How to warm up for tennis

Before I begin this post, I should point out that I’m not a person who likes to stretch before practice. In the past, I’d often skip this altogether or would only do the minimal amount. Even if I was going out to play a match.

As you might expect, this would often lead to me feeling sore the next day. My typical tennis day was 2-4 hours on court, at a time.

As my game developed, I came to understand just how important stretching was. In my late teens, I adapted to a more defensive playing style. Not stretching beforehand would lead to my knees aching afterwards.

Overtime, I’ve made quite a few adjustments to my game and I now have a routine which seems to work fairly well.

Today, I’d like to share a few of the most important ones with you.

1. Birddog

This is a great back strengthening exercise that can also be used during your warm up. The birddog targets your lower back, thigh, hip, and glute. It also has the added benefit of improving your balance.

To perform this exercise, you need to start off in a kneeling plank. Keeping your toes on the ground. Gradually, you’re going to lift one leg and the arm opposite from it until both are fully extended.

Here’s a picture of how this should look:

Birddog plank

With the arm and leg both fully extended, you’re going to hold this position for several seconds before gradually lowering them and repeating the process with your opposite side. It is possible to do this exercise with the same side arm and leg, however this requires a great deal of balance and fairly decent form. I don’t recommend doing same-side bird dogs, if you’re just starting out.

2. Front Shoulder Raise (with a resistance band)

This is a phenomenal exercise for your shoulder. If you don’t have a resistance tube, please consider getting one as it will greatly assist you with your warm-up and keeping your shoulder injury-free.

Step onto the tube with either one or both of your feet and raise the band until the handles are roughly at your eye level. Hold this position for a moment before gradually lowering your arms back down to your sides. You can perform this exercise in 3 sets of 10 or even 15 if you’re feeling up to it. 🙂

 

3. Ankle Rockers:

At the end of 2013, my ankles were killing me. By not warming-up this vitally important tendon, before practice, I had created an unnecessary problem for myself. I couldn’t move to the ball without feeling stiffness or even soreness.

Knowing that I had to get this resolved, I started performing ankle rockers on a near daily basis. Combing this with a few weeks off from the tennis courts allowed me to recover from my injury.

As of April 2015, I haven’t had to deal with it since! 🙂

 

4. Adductor Stretches:

If you’ve ever played a long tennis match then you know how important this muscle group is. The adductors and hips are essential to your lower body’s flexibility. Make sure you take the time to perform this exercise.

Start off by kneeling on the ground in a plank position. Extend your right leg out laterally, as far as it can go. You then want to gently lean backwards until the back of your heel is nearly touching your glute. Hold this for several seconds before returning to your original position. Repeat 5-10 times before switching to the opposite leg.

5. Hip Flexor Stretch

This is an often overlooked exercise that, if performed correctly, can seriously enhance your range of motion. One major benefit is that it allows you to work a lot of different areas at the same time. Your glutes, hamstring, hip, lower-back, knees, and even balance, will all be improved by doing this routinely.

To perform the hip flexor stretch. Start by kneeling on one leg while stretching the other one out in front of you at a 90 degree angle. You want to make sure that your leg is out far enough so that when you rock forward the knee isn’t extending well over the front toe.

Gently move forward until you feel a gradual stretch in your hip. Hold this position for a few seconds before moving back. Repeat this several times before switching legs.

One last thing I want to point out is that it’s extremely important to stay erect during this exercise. If you’re having a difficult time doing this try squeezing your glutes before you move into the stretch.

All right guys, I hope you found these stretches to be helpful. Leave me a comment below with what you’d like to see next! I want to bring you the best tennis knowledge possible and I’ve got a whole lot planned for 2015.

Stay tuned! 😀

 

 

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Tennis Corrective Strength Training Exercises: Kettle bell swings

kettlebells

The kettlebell swing is one of the best exercises to perform during the off season. It’s one of my personal favorites as it works the glutes, hamstrings, and a bit of your lower back. I usually do this one about 3-4 times per week in sets of 5.

If you’re a player, who suffers from lower back pain this exercise can help to correct it. Just be careful of how much you lift.

Here’s how it works. You want to start off with a kettlebell or dumbbell that fits into your ideal strength weight. I recommend starting at about 8-10 pounds if you haven’t been doing much off-court training.

The motion:

You want your feet to be in a wide base, further than shoulder width apart. Take the weight and hold it low between your legs. You can initiate the movement by swinging the weight through your legs and squeezing your glutes. As the weight starts to drop use your hips to thrust the weight up to your chest level. Briefly hold the weight in place before allowing it to swing between your legs and repeating the process again.

You can perform as many sets as you want but I’d recommend doing at least 3 sets of 15 reps per training interval.

On a side note, I’m going to begin recording myself performing these exercises along with my on-court training and practice sessions.

I’ve got a lot of content that I plan to release for 2015 and I can hardly wait to get started.

Hope you guys are having a great new year. I’ll be back in a couple days with my Australian Open predictions.

2012 Wimbledon finals

Hey everyone, sorry for the extended delay of this post. My busy schedule sometimes keeps me away from my blog. But I’m back to talk about the Wimbledon final between Federer and Murray. Federer and Murray? Yeah, what an odd combination. For the last four slams it’s been Djokovic/Nadal but finally we have some new faces. Well maybe not new but atleast different. 

The match was very good. The kind of high quality you’d expect from a Wimbledon final. Andy Murray, has long been pursuing his first grand slam title. Just like Agassi was, twenty years earlier. The ironic thing is that both Andy and Andre had lost there previous slam finals before making the breakthrough at Wimbledon. Both were considered to be the underdog and neither player was considered a likely candidate to win this tournament. Andre, won his final against Goran Ivanisevic. Would history repeat itself for Murray? 

As the match unfolded Murray found himself quickly in control. He broke Roger at the start of the match, then a tug of war ensued between them. They exchanged breaks of serve but ultimately Murray closed out the first set 6-4. 

In set two, Murray had real opportunities to get a stranglehold but seemingly floundered his chances. He was making inroads on Roger’s serve and it looked like he might be able to take the second set in a tie-break. A few lucky points from Roger gave him the second set 7-5.

Set three went to Federer after an incredible battle at 3-2. Murray, threw everything he had at the Swiss but it wasn’t enough. After losing this game and conceding the break the momentum of the match was clearly with Federer. He blew through the third set with very few mistakes. Roger won the third set 6-3.

In the fourth set Roger, got an opportunity early on and pounced on it. From then on it was a forgone conclusion. Murray, had too much hill to climb, though he never stopped trying. Roger served out the match at 5-4 to win his seventh Wimbledon and seventeenth slam overall. 

After giving an emotional post match interview Andy Murray was cheered on by his home crowd. Roger, praised Murray’s performance, saying he was certain Murray would win a slam at some point in his career.

I agree with Roger. Murray, played great. It wasn’t like in the other slams where he stormed in playing brilliant tennis and then seemed to whither up and die in the finals. Murray, competed hard from start to finish. Were he able to win the second set, I think he would taken the match from Roger. In the future he will remain a viable contender to win slams. I believe he’s going to have a lot more opportunties.

Federer, winning his seventeenth slam at Wimbledon, just staggers me. No one has ever come close to that kind of number, I mean Pistol only had fourteen. Roger, is now in a class by himself. How many more. can he get? Could he reach twenty? At 30 years old I don’t think it’s likely but with a couple more Wimbledons and the US Open Federer could end up with twenty slams. Or more. Scary isn’t it?

Thanks to the win, Roger is ranked on top again and has broken Pete’s record of most weeks at number one. (Poor Pete, his records are just getting trashed this month.) I admit, that’s a record I didn’t think he’d be able to pull off when he lost the top rank to Nadal two years ago. I and a lot of others thought that Fed’s days at number one were over. Turns out we were wrong, Fed surprised all of us and now he’s number one again. 

With the US Open series starting next month, the players will be returning to the States to duel it out across North America. Expect the number one ranking to be up for grabs in the weeks to come.

Wimbledon semi-final preview

It’s been a long slog for these guys but they’re nearly at the finish line now. The only thing standing between them and the Wimbledon trophy is each other. Blocking Roger Federer’s path is the top seed Novak Djokovic. While Andy Murray, has to go through Jo Wilfried Tsonga.

It should go without saying that Roger Federer, is a fantastic grass court player. Will his past experience and success at Wimbledon be enough to overcome the athleticism and power of Novak Djokovic? I think so. Grass, is a rewarding surface for players who like to attack. The ball doesn’t bounce as high and it moves through the court quickly. Roger, will be able to play the match on his own terms without having to out-grind a younger and more physical opponent from the baseline.

Andy Murray vs Jo Wilfried Tsonga, is a tough one to call. Tsonga, is the better grass court player but he’s not as consistent as Andy Murray. It’s going to be decided based on how well Tsonga plays. If he comes out flat and doesn’t light up the crowd with his shot making, the match will go to Murray. But if he’s bombing aces and crushing forehands, then it should fall to Tsonga.

My prediction is Federer will play Tsonga for the Wimbledon championship this Sunday.

How to become a great server

This is a follow up, to my post on how to become a great returner. Most recreational players are enamored with the speed of fast serves. And I’ll agree, it’s fun to swing away on the first serve. But in terms of importance, it’s consistency, placement and then power. Keep it in this order. Because you can’t have a good serve without consistency.

I equate consistency with topspin. When you hit with topspin you are adding safety to your shot. With this in mind, it makes sense that the topspin serve would be the ideal choice for the second serve right? That means it’s really important to get this serve down. If you’re struggling with getting it in, here’s a useful exercise that will help your consistency. I do this all the time.

Place a hopper several feet away from you. Grab a few tennis balls and practice throwing them into the hopper, while using the topspin service motion. This simulates the motion of the serve and familiarizes your muscle memory with that motion. Once you’re able to get the ball in consistently, stand back a few more feet and work at getting it in from further away. You can also do this same exercise on the tennis court, just stand inside the service line when you’re throwing the ball. Do you notice, tossing the ball from a close distance requires a lot of arm action but as you back up you start to turn through the toss? This is because the rotation of your hips adds extra power to your serve. When you are ready to add power to your second serve, you can accelerate through the striking part of the service motion, while turning through the ball.

Now let’s talk about the flat and slice serves. These are best used on the first serve. Your goal with them, will be to establish control of a rally. There are several ways to do this. One way, is to serve a hard ball to your opponent and hope for a short reply. Another way, is to angle the serve away from them and look for a weak return. Which puts you in the attacking position. Since these two serves are offensive. Think about where your opponent’s weakness is. Most players have a weaker backhand than forehand. If you’re not sure which side is weaker, play a few rallies and see if your opponents starts to hit the ball short. If they give weak replies off of a certain stroke, that’s the key to target that side when serving.

Another important aspect to serving, is to have a consistent toss. I like to put the ball right on the palm of my hand and then practice tossing it straight up in the same exact spot. The more consistent your toss the more successful your serve will become.

Anyway, try out some of these tips and let me know how it goes.

Top 10 players I’d like to have a match with

It’s time for the next installment in my series. For those who don’t know. This is where I pick an active player, who’s playing style I find interesting and create a dream match scenario. Complete with court surface, strategy, and my reason behind why I’d want to have a match with them.

#9 Nicolas Almagro

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming in ninth on my list is Nicolas Almagro. A fantastic athlete. Who’s versatile playing style and aggressive ball striking, makes him a threat on any surface. He’s known for having a monster forehand, which he hits very accurately. His backhand is great as well. Almagro, is a tall order. Even for the best players in the world.

My playing style is relatively similar to Almagro’s. I’m an aggressive baseliner and I like controlling points from the center of the baseline and getting to the net. The biggest difference in our games (aside from obvious playing level abilities) is that I use a two handed backhand.

How would I play him?

Almagro’s, game is extremely well rounded. His best weapon may be his forehand but his biggest weakness would probably be his movement. Though getting him on the run isn’t easy. Almagro, is a great shot maker. He can dictate play, very well from the center of the baseline. One option when playing someone like that is to serve out wide. But I have a tactic which might work even better. When I’m in a backhand to backhand exchange and I’m looking to go on the offense, I like to step inside the baseline and hit a sharply angled short ball to my opponents backhand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pulls them off the court and gives me quite a few options, if I’m able to get to their next shot in time. Another thing I’ve noticed about Almagro, is that he tends to slice the ball when his opponent, goes to hard to his backhand. This is not at all uncommon, since the slice is usually a safe shot which can be used to reset the pace of the rally. The downside to slice is that it has under-spin on it which gives it the tendency to land short. Short balls are attack-able. So hitting hard to his backhand may pay dividends throughout the match.

What surface would I play him on?

Hard courts. Clay would be nightmare because Almagro would be able to set up for everything and blast the ball away, all day long. I’d rather play him on something which has some speed. Sure the rallies would be shorter but with a match between two aggressive baseliners, you’d expect them to be short right?:)

Stay tuned for part three, which is coming up soon.