Why Are Tennis Players Not Muscular?

Tennis is one of the most physically demanding sports out there. Not only do tennis players need to have the ability to run around for hours and hours, but they also need the strength to hit powerful shots.

Watch a professional tennis match, and the top players in the world might not seem as muscular as some would think. To hit powerful shots to take control of points, muscles are needed, right?

Why are tennis players not muscular? Tennis players are not muscular because the sport depends a lot on endurance. Players need to stay lean to move around the court for hours and hours at a time. It would be very difficult with any type of bulky muscle on their body.

4 Reasons Why Tennis Players Aren’t Muscular

Out of all the top players in the world, Rafael Nadal is considered by many to be the most muscular player in tennis amongst the top players currently. While he is in outstanding physical shape, he has slimmed down over the years as well.

There might be a few positives to having strong muscles in tennis, but other features are just as important to the success of a player. Nadal has stated in the past that he felt he was carrying too much extra muscle, which led to some injury issues.

Here are the main reasons why tennis players don’t look to bulk up like a lot of other athletes. It’s very dependent on the sport they play.

Tennis players don’t need big muscles

Powerful shot-making is a very big part of tennis, but it is only one part of what is a very physically demanding sport.

Players who attempt to hit others off the court at the highest level will find it very difficult if they can’t excel in other aspects of the game as well. Bulky muscle would restrict movement too much, and players would have to finish points in a few strokes at most.

Muscles don’t exactly help with powerful shots as much as one would think in tennis. Tennis is about control and power, for the most part, not hitting the ball as hard as possible every single time.

Not only is it extremely difficult to be accurate when hitting the ball very hard with every single stroke, but it is an easy way to tire out after a long match as well. It’s not a sustainable strategy.

Leg Strength More Important Than The Upper Body

The arms of a typical tennis player might not look extremely muscular, but the legs are usually very well-built. That is because so much comes from the legs, whether it be moving around on the court, or delivering powerful shots.

Legs are the base of the body that controls so many things in tennis. Positioning is extremely important, and so is a solid base when hitting shots. In a lot of ways, tennis strokes can be somewhat compared to pitching and hitting in baseball. 

Baseball players focus on having powerful legs, and that is where pitchers get most of their velocity from. Pitchers don’t necessarily have huge arm muscles, but their legs are strong and powerful. They create torque when throwing the ball, very similarly to serving.

Off the ground, tennis is comparable to controlled hitting in baseball. For a player to drive the ball where they want it to go, they need a strong, steady base while waiting back for the right pitch. If they are out in front of the ball, arms by themselves can’t do too much. The hardest hitters off the ground can move their feet in the right position and then unleash on the ball.

Tennis players can’t quite bulk up like baseball players, but they follow the same concept. The legs need to be strong enough to also run and change direction with ease, but they also need to provide the power behind serves, groundstrokes, and even volleys.

Need more proof that strong legs are needed in tennis? Any time a player cramps up in tennis, they find themselves dealing with leg cramps. This is because the legs are used so much during a match. They twist and turn in every direction during the match. Tennis players can get away with not a lot of muscle in the arms, but their legs have to be strong, flexible, and dependable. 

More Muscles Doesn’t Mean More Power

As discussed a little bit above, a player doesn’t need upper body strength to necessarily hit with a lot of power. Players such as Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, and more are known for hard, powerful groundstrokes.

Then there are guys like John Isner and Kevin Anderson who have extremely powerful serves. What is a common trait all of these guys have? Pretty unimpressive upper body muscles, at least compared to athletes from other sports.

Racquet head speed, form, power in the legs, and other factors all play a huge role in hitting powerful shots in tennis. A player trying to muscle a shot using just their arm and poor technique will not get very far. A tennis racquet is a bit too heavy for someone to swing consistently without using their whole body. It is a great way to get injured by trying to muscle up on balls all the time.

The most powerful shots in tennis are going to come from an extremely fluid motion, hitting the sweet spot consistently with great form. Racquet technology allows players to hit hard balls without the need to look like a bodybuilder.

Flexibility Matters

It’s very difficult to keep flexibility when bulking up with muscle. Usually, a person needs to sacrifice one or the other. Tennis players are always going to favor flexibility because power is only one aspect of the game.

Players are capable of keeping the rally going more than ever in Tennis today, and that means the top players in the world need to be able to cover a lot of ground. Tennis players have always slid into shots on clay courts, but now players are even doing it on grass and hard courts. Being able to change directions and have the flexibility to do so is essential at the top level.

Stiff, bulky muscles will limit a player too much. There is also the worry of carrying too much extra weight while trying to play such a physically demanding sport. 5 pounds of bulky muscle means five extra pounds of pounding on the knees, hips, and other vulnerable areas.

Tennis Players Are More Muscular Than You Think

Despite not looking as muscular as many people think, tennis players still do a great job of building lean muscle that is very specific for their sport.

Tennis is an endurance sport, so the top players are always looking more like cyclists, distance runners, soccer players, and more. It’s all about optimizing the body for a very specific type of workout, every single day.

The ideal tennis body has very low body fat, lean muscle, powerful legs, and extreme flexibility. In some cases, there have been players who have tried to bulk up to play at the highest level, but they tend to have injury issues.

The more a player wins, the more matches they have to play. Eventually, even the fittest players in the world will start to slow down if they are carrying any extra weight.

There are players of various weights and heights at the highest level, but the best of the best, at least on the ATP tour, tend to be in the 5’11” to 6’3” range. Throughout the history of the sport, they have all focused on building lean muscle instead of bulking up more traditionally.

Will Tennis Players Ever “Bulk Up”?

The game of tennis is more of an endurance test than ever before. Some players survive on tour by hitting powerful serves and hoping for the best on returns, but it is just too hard to win consistently that way.

There are just too many other aspects of the game for it to ever be a viable strategy to bulk up too much. Players would find it very difficult to not only keep up with other top players but stay healthy. More tennis matches are played on hardcourt than on any other surface in the world. These courts are particularly hard on the body.

Tennis players must do weight training to survive on tour, but they need to build specific types of muscle to succeed. Unless the game drastically changes, there will not be a need to bulk up and become extremely muscular. 

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