Swing Into Shape For Tennis: Flexibility Training For Great Reach

Tennis players lose plenty of points when their reach falls short. The solution? Flexibility exercises increase your range of motion on the court, helping you get to that ball from some, shall we say, unnatural body positions without hurting yourself.

For Safe Stretching:

  • Always warm up your muscles before stretching with 5 to 10 minutes of light activity.
  • Never bounce while stretching. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
  • When holding stretches, always support your limbs at the joint and be sure to keep the muscles that you are stretching relaxed.
  • Perform each stretch 2 or 3 times.
  • Vary your stretches to include all major muscle groups (back, legs, chest, shoulders and arms).

Tennis, like any sport with a lot of overhead movement, is a recipe for shoulder pain. Pay extra attention to stretching this all-important joint. Your shoulder's front is often weaker than its back, so avoid stretches that pull your arm behind your body - they're simply too much strain. Spend more time stretching the back of your shoulder.

Here are some good stretches for your shoulders and other key muscle groups you use in tennis.

Posterior Shoulders - While standing, extend your right arm across your chest so that it is straight and parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders down, not hunched. Placing your left hand on your right elbow, gently push your right arm toward your chest until you feel a good stretch across the top of your right shoulder and upper arm. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

Overhead Stretches - Stand straight, arms overhead and crossed at the wrists, palms together. Stretch your arms up as high as you comfortably can and very slightly back. Press your hands together firmly. You should feel this stretch in your ribs, upper back, and interior shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds.

Upper Back and Rotator Cuff - Raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height. Intertwine your fingers, turn your palms outward (away from your body). Stretch your hands away from your body until you feel the stretch under and across your shoulder blades. Take a deep breath then let your chin fall to your chest as you exhale. You should feel the stretch in your upper back. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing normally.

Latissimus Dorsi, or"Lats" - With your right side next to the fence surrounding the court, reach above your head with your left hand and grab the fence. Place your feet as close to the base of the fence as possible and keep them together. Let your torso gradually lean to the left. You should feel the stretch from under your left arm to your waist. Hold 30 seconds. Switch sides.

Calves - Take three steps away from a wall. Turn around and face the wall. Stand straight, with your toes, hips, and shoulders all facing the wall. Step your right leg toward the wall, bending your right knee and keeping your left leg straight. Extend arms out. Reach your palms out to the wall and let your body lean into it, keeping your arms straight. Keep your toes forward, your heels down and your left leg straight behind your body. You should feel the stretch in the left calf. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

Quadriceps - Stand straight with toes, hips, and shoulders all facing forward. Brace against a wall, tree, or pole for balance. Bend your left knee to raise your left foot behind you as if you were trying to kick your bottom with your heel. Grab your left ankle with your left hand. Stand straight; do not lean forward at the hips. Keep the knees next to each other. If you cannot reach your ankle while standing, wrap a towel around your ankle and hold the top of the towel. You should feel this stretch in your left thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

Hamstrings (reclining) - Lie flat on your back and raise your left leg straight above you at 90 degrees, keeping your right knee bent and your right foot flat on the floor. Hold your left leg with your hands behind the knee for support. Pull your leg toward your head to feel a stretch along the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

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