The ability to move well laterally in tennis is imperative for an elite player. Most shots are followed by a lateral recovery back into an optimal court position. Movement to the ball starts from a lateral position with a split-step and the opening of the hips in the direction of the next shot. Hip strength and the ability to fire the glutes are essential for effective lateral movement.
When we train our tennis players at RAW Tennis Performance we have a complete matrix of hip exercises utilizing stretch bands to improve hip strength. The bands come in varying strengths and can be stretched around the ankles, the knees or both, depending on the player.
One of these exercises is to assume a good athletic position with the feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. Proper posture is very important with the head and chest up, the back straight and the knees bent. Begin by moving to the right 6 inches at a time with each foot. Be aware of not letting the trail foot snap back too close to the lead foot; resisting the negative move is important. Continue 15-20 feet and then move back to the left with the same small steps. Keep your shoulders and your hips level; don’t rock side-to-side as you move. Looking in a mirror as you move will help you achieve this. Also, keep your head still and level, too. Imagine you have a pencil in your mouth and you’re trying to draw a straight line on the wall as you move. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times.
The next exercise in the sequence will also involve a slight hip opening like the one you make as you move out to a shot. Start from the same athletic position as in the first exercise. As you lift your right foot to move out to the right, turn your foot and knee out so they point in the direction of movement. As you move your left foot closer to complete the motion, pivot on your right foot so it is turned forward again and you are back in the starting athletic position. Continue this movement 15-20 feet and then return to the left. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times.