to develop at a faster pace, giving you explosiveness when you’re on the tennis court. Two-man sand volleyball also develops quick reflexes and hand-eye coordination, which are important in tennis.

Martial Arts

This might seem like something out of left field, but martial arts such as aikido or the Filipino stick-fighting technique of escrima will help you fine-tune your timing and balance. The latter also helps develop hand-to-eye coordination, a killer instinct, and quick reflexes, all of which will serve your net game well later on.

Running

The best form of aerobic training for tennis players is running. It helps develop your hamstrings and lower leg muscles better than any other sport. Try to incorporate tempo runs and mid-distance runs into your training routine. You don’t need to run a marathon to get the results you need; quick runs of up to two miles and quarter-mile sprints should do the trick for you.