If you're looking to improve your tennis game, or just seeking to prevent tennis injuries, it is important to add in a few simple stretches to your fitness program. As tennis players put a tremendous amount of strain on their arm muscles, they are particularly susceptible to muscle strains and injuries. Incorporating some basic stretches into your tennis routine can help keep you on the court and on top of your game.
The forearm stroke and two-handed backhand stroke both utilize the biceps, among other muscle groups. To stretch both biceps at the same time, clasp your hands behind your back with your palms together and lean forward. Straighten and rotate your arms so that your palms face downward. Slowly raise your arms up until you feel your biceps tighten. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds before lowering your arms.
As an alternative, the kneeling stretch can also work the biceps. While on both knees, place your palms flat on the ground beside you, fingers facing your body. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
The triceps, located at the back of the upper arm, are important muscles for tennis players as they provide support for both the shoulder and the elbow. The triceps play a role in the serve, overhead, backhand and volley. To perform a single-arm triceps stretch, place your right arm behind your head with your palm touching your upper back. With your left arm, reach over your head and place your left hand on your right elbow. Slowly pull the elbow down, stretching the triceps of your right arm. After holding for 10 seconds, switch positions to stretch the left triceps. Repeat the stretch in both arms three times.
Shoulder injuries are one of the most common tennis injuries. Often times they appear after overloading the rotator-cuff when the muscle is contracting, typically during the follow-through phase of a serve. The cross-arm stretch and sleeper stretch can be used to improve flexibility of the muscles in the back of the shoulder and back of the shoulder joint capsule. Stand next to a doorway, if possible. Raise your playing arm to shoulder level and using the other hand, grab the outside of the elbow and pull your arm across your chest. You should feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder. Start by holding for about 15 to 20 seconds. If comfortable, extend for 30 seconds for an even more intense stretch.
The sleeper stretch is similar to the cross-arm, working the same portion of the shoulder. Lie on your dominant shoulder, taking up a position you might adopt if sleeping on your side (hence the name "sleeper" stretch). Place your dominant arm directly in front of you with your elbow bent 90 degrees. Using your other arm, push your hand down toward your feet, internally rotating your shoulder, and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
As a tennis player, you should work to strengthen the entire body to minimize injury risk and ensure top performance. However, making sure to incorporate some key area stretches can help to minimize the risk of some common tennis injury pit falls.
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.