The physical demands of tennis are tremendous as the game repeatedly involves short bursts of running, sudden stops, twists, turns, jumping, sliding, and recovering. Due to these demands, tennis involves an exceptional amount of fitness, strength, power, mobility, flexibility, agility and speed as one match can last up to 5 hours.
It is important from an injury prevention point of view to strengthen your muscles and work to stabilise your body in order to meet the high demands of this sport. Huge loads are placed through the knees, hips, trunk, and shoulders. By strengthening the muscles associated with stability, we can take some of the load off of these joints and place it where it belongs; the muscles! Here are 5 basic exercises to do with a performance coach to help injury-proof your body.
The knee connects the femur to the tibia where we have tendons and ligaments. Tendons connect muscle to bone and ligaments attach to bones to provide stability through the joint. Hence it is vital to strengthen the muscles around the knee in order to achieve optimal performance and stay injury free. One of the best exercises to do under supervision is the back squat, if you cannot perform the back squat then you can move into a body weight squat. The primary muscles in the squat are the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, the adductor group, erector spinae and the abdominal muscles.
The rotational movements involved in conjunction with the open stance style puts the hips at risk of injury. Therefore, it is important to strengthen and condition the muscles surrounding the hip. A great exercise to help activate the muscles around the hip and prepare them for battle are lateral band walks. Find a micro resistance band and place it between your ankles, brace your body in a ready position and while maintaining tension in the band, walk sideways.
Leg drive and rotation are primary movement patterns of a serve and involve the kinetic chain. In order to stay injury free, strength and mobility through the kinetic chain is required. An exercise to train the kinetic chain is the medicine ball slam, this will also assist in developing power through the serve. For this exercise all you need is a medicine ball. Squat to pick it up and explode up through your legs ensuring you squeeze your glutes, this will give your body the momentum to lift the ball up and then slam it back down. This movement transfers across to having strength, mobility and stability through the shoulder.
The military press is a great exercise to develop strength and power of the shoulder. Primary muscles involved in this exercise include the deltoids, upper chest and triceps. To perform this exercise with the correct movement pattern, push the bar up above your head and finish with it slightly behind your ears.
In addition to having the strength and power, the shoulder must have stability. To improve stability at the shoulder joint, a great exercise to do is the Swiss ball weight shift. To perform this exercise, have one arm outstretched and resting on the top of a Swiss ball. Slowly increase the weight through the outstretch arm by leaning forward and using your body weight. Continue to increase the weight until your arm is moving very slightly and hold that position for up to a minute. The correction of these small movements will help to strengthen those small stabilising muscles of the shoulder.
Throughout this, it’s important to remember that tennis is a sport that dominantly uses your internal rotators at the shoulder. Make sure that your external rotators get a workout too, and make sure you maintain good posture throughout the day. Without these precautions taken, you are at a far greater risk to develop a muscular imbalance at the shoulder joint, which in turn is a huge risk factor for more serious shoulder injuries.
To find out more on how the correct training and movement preparation with Absolute’s Sports Medicine specialists can improve your tennis performance and reduce injury risk, come in and visit us at 199 William st, Melbourne CBD.
Written by Absolute’s Performance Coach Michael Velianis