Stretching for Warm Ups and Wind Downs

Taking the time to warm up before and wind down after playing tennis may be tempting to skip, but research shows that dedicating the extra time can go a long way toward improving your game and keeping you injury free.

Tennis is truly a full body workout, challenging all the muscle groups, there’s no doubt about that! Running back and forth, pivoting on your toes, swinging, crouching, and sudden direction changes are a part of every game and require considerable strength and mobility. Keeping the body supple with a full body stretch before and after play has multiple benefits including promoting proper posture and reducing pain, as tennis players are at risk of injuries to various areas, especially of the upper body – elbows, forearms, wrists, shoulders, and back.

Which muscles are most used during tennis? Abdominals and obliques, quads, hips and calf, rotator cuff, pecs, biceps, deltoids and forearm muscles, trapizeus, latissimus dorsi and triceps. A great warm up routine will focus on these.

“Dynamic” stretches are most effective for warm ups and are done by entering into and repeating each stretch multiple times. This is different from “static” stretching where stretches are held for several seconds at a time. While an exercise physiologist can help put together a customized plan for you, here is a simple and effective routine from Physioinq that you can start with today.

  • 3-5 minutes of cardio – jumping jacks, skipping, jogging – to get the heart rate up
  • dynamic stretches – squats, reverse lunges, tennis elbow stretch, anterior shoulder stretch, towel calf stretch, hamstring stretch, standing quad stretch
  • shadowing – practicing actual tennis moves – to activate movement memory and get the body ready for on court play

A proper cool down is also essential and should allow the body to slowly recover and ease down. It may consist of a few minutes of cardio followed by static stretches to allow all muscles to relax and promote flexibility, as well as to bring the heart rate down to a normal level. Risks of skipping a wind down routine are lightheadedness and lactic acid build up. Spend time on body stretches, with a focus on the muscles used most during your game. Mind-body exercises like deep breathing and yoga can also be a very helpful component of cooling down. HSS Rehabilitation recommends this cool down routine:

  • 10-20 minutes of cardio – walk/jog, stationary bike
  • stretching – quads, hamstring, butterfly stretch for groin, calf, knees to chest, child’s pose, pecs, bear hug, wrist/forearm (30 sec hold x 3)
  • foam rolling – focus on slow/deep breathing

Remember that if you experience any pain with stretching, stop and release the stretch right away. If pain persists, consult a doctor or physical therapist. And also remember to hydrate properly, including replacing electrolytes lost during exercise.