It’s Tennis Time!
Now that summer is here we can all look forward to more sun filled outdoor activities and exercise. With Wimbledon upon us many will be inspired get out on the court and play tennis, whether we are new to the game or a regular player. Although you can modify tennis to play a gentle rally with your partner on the court, normally tennis requires agility, power, balance, speed and endurance to get you through the game.
As with any sport, tennis has associated injuries like tennis elbow, shoulder tendinitis, calf strains, back pain and hip strains. You can see the professionals push their bodies to the limits when playing, stretching out as far as they can, twisting, reaching and even almost performing the splits. Therefore, it is important when you play tennis to keep strong and flexible to avoid injuries where possible.
Tennis is a game of constant change of direction and bursts of sprinting. With this in mind, exercises for your legs should include agility drills as well as strength and conditioning for your larger muscle groups like your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. Exercises like walking lunges or lunge jumps and squats or jump squats can help strengthen your hips and thighs while working on balance and power. Additional exercises like single-leg reaching dead lifts, single-leg lateral jumps and side lunges will help strengthen your hips, knees and calves in functional positions that you use in tennis.
Our upper body also does a lot of work during a tennis game. Serving, volleying, forehand and backhand strokes all require power, strength and flexibility in our arms and back to get the ball consistently over the net. Tight shoulders and lack of muscle strength can often be the cause of shoulder pain throughout a person’s tennis career. The shoulder’s rotator cuff muscles work to rotate the shoulder in and out as well as stabilizing the ball of the shoulder within the joint. Tendinitis, inflammation or irritation of a tendon, especially in the rotator cuff can occur often in tennis when the shoulder is overloaded and overused. This injury can require time off from the game to heal and rehab.
Shoulder strength and conditioning should be focused on the rotator cuff and surrounding stability muscles. Exercises can include resisted internal and external rotation of the shoulder, Triceps dips, shoulder rows, push-ups, pull downs and overhead press with dumbbell weights.
Tension in the shoulder muscles can lead to altered mechanics in how you swing or serve. As a result stretching the shoulder, including the rotator cuff, will help allow our body to work through this range when we exercise. This can include stretches like the sleeper stretch, across body stretch and forearm stretch.
Upper and lower back mobility is also important to maintain in tennis. Our racquet swing and follow through should not just come from the arm. The arm should be facilitated by upper back rotation, especially in the follow-through stage of the swing. Again, relying solely on the arm to do the work can lead to overuse injuries like tendinitis and tennis elbow. Thoracic rotation stretches like the one shown below can help maintain thoracic mobility for your tennis game. It is also important to practice rotating through your spine with your follow-through in training so you can implement this technique when you play. Finally, adding some core exercise to your routine like planks, sit-ups or attending Pilates classes can help to enhance your power and balance in tennis.
Images sourced from: https://www.physiotec.ca/