WHAT MUSCLES DO YOU NEED TO STRETCH BEFORE YOU PLAY TENNIS?

Tennis is extremely demanding on your body, to be able to consistently play you need to make sure you're doing the best to keep your body feeling good and recovering quickly. One way to help your body recover is by stretching both before and after playing. It shouldn't be new information to you that both warming up and cooling down speed up the bodies recovery - specifically the muscles. So, today we are going to discuss some of the key muscles you need to be focusing on before you play tennis and why. 

Hamstrings

Is a group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh. It's job is to bend the knee, so as you can imagine works consistently through a tennis game. So, stretching your hamstring before playing is important why?
Hamstring strains (a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon) are unfortunately both common & painful. By warming up the muscle, it prepares the muscle for the sport. Muscles move with more ease when they are warm, and become more flexible, which gives a player much more range of movement. The hamstrings are also connected to your pelvis and spine, which means if they aren't properly prepared (aka warmed up, and stretched) they could cause an injury to your spine or pelvis either during play or afterwards cause an ache on your back where they become tight. So, although this post is about stretching before you play. Stretching afterwards is just as important! 

Quadriceps

Located in the front of the thigh, the quadriceps has four individual muscles in with them. Like the hamstring muscles they are involved in the bending and straightening of the knee and used vigorously throughout a game of tennis. Which makes it an incredibly important muscle group to stretch and warm up ahead of playing. Why? Because these muscles are directly linked to the hip flexor and the knee. So, when anyone of the four muscles within the quadriceps get tight they can affect the alignment of the pelvis and the knee joint, which could cause a greater injury. 

Calf

There are two muscles in the lower back of your leg that make up your calf. Again, these muscles are also heavily used while playing tennis so it's important to stretch and warm them up so you don't strain them A calf strain can take a long time to heal and is extremely painful. The calf is also connected to the IT Band which runs from the top of the hip all the way down to the middle of your calf. If your calf is tight it will pull on the IT Band, causing pain and misalignment which can then also cause injury. The calf is also connected to the ankle, when the calf becomes tight due to not stretching and conditioning the muscle, the ankle joint won't have as much or will have too much support, making it harder for the joint to work at its optimum. 

Trapezius

Is one of the major muscles of the back and is responsible for moving, rotating, and stabilizing the scapula (shoulder blade) and extending the head at the neck. It is a wide, flat, superficial muscle that covers most of the upper back and the posterior of the neck. This can get very tight after playing tennis, so it's important to stretch and loosen up before you play but even more important to do so afterwards. 

Latissimus Dorsi

Is the largest muscle in the upper body, responsible for extension, adduction, transverse extension, flexion from an extended position, and (medial) internal rotation of the shoulder joint. Located within the trunk of your body and attached to the spine, this is also an important muscle that needs to be addressed before you start playing tennis to prevent injury. It is a tough muscle to get to while you're on the court especially since our fav one is child’s pose, and then deepening it both sides by crossing one hand on top of the other and then repeating with the other side. However, you can stretch them out by standing and stretching one arm up towards 25 degrees - or to the corner of the room, (not folding into a side stretch) but instead keeping sides even. 
This video shows three examples of lat stretches - the last one is the 2nd option we just discussed. 

Other muscles you need to stretch

We can't forget to mention your triceps and biceps. That work really hard during tennis too. They need to be given attention before you start playing also. Again, to prevent injury to your shoulder or elbow and also just prepare them to start working. (Which they while you're on the court). This post offers some examples of stretches that will help pre-and post-tennis. 

As we went through each muscle area and why they were important to stretch, you may have notice a very common theme. In that, by warming up and stretching the muscle before you start playing, you are preparing the muscles and therefore preventing injury! Which is a main goal. Injuries are painful and can be avoided with a little discipline. We know stretching can be boring and seem pointless when we feel good, but as soon as a little niggle in a muscle or joint happens you will be singing a different song. We don't want you to wait for an injury to happen before you start looking after yourself, instead we want you to start now and in turn prevent injuries! 

Let’s get stretching!