Many of us are excited about the season and ready to get on the court-in our minds! Tennis is about fitness and being fit is sometimes hard to achieve. Watching the Indian Wells tournament some commentators mentioned the regimen of some of the players warming up for an hour and a half. What could you possibly do for so long?
It was noted that the importance of stretching and warming up among professionals was to prevent injury, not just to “loosen up.”
Professionals on the circuit play tournament matches daily and have very little time in between to recover from injury whereas the amateur player has days and weeks to come back from sprains, twists, pulls and soreness. As a preventative measure, the pros increase the stretching and warm up time to ready muscles, ligaments, increase blood flow and ease into play to avoid pulling and aggravating overused muscles or past injuries.
Some stretching that can benefit you the most will take an adequate amount of time. Who has the time? You do if you value your health and fitness. Arrive at your match early to allow at least 10 minutes for a stretching session; go to the parking lot, an open space, somewhere naturally beautiful and build this time into your travel time so you can feel ready for play. The following video is 10 minutes and is almost meditative but has stretches that are familiar and some new ones. Professionals cited stretching the back as the most important part of the body to ready-something many players never do! Watch the video and although slow moving will give you the tools to better take care of your tennis fitness.
The University of Rochester Health Encyclopedia explains:
“Exercise, and other factors, can cause your muscles to shorten. By regularly stretching the muscles, you counteract that shortening. Stretching promotes flexibility, allowing you to move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion.”
“Muscles that are warmed up before being put under a sudden stress are more likely to be able to handle the stress. Stretching can help keep the body limber by releasing muscle tension and tightness. A tight muscle is not able to function like it should. “
How to get the most from your stretching as recommended by the URMC
· Do five to 10 minutes of walking or light jogging to warm up before you start exercising and stretching. Do not try to stretch muscles when they are "cold."
· Stretch at least two to three times a week. If you work out two to three times a week, just make it part of your workout routine.
· Stretch all major muscle groups, especially those your activity involves. For running or other leg-centered exercise, that means the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Stretch the shoulders, chest, and back before activities working the upper body.
· Stretch each muscle group individually using slow, gentle movements. Breathe while you stretch, exhaling as you move into the stretch. Hold the position no more than 20 to 30 seconds. Three to five repetitions is recommended.
· Don't try to balance and stretch at the same time. Holding onto a chair or wall for standing stretches provides more stability.
· Don't bounce while you stretch or make sudden movements. Back off if you experience pain. Stretching should not take a joint past its normal range of motion. Stretching the wrong way can harm muscles by creating small tears that may become bigger when you exercise.
In further research, static and dynamic stretching were named, defined and explored and it was proposed that mimicking actual play (dynamic) in warm up readies muscles for what they will endure during a match. Isolating muscle groups or static stretching is good to prep muscles for achieving range of motion but should be accompanied by mini tennis and a stroke warm up at less than full power to alert certain muscles to awaken. Lengthening muscles allows for greater flexibility but may not kick start those muscles that allow you to explode into action on the court. Stretching and warming up with groundstrokes, volleys, serves, etc. serve the purpose of readying your game but more importantly readying your body for play.
Ease in to prevent a season of pain and promote a season of fitness!
Get on the Court!