Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injuries and properly rehabilitating sprain/strain injuries. If you’re looking to improve your paddle tennis game or just seeking to prevent tennis type injuries it is important to incorporate stretching in to your routine.
Most sports demand constriction of the body’s muscles-paddle tennis is no exception. Repeated constriction of these muscles forces the muscles to remain tight. Stretching your muscles before playing enables your body to move with greater extension and with less risk of injury by creating blood flow to and through the muscles. Stretching after a match or workout helps to minimize the stiffness that you may experience once you have exerted your muscles. Overall, regular stretching can improve performance and reduce the likelihood of sustaining an injury.
In addition to improving performance and reducing the chances of injury, stretching can increase a player’s range of motion. A full range of motion is required to execute proper technique for all court shots in paddle tennis. Stretching before warm-up and as a cool down when you finish your match will help to maintain or improve your overall range of motion which can be reduced in part since paddle tennis is played outside during the cold weather months in many areas and the muscles take longer to warm up.
Because paddle tennis is a fast-paced sport it makes extensive use of both the upper and lower body. Paddle tennis emphasizes hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and intense agility. Further, cardiovascular endurance is required for competitive play, and paddle tennis places significant demands on the musculoskeletal system, particularly, the legs, torso, and arms.
The muscles requiring extensive use (and therefore, stretching) include:
- Leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscles. In addition, the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the lower leg (think Achilles).
- Chest and upper body muscles, particularly, the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi and deltoid muscles of the torso.
- Shoulder and arm muscles, specifically the rotator cuff, shoulder adductor, and biceps and triceps muscles of the racket arm, as well as the rotator muscles.
- Muscles of the wrist and hand.
- Lower back muscles, particularly the Spinal Erectors
- Abdominal muscles including the Rectus Abdominis, right internal and left external obliques
- Neck muscles, in particular the Neck Flexor and Extensor muscles.
Strength training and stretching exercises targeting all of the above areas are essential for competitive players. Below are 6 very beneficial stretches for paddle tennis; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. These are basic stretches that can be done before each match and training session right on the court. In addition, make the effort to perform these same stretches after completing exercise or competition. If you faithfully perform these stretches, you will find yourself more limber, less likely to stiffen up and reduce the chances of an injury.
Do each stretch for 30-40 seconds and remember while stretching, you should never stretch to the point of pain or bounce/move as you perform the stretch. And don’t forget to breathe.
Stand up straight. Using your arms with a controlled swing, start with big circles and decrease the diameter until you are making smaller circles.
Begin with your arms lifted out to the side, palms facing downward. Bring your arms forward, criss-crossing them in front then extend out past your shoulders toward the back. Move at a slow controlled pace.
Baithak (similar to squat)
Spread your feet out shoulder width apart and point your toes out. As you squat, sit your hips back, keep your chest up, and keep your knees behind your toes. As you stand up bring your arms straight up over your head. Try to make this rhythmic and inhale on the descent and exhale on the rise.
Extend your right arm toward your left foot as you kick with your left leg keeping your legs as straight as possible. Repeat on other side.
Start by standing straight up and bend over at the waist reaching toward the ground. Walk yourself to a push-up position keeping your hips inline with your shoulders. Walk yourself back to an upright position.
Bend over and grab the cage extending your arms as far as you can. Slowly begin lowering your hands toward the ground by reaching lower on the cage keeping your back flat through the exercise and holding each position to stretch.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be an effective addition to your paddle tennis game. As you integrate stretching in to your routine you will begin to see improvement not only in your game but also in your everyday movements.