Are you at your peak?
Do you feel like you’re losing power with your serve? Are you feeling a little sore following a hit of tennis? Don't ignore these niggles - they may be a warning sign for you. There may be a few basic things that you could do to address these issues.
When a player comes into see me at a tournament, a common problem they complain about is their dominant shoulder. The player may have had previous problems with that shoulder, it could be a new injury, or it could just be tight and sore. Usually, they’re able to hypothesise why it’s reached this point. Typically, it’s one of the following reasons: wetter conditions which make the balls heavier, a change of surface, a long practice session of hitting lots of balls, equipment changes (different balls, altered string tension, trialling a new racquet).
There are many tests which we might do to determine what the problem might be. However, the two things I will always check will be the posture of their shoulder and upper back, and mobility/flexibility (specifically the internal and external rotation) of the shoulder.
As physios, we do nag you about standing and sitting ‘properly’. But this can actually make a big difference in your game. Most of us are prone to poor posture due to our jobs. We work on computers and spend a lot of time on our phones. If this has lead to tightness at the front of your chest, and stiffness in your mid-back (thoracic spine) then you are prone to poor shoulder mobility. This may cause shoulder pain due to increased torsion on certain structures, risk of tendon impingement, and loss of reach and control.
So, before pulling on therabands or pulleys for strength, you need to loosen off structures in your upper back and shoulders, so that your shoulder is in a better position for your muscles to do their job.
3 Favourite mobility exercises for tennis players.
1: Lie on a foam roller or rolled up towel in your mid back area. This will open out your chest and mobilise through your mid back region. It’s quite a nice stretch, aim to do this for 2-3 minutes each day.
2: Self massage with a tennis ball at the back of your shoulder. This will loosen up some tight structures. 2-3 minutes as tolerated.
3: Sleeper stretch- lie on your side, a little rotated towards your back, with your head supported and gently push your affected arm towards the ground, hold for more than 20 seconds. Here you can add a “hold-relax” stretch where you push up against your other hand (towards the ceiling) gently for 3 seconds and then relax and gently push back down towards the ground with your other hand. Repeat 4-5 times. Note that this should be pain free.
Happy hitting and stay tuned for strengthening exercises.
Onebody Clinic Physiotherapist