Players in racquet sports such as Tennis, Badminton and Squash are constantly combining running, jumping, extending and changing directions. A good warm up is vital to not only prevent injuries, but to enable optimum performance. A warm up should not only get the heart pumping, but it should also stretch out all the muscles that you will use.
Get the heart pumping!
Start with an activity to increase your heart rate. Light jogging is a good exercise. Jog around the court for 3-5 minutes. After this, try some ‘shuttle runs’ between landmarks on the court such as baseline to net. Gradually increasing your speed will help to warm you up. 5-10 minutes total is more than enough. Don’t tire yourself out before the match!
Stretch out the muscles you will use – Dynamically Stretch
Dynamic stretches are stretches which prepare your body for sport by gently going through the movements that you are about to perform. They increase range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion.
Upper body When performing these exercises keep in a comfortable position. Stand tall with your feet should be hip width apart and with your knees bent slightly. You back must be straight, your tummy tight and your pelvis is in a neutral position (Think of the three bears – not completely flexed, not completely extended, just right – between flexed and extended).
- Body rotations – Stand with your hands on your hips, rotate the upper half of your body from one side to the other, slowly increase the size and speed of the movements – Do this for 10-15 repetitions.
- Body bends – Hold your racquet in your left hand, and drop your left shoulder down towards the floor running next to the side of your leg. Then place your racquet in your right hand and drop it down towards the ground as before. Repeat this 5-10 times.
- Neck circles – Slowly rotate the neck through its full range of motion, looking to the ground, over the right shoulder, up to the sky and then over the left shoulder. Repeat this 3 times.
- Shoulder rolls – Have your arms by your sides, and then roll your shoulders clockwise a few times and then counter clockwise a few times.
- 5Arm circles – Swing both arms around in circles. Clockwise5 times then counter clockwise 5 times.
- Rotator cuff rotation – Start with the arms at shoulder height and the elbows bent to 90 degrees, palms facing down. Paddle your arms down to the ground and then up to the sky. Repeat 10 times each arm, gradually getting faster.
- Wrist rotations – With the elbows straight, rotate the wrists around in small circles, gradually increasing size of the circle and speed of the movement. Perform 5 circles clockwise and counter clockwise, per wrist.
- Side steps – Moving from one end of the court to the other in a sideways fashion – 2 lengths
- High knees – Lift the knees as high as you can as you run across the court – 2 lengths
- Heel flicks – Kick the heels back to towards the buttocks – 2 lengths
- Double leg hop forwards – Put your feet together, hop forwards and backwards in front of a landmark such as the baseline, make sure you stay on your toes throughout and gradually increase speed and height jumped. Afterwards, alter this exercise by hopping side to side over the sideline instead. Do this for 20-30 repetitions each way. Single leg hops are also great but take care.
- Lunges – Put one leg in front of the other leg, legs apart shoulder width and lower your body down and forward. You can place your arms up in the air to get an additional stretch. Do this 5 times each way.
Sport Specific Drills
To ensure you are prepared for the game ahead it is important that after you are warmed up, that you make your warm-up ‘sports specific’. This will mentally and physically prepare you for the game ahead.
- Start using more gentle movements such as underarm shots and gradually move back from the net / wall. Increase the power you use until you are at the baseline performing full underarm lobs and backhands etc.
- Next, move onto some gentle overhead shots such as drop shots. Once again, you must start closer to the net and as you warm up, move back.
- For the final step, progress onto clears and smashes in badminton and serves in tennis.
The whole process should not take more than 15-30 minutes and by now your joints should be warm and mobile. If any areas remain particularly tight with the stretches, give them further attention with a light stretch. After this should be now warmed up and ready to play!
A cool down is very important. Perform the stretching series if possible and a light jog around the court, or at least long strides into the car park after you finish your game. You don’t need to do them at the court, to do them at home shortly afterwards is also fine. This will ensure your muscles have cooled down, any soreness is minimised, and lactate (the painful by-product of intensive exercise in your muscles) is removed. I hope this will keep you feeling great on and off the court.
If you have any questions or have particular niggles affecting you, don’t hesitate to call or inquire about a spinal screen.
Nash Anderson (Doctor of Chiropractic)
- Tips for Court Sports (sportsmedicine.about.com);
- Tennis warm up/Badminton Warm up (sportsinjuryclinic.net);
- Dynamic Vs Static Stretching http://www.elitesoccerconditioning.com/Stretching-Flexibility/DynamicStretchingvsStaticStretching.htm