The 3 Best Stretches for Tennis
Improve your tennis and minimize injuries with 3 of the best tennis stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published September 26, 2010 | Updated April 23, 2019
Incorporating tennis stretches in your tennis training program will improve your performance as a tennis player and help to minimize the risk of tennis injury.
Muscles used in Tennis
Tennis is a sport that places demands on all the major muscle groups of the body. The main ones being:
- The core muscles, including the rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus, which are the abdominal muscles, and both internal and external oblique muscles.
- The quadriceps, hip, and calf muscles work with the core muscles to generate power and movement.
- The forehand stroke relies specifically on the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder, the pectorals, biceps, deltoids and the forearm, as the hip and core muscles help to generate internal shoulder rotation.
- The backhand stroke uses less of the hip and core muscles, but relies heavily on the the trapezius, latissimus dorsi and triceps.
Most Common Tennis Injuries
Tennis players are subject to a range of both acute (traumatic) and chronic (overuse) injuries due to the considerable requirements of the sport in terms of hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular endurance and complex musculoskeletal participation. The more common afflictions plaguing tennis players include:
- Rotator cuff tendinitis;
- Tennis elbow;
- Forearm and wrist strain, including carpal tunnel syndrome;
- Back pain;
- Knee pain, including chondromalacia (a softening of the the articular cartilage underneath the kneecap), patellar tendinitis and meniscus tear;
- Calf and Achilles tendon injuries; and
- Ankle sprain.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Thorough conditioning and proper technique are both essential in helping to prevent tennis injuries. Keep the following points in mind:
- Always warm-up properly prior to training and competition.
- Allow time for a proper cool-down after training and competition (including stretching).
- A comprehensive strength training program will help to minimize muscle imbalances and prevent many injuries caused by the explosive movements required during tennis.
- Incorporate speed and cardiovascular endurance training to prevent fatigue in later stages of a match.
- Practice balance, agility and proprioception drills to improve knee and ankle stability.
- A comprehensive flexibility training program will help keep the muscles healthy and ready to move as needed.
- Skill development and attention to correct technique will help reduce overuse injuries.
- A two-handed backhand reduces stress on the muscles attaching to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus, helping to prevent tennis elbow.
- Proper racquet selection and grip size are critical in preventing tennis elbow and other injuries related to improper technique. Smaller racquet heads or excessive string tightness place more stress on forearm muscles, which can lead to tennis elbow.
- Stiffer graphite-type racquets with larger heads offer an enhanced “sweet spot,” causing less muscle stress.
The Benefits of Tennis Stretches
There are a number of benefits of scheduling tennis stretches in your training program. Trainers and players alike readily agree that tennis stretches can maximizes performance while minimizing the risk of injury. Some of the benefits of tennis stretches include improved posture and a reduction in lower back pain. Increased athleticism by controlling muscle imbalances. Regular tennis stretches can help prevent injuries. And finally, even the most basic tennis stretches can just make you feel better.
The 3 Best Tennis Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for tennis; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Rotating Wrist and Forearm Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Assisted Reverse Chest and Shoulder Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.
Kneeling Heel-down Calf and Achilles Stretch: Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward.
Watch the Tennis Stretches video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for tennis.
These tennis stretches are best done after your tennis training, as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your tennis flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 28). Tennis, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Ellen Becker, T. Pluim, B. Vivier, S. Sniteman, C. (2009). Common injuries in tennis players: exercises to address muscular imbalances and reduce injury risk. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 31(4), 50-58.
- Fu, M. Ellenbecker, T. Renstrom, P. Windler, G. Dines, D. (2018) Epidemiology of injuries in tennis players. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medecine, 11(1): 1–5.
- Kibler, W. Safran, M. (2015) Tennis injuries. Medicine and Sport Science, 48:120-37.
- Pluim, B. Staal, J. Windler, G. Jayanthi, N. (2006). Tennis injuries: occurrence, aetiology, and prevention. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(5), 415-423.
- Kibler, W. Chandler, T. (2003). Range of motion in junior tennis players participating in an injury risk modification program. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 6(1), 51-62.
- Vad, V. Gebeh, A. Dines, D. Altchek, D. Norris, B. (2003). Hip and shoulder internal rotation range of motion deficits in professional tennis players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 6(1), 71-75.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.