Importance of Tennis FlexibilityJul 27, 2023
Regardless of whether you are a competitive tennis player aiming for greatness or simply enjoying the sport recreationally, achieving certain milestones in terms of flexibility and recovery in tennis is crucial.
Being able to maneuver effectively on the court and assume specific positions is vital for optimal performance. Adequate flexibility is key to achieving this.
Furthermore, maintaining sufficient flexibility helps prevent injuries by avoiding excessive muscle stretching and damage such as muscle tears and connective tissue injuries.
Top players understand the importance of flexibility and actively work on it. Personally, I have had the privilege of witnessing renowned athletes engage in stretching, mobility exercises, and other recovery protocols. Some players dedicate up to three hours to recovery after a strenuous day on the court.
During my collaboration with Lleyton Hewitt, our post-session routine consisted of the following activities:
- Pool session (15 minutes)
- Ice bath (10 minutes)
- Massage (1 hour)
- Stretching (20 minutes)
- Hyperbaric chamber (1 hour)
I'm not exaggerating; this is the level of commitment required at the highest echelons of the sport.
Now, I don't expect you to adhere to such an intensive recovery routine. However, I strongly encourage you to establish a basic plan to enhance your tennis flexibility and improve your movement and overall well-being on the court. (Stay tuned; I have some programs for you to follow below.)
Before we proceed, let's delve into the concept of flexibility.
Flexibility refers to the ability of muscles, joints, and soft connective tissues (tendons/ligaments) to move freely within a painless range of motion.
Good flexibility enables faster movement, facilitates proper court positioning, aids in efficient recovery, and enhances overall strength. I'm sure you can agree that these are all desirable benefits.
How to Prevent Tennis Injuries
The most common tennis injuries are classified as "overuse injuries." They occur when muscles are tight, restricted, and fatigued. Ensuring sufficient flexibility and mobility to withstand the demands of the sport is vital in preventing these injuries. Additionally, following a tennis-specific strength and conditioning program is necessary to develop physical resilience for extended periods of play. You can explore various tennis training programs to assist you.
By incorporating appropriate training techniques alongside adequate recovery measures, you can prevent most injuries. If you frequently suffer from nagging injuries, it may be time to enhance your strength, flexibility, and recovery protocols. Remember, if you don't change your approach, you can't expect different outcomes.
Each of us possesses a unique physique. Some players are naturally more flexible than others, and we refer to them as "flexibility blessed." These individuals can easily assume deep positions on the court. Asking them to touch their toes might result in their palms touching the ground! Based on my experience as a tennis strength and conditioning coach for over 20 years, I estimate that 10-20% of players fall into this "Flexibility Blessed" category. However, even they must maintain their flexibility levels through a specific tennis flexibility program. As for the rest of us, it can be a constant battle. Fortunately, by following the appropriate tennis preparation and recovery protocols, this battle becomes easier.
Before we delve into what you should do to achieve and maintain the ideal flexibility levels, it's important to assess your current flexibility. Where do you stand, and what areas need improvement?
How can you accomplish this? Excellent question! The answer lies in Tennis Fitness Testing, which provides valuable insights into your flexibility levels. We have a variety of tests available (in addition to others) that are worth exploring and investing your time and resources in.
Now, let's explore what you should be doing to enhance your mobility, flexibility, and on-court movement.
If you are genuinely committed to improving your tennis flexibility and mobility, you should focus on two key areas:
Why is Flexibility Important in Tennis?
Mobility can be described as dynamic stretching. Instead of holding a stretch for a prolonged period, mobility exercises emphasize movement and fluidity. These exercises are excellent for initiating a "chain of movement" or what is commonly known as the "kinetic chain." They open up joints and stretch multiple muscles through specific movements. At Tennis Fitness, we recommend incorporating a tennis mobility routine before each session.
Mobility exercises prepare your body for tennis by ensuring it remains loose across various planes of movement, such as rotation, bending, lunging, squatting, and reaching above the head.
When should you perform them? Prior to exercise, whether it's a tennis practice, workout, or match.
How frequently should you engage in mobility exercises? Ideally, 1-2 times daily. Performing the routine before your primary workout or session of the day is optimal. If you're playing multiple matches in a day, you should do the routine before each match.
How should you approach it? Check out the video I've put together featuring some mobility exercises.
Flexibility Exercises in Tennis
To enhance your flexibility (muscle length), static stretches specific to tennis are necessary.
Static stretches involve holding a particular stretch or position at the end range for an extended period. We recommend holding each stretch for 20-60 seconds.
These stretches elongate the muscle length, resulting in improved comfort for the player. Moreover, they enhance performance by providing greater muscle length, enabling better court positions, and minimizing the risk of overstretching, straining, and tearing the muscle tissue.
Improving flexibility through tennis static stretching requires consistency. You must also be willing to push your stretching holds to the point of discomfort (not pain).
When should you perform static stretches? Post-exercise or at the end of the day.
How frequently should you engage in static stretches? 1-2 times daily. During tournaments, stretch between matches, and outside tournaments, stretch after your final exercise session of the day.
How should you approach it? Check out the video I've compiled featuring tennis-specific static stretching exercises.
At Tennis Fitness, we offer a wide range of online programs that include mobility and flexibility training. Our programs cater to junior players, high-performance athletes, players over 40, and everyone in between. Take a look below to see if any of our programs suit your needs:
- Junior Strength and Conditioning Tennis Program
- High-Performance Strength and Conditioning
- Over 40 Strength, Movement, and Mobility Program
To optimize your body's recovery and prepare for your next practice session, tennis workout, or match, it's crucial to establish an ideal recovery protocol. In this blog, we've covered Tennis Flexibility and Tennis Mobility. However, you should also consider incorporating activities such as ice baths, hot baths, massage therapy, body compression, hyperbaric chambers, hydration, nutrition, and supplementation (yes, I know, it may seem like a lot ☺).
Begin with the mobility and flexibility exercises outlined above and reach out for further assistance whenever necessary.
Consistency is the key to achieving flexibility. Establish your routine, follow the protocols I've provided, and perform them daily.
You'll be grateful for your dedication!
Work hard and stay safe!
Nathan Martin – Tennis Fitness