Few things are more frustrating than getting injured after months of intense training and improvement or several days before a much-anticipated tennis tournament. The International Tennis Federation cites calf muscle and hamstring muscle strains, groin injury, lower back pain, and tennis elbow as several of the most common tennis injuries from which players suffer.
By incorporating proper pre- and post-match stretching into your tennis regimen, you can reduce the odds of pulling a hamstring the week before a match against your nemesis. Research shows that the most effective pre-match stretches are dynamic while it’s best to incorporate static stretching into your post-match ritual.
In order to enjoy an injury-free summer of tennis, follow the tennis stretch guide below.
Pre-Match Tennis Stretches
Dynamic stretching utilizes controlled movements that bring muscles near the limit of range of motion in order to increase flexibility and reduce tension that surrounds joints. These should be completed for five to ten minutes after first warming up on the courts but before the match. Shoot for 12 – 15 repetitions per exercise. However, avoid jerky or sudden movements and stop stretching immediately if you experience pain.
- Quick Kicks: Start jogging lightly in place and bring your heels quickly up to your bottom in rapid succession. (However, skip this exercise if you suffer from knee problems.)
- Arm Swings: With palms facing down, hold your arms out to your sides at shoulder height. Rotate your arms in small forward circles 10 times and then alternate to small backward circles. This exercise will work the deltoid muscles and rotator cuff.
- Straight-Leg Swings: While keeping your knee straight, swing your right leg forward as high as possible until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Do this 15 times forward and then 15 times backward. And then switch to your left leg. This exercise targeting the hamstrings works best if you have something sturdy to steady yourself, such as holding on to the edge of the net.
Post-Match Tennis Stretches
Static stretching occurs when you hold a muscle slightly past its normal range of motion, typically for 15 to 30 seconds at a time and repeated until the stretch has been held for a total of one minute. Muscles tightened while playing will re-lengthen during static stretches. This helps to prevent future injury and muscle imbalance.
- Shoulder Stretch: Using your right hand, hold a racquet by the handle behind your back. With your left hand, grab the bottom of the racquet head and gently pull it down toward the ground. While pulling down, bring your right elbow toward your ear and point it to the ceiling. And then pointing your left elbow toward the ground, pull your right arm up. Switch arms and repeat exercise.
- Calf Stretch: Keep one leg forward while extending the other one behind you. Point your toes forward and keep your heel down on the back leg while also keeping the leg straight. Without arching your lower back, bend the knee of your front leg and hold the stretch. Next, bend your back knee as well and hold the stretch in the altered stance.
- Groin Stretch: Sitting on the ground, bring the soles of your shoes together so that your knees are extending out in opposite directions. Pull your feet as close to your body as possible without causing pain. Put your elbows on your knees and push down. Try to hold for 15 to 30 seconds.