As with any exercise program, it’s essential to gradually increase the heart rate and warm up the major muscle groups before jumping straight in:
1. Start with 2-3 minutes of marching on the spot gradually lifting the knees higher in the third minute.
2. Next, try skipping for 3 minutes - if you don’t have a skipping rope, mimic the action of turning a rope with your wrists while doing the skipping feet. This will start to warm up the shoulders and upper body while raising the heart rate.
3. As tennis involves many quick changes of direction and lateral (sideways) movements, try this ‘box’ jogging drill. Run forwards for around 20 metres. Without turning your body, skip or run sideways for another 10 metres, then again without changing the direction of your body, run backwards for another 20 metres. Then move back to the starting position either with quick side steps or side gallops. Repeat twice and then reverse directions.
Now your heart rate is up, you can work on some of the strength and conditioning exercises essential for a strong tennis body.
1. Side curtseys - strong, supple legs are essential to help you with all of the changes in direction required in tennis, as well as helping with speed and explosive power. These curtsey lunges work the quads (front of thighs), the adductors (inner thigh muscles) as well as the glutes and hamstrings (muscles around the bottom and back of thighs).
Starting with feet slightly turned out and apart, take a wide step to your right side and then step your other leg behind and across as if doing a curtsey. The front knee should track over the toes. Make sure you take a big enough step to allow your front foot to remain flat on the ground. Repeat 10 times, changing legs each time.
2. Plank - a strong core will help to reduce injuries and keep your back well aligned, as well as providing that flat tummy that most of us want! The plank helps to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and back.
Start on your forearms with the knees on the floor. Carefully stretch one foot backwards pushing up onto the ball of the foot. Draw your tummy muscles in and then stretch the other leg back so that you’re resting on your forearms and the balls of the feet. The spine and hips should be in one straight line. Hold for as long as you can keep the tummy muscles drawn in and the lower back in a neutral position. If this is too challenging, try the modified plank by starting with the knees on the floor and lowering the hips forward until you have a straight line from the knees to the hips and shoulders.
3. Ys, Ts and Ws
To work on your upper body mobility and strength, perform these simple strength exercises. Start standing hinged over at the waist with the back flat and chest in line.
Y: Glide your shoulder blades back and down and then raise your arms over your head to form a “Y" shape. Return to start position and repeat 8 times.
T: Glide your shoulder blades back and down and then raise your arms to the side to form a “T”. Return to start and repeat 8 times.
W: Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and glide your shoulder blades back and down and then lift your arms to the side to form a “W”. Return to start position and repeat 8 times.
Remember before starting any new exercise program also check for the go ahead with your health professional.