Warm UP for Tennis

The evenings are drawing out and the days are getting bright and sunny so it must be tennis season. Tennis is a wonderful sport and recreational hobby but one that can be very demanding and, rather more frequently than most people would like, ends up with a trip to see the physiotherapist.  Bjorn Borg describes the game as “a thousand little sprints”. In an effort to avoid injury and keep playing all summer the inclusion of some simple warm up exercises can really help.

The warm up for tennis can be split into four sections.:

  1. Cardiovascular and general warm up.

  2. Stretching and release of tight muscles.

  3. Muscular activation.

  4. Shadowing and knock around.

1. Cardiovascular and general warm up.

This is very important as it primes the body for the game.  It gets the heart rate up and the blood flowing. The easiest way is to spend 10 mins slowly increasing your activity with:

  • Jogging around the court.

  • Side skips back and forth along the baseline.

  • Running from the base line to the net and back - start with straight lines and then move to diagonal runs changing the angles of direction. Slowly increase the pace.

  • Hops and Jumps along the baseline.

Try not to rush this stage it's important to give the body a chance to get ready for action.

2. Stretching and release of tight muscles.

Research suggest that dynamic stretches are more efficient and effective at releasing tight muscles, therefore I suggest a dynamic programme to stretch the whole body.

I suggest you move the length of the court completing each of the exercises 1-4.

1. Walking lunges with a rotation of  the body to the opposite side at the same time (i.e. as you lunge left knee forward rotate body to the right knee the hips facing forward).

2 .Side stepping with squats taking the arms up the side meeting above your head as you move - half way down the court turnaround so you lead with both the left and the right leg.

3. Alternating knee to chest bringing the opposite elbow to the knee and  then heel to bottom squeezing the arms straight behind you.

4 .Kicking each leg up in front of you and swinging the opposite arm for balance.

5. Standing up on tip toes and then sink to a squat - keep the feet facing forward and the middle of the knee cap over the second toe as you squat. Repeat x 15

6. Cross arms across the chest and rotate the trunk smoothly from right to left - keeping hips facing the front - Repeat x 5

7. Roll downs - Stand with feet parallel.  Exhale and nod the head and roll the spine down bone by bone. If you feel tension in the back of the thighs (hamstrings) bend the knees so you can continue to roll. Inhale at the bottom of the movement and exhale as you uncurl up. Repeat x 4

8.  Hand on your bottom and standing tall lean back to extend the spine.  Repeat x 4

9. Roll the shoulder back and forth.  Repeat x 5

10. Shrug the shoulders and drop.  Repeat x 5

11. Take each arm out in front of you and

A: Palm up stretch the wrist with the fingers down with the other hand. Repeat x 2

B: Palm down stretch wrist with the fingers down with the other hand. Repeat x 2

12. Think tall and rotate the head right / left / up / down / ear to right shoulder / ear to left shoulder. Repeat x 2 each.

With the above exercises please do not try too hard or force the movement - keep steady and relaxed - you do not want to over- stretch any muscles.

Muscle activation:

This is very difficult to write and advise on in a general post but this is the time to focus your attention on any areas of weakness specific to you. Most people have muscle imbalances and spending a few minutes awakening the less active muscles is useful.  If you have specific concerns re muscle imbalance and the need for muscle activation exercises Victoria can offer some guidance on this.

Shadowing and gentle knock around:

Now you should be warmed up it’s time to get the brain ready for tennis.  Tennis requires a complex neuromuscular activation. It is vital to “prime” the brain ready for the task. You don’t want to be part way through the first set before the brain realises what it is supposed to be doing. The easiest way to do this is Shadowing. Shadowing mimics the movements involvement in the game - forehand, backhand, volley, smash and serve… alternate these movements for 2 - 3 minute slowly increasing the intensity so you brain is ready for action.  If you watch the top players they often spend quite some time on this activity before starting to play.

Finally, a gentle knock around with your partner for 1 -2 minutes and you should be set to PLAY.

The above programme is given as a suggested warm up but should you have any specific concerns or injures you should seek the advice of a doctor or physiotherapist before starting the exercises.  

If you would like to discuss your concerns with Victoria please do not hesitate to email or telephone ThamesPhysio.