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Ask the High Perfomance Lab

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.

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The answers to this week's Ask the High Performance Lab are provided by Jessica Battaglia. She joined the USTA Player Development Staff in March 2006. Ms. Battaglia earned her Master’s degree in Sport Management from Barry University in 2005 and her Exercise & Sport Science degree with a specialization in Athletic Training in 2001 from the University of Florida. She continues to practice locally as an certified athletic trainer.

Barbara Timmerman of Redding, California: I do yoga once a week for core strength and flexibility along with the treadmill twice a week for aerobic activity. A very avid tennis player told me yoga was not a good choice for tennis players but couldn't tell me why. I hear very little about yoga in tennis articles. Could you address this issue? Thank you.

Jessica Battaglia: Many tennis players, professional players included, have embraced yoga to help improve their game. Yoga, which is practiced by performing a series of poses, known as asanas, develops both strength and flexibility, in addition to improving one’s balance. Tennis players, who typically have tight hips, quads and hamstrings, can perform specific poses to improve upon these areas of weakness.

While yoga challenges the physical body, there is also a mental component, meditation. Research indicates regular meditation trains the mind to relax and improves concentration. For tennis players, regular meditation translates into improved on court performance as they are able to channel all of their energy into the match.

Because of the recent rise in yoga’s popularity, yoga classes are offered in most gyms and fitness centers. Check your local gym or fitness center for class offerings.

Some poses that tennis players should incorporate into their training include:

• Warrior II pose (virabhadrasana II)
• Tree pose (vrksasana)
• Triangle pose (trikonasana)
• Spinal Twist pose (ardha matsyendransana)

To learn more about yoga and tennis, including information on the different poses, click on the website listed below:

http://www.yogamovement.com/resources/tennis.html

Mike of Odenton, MD: I've heard that Pilates can be an excellent tool for strength and flexibility training for tennis. Are there any specific Pilates routines/methods that are recommended for young tennis players?

Janie Herrema of Athens, GA: I am the athletic trainer for a college women’s tennis team and I wanted your input on the benefits for Pilates training for my tennis athletes. I know that it will help with flexibility and core strength, but do you have any specific research in that area?


Jessica Battaglia: Developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, the Pilates Method (more commonly referred to as Pilates) is a total body conditioning program which focuses on the development of core strength. Originally fashioned as a rehabilitation tool, Pilates improves one’s coordination, balance and flexibility. Pilates exercises may be performed in one of two ways; with specialized equipment or on an exercise mat.

The “matwork” method, a series of 20 exercises, is the more commonly practiced mode, as it is more accessible to the general population. All the exercises, regardless of how they are performed, emphasize the use of the “powerhouse”, defined as the musculature of the abdomen, lower back and buttocks.

Many elite athletes turn to Pilates to help improve their game and tennis is no exception; Pilates is an excellent and functional adjunct to one’s training program. Because Pilates works on developing overall core strength and spinal alignment, through the use of kinetic chain exercises, there are no tennis specific exercises. However, the translation can be seen on court with improved stroke play, as a result of a stronger core.

Finally, Pilates can benefit tennis players from an injury prevention perspective.

Tennis players often exhibit muscular imbalances between their dominant and non-dominant side; in performing Pilates one is developing the musculature on both sides of the body. As is the case with beginning any new exercise, be sure to perform these exercises under supervised instruction.

Recent research articles indicate that with continued practice of Pilates participants reported less lower back pain, while a group of elite gymnasts saw significant improvement in the leap height, ground reaction time and explosive power.

Additional reading material on Pilates:

  • Siler, B. The Pilates Body, New York, N.Y.: Broadway Books, 2000.
  • Bean, Mark. (2002). History and Practices of Pilates. ACSM Certified News, 12, 3.
  • Hornery, Daniel. (2005). Pilates and Tennis. ITF, 37, 4-5.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/pilates


If you would like to submit a question that may be answered by our Health & Fitness team or want to share an idea for a future column, please click here.

Click here for USTA.com's Health & Fitness Archive.

Also, click here to visit the USTA Player Development website!

 

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