Does this sound like your typical match warm-up? You say hello to your opponent, ask her name, immediately forget her names and open your can of balls. You start with a few minutes of mini-court (very few), move to a few minutes of ground strokes, you come in to take a few volleys and an overhead or two, your opponent comes in to take her volleys and overheads, you both hit a few serves and then – voila! – you're ready to play! This whole thing probably lasts 10 to 15 minutes at most. Probably less.
I promise you – if that is your warm-up, you are not warmed up. If you want to get a jump start on your match and your opponent, you will have to do some warming up well before you get out on the court with your opponent.
For a tennis match, you need to get your body, especially your large muscle groups, moving. And I'm not talking about running a mile before your match. Maybe you do some walking or light jogging on a tread mill. If you're like me, you don't have a lot of time to do anything much before you play. So maybe your warm up consists of just a few minutes of jogging in place, hopping around, maybe doing some jumping jacks.
You should also do some stretching. While the jury is out on just how much benefit stretching is prior to any physical activity, I feel like it helps me to get all of the “kinks” out before the match starts. Here are some easy stretches you can perform out near the court before your match starts and no one will look at you like you're some kind of nut for doing this stuff:
First, to get your legs stretched out, try this standing hamstring stretch. Lifting your toes will help stretch out your calves.
Next, use this standing thigh stretch to get the front of your large leg muscles stretched. The net posts can be used to balance you for lots of other stretches too.
To make sure your arms are ready to reach up for serves and overheads and out for wide volleys, perform this tricep stretch on both arms.
And don't forget to stretch out your forearms and fingers so that your arms and hands feel loose and ready for soft touch volleys.
Just doing these few things before you warm up with your opponent should help immensely. If you can then find someone, like your partner, to show up early and hit with you for 15 to 20 minutes before your match, that would be even better!
For more information on warming up before a match, check out Turbo Tennis: Stretching it to the Limit but not Beyond! where these great tennis stretching photos came from.
© Kim Selzman 2009
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