Improve Your Tennis Game!

This month I am writing about a sport that is popular both in the USA and around the world: tennis!

Friends and clients have often requested information about avoiding tennis injuries as well as strength and conditioning exercises. In my experience, tennis injuries are usually a result of a lack of proper conditioning. I would like to dig a little deeper and examine what’s happening to our bodies when we train for a sport and what you can do to play a better game.

How can a tennis player maintain and improve

their skill while preventing injuries at the same time? Tennis requires very precise hand, foot, and eye coordination to hit the ball exactly where you want it to go. A certain level of skill is a must when it comes to playing this sport.

Coordination and Muscle Memory

Let’s visualize a machine that can be taught to play tennis. In order to perform, it needs programming that consists of some basic movement patterns such as squatting, bending, lunging, pulling, pushing, twisting, as well as gait. Downloading this basic information into the memory of our machine will increase its skill level, depending on the amount of information. A robot programmed with these basic movements will be able to execute them quickly, with more accuracy and without having to stop and think about them. This machine will be able to play well and win more games than a machine with less programming.

The human body is similar. We generally rely on something called “muscle memory”: a process that consciously trains our muscles to operate and move in one way or another by repetition. When a motion is repeated over and over, it creates a facilitated “pathway of least resistance” for the energy to travel and activate certain muscle groups. Creating proper muscle memory takes approximately 350 repetitions, which enables the body to perform movement without any conscious effort. This is the same process needed to correct a faulty pattern of movement. It will take a conscious effort of proper repetitions to establish a new muscle memory.

If we practice functional exercise, muscle memory developed from those movements will increase our overall skill. A properly conditioned body is one of more resilience due to a well developed communication network within its neuromuscular system. For example, when your body is flexible and conditioned to execute a stable lunge, the motion will be quick, more accurate and stable. Along with preventing injury, this will give us the proper generation of energy to improve our game!

Rotation and Flexibility

I believe this is very important to touch on. Do you have proper rotation in your upper body in relationship with your lower body? You should be able to rotate equally from right to left and utilize the inner and outer muscle groups of your core. So many tennis injuries are caused by overuse of the shoulder, elbow or wrist due to a lack of flexibility in their upper body. If your abdominal muscles are tight or weak, the rest of your body will inevitably overcompensate. A region that is being overused will likely suffer an injury as it tries to balance a deficiency.

Isolated Muscle Conditioning

I have treated many tennis players with pulled hamstrings, back and shoulder muscles, many of whom have been involved in isolated muscle conditioning programs. The problem with many of these types of programs is that they lack a comprehensive approach to conditioning. A proper process includes 1) flexibility 2) stability 3) strength and 4) explosive movements. This allows someone to develop muscle memory, facilitated pathways of movement, skill development as well as decrease the risk of injury.

Our bodies are designed to activate muscle groups that work together. Imagine being on the court with your racket, ready to play. From this partial squat stance, a player will likely step into a lunge followed by a twist of the upper body, then a push to hit the ball over the net.   When our muscle memory is developed with a comprehensive approach, the movements recorded in your neuromuscular system will be much more efficient in executing this sequence.

In Conclusion

All these things are truly applicable in whatever sport you play, as are these concluding tips I’d like to share:

Only stretch muscles that are short and tight. A professional assessment is a great way to determine what is appropriate for you. From there, a corrective exercise program that targets your neuro-motor capabilities and develops the proper muscle memories will carry over to the tennis court.

Hydrating is a must, especially when playing on a hot, sunny day. Hydration must be a day to day priority, not just on game day. Hydration and a balanced diet are vitally important for your overall health, and your game will surely suffer if you’re dehydrated or undernourished.

Call us to schedule a 3D Bio-Structural Assessment to determine what kind of exercise program would most benefit your body.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions that weren’t answered!

“Keep on moving”

Luis Ponce Sr.

(408) 778-5577

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