Whether you’re at the public courts, country club, pro tournament, or any athletic event, you’ll most likely see players stretching various parts of their bodies in preparation for competition. But did you know that certain types of stretching before play actually can reduce the amount of power your muscles generate and negatively affect your performance? The stretching that most average players are familiar with, static stretching, is accomplished by putting your muscles under light tension and held to 15 to 30 seconds. This type of stretching may not be helping your performance as part of your warm-up period before play. Static stretching is more appropriate and beneficial after play. Static stretching done after play or training is recommended for increasing and maintaining your overall flexibility.
Dynamic stretching is what tennis players need to do before play. It’s essentially stretching with movement, and it represents a new way of preparing the body for athletic activity. Basically, dynamic stretching warms up the body and involves movement that gradually increases reach, movement speed, and reaction time. It consists of arm, leg, and torso movements that take you to the limits of your range of motion and helps preserve your muscles ability to generate power while preparing your body for activity. You can design your own dynamic stretching routine. The routine should be a 5 to 10 minute warm-up consisting of short routines that emphasize forward and backward movement, lateral movement, and multidirectional movement. You should also include routines that address your specific needs and target weak areas of movement. The idea is to gradually increase movements that will mirror what your body and muscles go through during match play. Any type of routine you design does not have to be overly complicated or long. When your warm-up is finished, do some light hitting before you hit all-out. The benefits of a dynamic warm-up are:
· A dynamic warm-up increases your body’s temperature causing the muscles to contract more efficiently and generate greater force.
· It primes the cardiovascular system by getting the heart and lungs ready to engage in vigorous activity.
· It actively elongates muscles, which will improve the joint’s range of motion and the body’s ability to handle the forces experienced during play.
· It helps to ingrain proper movement patterns leading to better on-court performance.
· It wakes up the nervous system and gets the brain ready to talk to the muscles, which allows the muscles to work more efficiently.
Steven White is the author of…
Teaching Tennis: Protocol for Instructors