One thing I have found over the years watching countless matches, practices and taken plenty of tennis workouts, is that most players don’t breathe as good as they could.
It sounds boring right, and you are probably thinking how much would it really benefit my tennis if I breathed a little better, if that’s you then buckle up, I’ve got some good info coming right up!!!
Breathing is an involuntary action taken by the body that means your body does it, without you having to think about it. Scratching your nose is a voluntary action because you need to think consciously about it and then your body communicates and makes it happen.
Because breathing is done subconsciously we grow up not realizing or appreciating how important it is, for many of us it’s like our parents, we often don’t appreciate them or what they do for us until they go on holidays!
Have you ever been winded, lost your breath, been held underwater, or been really sick with cold and have found it really hard to breathe? If you can remember a time when you have struggled for oxygen, then you will know how important breathing is. If you haven’t, then do me a favor right now and hold your breath for as long as you can, I mean as long as you can. Your body starts to freak out after a little while, and your survival juices start flowing. This is natural because your body is a sensitive machine and it knows well in advance what it needs and is not afraid to let you know its concern.
So how does losing your breath relate to poor performance during tennis workouts? When we inhale we breathe in oxygen, this helps with vital energy production throughout our bodies. When we exhale we are breathing out carbon dioxide a waste product that is dangerous for our bodies.
Now for some info on how to help you breathe better for all your on and off-court tennis workouts. Most players’ breath shallow (chest breathing) due to the short explosive nature of tennis. It’s hard to focus on "breathing rhythm" and the "depth of your breath" when playing due to fatigue, muscle tension, and nerves.
What can you do to help improve your breathing before and during your tennis workouts?
1. Unfortunately, we only start to concentrate on our breathing when it's too late. Try to be aware of your breath and concentrate on your breathing before you become short of breath.
2. Be conscious of how you breathe. It takes time to create new habits, and you will need to be conscious of how you are breathing to create the change. Take long slow deep breathes while playing. Get into the habit of doing this; it may take time, but you will eventually get it.
3. Something we would do with the majority of our players before they walk on the court or commence a hard tennis fitness workout. Take them to a quiet area, away from any distractions. Have them lie down on their back and place their hands on their belly. For a count of 3 have them breathe in through their nose and expand their belly (feeling their hands raise) then on a count of 3 have them exhale out of their mouth and deflate their belly (feeling their hands lower).
Give this tennis exercise a try. Try to perform 10 breaths, using a 3 count inhale, 3 count hold and a 3 count exhale. This will help you open up the airways and become more conscious of your breathing.
When performing this breathing exercise try and focus on taking long, slow, deep breathes, so you can feel your ribs and belly expand. This is what we call belly breathing, and it is a much more effective way to breathe. It gives your body more time to absorb oxygen and gets rid of waste products; it also helps you settle and recover a lot faster.
4. Count your breaths. Most players struggle to stay focused during matches, getting a good breathing routine happening between points is a great way to help you stay focused and reset.
At the end of each point, breathe in through the nasal passage for a count of 4 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for a count of 4 seconds. We call this 4:2:4 breathing pattern.
Do it 1-2 times between points and you will feel a lot calmer and your energy will feel more balanced throughout matches. (Next time have a look at Novak between points, he walks around slowly and controlled, takes a few deep breaths in and out, before the next point).
This is only skimming the surface!
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