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Fitness Mailbag: Stretch and Strengthen 09/23/2010 - 10:38 AM

We’ll answer your health, fitness and nutrition questions here each week. Click here to submit one of your own.

Maria Sharapova I’m looking for shoulder exercises. Can you help me? Thanks.—Jim Filippo

An injury to your shoulder can keep you off the court for months. Take Maria Sharapova: She was sidelined for nine months after having surgery on her rotator cuff in 2008, and she still hasn’t been able to climb back to the top. “The majority of upper body injuries in tennis players are shoulder-related,” says Dr. Mark Kovacs, manager of USTA Sport Science. “So spending time on rotator-cuff strengthening and shoulder flexibility, especially internal rotation of the shoulder, is really important.”

When you exercise your shoulders, you’re actually working the four muscles of the rotator cuff, which stabilize the joint. Resistance band exercises are great for the shoulders because the work you do to control the motion fine-tunes and strengthens those muscles. For more on keeping your shoulders healthy, read this article from TENNIS Magazine, and click here for some sample exercises.

I’m a 55-year-old male who plays four to five times a week. I’m looking for some stretching and strengthening exercises that will help me stay injury-free. The wear and tear on the hard courts is starting to be an issue with my kness, back and shoulder, and I’d also like to address my core. Thanks.—Frank Redman

It’s great that you’re seeking to strengthen and stretch, Frank. Both are essential if you want to prevent injury and stay fit, and adding strength is particularly important as you get older. “Strength training and especially power training as we age has been shown to be really beneficial,” Kovacs says. He recommends you consult a qualified strength and conditioning coach or a physical therapist to start a regimen.

Another option would be to check out a book like Complete Conditioning for Tennis by E. Paul Roetert and Todd S. Ellenbecker, which comes with a workout DVD. It gives you exercises and tips to help you gain flexibility and strength and prevent injury throughout the body. For a more bite-sized guide, check out our rules for keeping fit as you get older.

Also, it might be time to ditch the hard courts. More forgiving surfaces like clay or grass will limit the pounding on your body. And no matter what courts you play on, Kovacs says, watch what you wear on your feet: “Really make sure that the shoes and any inserts or orthotics are replaced regularly and are of high quality.”

What are the best exercises to improve the serve, especially for beginners? Do I need a strong core or shoulder?—Aris Morales

You definitely need a strong core and shoulders. “But for a beginner,” Kovacs says, “probably what will give you the biggest return is developing some lower-body power.” Kovacs recommends you do plyometrics to gain power. That’s “anything that’s explosive and requires the athlete to get off the ground,” Kovacs says. So if you’re new to tennis and want to beef up your serve, get moving with things like jump squats, high knees and figure-8s.


16 Comments

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Posted by Dr. C 09/23/2010 at 02:06 PM

I have chronic achilles tendonitis in both ankles. I ice them down after playing and after 24 hours apply heat pads to them but the chronic pain remains. I also take anti-inflammatories (800mg) after I play but the chronic pain remains. I stopped playing for a couple of months but that didn't help so I went back to playing. I no longer play hard courts, only clay courts. Any suggestions that might help.
Thanks

Posted by Luke 09/23/2010 at 05:03 PM

For the man with achilles tendonitis. Your best bet is to NOT PLAY at all. If it hurts your not helping it its as simple as that. Older people heal MUCH MUCH slower. There really isn't a set cure for it. Its just time off.

Posted by Chase 09/23/2010 at 05:40 PM

Dr. C:

I've been playing since 10th grade and have developed the same or at least a similar issue. I wear ankle supports that tie up like the ones Roddick used to wear. As long as I wear them I have no pain.

Best,

Chase

Posted by michael 09/23/2010 at 06:50 PM

i hope you didn't get paid for writing that blog!

Posted by Ronnie 09/23/2010 at 07:30 PM

Dr.C:

Go to the horse racing track. Take what they use for horses, your skin will be a bit damaged, but the pain will go away in two-three nights. Cover the area with a plastic foil.

Posted by Ben 09/23/2010 at 07:38 PM

Strengthening is great advice for tennis but don't worry about it for your serve, just learn and understand the mechanics of your body. You can be a twig and nail the ball if you understand how to use your limbs to your advantage. Make sure you don't have any tension, just let your arm whip. Pull the power from your legs up through your core. It doesn't take much strength - we all have enough just through normal daily functioning - but you need to find the rotation and strength starting low and moving up through your shoulder rotation and arm extension. And make sure you learn where to put your toss and keep it there consistently.

Posted by Dan Wilson 09/23/2010 at 07:53 PM

I wish my facilities were this good!!!!!

Posted by Tennis nut 09/24/2010 at 10:18 PM

I have chronic patellar tendinitis. Does anyone know how Nadal recovered from this? It's only in 1 knee, but wondered if there are specific stretches and or strengthening I can do to lessen the pain from this? I do wear support strap over patellar tendon and it does help - it let's me play 1-2 times per week, but it's not like my old days of playing 5 days per week. thanks.

Posted by Kyle Plato 09/26/2010 at 12:32 AM

Excessive flatulence has gotten my wife banned from all the club tournaments.

I realize - That's why the women on the WTA grunt and scream - to cover-up the sound.

Is this a common problem?

Posted by Olivier N 09/27/2010 at 08:30 PM

@Dr. C

I have the same problem: tendonitis on both ankles. My way to deal with it is to use a foam roller used by physical therapists. You can find them at Target. Roll your calves over it, especially the areas where it hurts the most. You probably have some knots. Using the roller will massage your calves that are linked to your Achilles tendons. I usually put one leg over the other one to apply more weight and get a deeper massage. I also do balance exercises and strengthening via Yoga. The problem I encountered is that you have to do it do these exercises continuously. Because I felt better, I stopped doing it and the first thing you know, I got pains at my Achilles that sidelined me for 6 weeks ... So constantly do it. It is especially important to warm up, stretch before AND after ... like 10 mins when you cool down. Once I go home, I use the roller for 5/10 mins ...


Good luck,

Olivier N

Posted by air max 2009 12/01/2010 at 08:29 PM

Make sure you don't have any tension, just let your arm whip.

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Posted by Shaun Sergio 12/21/2010 at 12:40 PM

Stretching Exercises

Posted by Shaun Sergio 12/21/2010 at 12:41 PM

Stretching Exercises

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Posted by krav maga 02/21/2011 at 02:36 AM

Exercise helps keep the body with a perfect body and mind. The acquisition of perfect health is considered a viable process in recent days. The availability of gyms and yoga adds that we are in good health. These services have been made to improving health in various regions, such as the cardiovascular, nervous and vertebrae, muscle strength more than weight loss, relaxation, mind, etc.


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