How Tennis Stars Use This Total-Body Workout To Build Incredible Strength

Wondering how the athletes on the court got their athletic physiques? It's thanks to this total-body workout.

Cassie Shortsleeve |

With zero physical contact and a gentleman’s game reputation, trying to convince someone that tennis is one of the most gruelling competitive sports out there is a hard sell—unless you’re talking to someone who plays.

Tennis is an intense game of stop and go, says Marino Basic, the fitness coach for Milos Raonic, a 6’ 5” and 98kg Canadian athlete who is one of the best in the world. “Points last from 3 to 10 seconds,” Basic says. But if all the sport required was quick reaction times and agility, training for it would be a helluva lot easier.

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Unfortunately, Basic says tennis matches can last up to five hours. To oust the competition you need complete physical prowess: bursts of strength and power, high levels of speed and agility, Energizer Bunny-endurance, and proper recovery.

“The balance between how much load I put my body through and making sure that I’m recovering in between so that I’m not depleting myself too much before the next workout is important,” says Raonic. “If I can’t recover, that leads to injuries, then I lose time.”

Basic shares three workouts that Milos might work through after his time on the court. Do them on your own with Basic’s weight modifications for the everyday athlete.

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Basic aims to keep Raonic’s body fresh and improve strength without increasing his muscle mass or body weight. How that’s done: by keeping sets and reps below 5. “Rest between sets should be long enough to be ready to do next set with same intensity (around 2 minutes),” he says.

Turkish Get Up

Complete 1 set of 5 reps on each arm. Raonic uses a 23-kg kettlebell. Basic suggests 10 to 15 kilos, but notes form is more important than weight. “This is great for core and for shoulder stability,” says Raonic. “It takes a while to do the technique properly, but once you can do it, it forces you to use your whole body and be sharp.”

Goblet Squat

Complete 5 sets of 5 reps. Raonic uses a 45-kg dumbbell. Basic suggests 15 to 20 kgs.

Lateral Squat (Rack Position)

Complete 5 sets of 5 reps on each leg. Raonic uses a 25-kg kettlebell. Basic suggests 16kgs. “The hips take a lot of force and they have to be strong in a lot of different stretches and positions,” says Raonic. “A lot of tennis players’ strength comes from the hips and legs. It’s important to be stable and quick or you compensate with your back or ankles or knees.”

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“Milos wants to have the same quality for all sets and to do it with maximal effort,” says Basic. “So, reps will be low (under 5) and rest long enough to keep the same speed in all sets (about 1 minute).”

Barbell High Pull (With Snatch Grip)

Complete 5 sets of 5 reps. Raonic uses 45 kg. Basic suggests around 30kgs but notes technique and speed is more important than weight.

Squat Jump with Dumbbells

Complete 5 sets of 5 reps. Raonic uses 23 kg. Basic suggests 14kg dumbbells. “I do a lot of complex movements that hit the whole body over with as few exercises as possible to get most out of each movement,” says Raonic.

Kettlebell Swing

Complete 10 sets of 5 reps. Raonic uses about 27 kgs. Basic suggests starting with 15 to 23 kgs. “This gets you pumping out of the hips and glutes and forces you to use your hamstrings and quads. It hits the lower body well and creates stability and speed,” says Raonic.

Forehand, Backhand, and Overhead Medicine Ball Throws

Complete 9 to 12 sets of 5 reps of each throw. Raonic uses 10-kg balls. Start with a medicine ball that’s 10 percent of your bodyweight, suggests Basic.
Stand diagonally about 6.5 feet from a wall like you want to imitate a forehand groundstroke. Do 3 to 4 sets. Then do 3 to 4 sets of “backhand,” then 3 to 4 sets overhead.

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Versa Climber or Air Bike

For 15 seconds, move as fast as possible. Then move slowly until heart rate goes down (Raonic waits till his hits 120 beats per minute). Repeat for a total of 20 minutes. “The goal is to have as many sets as you can in 20 minutes,” says Basic. “That means that your heart rate need to go down fast—one of the indicators of good conditioning.” “Active recovery helps clean out my body and get my blood pumping,” says Raonic. “I can speed up my recovery without excessive load.”

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