Every tennis player KNOWS they should do stretching. And many do a cursory three minutes leaning on the net post before a match. But speaking as someone who has had very tight muscles and joints all his life, the value of regular and real stretching is significant.
The old mantra used to be: get fully stretched out before doing any physical exercise. And while the basic concept still seems to be valid, the current thinking is to change the type of stretching being done.
We all used to do “static stretching,” which had us hold a position and let the muscles and tendons stretch to their limits. As I am being told nowadays, that kind of stretching BEFORE and exercise can actually tire the muscles.
What is being recommended by trainers today is some “dynamic stretches” and a series of muscle warm-ups before you play; and then do static stretching AFTER you play. “Dynamic stretching” involves doing all the same stretches we used to do; but rather than holding the pose, you push to the limit for only one or two seconds, release, and repeat six times.
The “muscle warm-up” concept was taught to us by the trainer at tennis camp, who worked for years for as head trainer for a major league baseball team. He recommends “letting the big muscle groups know they are getting ready for some serious play time.” He believes in doing warm-up motions from head to toe, literally.
The actions cover all things from moving your neck side to side, waving your arms in a variety of motions, to body twists, jumping jacks, abbreviated squats, etc. Just picture what Rafael Nadal looks like when he first walks on the court, already glistening with a light sweat.
If you did no exercise or sports, stretching is still probably a good idea. But because you play tennis and possibly do other strength training, stretching becomes essential. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of regular stretching are multiple:
• Increased Flexibility – If you have flexible muscles, you can bend for the low volley, twist to get a ball behind you, and generally have a more fluid tennis motion on all your strokes.
• Improved Range of Motion of Joints – In addition to improvement on the court, good range of motion will keep you in better balance off the court.
• Improved Circulation – Stretching improves the blood flow to your muscles, which can help speed up your recovery after muscle injuries.
• Stress Relief – The basic action of stretching relaxes tense muscles that often accompany stress.
Also according to the Mayo Clinic, some studies indicate that stretching helps prevent athletic injuries as well. However, some other studies don’t support that theory.
Do you stretch?