Melissa is a physical therapist at the Veterans Hospital in Dover, Delaware. She works in a community based outpatient clinic.
To increase speed and agility on the court, using cones or even lines on the court is useful. Agility ladders with different boxes to move in and out of are great for doing icky shuffles and crossovers. Doing line drills by running from one line to the next and timing yourself is a good way to get faster. Working on lateral movements such as side shuffles, karaoke steps and crossover steps help recover between shots. Setting up cones in a triangle and doing diagonal movements is also beneficial. Transcript: "In terms of exercises to do to increase our speed and agility on the court, the best thing to use is to use the court, right? And mimic movements that we would do while we're playing tennis. So we can use simple equipment like cones or even using the lines on the court. Having a ladder is also really useful. So one of those agility ladders with the different boxes that we can, you know, move our feet in and out of. Doing what's called an icky shuffle where we kind of go diagonally through the ladder. Doing crossovers with our feet. Doing hops within the ladder. And if we don't have an agility ladder, that's totally fine, right? We can use the lines on the court or we can do hops forward and back, side to side. We can do that with two legs or just one leg. And we can also do line drills, right? So starting at the double sideline and running from one line to the next. And focusing on timing ourselves, trying to get faster each time. And with all these exercises, we want to make sure we take twice as long of a rest as we did for the activity to allow our systems to recover so we can go at it again when we're doing this sort of training. Something else to keep in mind is doing lateral movements. So working on side shuffling, karaoke steps or crossover steps. Sometimes they call it the grapevine step. So getting that crossover so that we can recover between shots. So we want to work not only forward and backward movements, but side to side. And also working diagonal movements. So if we have some cones, setting up a cone and a triangle, right? Being able to go forward and at diagonals and coming back to the cones. There are also different drills with boxes that we can use cones for. And using different patterns to mimic movements on the court."
Physical therapy can be beneficial for tennis players in terms of addressing any pain or injury, as well as improving movement capacity, flexibility, and strength to help set them up for success and reduce the risk of injury. Transcript: "Physical therapy can be beneficial for tennis players for a couple different reasons. So first off, if you are having any sort of pain or injury anywhere in your body, physical therapists are trained for this. So they are musculoskeletal experts in terms of movement and function and how we can get back into different activities. So if you're having, you know, any sort of ankle pain, knee pain, physical therapy is a good place to start. And physical therapists are direct access providers. So what does this mean? You can go to a physical therapist in pretty much any state without necessarily having to have a doctor's referral to start physical therapy. Now, depending where you live, you may need a script from a primary care or other medical doctor, depending on how long you're seeing a physical therapist. So that is something to look into. But physical therapists can be seen without a referral in many, many states. So beyond that, right, once you've seen a physical therapist, they can help you address any sort of musculoskeletal condition. So think anything relating to muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, any of those kinds of issues. A physical therapist can perform a full evaluation and understand what is the root cause and what is really going on with that area and how to best create a plan to address this. So if you are having any sort of like ankle pain, for example, a physical therapist will look at the joints surrounding the ankle and how these can be impacting the function of your ankle. So in that evaluation, they take a look at your joints above and below and surrounding the area to really get a clear picture. So seeing physical therapy to improve your tennis game and also to see your overall movement capacity and flexibility and strength can help set you up for success and sometimes even help minimize the risk of injury in the long term."
Stretching before and after playing tennis is important for injury prevention, performance, and overall health. Before playing, do dynamic stretching such as high knees, butt kicks, and arm swings to get the heart rate up. After playing, do static stretches that hold for 20-30 seconds on muscles used during the match, such as pectoral muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Transcript: "So how important is stretching before and after playing tennis? So this is super important to consider in terms of injury prevention and also getting ourselves ready for a match. So before we start to play tennis, we want to do dynamic stretching. So thinking about moving our arms and our legs in a dynamic fashion. So high knees, butt kicks, leg swings, moving our arms forward and back across the body. Things that are going to get our heart rate up and our blood flowing. After a match, we want to do more static stretching. So things that are going to be longer holds anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds of different muscles that we use while we were playing tennis. So we want to do our pectoral muscles, right? So maybe doing a doorway stretch, bringing our arms across the body, doing a quadriceps stretch where we hold our heel to our butt. Hamstring stretch, right? Where we fold down, trying to reach our toes, stretching our calves, and of course our glutes. Maybe a figure four stretch or something like that. So I hope this helps and definitely keep that mobility and flexibility in mind for performance."
To prevent injuries while playing tennis, incorporate a good training program that includes strength, flexibility, and mobility work as well as power movements. Eat well, sleep well, and if injured, seek help from a physical therapist for a full evaluation. Transcript: "So some tips for preventing injuries while playing tennis is to make sure we have a good program both on and off the court. So when we're off the court, we want to make sure that we're balancing our strength and our flexibility and mobility and our conditioning. Because tennis does incorporate all of these things. So when we're talking about strength training, we want to do full body workouts that incorporate all of our muscle groups, our upper body, lower body, core, and really incorporate power movements and strength movements as these are things that we're going to be using on the court. Also think about incorporating multiple plane movements, so rotation, lateral movements, as we definitely use this while we play tennis. We also want to make sure we're staying flexible and mobile. So incorporating things like yoga or Pilates into our training is going to help us stay flexible so that when we do need to reach for some of those far balls or maybe do a little bit of a splits when we're sliding on the clay, we can do so with confidence. And then in addition to just some of those training tips, we also want to make sure that we're eating well, that we sleep well. When we sleep, we have a lot of restorative processes that occur, so that can help us with preventing injuries as well. So really honing in on that training on and off the court to help us prevent some of these injuries that are common in tennis. Another thing to consider is if we do have any injuries or concerns is to seek out the help of a physical therapist, and they can do a full evaluation and see what are the areas that you can maybe work on and continue to improve to stay injury free."
The best way to warm up for tennis is to do joint rotations, dynamic stretching, side shuffling, leg swings, line drills, jump rope, and shadow swings. This will get your joints moving, blood flow going, and muscles ready to play. Transcript: "So in terms of best ways to warm up, we want to get all of our joints moving and our blood flow going. So here we've got a couple different examples of what we can do. So doing some rotations of all of our joints, starting from the bottom and working our way up. So ankles, hips, knees, shoulders. And then from there we can start going into side dynamic movements. So think about hugging your knee to your chest, pulling your heel to your butt, getting those muscles nice and stretched and warm up and ready to go. And we want to get all of our muscle groups of our legs as we do this. And I recommend going across the court so you can walk with it as you're doing this dynamic warm up. So we want to get all planes of motion. So going up and back, getting some rotation in. And then once we get these basic movements in, we're going to start going a little bit more dynamic. So doing some side shuffling, some karaoke steps, getting those movements that we would do on the court. Again, doing some leg swings as well. And then once we've got these down, we want to start to speed things up as part of our warm up. So maybe doing some line drills, going in different planes of movement. I like, you know, tracing the lines essentially as part of a warm up, starting at a 50% and working our way up to 100. Jump ropes, always a great way to warm up. And of course doing some shadow swings to get that neuromuscular connection going and getting you ready to play."