The Marathons have finished, the football season has ended, the summer has begun and so have a few more sports seasons such as Tennis; a sport that many more Brits have grown to love in the recent years thanks to our very own Andy Murray stealing titles left right and centre! GO ON ANDY!
Just like any other sport, tennis takes its own specific tolls on the body thus resulting in its own specific injuries. What else can you expect with such a high speed, high power, and high impact game; making full use of all the rotating joints (hips/shoulders), maximising muscle/limb extension, and placing massive pressure through the spine. Therefore we can expect our ‘specific injuries’ to resonate in the back, hips, knees and shoulders most often.
So, whether you will be enjoying the tennis from your couch this year or if you have been inspired to take up the sport for the summer, let’s have a look at how Pilates has helped these top players become the athletes they are today.
Tennis requires such immense strength, power, endurance and speed which can be obvious when watching the top players. However, their mobility, flexibility, control and balance are vital for all these requirements. Pilates is the only answer; improving range of movement, producing the ability to expend more power, therefore improving your all-round game. Not only will Pilates help to ‘improve’ aspects of Tennis training but it will reduce the risk of injuries too. It’s a No brainer!
Avoiding injuries is a very difficult task when training/playing tennis as it’s quite the one-sided sport and players can easily develop heavy muscular imbalances. Through restoration of balance and alignment this can be helped.
All body parts (muscles and bones) are linked together so what happens to one area of the body will have a certain impact/force/reaction on other areas of the body. Joint mobility (hips/knees/shoulder) and muscle flexibility are therefore crucial to allow the impact to travel through the body safely and without any loss of power.
“approximately 50% of the energy needed to hit a forehand is generated from the legs and trunk and transferred through the body to the racket”.
“When rotation stops, the arm is released in full extension and rotates around the shoulder girdle”.
“if the trunk does not rotate to provide force to the shoulder, it requires a 34% increase in the shoulder velocity to achieve the same ball velocity”.
These are all facts and actions that are made possible, avoiding injury, through Pilates training.
Some advice from Alexandra Prigent for the Pilates Foundation on ‘Pilates & Tennis Performance’:
‘A targeted Pilates programme should focus specifically on recruitment and strength of the deep and superficial muscles responsible for stabilising pivot points (pelvis and shoulders) and accelerating rotation velocity (spine, arm and wrist)’.
Here is a list of some of the Mat Pilates exercises that you know already (some we haven’t touched on yet in the blog) that will compliment certain areas of tennis training:
For: Hip mobility, glute recruitment and strength to transfer energy from the legs into hip rotation…
– SINGLE/DOUBLE LEG KICKS
For: Pelvic stability, spine stabilisation, internal oblique work for trunk rotation…
– SINGLE LEG CIRCLES
For: Centre, balance and alignment
– MOST EXERCISES
– EQUIPMENT PILATES
For: Trunk rotation to assist with acceleration and deceleration…
– SHOULDER BRIDGE
– CRISS CROSS
For: Spine extension/rotation…
– SWAN PREP/DIVE
– SPINE STRETCH FORWARD
– ROLL UP
For: Abdominal recruitment and strength in trunk
– ROLLING LIKE A BALL
– SPINE STRETCH FORWARD
– SINGLE LEG STRETCH
For: Shoulder girdle stability…
– SERRATUS PUSH UPS/PLANK
– SHOULDER BRIDGE
– Tennis players need strong stabilising muscles to help their bodies cope with the impact as mentioned previously; key stabilisers here are the glutes and Pilates is the most effective way to isolate and strengthen the muscles.
– Stretches out and loosens tight chest muscles, shoulders and upper back.
– Strengthens the core and obliques (muscles around the waist; trunk rotation).
– Increases flexibility in the lower back/hips; ‘help you get down lower for the drop shots and up higher for the lobs’.
So if you have decided to take tennis up this summer or you already play, you will undoubtedly suffer the same endurances whilst playing the game: ‘stretching forwards, sideways or overhead and frequently off-balance’. Reduce the risk of injury when you’re off balance, and recover your balance faster by including Pilates in your training!
In Andy Murray’s case, he uses Pilates not only for recovery and strength but for mindfulness and focusing:
‘I started Pilates a few weeks ago which has already helped. My body feels good compared to the last few years, hopefully I’m good to go for the next two weeks. I’ve practiced well the last few days and not been waking up with soreness or stiffness.’
‘I feel like when my mind isn’t free of anything that might be frustrating me away from the court, I can’t focus as well as I need to, when my mind’s clear I can go on the court and play, not worry about anything else, I can play much better and think a lot better on the court.’