Fall may arguably be one of the best times to play tennis. With crisp temps that make for a more pleasant (and much cooler) game, now just may be the ideal time to pack up your UA Undeniable Signature Duffle Bag ($45) and meet a friend for a match or two. But, even the casual tennis player can benefit from training outside of hitting the ball back and forth.
Although you may be tempted to think dozens of bicep curls may be the answer to stronger arms for tennis, there’s actually a lot more to it. In fact, pay extra attention to shoulder-strengthening exercises is key.
“To optimize power and performance and to reduce the risk of injury, you should build strength and stability throughout the entire range of motion,” explained Nick Hassell, a NASM-certified ortho-kinetics specialist trainer and therapist at Life Time. “This is especially true for your shoulders, which are prone to instability due to range capabilities.”
Hassell, who also is the personal training manager at Life Time Tennis, explained, “While it is important to work all the muscles of the arms, the ones that tend to get neglected are the groups that encourage good posture and shoulder stability.” Thus, focusing on exercises that target the scapula depressors, retractors, and the rotator cuff muscles are essential.
For all those tennis players looking to up their game and get stronger for their next weekend match, Hassell shared these five exercises that increase shoulder strength and stability, improve posture, and integrate spinal and hip mechanics all at the same time.
Standing Shoulder Extensions (with bands or cables)
Pro tip: “Do not shrug your shoulders, round your upper spine, or excessively arch your lower back as you pull. Keep your arms straight.”
Shoulder Press (with dumbbells)
Pro tip: “Do not arch your lower back or shift your head forward as you press up.”
Standing Single-Arm Chest Press With Rotation (with bands or cables)
Pro tip: “Keep your spine stacked over your pelvis and your head facing forward as you rotate. Do not shrug your shoulders. Do not allow your pelvis to rotate.”
Prone Y’s on the Stability Ball (with dumbbells)
Pro tip: “This exercise can potentially reduce tension in the neck and the need for massages.”
Rotator Cuff – External Rotation (with bands or cables)
Pro tip: “Instead of increasing resistance, abduct your shoulder 30 degrees to the side. As you continue to develop strength, add an additional 15 degrees of abduction for each new phase of strength development.”
Although Hassell says tennis players can benefit from strength training for one set once a week, performing more sets two to three days a week would help solidify results even more. “Doing one set of a few of these exercises before you play is a great way to prepare your body for the upcoming challenges of tennis,” he noted.
Just keep in mind that the arms aren’t the only muscle groups tennis players should work. The core and hips are also vital for tennis players, as that’s where most of the power comes from, explained Hassell. Adding in core movements with rotational and side bending exercises as well as emphasizing hip and glute engagement during your leg exercises too will help reduce the unnecessary stress from low back tightness caused by playing.
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