Exercise Warmups and Cooldowns

Tennis players are notorious for not warming up properly. Their typical pre-match routine consists of hitting groundstrokes, a few volleys and smashes, and some practice serves. They begin the match after following this textbook formula for sustaining an injury. Lots of them get hurt.

General Warmup
A good warmup for tennis and other racket sports should include three phases. The first is a general limbering up period to raise the body’s temperature a couple of degrees. The increase in temperature will have the effect of lubricating the muscles, tendons, and joints. With less friction, there should be less stiffness, soreness, and susceptibility to soft tissue injuries. Loosen up by jogging, walking fast, jumping rope, or using an exercise machine. When you break a sweat, it’s time to move to the next phase.

Stretching
Don’t stretch first. Do it after the loosening up exercises just described. Try to find five to ten minutes for stretching exercises. They are important for everyone, but especially for older exercisers and those who have had a previous injury.

Stretch the muscles in the legs, trunk, and upper body to a point where there is tension but not pain. If there is not time for a complete stretching routine, tennis players should concentrate on the shoulders, neck, upper back, calves, and Achilles tendons. Hold each stretch at least 30 seconds. Don’t bounce. Stretching and contracting muscles too quickly may cause the same injuries you are trying to avoid.

Now You Can Hit
After at least five minutes of loosening up and five minutes of stretching, it’s okay to start hitting. Start at the service line and hit easy groundstrokes. Then move to the baseline and gradually increase the pace of your shots. Try to move as you would during a match. Quick starts and changes of direction during a match are sure bets for muscle strains unless you have simulated the motion during the warmup. Conclude your warmup with volleys, smashes, and practice serves.

Cooldown
If many tennis players slight the warmup, they practically ignore the cooldown. It is not a good idea to immediately stop any vigorous activity. Try to gradually get your pulse back to normal by jogging slowly or walking around the courts. An abbreviated stretching routine might help maintain flexibility and reduce muscle soreness after a match.

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