Top 10 Best Tennis Stretches
As the modern game of tennis has become so much more physical, it has become even more important to look after your body and work on injury prevention.
There is nothing more frustrating than an injury sidelining you from your favourite sport, especially if it can be prevented from having a solid, repeatable stretching and warm-up routine.
We have seen players like Novak Djokovic reinvent the way players can move on a tennis court. Djokovic puts a great emphasis on flexibility, as he slides around on all court surfaces.
The idea is that having better flexibility increases your range of motion, which helps you take a longer swing at the ball without any impediments.
Of course, using workouts to build strength and conditioning for tennis is also very important.
This forms the foundation of your tennis specific fitness and improves your endurance on the court.
However, stretching helps you to recover from gruelling workouts and matches, which is incredibly important if you want to play at a high level consistently.
So, let’s take a closer look at just why stretching is so important, the different types of stretches and the 10 best tennis stretches you can start using today!
Why Stretching Is So Important for Tennis
Stretching your muscles is a very important part of recovery after a hard workout, match or training session.
This is because your muscles will break down slightly when you use them extensively, so they will likely become tight and sore if they are not stretched out after an intense workout.
Therefore, static stretching helps lengthen your muscles, thereby reducing tightness and lowering your risk of delayed onset muscle soreness and injury.
The reason why static stretching is so important after a workout is that your muscles will be warm and supple, so are highly susceptible to the benefits of stretching.
This means that when you perform a stretch that lengthens out the muscle, you are actually increasing the range of motion and again helping to reduce the risk of injury and soreness.
Even just doing 5-10 minutes of static stretching after an intense workout will help to improve your flexibility and therefore your range of motion.
Improving range of motion has the added benefits of being able to use the body in a more efficient manner, since you can effectively perform movements without any muscular limitations.
Types of Stretches
So, we have explored the importance of stretching, but there are actually two types of stretching that you should know about.
Static stretching is the more popular variety that is generally used to lengthen muscles, reduce soreness and improve flexibility.
It helps to keep your muscles supple and dispels excess tensions.
This is the type of stretching that sees you hold a position for an extended period of time, hence the name ‘static stretching’.
Think holding your foot with your knee bent whilst standing to stretch out your quad.
This is a great example of a static stretch as it puts an appropriate amount of strain across the muscle to help release tension, without over stretching the large muscle.
However, it is recommended that you do not do any static stretching before you go and exercise.
This is because the looseness that you create in the muscles actually reduces your strength and can make you more prone to injury.
Therefore, you should definitely use static stretches as part of your cool down, after your workout.
However, when it comes to warming up, there is a different type of stretch you should perform.
Dynamic stretching is a more active form of exercise that is generally used to warm up specific muscle groups.
The idea behind dynamic stretching is that it helps to warm up your muscles, which primes them for the exercise load you are about to put them under.
There are a few different ways you can go about this. Firstly, you can perform generic heart rate raising exercises, such as jogging, cycling or using an elliptical machine.
These get your muscles engaged and filled with blood, so they are ready to go when you step on to the tennis court, training field or gym floor.
Secondly, you can do body part specific exercises that help to engage the exact muscles you will be using the most during your workout.
For example, if you are going to be performing a lot of leg movements in the gym, you may want to perform a lying hip thrust to engage your glutes.
The idea here is that you will be specifically ‘turning on’ the muscles that you are going to be focussing on the most during your fitness routine.
This helps reduce the risk of injury or soreness, as the body part in question is already calibrated and ready to take on load.
Finally, you can perform levelling exercises. These mimic the exact movements that you are going to perform, but at different levels of intensity.
So for example, if you were going to perform a bench press, you could start off with just the bar, then gradually increase the weights added to it in small increments.
This again primes the exact muscles you are going to target in your workout, whilst warming them up and reducing the risk of injury.
The 10 Best Tennis Stretches
So, we have explored the benefits of stretching and the differences between static and dynamic stretches.
Now, let’s dive into the 10 best stretches specifically for tennis players! We include a range of static and dynamic stretches in our mix, to make sure there is something for everyone.
Cow to Cat
The Cow to Cat stretch is a light dynamic stretch that can be used before your tennis session to relieve tension from your back, neck and hips.
This is a very popular yoga pose that is great to wake up the body in a gradual way. Simply get on to all fours and start with your head facing the ground.
Then arch your back and bring your head up so you are facing the sky. This should be down as you exhale. This is the cow position.
Once in this position, slowly extend your back and bring your head down as you inhale, so your shoulder blades are at their highest point as you have filled your lungs with air.
This is the cat position.
Simply repeat this exercise 10 times and you will feel an easing in your neck, thoracic spine and hip joints.
Lunge and Twist
This is a great warm up exercise that really challenges your range of motion. In tennis we need to remain loose in our upper body, but strong and stable in the lower body.
This exercise primes this movement pattern specifically, getting you to focus on both at the same time.
Simply perform a forward facing lunge with alternate legs, holding the movement for a few seconds as your legs are extended.
Then, during this time, put your arms out to your sides and rotate left then right so you get a good stretch in your back and hips.
Again, this is a great exercise that mimics the movement patterns you’ll be using on the tennis court.
In tennis there are a lot of sideways movements. Infact, there are probably more movements from side to side in tennis than in any other sport!
With this in mind, it is important to warm up the lateral movement pattern before you get started with your tennis session, or you could sustain a nasty injury.
This is especially important and is a must have in your warm up routine, as we don’t often train lateral movements and do not experience them very often in day to day life.
Therefore, our muscles are not trained for the stresses and strains of repetitive side to side movement, and it is therefore easy to develop muscle imbalances that lead to injuries.
Lateral lunges are a great way to prime your legs for the lateral movements involved in tennis.
Simply stand with your feet shoulder width apart, turn your right foot slightly outwards and step out into a lunge.
You should feel a good stretch in your outer leg as you lower yourself to around 90°.
Don’t worry about keeping your back straight on this one, focus on feeling a good stretch through your outer leg. Simply repeat for the left leg and you’ll be good to go!
Lying Hip Thrust
This is a great warm up exercise, focussing specifically on the glutes. In tennis, we spend a lot of time with our knees bent, in almost a half squat.
This puts a lot of stress on the quads and the glutes, so it is important to get them ready for action!
Lay down on the floor and bring your feet up towards your bum, so your knees are bent.
Then, push off the floor with your heels so your back is straight and your glutes are engaged. Repeat this movement 10 times to wake up the glutes!
Lying Back Twist
This is a great static stretch to relieve the tension from your back and hips, which is often much needed after a long game of tennis!
Simply lay down on the floor and raise one leg so your knee is bent at a 90° angle.
Then, bring this leg down to the opposite side of your body (if you right leg is raised, lower it down to your left and vice versa), so your outer hip is facing the sky.
At the same time, turn your head in the opposite direction, so you get an even more intense stretch through your back, hips and glutes.
Hold this position to relieve tension through your back thanks to the rotational movement in this stretch.
Standing Quad Stretch
Another great static stretch that most people will know about but not perform as often as they should is the standing quad stretch.
This is a much needed stretch after an intense workout, as your quads tend to take a lot of brute force when playing tennis and often do not get the recovery they deserve!
Also, having tight or sore quads can be one of the most painful and inhibiting areas to have muscle soreness, so don’t neglect this stretch!
Whilst standing, raise one of your feet behind you so it is touching your bum, then bring your hand (on the same side of your body as your raised leg) round to hold your foot in place.
You may need to release some tension if the stretch is too intense, but you should feel a nice deep stretch through your entire quad muscle.
You may need to hold on to something with your opposite hand to remain balanced.
Front Facing Arm Stretch
Another great static stretch for your upper body is simply done by interlocking your hands and pointing your palms away from your face.
Fully outstretch your arms so you feel a slight stretch in your hands, wrists, forearms and shoulders, whilst keeping your back straight.
This is great for stretching out those unwanted niggles in these areas!
Arms Out and Rotate
Another great dynamic warm up exercise is the arms out and rotate drill.
Simply put your arms out to your sides and have your legs just more than shoulder width apart.
Then, turn to your right with your upper body, keeping your feet still.
Rotate down to the front, bringing your head down with the movement until you reach the same position on the left hand side.
Simply repeat 10 times for a great stretch through your back, hips, shoulders and hamstrings.
Rotator Cuff Stretch
The rotator cuff is a very commonly injured part of the body, due to the amount of strain that tennis players put through it and the lack of specific work that is done to strengthen it.
To warm the rotator cuff up before you play tennis, take a resistance band and anchor it to a net post.
Then, bend your arms to 90° at shoulder height, so your elbows and shoulders are aligned whilst your palms face the floor.
Then, raise your hands up so they are parallel with your head and you feel a stretch through the front of your shoulder.
Jogging and Shadowing
This is a great conditioning exercise that will help raise your heart rate and get your entire body ready for a game of tennis!
Simply jog around the court with your racket and practice shadowing various shots as you do.
This helps replicate tennis specific movement patterns whilst getting your muscles warm and ready to play. Win win!
Takeaways: Tennis Stretches
Overall, stretching is very important for injury prevention and helps your muscles remain supple whilst improving your flexibility.
Whilst there are a range of benefits to stretching, it is worth noting that not all stretching is created equal.
Static stretches should be used specifically to release tension from your muscles after a tennis session or workout, whereas dynamic stretches are great for warming up specific areas of the body so they are primed for your session.
So remember, next time you step on the court, don’t forget to stretch!
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