A lot of sports heavily depend on footwork, and tennis is one of the tops on the list. All the attention seems to be on the arms from a spectator’s perspective, but having a strong base is key.
Looking to improve footwork by going through some drills? There are certainly a few out there that help out people needing to step their game up. Tennis involves taking a lot of smaller steps to get in the right position, and not everyone naturally does that.
1. Footwork Ladder Drills
- Equipment Needed: Ladder
With an agility ladder, people can work on the footwork without even picking up a racquet. Not only do tennis players use and agility ladder, but so do plenty of other athletes who are looking to increase their foot speed.
Although it is nothing but a pretty standard agility ladder, there are so many different drills a person can work on to get their footwork just right. Some of the top drills with an agility ladder include:
- Linear run
- High knees
- Quick steps
- In and out
- Ickey shuffle
These ladders are pretty small, so it is perfect for people wanting to improve on making those small steps in tennis. So many players want to either not move very much, or take large steps to go to where they want to be on the court. Since the agility ladder focuses on speed, it is more about getting through every exercise and working on general quickness.
2. Spider Run
- Equipment Needed: 5 tennis balls
A lot of people look at the spider run as one of the best ways to not only improve footwork, but provide a challenge to get better and better. Players can begin to see improvement in their footwork and speed just by doing this drill consistently.
The set up is pretty simple, as a ball is placed in five different areas on the court. There is one on each corner where the baseline and sideline meet, and one on each side where the sideline and service line meet. The final ball is put in the center T.
A player starts behind the center of the baseline, working in a counterclockwise position to pick up all five balls. Once the final ball is picked up, the player runs from sideline to sideline to finish the drill. This can be timed by a person individually if they want, but working with a second partner can help with this process as well.
A good time is very relative, depending on a person’s skill level. The important thing is to do it a few times initially to get a good idea on the current time. Then, periodically work on this to see if any improvement has been made. The goal is to continually shave off time and see where everything stands in the end.
3. Using Cones
- Equipment Needed: 3 Cones
There is no limit on what type of footwork drills can be used with a cone on the court. In fact, people sometimes use multiple cones to set up ways to work on footwork.
A very simple cone drill is to have one at the center of the baseline. A player will start by hitting a ball on either forehand side or the backhand side. After hitting the ball, they must shuffle around the cone and return to the same side, moving in a circular motion.
Not only does it help with footwork and balance, but it develops a habit of keeping the feet moving after each shot. Too many people who are just starting out with tennis will hit a shot, and then not move around at all until the next shot. That is not a habit anyone should want with tennis, as it will set up for pretty lazy footwork.
4. Touching The Net After Shots
- Equipment Needed: Balls, court (and a partner)
To work on forward and backward movement, one drill that a lot of teachers will use involve touching the net after each shot. This is to get a player moving at a pretty rapid pace, but not to the point that a player is completely exhausted. Simply tapping the net before hitting the next shot exaggerates the need to move the feet efficiently.
This drill works very well for players who are reluctant to move up towards the net on certain balls. Getting in the habit of moving up, and then only going back to reset or hit an overhead, works in the favor of players trying to take their all-court game to the next level.
5. Split Step Drills (Timing)
- Equipment Needed: None
One of the most valuable ways for players to really have success as a tennis player is to master of the split step. There are so many different ways to get to a ball once it is hit, but identifying where to move is essential.
Split step drills put focus on getting to the ball as soon as a person lands from this quick jump. The split step jump should be timed where a person is landing right when the ball is struck. Some people are fine just doing this training without actually hitting the ball, while others one to incorporate it on the ball machine or with a partner.
Take the time to practice and see what feels the most comfortable in the end. Most people are going to see their footwork vastly improve, as the split step puts people on their toes.
6. Short Sprints
- Equipment Needed: None
Yes, that is right, short sprints can actually help with footwork in tennis when done as a way of training. The movement on the tennis court involves a lot of smaller bursts of speed, so this helps to get players moving fast right away.
Look for the sprints to be around 25 to 30 feet at most. The focus should be on fast explosions out of a neutral position, running through the finish line in some cases. For a variation of the drill, people can sprint while also focusing on stopping similarly to tennis.
Also, do different types of direction changes such as crossover steps, shuffling side to side, and more. The goal here is to improve start times and get used to those small bursts of speed. The first step is important, and sometimes different types of first steps are needed
7. Jumping Rope
- Equipment Needed: Jumping rope (suprising right?)
This footwork drill is another one that seems pretty basic, but it helps in a lot of specific ways to tennis. Not only does it make people focus on short jumps off the ground and general coordination, but it builds up stamina since it is such an intense exercise.
Jumping ropes is actually something that the world no.1 Novak Djokovic uses regularly. Not only to warm up like in the video above, but also to improve his overall footwork on the court.
Not only can it be incorporated in a workout, but some players will do it as a way to warm up before a match as well. It is a pretty simple way to train, but it keeps the feet moving at a quick pace. Slow feet in tennis is usually going to prove to be pretty detrimental for players trying to have success.
How Does Footwork Practice Help With Tennis?
Why is it important to work on these footwork drills? A tennis player with quick feet will have more shot options, fewer unforced errors, more control on their shots, and increased energy. Players are more efficient when they are using proper footwork on the court, and that also helps with injury prevention.
Most of the drills are fairly easy to learn and work on, so it is just a matter of improving little by little as time goes on. Footwork is overlooked by so many people who do not know much about the game, but professionals work on it frequently themselves to make sure they put themselves in the best possible situation win.