Milly Just Got Back From the US Open: Here Are Her Tennis Tips
My time is divided between being one of Physio London’s upper limb specialists and assisting professional tennis players for the Lawn Tennis Association. I used to be a semi-professional player myself, so I’m well aware of the challenges the players face to keep their bodies in peak condition while preventing or recovering from injury.
It’s a role that takes me to courts across the world, from Wimbledon to Paris and New York. In the past six years that I’ve been working with the LTA, the importance of physiotherapy in tennis has continued to increase as we learn more and more ways to keep players performing at their best.
My experience working with some of the best players in the world lets me help everyone else who wants to give this fantastic sport a go, from city workers wanting to unwind at the weekend to retirees finding new ways to stay active, so here’s some advice on how to approach tennis if you’re new to the sport or just starting.
Don’t Underestimate its Difficulty
Outside of the professional scene, tennis has a leisurely image of bright white shirts and shorts gleaming on a sunny grass court. It’s a sport that continues to attract players of all ages, but despite its idyllic image, tennis is one of the most demanding sports for your body, even if you’re not planning on being the next Federer or Williams.
It’s the sudden stops and starts, twists and turns that makes tennis so challenging. Linear sports like running, cycling or swimming place predictable demands on your body that are easy to gradually expose yourself to in order to build up your ability. With tennis, you never know how a game is going to unfold moment to moment, so your body has to be able to adapt to a wide range of movements on short notice.
This makes flexibility and power just as important to tennis as strength and stamina. Even if you can comfortably do heavy strength training or long distance running, it doesn’t mean that you can simply throw yourself into a tennis court and escape injury-free.
Prepare Your Body with a Professional Assessment
Tennis isn’t an activity you should take up without knowing the unique strengths and weaknesses of your body. A game of tennis works out every single joint and muscle in your body with many movements that most people will never make in day to day life. How often do you swing your arm over your head in a normal day? Or run suddenly from side to side?
Due to the flexibility required, exercises like yoga and pilates work well for conditioning the body for tennis, especially if you have a desk job that may have reduced the mobility of your hips and spine.
At Physio London, I can provide an in depth assessment of your physical fitness and what needs to be improved before you hit the court, along with guidance on how to safely play once you start. While yoga and pilates will help most people, exercises need to be prescribed individually to give you a solid foundation to start from.
Use the Right Equipment and See a Trainer
One common mistake people make when starting in tennis is choosing the wrong racket weight for their frame and ability. This is advice I can provide during our assessment, but any good tennis club should also be able to help you choose the right equipment.
Shoes are also important and your existing trainers may not be ideal for the sudden stops and starts of tennis. Your shoes should take into account the tilt of your foot (pronated, supinated or neutral) to provide stability as you move around as well as have the correct type of sole for the material you’re going to play on. The soles of tennis shoes are flat to provide greater stability, rather than the curved sole of running shoes.
Finally, don’t skip training. Find someone who can show you the correct technique for your serves, swings and movement on the court. Poor technique is the main cause of tennis injuries, even amongst the pros. You don’t want to be put off from what could become your favourite sport just because you pulled your shoulder doing a bad serve.
I would love to help you enjoy this fantastic sport without putting yourself at risk of injury. To book your assessment or if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.