Tennis is a great sport for fitness, strength, agility, and fun. It also has an important social aspect because you play at a club with friends or family.
The best news is that you can play tennis for almost your entire lifetime.
But in order to be able to hit the courts every week, you need to stay fit and injury-free. This means participating in mobility exercises and cross-training using other fitness programs.
The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that has been open for almost twenty years. We have 12 tennis courts and several pro instructors that teach group and private lessons.
Our instructors are often asked how to best stay in shape for tennis. In this article, we will discuss why cross-training and mobility work are essential for tennis players and what movements will help keep you fit and minimize injury.
What is the purpose of cross-training if you already play tennis multiple times per week?
Despite all the cardio and strength training we attain by playing tennis, we do create imbalances and overstress certain parts of our bodies.
By including some cross-training to your regimen, you can become stronger overall, and help to stave off injury, allowing you to play better for longer.
What are the benefits of mobility exercises?
Tennis players require good foundational fitness to move competently around the court.
Tennis demands players to make quick changes of direction, lateral steps, and sprints. These movements use the ankles, knees, legs, hips, and torso.
All the important strokes — swing patterns for the big first serve, the kick serves, the forehand winner, and more — require flexibility and mobility in the body.
When you train your body to be symmetrical in strength and flexibility, you create a better platform for playing, while preventing yourself from being hurt and losing time on the court.
What challenges do tennis players face with injuries or range of motion issues?
Tennis players are primarily faced with three possible injuries.
The repetition of driving topspin and slice that uses your shoulder, forearm, and wrist can create an abundance of knotted fascia that meets on the top of the forearm at the elbow.
Tennis elbow can be debilitating, causing pain with every shot. Worst of all is that recovery can be slow.
By continuing to stretch, build muscle, and improve flexibility, you can work to avoid the dreaded tennis elbow.
2. Shoulder stress
Shoulders are another stress area for tennis players. Working to snap through a big serve requires extreme practice and repetition of the same motion over and over. This area gets worked only on one side of the body, leading to asymmetry.
Due to the repetitive motions in tennis, overuse injuries to the shoulder are very common. Once they progress to a certain point, medical attention may be required to recover. The three most common injuries for shoulders are impingement, rotator cuff tears, and arthritis.
Without strength training to help create more symmetry, shoulders can begin to tilt, which is detrimental to your upper spine.
3. Bad ankles
Lastly, the quick changes of direction on the court can cause weakness in the ankles, leading to sprains, strains, and tears of ligaments.
Because circulation in the ankles is weak, these injuries can take longer to heal and can lead to extended periods of time off the court.
What mobility exercises should tennis players do?
A dynamic warm-up is essential to longevity on the court.
Moving stretches, a slight increase in cardio, and extended ranges of movement before play helps to keep the body fluid and limber while playing.
Take your time to warm up slowly. Start with great footwork and soft but full swings. This practice helps to prepare the body for the rigors of a competitive match or drill.
Three basic mobility movements for tennis players are:
Good mornings warm up the hamstrings. Focus on chest opening and straight shoulders while performing this movement.
2. Lunge hugs are to increase stability and warm up the quads. Make sure to get comfortable really planting a foot.
3. Hip rotations are critical because hips take a beating due to so much change of movement. Warming them up with rotations helps to minimize tightness.
On the days that you don’t play tennis, attend a yoga or Pilates class so you can give your body a full hour of stretching, elongating, and mobilizing.
What type of cross-training should tennis players do?
Since tennis players have a dominant side due to serves, forehands, and overheads, they run the risk of imbalances in muscles and tendons which can put a strain on the body, especially the core and back.
Cross-training balances strength in the body and also focuses on building explosive power. It helps to maximize your court potential and lower the risks of injury.
Your body's core, which includes not only your belly, but also your back, booty, and shoulders, are essential to strengthen and protect as a tennis player. The core generates power, provides a strong foundation, and guards the back.
Jen Azevedo is a person of many talents. She is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!