Whether getting ready for a match or simply training on the court or in the gym, players should not start until they have completed a brief 10 to 20 minute warm-up to ensure they are both physically and mentally prepared.
The traditional use of static stretching as part of the warm-up has been contested recently. Research has determined that static stretching actually reduces muscular strength and speed which is obviously an undesirable effect!
However, static stretching is still recommended as part of the cool-down to aid flexibility.The warm-up should be designed to contain three main components: heat generation, muscle preparation and tennis specific functional preparation. If activities are carried out which target all of these areas, the risks of poor performance and injury should be reduced.
Components of the Warm-Up
1) Heat Generation
To achieve this, players should perform some type of cardiovascular activity for about five to ten minutes. Cardiovascular activities include: jogging, cycling, skipping, or agility ladder drills.
Players should exercise at an intensity sufficient enough to make them sweat. Sweating indicates that core body temperature has risen and heat is being generated.
Cardiovascular activities increase:
Heart and breathing rates and prepares the body for vigorous exercise.
Blood flow to exercising muscles, which causes muscle temperature to increase and flexibility to increase.
Muscle-twitch and neurological function to improve response time (wakes up reflexes).
2) Muscle Preparation
The aim is to prepare muscles for force production and to take muscles and joints through the full range of motion necessary for playing tennis.
Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of the body, gradually increasing reach and/or speed of movement to the limits of the players range of motion.
Dynamic stretching improves dynamic flexibility without compromising muscle power production. This component of the warm-up should also last about five to ten minutes and is characterised by movements that are:
Multi-directional to prepare for the frequent changes of direction encountered on court.
Functional so they mimic the coordination and movement patterns used in tennis.
Well controlled to avoid injury (not using ballistic or bouncing movements).
Performed with the correct posture to activate the core and to minimise risk of injury.
3) Tennis-Specific Functional Preparation
The inclusion of tennis specific activities in the warm-up is important to simulate the neural pathways and aid appropriate motor unit activation for the strokes and movements performed.
Generally, this aspect of the warm-up can be achieved during the offical match warm-up, consisting of five minutes hitting against the opponent. Players can produce similar effects by practicing "dummy strokes" with the correct footwork, with or without a racket, on or off the court. Specifically, players should:
Include the movements used in tennis to activate the appropriate muscles for stroke and movement activities.
Gradually increase the intensity to reduce the risk of injury.