Tips on Tennis Fitness

For millions of players across the country tennis is a year-round sport, but as the weather turns warmer, people play more frequently. Indoors or out, at local courts or center court at Wimbledon, fitness is the key for tennis players to perform well and avoid injury.

“Each year, thousands of recreational tennis players experience injuries ranging from overuse of the shoulder or elbow to injuries of the lower back, knees and ankles,” said Michele Beltram, PT, a physical therapist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.

“Tennis is a complex physical sport that requires strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, speed and agility. To help build fitness levels and avoid injury, it is important that individuals participate in a proper warm-up and stretching regimen, especially if they are playing more at this time of year.”

Players at all levels should target endurance, flexibility and muscle-conditioning exercises, and remember to check with a physician before beginning any exercise or sports program. Kessler offers these recommendations to help avoid injury.

  • Warm up properly. Take a light jog or brisk walk around the courts for five to 10 minutes.
  • Perform stretching exercises for the trunk, shoulders, wrists and legs, including hamstrings, calves and ankles, to build flexibility.
  • Begin the practice warm-up with shorter distance strokes, move back as you loosen up, and take a few serves.
  • When serving or hitting an overhead, try not to arch your back unnecessarily. Bend your knees and raise your heels, so that upperbody weight is more evenly balanced.
  • When serving, bend the arm. Serving with a straight arm and firm wrist will transfer shock from the wrist to the elbow.
  • Start backhand swings from your shoulder. Avoid placing your thumb behind the racquet’s grip for more support on

Despite training and conditioning, injuries may still occur, including:

Rotator cuff tendinitis, a painful inflammation of the tendons of the rotator cuff resulting from overuse, weakness and/or poor body mechanics.

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), a common condition that often results from overuse or improper body positioning or strokes in which the elbow ahead of the racquet.

Injuries to the lower back, knees, calves and ankles, that may occur when reaching for or returning a shot and the body is extended, running, or when quick, twisting movement of the legs occurs.

Individuals are advised to discontinue play if experiencing any pain, and ice the affected area; if pain persists, see a doctor. In addition, an evaluation by a physical therapist can help assess strength, range of motion, and overall conditioning and an individualized exercise program can then be developed.

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