For the past couple of months I’ve made occasional (and cryptic) Twitter references regarding changes to my gym routine to achieve better #TennisFitness. But since a hashtag means nothing without context, now is as good a time as any to explain what exactly I mean by “tennis fitness”.
As a former professional dancer and lifelong athlete, I’m in pretty good shape. That’s irrespective of my 50 years and two surgeries on my right shoulder and knee. For the most part, I’m able to enjoy a fairly rigorous level of activity that includes playing tennis 2-3x a week, and going to the gym pretty much all of the other days that I’m not playing tennis.
Before the start of my #TennisFitness changes, my gym regimen consisted of riding a stationary bike at increasing levels of resistance, and lots of core work – ab wheel and crunches. The time on the bike was a good way to get cardio without stressing my surgically-repaired knee, and the core work helped support my serve for less strain on my shoulder. (Having a six-pack ain’t bad either.)
In spite of my muscular build, I never lifted weights. My body builds muscle very easily, and that excess mass isn’t helpful on a tennis court where any excess can you slow you down and get in the way of making quick footwork or shot adjustments.
This regimen worked decently for my tennis preparedness until late last year. Overall muscle stiffness in my torso and soreness in both knees/lower legs became the normal order of the day. And though I’ve adjusted my diet and supplements to help alleviate a good deal of inflammation, the level of pain was sometimes more than could I could bear, or that could be controlled with over-the-counter doses of ibuprofen.
Even so, one thing was very clear to me. I needed a better training regimen, not better pain meds!
When I wrote ‘Tips for Better Tennis Fitness from Jackson Bloore‘, I was badly in need of advice to help me better prepare for my on-court activities. And that’s exactly what I got from Jackson.
Jackson broke it down perfectly, and got me to understand that static conditioning (my bike and core work) couldn’t possibly prepare my body for a sport like tennis that requires explosive movements. For 30 minutes, we chatted about my goals while he responded accordingly with workout suggestions to help achieve support them.
I needed to re-focus my gym time on my legs, and preparing them for the explosive movements necessary for tennis i.e. quick movements side to side, back to front, and front to back. Exercises suggestions include lunges, ladder work, step ups onto platforms, etc. Admittedly, I had stayed away from leg work due to fears of causing more knee damage. But by doing so, I had probably made them more likely to get injured.
Moving on to my upper body/torso, any gym time spent on those areas needed to also support the explosive movements needed for my game i.e. service motion, torso rotation (for groundstrokes), etc. Exercise suggestions from Jackson included low-weight cable chops, quick dumbbell presses, and clap pushups. If I wanted to maintain core work, it also needed to be less static and more dynamic.
Though these were all quick suggestions off the top of Jackson’s head, I began to see the many ways in which I could incorporate the idea of “explosive movements” into my gym routine. It made perfect sense to me. And frankly, anything that could help reduce my overall level of pain was something I was willing to try.
Surprisingly, it only took a couple of weeks for me to start feeling positive changes in my body before, during, and after play. Whenever I hit the courts now, my body feels more prepared and needs less warmup time. Afterward, I hurt a lot less. In fact, there are many days I don’t even think of taking ibuprofen after tennis. That, by itself, is worth any changes I’ve had to make to my gym regimen.
Best of all, I’m playing better tennis because I’m not making as many accommodations for my physical condition. That’s a win on all levels!
As I settle into my new routine and exercises, I will share what I discover in a new #TennisFitness feature so that I can help others achieve similar benefits to their physical conditioning and, hopefully, their game.