By: Christine King Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Historically, tennis is a highly competitive sport at every ability level and format. Doubles, singles, quadruples, the number of people engaged isn’t consequential to the players; Winning is the principal goal!
In over 22 years of treating and training tennis players from amateur to pro, there’s a recurring pushback from them to implement tennis-specific fitness drills, stretches, and exercises. The overall consensus is “I get enough exercise on the tennis court, I don’t need to do anything else.”
Here are the critical assessments used when evaluating a player:
Q: Does tennis burn a ton of calories?
Q: Does tennis provide a great level of exercise?
Q: Do many tennis players incur injuries such as torn rotator cuff, ACL, meniscus, Achilles tendon, and more?
Just as the world of golf has made a hard right turn in incorporating fitness into the game, the world of tennis is not far behind. The struggle appears when working with busy professionals, parents, and “old school” players who’ve been fortunate enough not yet to have experienced a critical injury or one that takes them out of the game for even a short amount of time. When a player needs time off due to injury, it’s no picnic for them, their family, or us!
The training protocol we implement with players of all ages is similar, with modifications as needed. Here are some of the core elements:
- Rotator Cuff Strengthening
- Why? The rotator cuff is one of the most commonly injured muscle groups while playing tennis.
- Why? Most tennis players don’t implement flexibility enough into their daily routine. This sport requires short, quick movements which tighten tendons, muscles and joints making them more susceptible to injury. Practicing stretching movements aides in the reduction of injury.
- Proprioception and Balance.
- Why? The player has no exact idea of where the ball is going. The neuromuscular system responds, and the player reacts without thought. If the player’s proprioception is compromised, so too will be their game.
Proprioception? What’s that? It’s the understanding of where your body is in space at all time. As an example, if an individual has had any type of surgery, including knee or hip surgery or replacements, their proprioception is compromised. As a result, the player may take a misstep or worse incur another injury.
A different principle applies to balance. If a player’s balance is compromised, the subconscious mind and body take over and precludes the player from running for the shot. The body is a beautiful computer that usually saves you from hurting yourself.
- Footwork is a necessity for ALL players. We use many tools including an agility ladder, BOSU, the tennis court itself and more! The dynamics of foot training is invigorating work that quickens a player’s pace, improves balance and improves the likelihood of them acing the winning shot!
- Overall Strength Training and “Weak Spot” Specific Strengthening.
- An overall strengthening program is essential for every human being, particularly tennis players to assist them in the prevention or recovery of an injury. “Weak Spot” strengthening is customized to those areas previously injured or are at high risk for injury.
Implementing these measures improve your game, speed, and enjoyment significantly. After all, tennis is a very social sport. All of our tennis players want to play for the rest of their lives, and it’s our job to show them the measures needed to make it happen!
Christine King is a Medical Exercise Specialist, Fitness Expert, and Founder of YourBestFit. The health and wellness company has helped thousands of clients recover from injuries, look and feel better and improve their overall well-being and sports performance. www.YourBestFit.com