Avoid Injuries in Tennis: Fire Up the Warm-Up (Core & Legs)
Warming up the lower core and legs is important to allow good tennis court mobility and minimize the chance of injury. Dynamic warm up is the activity of choice before playing as it allows you to gradually warm up the bodies tissues in preparation for on court activities.
Whether you’re training hard or just out for some fun doubles, following the advice below will help you stay Fit to Play™. This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Part 1 outlined Upper core and arm warm-up and part 3 will outline on court warm-up strategies and tennis post play stretching tips.
Tennis is characterized by quick stops, starts, lateral movements and fast changes of direction. Warming the body up before stepping on court ensures the muscles are prepared for action and can adequately accelerate and decelerate your limbs while playing.
Intense exercise done without a sport specific dynamic warm-up does not allow for optimal performance and may contribute to injury.
- Start slowly and increase the intensity and complexity of the warm-up.
- Proper warm-up prepares the muscles you will use in training and prepares the joints for movement and dynamic stability throughout a full range of motion.
- Use tennis specific movements to help improve the relaxation-contraction coordination of the joints’ prime movers and stabilizers leading to more efficient movement and performance.
- It is commonly believed that a two degree increase of muscle temperature can give an increase in elastic properties of the muscle by as much as 15-20% helping to improve performance and prevent muscle strains.
- Warming-up until you achieve a light glow helps achieve this.
You should do a specific dynamic warm-up before every training or practice session to prepare yourself both mentally and physically.
If you have time and access to a gym get on the treadmill, elliptical trainer, exercise bike, stair-climber or rowing machine for 5-15 minutes. If that is not an option, do some easy jogging around the court or take a skipping rope with you and use it for several minutes.
Lower Core & Leg Warm-Up:
As you jog around the court add in some high knees, high heels, skipping, crossovers and side shuffle steps to improve coordination and add to the warm-up. Stand tall and keep abdominals tight while doing these exercises. Try doing 2-4 repetitions x 5-10 meters of each.
Warm up hips with these high knees drills.
Heels should contact buttocks.
Remember athletic posture, hands forward.
Balance (Ankle, Knee & Hip) Warm-Up:
Stop and hang onto the fence or net and further warm-up the lower core with leg swings front and back, side to side and figure of 8’s. Try some hurdlers high knees challenging your balance and warming up the hip by doing inside, straight and outside. Try 5-10 repetitions of each.
Stand tall and keep your lower abdominals fired while swinging legs.
Bring your knee up to hip height, first inside, then straight in front and then outside.
Here is a speed warm up that will help trigger your central nervous system(CNS). Do running on the spot “sewing machines” for 3 x 6-8 seconds at a medium tempo (60 % of full speed). Follow these with 2-3 x “sewing machine accelerations”
Start slowly and gradually accelerate up to 80% of your full speed at the 6-8 second mark.
Pre-Hit Conform Stretching:
Dynamic warm-up is your best activity before playing. However once you are warmed up you can do some gentle conform stretches to maintain muscle length or stretch out muscles that still feel tight. These type of stretches are gentle moving stretches that are not aggressive enough to tear and weaken muscle fibers.
Now you’re ready to step on the tennis court!