While the appearance of lean abs is appealing to the eye, for a tennis player, the strength and functionality of the core is more important.
A strong core allows all the major joints, such as hips, knees, and shoulders, to load and work in harmony, and as a result, you will become a more powerful tennis player.
The "core" means everything in the center of your body -- such as the abdominals, obliques and the lower back. You can strengthen each muscle group separately, but ultimately, the best and most functional way to strengthen your core is to do exercises that work everything in unity.
One of the best exercises to strengthen your core is the plank.
The Basic Plank
Tennis creates many imbalances in your body, and during your fitness training, always be aware of your posture so you will not add more imbalances.
To perform the basic plank, get down on the ground on your hands and feet. Align your shoulders over your hands and spread your fingers wide, pointing forward.
Keep your arms symmetrical and straight. Maintain your body straight like a plank, with the hips one inch above the line linking your feet and shoulders.
Engage your abdominals at all times and breathe deeply. Hold this position for one minute, and over time, increase the interval until you can do two minutes without rest. That is a sign of strong core!
As you get tired, the hips want to sink lower and you have to stop them so you don't put excessive pressure on your lower back. If your body starts shaking, continue breathing and try to relax. Relaxing while your muscles are under tension is a good practice for tennis.
It is possible that you will feel gentle discomfort in one or both of your wrists, which shows developing imbalances or weakness. If the discomfort feels more as pain, you may perform the plank on your elbows instead.
Plank with Opposite Arm and Leg Lift
When the simple plank is not challenging anymore, you can add difficulty by simultaneously lifting one arm and the opposite leg off the ground.
Get your balance first, breathe in and lift your both limbs up, parallel with the ground. Keep them straight and try to elongate your body as much as possible.
Hold the top position for two seconds. If you lose your balance temporarily, try to regain it before you switch sides in a controlled manner. Repeat this movement slowly 20 times.
The plank with the leg and arm lifts is much harder than it looks. It is an excellent strengthener of your core, shoulders and hips.
Additionally, it improves your balance, coordination, and patience -- important elements for your tennis game. Perform your planks regularly and watch your tennis game improve!
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