Prevention is better than a cure. The fine line between optimum training and getting injured is often difficult. Here we give some of our top tips on preventing tennis injuries.
A warm-up is a vital part of sporting participation in order to prevent injury and perform at your optimum level from the start. It helps to get the cardiovascular system functioning at a higher level, warms and stretches the muscles ready for action and prepares the mind for competition.
‘How to warm-up’ is a commonly covered topic, but many of these routines are aimed at either team sports like soccer which focus more on the legs, or are a very general routine where the upper body is glossed over.
A warm-up for racquet sports such as Tennis, Badminton, Squash, and Racquetball needs to get the heart pumping, the muscles of the arms and legs warm and stretched and allow the participant to practice some of the moves they will be performing in competition.
Start with any form of pulse-raising activity. A jog around the court for 3-5 minutes is usually sufficient. Alternatively, take a skipping rope with you! After this, try some shuttle runs, gradually increasing your speed. Around 8-10 lengths of the court is enough. After all, you don’t want to tire yourself out before the game!
Dynamic stretches are sometimes also known as active stretches. The aim of these exercises is to stretch the muscles in the ways they will be used during competition.
Again, using the length of the court, perform these movements, getting gradually larger with the stride length and increasing the movement velocity:
- Side steps – Moving from one end of the court to the other in a sideways fashion – 2 lengths
- Skipping – Skip (as a child would do!) from one end to the other to warm the calf muscles – 2 lengths
- Carioca – A common warm-up pattern which involves crossing one leg in front of the other as you cross the court sideways – 2 lengths
- High knees – Lift the knees as high as you can as you run across the court – 2 lengths
- Heel flicks – Kick the heels back to touch the buttocks – 2 lengths
- Walking lunge – Perform a lunge then swing the back leg forward and walk the length of the court this way – 2 lengths (see image below)
- Side squat – Stand side on and squat with the feet wide apart. Then rotate on the lead leg to face the opposite direction, squat again and repeat for 2 lengths.
- Double leg hops – with the feet together, hop forwards, making sure you stay on your toes throughout and gradually increase speed and height jumped.
By now your legs should be nice and warm. You can choose to perform static stretches at this point, but this is purely optional as research shows this is unlikely to reduce the risk of injury. You may wish to just focus on areas which you personally find tight. Calf stretches and hamstring stretches are commonly performed.
Upper body dynamic stretches can be performed standing in one spot. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Ensure the back is straight and the tummy pulled in.
- Trunk rotation – Hands on the hips, rotate the upper body from one side to the other, gradually making larger and faster movements – 10-15 reps.
- Trunk bend – Arms above the head, bend over to the side, reaching over your head with the opposite hand, then swap sides – 10-15 reps
- Neck circles – Slowly rotate the neck through its full range of motion, looking to the floor, over the right shoulder, the ceiling and over the left shoulder – 3 times.
- Shoulder rolls – Arms by the sides, roll the shoulder joints forwards 5 times and then backward 5 times.
- Arm circles – Swing both arms around in circles, firstly forwards 5 times and then backward 5 times. Then try one backward and one forwards for coordination!
- Straight arm clap – Start with both arms out in front, elbows straight and palms touching. Move the hands apart, out to your sides at chest level, and then bring back to the centre. Speed up the movement gradually. You can also bend the elbows when pulling them back.
- Rotator cuff rotation – Start with the arms at shoulder height and the elbows bent to 90 degrees, palms facing down. Rotate the shoulder joint so the fist points to the ceiling and then back the other way so it points to the floor (maintaining a horizontal upper arm). Repeat 10 times each arm, gradually getting faster.
- Wrist rotations – With the elbows straight, rotate the wrists around in circles, gradually increasing the size of the circle and speed of the movement. Perform 5 in each direction, per wrist.
Tennis specific exercises
Next up is your sports specific warm-up. This should focus on the movements you will be performing in order to continue the physical warm-up, but also to help hone your technique and ‘feel’ for the actions before your game.
Always start with gentle underarm shots like net shots in tennis and badminton. Gradually move back from the net/wall and increase the power you use until you are at the baseline performing full underarm lobs and backhands etc.
Next, move onto some gentle overhead shots such as drop shots. Again, start close to the net and move back. Finally, progress onto clears and smashes in badminton and serves in tennis. You should now be fully warmed up and ready to play!