This week, in the northern hemisphere, marked the spring equinox - the formal change of seasons from winter to spring. Of course, if you live in Maine like I do, there is still snow on the ground and we are bound to get some more of the white fluffy stuff before the end of April, but I am in no way bitter about that!?#$%&!@! Hahaha. :)
Regardless, there will soon be wonderful weather for outdoor tennis, and for many of us that is when tennis season really begins. So what can we do to help us get physically prepared to enjoy playing the sport we love, while minimizing the risk for injury?
We at AD LOVE have curated what we believe are five of the most important exercises/stretches to incorporate into your weekly fitness routine for this tennis season.
1. The Standing T
This exercise is all about loosening up your shoulders. Your shoulders are a key part of your upper body rotation when you are hitting a tennis ball. When our shoulders are tight however, we tend to overcompensate by using our arm to do more of the work in swinging our racket, which makes us more prone to injury, especially tennis elbow.
To perform the standing t: Stand straight up, and then bend forward to a 90 degree angle at the waist, keeping your back flat and your chest up. Pull your shoulder blades back and down, and spread your arms straight out from your body with your hands positioned higher than your head, as if you were a bird gliding and looking down upon all of the tennis courts.
Return to your starting position, and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Remember to initiate movement from your shoulder blades rather than your arms. This improves rotational movement, and also reduces the negative impact of sitting.
2. The Drop Lunge
This exercise is key for improving quickness and lateral agility, which are extremely important in tennis.
To perform the drop lunge: Stand up tall and erect. Step back with your left foot and place it behind your right foot, so that it’s about two feet behind and to the right of your right foot. Square your hips facing forward. Maintaining your weight on the heel of your front leg, lower yourself gradually into a squat. Keep your front knee from sliding over your toes. Stand up again, return to the starting position, and perform the same steps on the other side. Alternate for a total of 10 reps on each side.
3. Lateral lunge
This movement also improves lateral mobility and quickness, complementing the drop lunge well.
To perform the lateral lunge: Start as you did in the drop lunge, but now stepping to your left side, lower your hips by squatting back and down with your left leg, making sure to keep your right leg straight and out to the side. Come back to the starting position by pushing up with your left leg. Follow these directions on the other side, and then repeat the movement for a total of 10 reps on each side. This movement will work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, and also stretches the inner thigh of the straight leg.
4. The Handwalk
This is a terrific full-body stretch that integrates the upper and lower areas of your body, which is crucial for a smooth racket swing.
Performing the handwalk: Stand upright with your legs straight. Bend forward at the waist, and put your hands on the ground in front of you. Keeping your legs straight, walk your feet up to your hands. Be sure to take short steps using only your ankles, without bending at the knees. You will feel a stretch and when you do, plant your feet and walk your hands out in front of you to a plank position. Continue for a total of 10 reps.
5. The Knee Hug
The knee hug will help you improve flexibility and mobility in the lower body, making you quicker on the tennis court, by stretching the glute and hamstring of your front leg and the hip flexor of your back leg,
Performing the knee hug: From a standing position, lift your left knee to your abdomen and grab below your knee with both hands. Pull your right knee to your abdomen while contracting your left glute. Step forward, and repeat on the other side. Alternate for a total of 10 repetitions on each side.
Add these five elements to your weekly exercise routine, and enjoy playing under the sun!