Tennis is a very one-sided activity that often results in the muscles on one side of the body becoming overly strong and well developed. Certain areas of a tennis player’s body are often inflexible. The most common tennis injuries are overuse injuries, caused by repetitions of a one-sided activity like hitting thousands of serves. Overuse injuries can be tough to heal, and they can even become chronic in many cases.
Overuse injuries are as follows
Tennis elbow/rotator cuff tears, stress fracture in the back, patella tendinitis, wrist, knees and achilles tendinitis, strains, sprains and muscle spasm. To overcome injuries various methods have to be followed and adapted to the system of proper periodic training protocols, involving all aspects of fitness pertinent to tennis along with recovery and diet schedules.
Specific preparations have to be in place conforming with the courts, geographical location, weather conditions, travel time, diet regime. Adaptation is the key to top-level performance.
Injury prevention methods
* Good warm-up (dynamic) and proper stretching to the full range of movement, along with the specific tubing work to warm the shoulder and upper back compartment is the key.
* Proper cooling down post workout or game is as important as the warm-up to prevent injuries.
* Work on dynamic stretches at varied angles, and also varied stretches for the same muscle groups to prepare them and the joints for desired movement is the key. Bouncing of the stretched position is not recommended.
* Prehab or rehab routines to be followed strictly with the guidance of the sports medicine doctor and the physio. Monitoring by the trainer is crucial to avoid injuries or get back on feet post injury.
Proper nutrition, hydration and recovery protocols are vital for injury prevention.
Preparation for various types of courts
Professional players encounter different types of courts world over. So training and preparation is vital for enhanced performance with low chances of injury and good recovery.
Synthetic grass: Low bounce, fast, poor underfoot traction.
Clay: High bounce, slow, poor underfoot traction.
Hard court: Medium bounce, moderately fast, good underfoot traction.
Grass: Low bounce, fast, moderate underfoot traction.
Tips for preparing for each surface
* Since the bounce of the ball is very low and the player has to stay low with bent knee, it’s practical and important to work on a large muscle group in the lower body, like gluteal with the full range of motion (pistol squats, depth lunges, deep squats, eccentric squats etc.).
* Due to the short and explosive point duration and the speed of the court, it is important to work on your footwork. Co-ordination, reaction time and anticipation are the key factors for early shot-making. Doing 15-20 minutes of fast-foot, speed, reaction time and agility drills before practice would help in preparation.
* Serve and volley plays an important role on grasscourts, and it is possibly for players to get a tight wrist and forearms. Good wrist and forearm strengthening programmes will also be very beneficial (wrist flexion and extension and pronation and supination exercises would help). * Hand-eye co-ordination and reactive and proactive exercises would be beneficial in creating a slight edge for the player.
* The high impact involved in playing on this surface means huge amount of stress on the muscoskeletal system. It is, therefore, pertinent to follow overall body and multi-angled training programmes along with the core strength and stability.
* Considering the speed and consistency of the court (bounce and pace), it is particularly important to get your footwork right. Footwork drills with fast feet drills to approach a ball quickly and execute the shot effectively.
* A hard court is hard on the ankle and knee joints. Training and strengthening the specific movements and range is vital to avoiding injuries.
* Tennis based fitness training can also be performed in an unstable equilibrium and soft surface to avoid unwanted loading on the joints, creating stress and also increasing the proprioception of the ankle joints.
* Clay is low impact, with relatively higher bounce, and players generally have more time to prepare for the shots.
* Preparing to play on clay should involve a specific high workload of endurance, speed, strength, agility, shoulder strength and stability, glutes, adductors and abductors strength and flexibility and breathing patterns. This will help prepare for the longer points, sliding and high bounce.
These are some basic tips for a tennis training programme for every court. Consult a professional tennis fitness trainer to get a training programme that is specific to you and the surface you plan to play. on
* If you cannot stabilise, balance, control and move efficiently with only your bodyweight, there’s no point in using heavy external loads. Yet, many players, despite their inability to move their bodyweight efficiently, are eager to power lift and try various external loads.
* Some of the strongest and the most flexible athletes are gymnasts who spend most of their time manipulating their own bodies around the gym.
* Before you do the bench press, work on stabilising your shoulder girdle and core by completing push-ups effectively.
* A strength programme in the initial stages of training will likely involve no weights but only the bodyweight. A bodyweight-focused programme will work better and faster by recruiting all the muscle groups in sequence and fire in the correct angle required.
* Bodyweight exercise helps in creating an nitial neutral pathway for proper form in exercising and to load later.
Free weights and multi-joint training
* Free weights help you learn to stabilise and control your body in all three planes of motion simultaneously and at varied angles.
* Pin-loaded machines are unidirectional and work muscles in isolation, which is not the case in any sport.
* Free weights help you train multi-joints, and strength transfer on the court is efficient.
* One can work on anterior and posterior muscle compartments in a closed chain execution of exercise.
* Specific adaptation to imposed demand could be the key factor when training with free weights.
Choice of unilateral and multi-planar exercises
* Most training programmes are in one plane and bilateral in movement rather than unilateral.
* However, the majority of tennis takes place in all three planes simultaneously with many movements. Some 80-90% is spent with one leg in the air. Most of the shots you play rely on the dominance of one leg.
* Unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian squat/pistol squat, single leg box jumps etc. can be incorporated into your schedule.
Train the opposite
The speed of a serve, or a forehand or a backhand is determined largely by the ability of the player to eccentrically decelerate joint action and prevent joint injury.
Train both accelerating and decelerating muscle groups. It plays an important role in stabilising the muscle imbalance and increasing the efficiency. Mostly the angle of acceleration is more than the angle of deceleration in many movements, so one has to train the antagonistic muscle groups to increase force production and force reduction in some cases.
Try to catch a slowing down medicine ball from your partner, just like you would take it back into a forehand or backhand to improve eccentric loading.
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