Tennis can be an unpredictable game at times, never really knowing where your opponent will have you running next to chase down the ball. But for the most part, it is defined by its repetitive nature.
Whether you’re hitting hundreds of serves during the course of a match or running several miles during a game or practice, the fundamental movements of tennis are repeatedly performed. This can lead to strength and flexibility imbalances throughout the body, resulting in possible poor performance and injury if not addressed. Here are areas that need improvement in order ace the competition.
The internal rotators—the subscapularis (one of the muscles of the rotator cuff), the latissimus dorsi in the middle / lower back, and the pectoralis major in the chest—are the muscles employed in the serve and forehand. They become markedly stronger than its external counterpart.
To help to correct the imbalance, one must perform external rotation and rowing type of exercises such as the low cable crossover raise and seated row, while squeezing the shoulder blades throughout.
In addition, the internal rotators (Latissimus dorsi, Pectoralis Major, Subscapularis and Teres Major) must be stretched as well.
I like the Isometric Shoulder Stretch. Stand sideways in a doorway, facing the door frame. Bend your affected arm to a 90-degree angle, keeping your upper arm against your side. Place the palm of your hand on the wall. Push on the wall until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold the tension for five seconds. Relax your arm at your side. Repeat the exercise at least five times, working up to 10.
Leg strength and endurance are curtail in tennis, as those particular components are involved in every aspect of the game, from the serve to running. However, gluteal and quadriceps are the primary focus, as weak muscles in these areas will call the abdominals into play, and possible lead to a strain.
Basic leg exercises such as Smith Machine squats and leg extensions will do the trick.
Muscles of the legs and hips can be overworked, so keeping them loose will help prevent injury to the said areas.
The hip flexors (Iliopsoas— Iliacus and the Psoas Major) are another muscle group known to become tight and uneven, not only for tennis players, but the average person as well. This is because of the constant use in normal, everyday life, as well as the demands the sport places on the muscles, especially during the stride.
When tense and inflexible, the iliopsoas will cause the trunk to pull forward, triggering some pain and discomfort in the lower back region.
The External Hip Rotators – (Piriformis, Gemellus Superior, Obturator Internus, Gemellus Inferior, Obturator Externus, Quadratus Femoris and Gluteus Maximus).
The ability for the hips to rotate is paramount for producing power in nearly every shot and for connecting the lower body with the upper body. So, tight muscles in this region will limit the rate of speed the ball travels off your racquet.
Bend one leg in front of you, across your body. Place your hands in front of your bent leg, shoulder width apart, and extend the opposite leg, slightly bent, behind you while leaning your trunk forward.
The hamstrings and quadriceps need to be stretched as well, and are simple to perform. Here are two great exercises:
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Intent: This is an easy to accomplish exercise that stretches the quad muscles, a group of four muscles located in the front of the leg. Technique: Stand on your left leg, gradually pull your right foot up to your posterior while feeling the tension in the front of your leg. Frequency: Hold for 15-20 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times while alternating each leg.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Intent: Stretch the leg muscles located in the back of the leg. Technique: Place your feet close together. Slowly lower your fingers downward while bending your trunk at the waist and locking your knees. Reach down as far as possible, and hold. You should feel a slight pulling sensation in your hamstrings. Do not force it to the point of extreme pain. Frequency: Hold the stretch for at least 10 second, then gradually return to the starting position. Perform 3-4 reps.
The average person has stronger lower back muscles than abdominals. For a good portion of tennis players, according to fitness experts, the opposite is true. This is due to the use of the abdominal muscles that generate the trunk flexion that occurs with every serve. Since lower back injury sidelines many tennis players every season, executing exercises like back extensions will help keep you in the game longer. It’s a good idea to perform trunk twisting and oblique exercises as well to solidify your core.
* Special Note — the information above is for reference only. Please consult with a licensed medical professional or credentialed health and fitness professional for more information.
Written by Jerry Del Priore for bodono.
Jerry Del Priore has worked as a certified personal trainer, and received his degree in Physical Education from Brooklyn College. Jerry is also a veteran print and digital Sports Writer-Reporter-Author experienced in writing in-depth profile stories on a variety of high school, college and professional athletes and teams. He covers several Brooklyn areas including Canarsie, Bensonhurst, Old Mill Basin, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Gravesend, East NY, East Flatbush, Fort Greene, Georgetown, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach, among other areas in NYC and Long Island. Additionally, Jerry has developed a presentation based on his book, Running Through Roadblocks, that encourages children to overcome obstacles and never give up…no matter what! Specialties: Baseball, football, hockey and basketball writing. Jerry also has covered lacrosse, soccer, golf and track and field, with ample experience cover women’s sports. Food Writer/Blogger experienced in venue write-ups and reviews. In addition, Jerry has ample experience working with medically fragile children, children with behavioral challenges and children with cognitively impairments. Read Jerry Del Prior’s book: Running Through Roadblocks and view his presentation.