Getting Stronger Legs

Thanks to

Thanks to

One of the key factors in tennis success is your legs. If they are a weak link, as the match wears on, you will wear out and not get to the ball, not set up correctly, and probably lose more than win.

I used to love running (strange, huh?); but can’t take the pounding on my joints any longer. But you have to do something to strengthen your legs; and one basic exercise can work wonders.

The Simple Squat

According to fitness instructor Katy Widrick on the website,

“Squats and lunges are some of my favorite moves to teach. They work multiple muscles; you can performed them with no weights, free weights or barbells; and you can modify them in endless varieties. But the proper form is not instinctive. The first thing to keep in mind is that your knees should not go past your feet. Let’s look at the squat as an example.

Your glutes should go back and down, as if you’re sitting in a chair, and you should keep your weight on your heels. To make sure you’re going back far enough in the squat, try this two-point test:

• Look down at your feet. Can you see your toes? If your knees are blocking them, you’re too far forward. Shift your hips back and concentrate on sitting in an invisible chair.

• Once you’re in your squat, try wiggling your toes. If you can’t do it without losing your balance, think about shifting your weight into your heels. As you move through the squat, keep your spine in a neutral position, and don’t lean too far forward or too far back.”

What do you do to strengthen your legs?

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6 thoughts on “Getting Stronger Legs

  1. Thanks for the info George. My knees can only take so much pounding as well. My discomfort comes from 40 some years of basketball. Yes, I was in fact tooooo stupid to quit until well in my forties. A teammate of mine,a retired physician told me the human body was not designed to launch 30-36 inches in the air and land thousands of times.
    I have more discomfort than the level of arthritis should produce. I have been told that giving up dairy will produce amazing results in a short amount of time Any thoughts or other solutions from any of the players?

    Ron Atkinson

    Ron, i have never heard of the “dairy cure” and will look for some others to comment. thanks, george

  2. As for this topic I have long envied those who began their tennis addiction later in life than I since their joints, feet, legs, back, shoulders, elbows, etc. haven’t been beaten up as long playing on those old cement/blacktop hard courts. George McCabe, a top-ranked player in his mid-eighties only got serious about the sport in his mid-forties. Ergo, his wear and tear is only about forty years old. I started the pounding when I was eight years of age and now, at seventy-five my parts have been tortured for the better part of SIXTY-EIGHT YEARS!!! When it wasn’t tennis doing its thing it was baseball, basketball, football, track, volleyball, racquetball and lately even Cornhole. (Hey! Don’t be fooled…Singles Cornhole requires walking 33+ feet on every pass and not long ago when a friend and I played fifteen games I calculated we had walked, bent down and up and imbibed a number of libations for in excess of THREE MILES (not counting the steps to recharge our libations, visit the latrine, to recover the bags scattered around the board, etc.) Of course, there’s little in way of torture for the joints other than the shoulder and lower back. (By the way, as for the “no-dairy” suggestion — Oreos and cereal without milk (something I had to do a couple times as a kid when we the milk ran out before the next trip to the store) and an ice-cold glass of milk on a hot day would remove one of my raison d’etres. (For those who have forgotten their French that’s “reasons for living.”)

    Bernie, thankfully, i also started tennis late in life; so maybe i can last a little longer! I have saved your “Bad call” concept for a future post. thanks, george

  3. I too used to run and had over developed tennis thighs as a junior, but those days are over. Following total knee replacement in 2010, those squat exercises will come in handy. Thanks George! Most naturopaths will tell you to stay away from dairy altogether and that cow’s milk was meant for baby cows not humans. I once heard one say that eating cheese was bad for your knees! Who knows?

    Jim, i LOVE cheese! thanks, george

  4. I had lost all strength in one quad due to a herniated lumbar disk. After lots of physical therapy I’m back on the tennis courts again, good as “new” (for a 61 year old with bad knees from too much basketball before I discovered tennis in my mid-40s). The squats you describe were essential for building up my quads, and they have the added benefit of helping stabilize my damaged knees. Just as you said, the main thing I was warned about was not to let my knees go any further forward than my toes. This requires that you keep your head up and stick your butt out as if you were sitting on a low chair. One way the therapist taught me to do this was to hold a long wooden dowel vertically against my back with one hand behind my head and the other behind my butt while I did squats. This will prevent you from bending forward as shown in your “improper” form diagram.

    Joe, i will try the wooden dowel trick (but not sure i am flexible enough!), thanks, george

  5. In regards to dairy…beneficial for some, neutral for others , hurtful for some.
    Best way to know is to eliminate for 30 days. Pay close attention after 17-21 days and very close attention when you reintroduce after 30 days.

    How’s the rest of the diet ? Even arthritic joints can get huge relief from a good diet.
    There’s some research pointing to sugar as an additional inflammatory culprit certainly not helping the symptoms of arthritis….

    I think especially as we age we need to squat ass to ankles ( this way it’s impossible for knees to go over toes) . It’s a natural position for us…. No weights please just sitting in a ass to ankle squat. Build up to 5 minutes. Most of us can’t do this very basic of body movements so start slow and hold on to a pole or wrap a towel around a pole or post or something.

    Marc, we can always count on you when it comes to food! Thanks, George

  6. There are many things that cause knee pain but running is not one of them! I know you all are saying B.S.! Running gets a bad rap because most people run too far too soon, or too fast too soon or both, which causes inflammation to the knees. Running is natural and linear. Knees are injured from deceleration, which occurs in sports that require stopping, starting, jumping, cutting, etc. As is demonstrated in many of the comments above, basketball has been a culprit of these types of activities. Tennis is also one of those sports.

    Although we all will cause wear and tear on all our joints, especially the lower extremities (hips, knees, & ankles), we can delay the process by doing those exercises to protect them. The most important muscles are your BUTTS (glutes). This is why squats, forward lunges, side lunges, wall slides, and similar exercises are so beneficial in staying healthy.

    I am also grateful that I did not start playing tennis, or any other sport, until in my late 30s. However, I have been running since my late 20s that includes 22 marathons, 55 half-marathons, and took many 10K and 5Ks to mention and except for a fall that injured my right knee, have had no knee problems. I contribute it to maintaining low weight, strength training, especially the before mentioned BUTT exercises, and picking the right parents!

    Larry, when i had the pleasure of running and talking with Gold Medal winner Frank Shorter, he said the people who can run marathons without getting injured have bodies that are perfectly balanced. you are obviously one of those fortunate ones! thanks, george

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