If you've been suffering from a heavy case of tennis fever this month, it might be time to hit the court yourself. By personal trainer Donna Jones.
While the pros make it look effortless, tennis is a highly aerobic form of exercise. Ever noticed how much tennis players sweat during a match? And how many times Pat "The Puddle" Rafter used to change his T-shirt? Not to mention all the drink breaks they seem to take on-court.
Tennis also serves up an all-over body workout. For proof, look no further than Anna Kournikova, who never seems to worry about stepping out in not so much at all. The reason? All those short, fast sprints to the net or the baseline get your heart and lungs into shape as well as your body. "An average two-hour singles tennis match can contain as many as 100 to 200 bursts of energy," says Louise Plemming, who is a professional tennis coach and commentator for the ABC, Fox and ESPN. "This requires not only muscular strength but also muscular endurance and both aerobic and anaerobic fitness."
A former professional tennis player (she was on the circuit for 14 years), Plemming designed this short workout for social players who want to improve their match fitness and also reduce their risk of injury.
So get down to a court today and have a game or two. It's virtually guaranteed to whip you into shape.
on court workout
Louise Plemming puts pro-player Rachel McQuillan through her paces.
aim: to warm up your muscles and prepare them for the session ahead
• Five minutes jogging and shuffling along the baseline.
• Butt kicks (kicking your heels up to your butt) as you run between the baseline and the net, five times.
• High knees (lifting your knees high in front of you) as you run between the baseline and net, five times.
• Do some static and dynamic stretching for flexibility. Include wrist, forearm and shoulder stretches.
2 strength training
aim: to promote muscular balance using plyometrics: Note that this form of training can place extreme stress on the body and joints. Plyometrics may only be done by the already fit and injury-free.
• for lower body:
> Low lateral jumps. Place a small obstacle on the ground like a shoe or cone, stand to the left side of it, with ankles close together. Keep them close together and jump over the object, then back to the starting point. Jump from side to side 10 times. Rest and repeat.
• for trunk:
> Medicine ball for abdominals. Sit facing a partner with knees bent and feet interlocked. One person gently throws the ball to the other at chest level. Your partner holds the ball on their chest as they lower down to the ground then throws the ball as they crunch up. You then go down with the ball and throw it to your partner as you crunch up. Keep repeating. Do five to 15 throws each.
Rest and repeat.
• for upper body:
> Medicine ball chest passes. Stand a few metres away from a partner, brace the abdominals and throw the medicine ball back and forth from the chest. Make sure you do 10 to 20 throws each.
Rest and repeat two to three times.
> Sit-ups. For a basic sit-up, lie flat on your back with knees bent, place hands behind your head with elbows pointing out. Support your neck with your hands. Keep your neck in a straight line with your spine and crunch up until your shoulders are just off the floor. Slowly lower back down and repeat.
Do 10 to 20 of these. Rest and repeat.
> Side bends. Lie on your back with feet flat and knees bent. Tilt your knees to the right while keeping your shoulders square. Hold your hands behind your head and elbows out to side. Slowly crunch up and lower, working your stomach and oblique muscles on the left side. Repeat for other side. Do 10 to 15 of these for each side. Rest and repeat.
3 movement drills
aim: to improve lateral change of direction, speed and agility
• Shuttle runs: start at the base line, sprint to the net, touch the net, push off and sprint back to the beginning. If you can't sprint, just do slow jogs. Do five times then rest and repeat for 3-5 sets.
• Diamond drill: mark out a diamond shape in one half of the court with shoes or cones. Run to each point, pushing off to the next point as fast as you can. Do three times then rest and repeat for 3-5 sets.
4 rubber band work
aim: for general training and rehabilitation with elbow and wrist problems and also shoulder stabilisation
• Use a long rubber (resistance) band for these exercises. Do five to 15 of each.
> Tie the band around a doorknob or pole. Stand with your left side facing the pole, with your right hand wrapped around the band. Your elbow is bent and close in to the body with forearm parallel with the ground. There must be tension in the band as you hold it in this position. Keep your shoulder blades drawn down and back, keeping the elbow where it is, move your forearm out to the right as far as you can and return to the centre in a controlled manner. Now hold the band with your left hand, move to your right so there is tension. Now take the arm from the outside into the centre. Repeat for other side.
> Stand on one end of the band and hold the other end in your right hand behind your head so there is tension in the band. Keep the elbow bent and in, lift the band up until your elbow is straight and return to starting position in a slow controlled manner. Repeat for left arm.
tame that tennis elbow
"Tennis places unique physical demands and stresses on many parts of the body, with over-use injuries reported in upper and lower trunk areas, and in the elbow and wrist of both recreational and elite players", says Plemming. One common over-use injury is tennis elbow, more accurately termed Extensor Tendinopothy, which is caused by repetitive wrist extension against resistance. This is commonly seen in players with poor technique, strength and flexibility. Strengthening and stretching exercises are the key to prevention. Try these exercises.
• strengthen: Place your forearm on a bench or table so your hand, wrist and half of your forearm are hanging over the edge. Hold a light weight such as a 1kg dumbbell and slowly lift it up as if you were lifting a drink off the table.
Do five to 12 times then rest and repeat.
• stretch: To stretch the top of your wrist, pull your fingers down underneath your wrist.
To stretch underneath the wrist, pull your fingertips back toward your forearm. Hold this for at least 20 seconds.
• throw it: Many major tennis stars travel with sports equipment such as a baseball, mitt and a football for an instant workout. The throwing action uses the same muscles as a serve, and will help you ace it every time.
• skip to it: Many tennis players, including world number one Lleyton Hewitt (right), use boxing and skipping to keep themselves quick, strong and agile.
• take your medicine:
A medicine ball is a weighted ball used for strength training. Tennis players use them to build their strength and power. France's Mary Pierce (left) commonly does abdominal crunches taking the ball over her head and throwing it back to her coach. Medicine ball work is great for boosting upper body strength and hitting power.
Tennis Australia is about to launch a national tennis fitness program called Australian Open Tennis, which combines other fitness activities with playing to provide all round fitness and a sense of wellbeing. Anyone can play tennis but coaching is recommended initially to help you learn the basics. To get started, call your local club. Or to find a recommended coach for your area or level of experience log on to www.tenniswithatwist.com
and fill out the online coaching questionaire.
The Sunday Telegraph, Body + Soul