The repetitive nature of tennis puts your body under severe stresses, which can result in potential injuries, especially in the knees, ankles, lower back and shoulders.
Shoulder injuries are commonly seen in tennis players because the muscles surrounding the shoulder are relatively small and exposed to tremendous repetitive forces.
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Because of the large range of motion in the shoulder, the ligaments alone cannot provide enough stability through all planes of movements.
The four muscles called the rotator cuff should provide the main stability of the shoulder: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.
It's important to regularly strength train the rotator cuff, targeting both external and internal rotation.
Make sure?to put?more emphasis on the external rotation because the bigger muscle groups in your chest and back help the internal rotators. The external rotators work alone and are generally much weaker than the internal rotators.
All the tennis strokes involve some external rotation, but the greatest stress happens during the serve and overhead. Strong external rotator muscles will prevent future overuse injuries, such as chronic inflammation or even rotator tears, which can be excruciatingly painful and take a long time to heal.
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Most shoulder injuries happen because of the excessive forces that tennis creates on the tendons. If the shoulder muscles are weak or tight, or if there are imbalances, the motion in the shoulder does not happen correctly and the constant repetitive forces of tennis strokes will create problems and injuries over time.
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Therefore, strengthening of the notoriously weak external rotator cuff is crucial. In addition, you should always stretch the shoulder muscles, chest, and the rotator cuff group.
The chest stretch is very simple and almost everybody is familiar with it:
- Stand sideways by a wall, a tree or a fence.
- Lift your arm up so that it is parallel to the ground.
- While holding on to your support, turn your body slowly away until you feel a good stretch in your chest.
- For a different feel in other areas of the chest, change the height of your hand.
Unfortunately, only a few tennis players are familiar with this other simple, yet extremely efficient stretching exercise: the rotator cuff stretch. It is easy to perform after your tennis practice while you are cooling down and reflecting on your game.
- Lie down on the ground on your left side.
- Stretch your left arm forward 90 degrees from your body and bend it in the elbow with the forearm vertical to the ground.
- Grab the left wrist with your right hand and start gently pushing on it toward the ground.
- Maintain 90 degrees in your elbow, which means that your forearm should be parallel with your body.
- Continue applying steady pressure, breathe deeply and keep your left shoulder on the ground. You will feel a nice stretch in your rotator cuff.
- Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds and then switch sides.
- You will notice that your dominant arm is most probably tighter. Give it more attention until both sides become evenly loose.
Remember that stretching is one of the most neglected techniques for improving performance and avoiding injuries.
Do not underestimate the power of stretching. Include it into your training regimen on a daily basis and watch your fitness and your tennis game improve rapidly.
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