Tennis stretching exercises to improve your performance and prevent tennis injuries for good!
Tennis is a fast-paced sport making extensive use of both the upper and lower body. The game emphasizes hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and keen agility. Cardiovascular endurance is required for competitive play, and tennis places significant demands on the musculoskeletal system, most particularly, the legs, midsection, upper body, and arms.
Muscles requiring extensive use (and conditioning) include:
- Leg Muscles, particularly quads, hams and gluts s as well as calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus muscles).
- Chest and upper body muscles.
- Shoulder and arm muscles, including the rotator cuff, bicep and triceps’ muscles of the racket arm.
- Muscles of the wrist and and, used during the tennis swing
- Lower back muscles.
- Abdominal muscles
- Neck muscles.
Strength training and flexibility exercises targeting all of the above areas are essential for competitive players.
Did you know…..The origins of tennis date back at least to the Middle Ages, if not earlier. It appears to be related an ancient Greek game known as ‘Sphairistike’. Tennis was a popular pastime among European monks and was at monasteries throughout Europe. At one point, the church sought to ban the game!
Most Common Tennis Injuries
Tennis players are subject to a range of injuries, falling into the broad categories of acute and overuse. Due to the considerable requirements of the sport in terms of hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular endurance and complex musculoskeletal participation and flexibility, a range of conditioning exercises is recommended.
Among the more common afflictions plaguing tennis players are rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow, strains or sprains of the wrist, back pain, anterior (front) knee pain frequently involving the knee cap, calf and Achilles tendon injuries, ankle sprains, and tennis toe.
- Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
- Tennis Elbow.
- Back pain: This condition often results from poor technique (i.e. an exaggeratedly arched or swaybacked posture during execution of the serve). Poor technique causes stress to the small joints and soft tissues of the spine. Older players or those of you who already have old pains or gripes may develop progressive stiffness and arthritis. Rest and standard anti-inflammatories and analgesics are
- Knee pain: Chondromalacia (a softening of the cartilage) of the knee cap or patella or tendonitis, usually at the patellar tendon…..Read More…
- Calf and Achilles tendon injuries: Tendons and muscles of the calf or Achilles can result from an overload from pushing off with the foot while the leg is fully extended. Overuse of the tendon can produce Achilles tendonitis, involving painful inflammation. In severe cases, the Achilles tendon can rupture, producing a sudden snap. The injury requires casting and sometimes surgery. Tearing of calf muscles is also common, requiring RICE treatment and avoidance of athletic activity.
- Sprained Ankle: Most commonly, the outer ligaments of the ankle become sprained. Standard treatment involves RICE for 24 to 36 hours, after which the ankle should be supported with bracing to avoid re-sprain. Severe bruising or excessive swelling following a sprain should receive prompt medical attention.
- Tennis toe: This injury results from the toes being too tightly jammed against the toe-box of the shoe, especially during abrupt starts and stops. The condition is actually a haemorrhage under the toenail, often causing considerable pain. The
toenail may need to be drilled through by a physician in order to release pressure.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Thorough conditioning and proper technique are both essential in helping to prevent tennis injuries. Keep the following points in mind:
- A two-handed backhand reduces stress on the muscles, helping to prevent Tennis Elbow.
- Flexibility and strength training should be undertaken to avoid both overuse and traumatic injuries, especially among those who play the game more than twice a week.
- Proper racquet selection and grip size are critical in preventing tennis elbow and other injuries related to improper technique. Smaller racquet heads or excessive string tightness place more stress on forearm muscles, which can lead to tennis
- Stiffer graphite-type racquets with larger heads offer an enhanced “sweet spot,” causing less muscle stress.
- Take some lessons with a coach to improve/ perfect your game and poise.
- Training in agility can help prevent loss of balance and sudden, traumatic stress to muscles, joints and tendons.
Sample Tennis Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective!
Rotating Wrist Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Assisted Reverse Chest Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.