Following our last post on flexibility for tennis, all of the aspiring or returning tennis players have hopefully been completing the mobility exercises so that their muscles are at their optimal length/tension relationship. The next step to get you primed for tennis is to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder girdle and upper back. Muscle strength and power protect you from injury, and allows for a more powerful and accurate game.
Here are my three favourite exercises to promote shoulder strength.
1: Theraband external rotations
Why? These muscles control the position of your shoulder joint, and allow you to generate more power with your backhand. It is great to do 15 of these just before you play to pre-activate the all-important rotator cuff to prepare your shoulder for the game.
How? Tie the band to a bannister or door handle. Stand tall and pull your shoulder blades back. Keeping your elbow by your side, rotate your hand out away from your body. Hold for 3 seconds, then slowly return to the start.
Dosage: These muscles are endurance muscles, so aim to do a high number of repetitions until the muscles behind your shoulder start to get tired (20-30x), repeat.
2: W's and V's against the wall:
Why? This exercise strengthens the muscles of the shoulder blade and upper back, to give you more strength and power in your shoulder movements.
How? Lean against the wall with your bottom and neck touching the wall. Flatten your entire back into the wall and then place your forearms against the wall with your palms facing away from you. Move your hands up to form a V and then back down to form a W.
Dosage: Complete up to 20 repetitions or until the muscles between your shoulder blades are aching. Repeat.
Progression: Lie on your tummy and perform the same exercise. Your muscles have to work against gravity in this position. You can also hold light dumbells in this position.
3: Ball Bounce.
Why? This exercise trains dynamic strength and control - vital for tennis performance.
How? Bounce a spongy ball/tennis ball/light medicine ball against the wall from 11 to 3 on a clock face. Make sure your keep your shoulder in a good position. Stand close to the wall and pat the ball repeatedly against a surface drawing an arc.
Dosage: bounce for 1-2 minutes making sure your keep a good shoulder position.
Maintaining good strength and control of the shoudler girdle is the best way to prevent injury, and get the most out of your game.