Tennis is a very strenuous sport concerning your skeletal system – your muscles, tendons and joints are taxed tremendously with all the quick changes of direction and bursts of sprints and stops. And tennis being “one-sided” sport doesn’t help much either. Even if you play two-handed backhand, the dominant side of your body gets much more work – your serve, volley and forehands are hit with your dominant arm. Often, most players prefer to hit their forehands so they run around some backhands to hit the forehand, and with that your dominant side gets even more work. Over time, one side of your body gets little stronger, bigger and tighter. You have maybe already noticed that. No amount of work in the gym will make it even, but it’s a good idea to do it, so you would make the difference as little as possible.
Besides your upper body, there are things happening in your hips as well. By preferring hitting your forehands more than backhands, and maybe closing your stance more on the backhand side, will work your hip muscles differently on your right and left side. Once you start having slight imbalances in your hips, then the mechanics of your running stride changes a little bit and over time, you can start feeling problems with your knees, or ankles and feet, and even your lower back. I would say that taking care of your hips with a good hip stretch should be a very high priority for your tennis fitness, because balanced hips will keep the rest of your body more balanced.
Best time for your hip stretch is directly after your tennis practice. If some issues have been created, you can correct them right then, before your muscles get tight and make the imbalance even worse. If you only choose to do one stretch, it should be The Pigeon (followed by a little bit of piriformis myo-fascial release)
- The Pigeon Hip Stretch
Get down on the ground on your hands and feet. Supporting your legs on the left foot bring your right knee forward as close your hands as you can. Put your bent right leg on the ground, with your left foot as close to your left hand as you can. Depending on your level of tightness, it might feel like this is never going to happen :-) and that’s ok. Do your best. Slowly lay down over your right leg that is now folded under your chest. Stretch and relax your left leg. Keep your hips balanced, parallel with the ground, your arms on the ground, head resting on your arms or on the ground. You might find this hip stretch extremely intense, feeling tightness in your booty, knee or your thigh. Just keep breathing deeply and try to relax in those thigh parts as much as you can. The goal is to eventually get your right butt cheek down on the ground, without tilting your hips or the whole body. Hold this stretch for at least 1 minute and then switch sides – push yourself up on your hands, stretch and shake your right leg as it can be a bit “shocked” and swing your left leg forward and do the same for your left side.
If you find that one side is much tighter than the other, give it more attention even though your instinct wants to tell you to the opposite – to keep it short because it is so uncomfortable. You goal is to even out both sides. So in the future, always start with your tighter side, and then do the other, better, side and then switch one more time to the tighter side. You will be surprised how much looser it is the second time around. Keep working on this hip stretch, and see how The Pigeon will improve your tennis fitness!
And remember to always stay well hydrated and keep strengthening your legs and core as well. If you like the articles, remember to subscribe above and you will get a notification in your mail box when new interesting articles arrive.
Read more articles about how to
- Prevent shin splints
- Prevent plantar fasciitis
- Prevent foot problems – Achilles tendons, heel spurs, twisted ankles
- Prevent groin pull
- Prevent “sciatica” – piriformis syndrome