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Dynamic Tennis Warm-Up

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

By Scott Riewald Ph.D., CSCS
Administrator, Sport Science

The answers to these questions are provided by Scott Riewald, Ph.D., the Sport Science Administrator for the High Performance Division of the USTA. Scott works closely with the Coaching Education and Strength and Conditioning staff within High Performance, as well as the USTA Sport Science Committee, to collect and disseminate information related to sport science and tennis. Scott is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Q: What is a dynamic warm-up?

A: A dynamic warm-up is essentially stretching with movement and it represents a relatively new way of thinking about preparing your body to play tennis. A dynamic warm-up typically involves performing exercises like arm swings, lunges, and trunk twists - Exercises that warm the body up and get the muscles working. This has been shown to be a very effective way for preparing the body to play tennis.

Q: What does a dynamic warm-up do for the body?

A: A dynamic warm-up does five very important things for a tennis player.

1. It increases your body temperature. At slightly elevated temperatures muscles are able to contract more efficiently and generate greater force.
2. It primes the cardiovascular system and gets the heart and lungs ready to engage in vigorous activity. This helps to deliver oxygen to working muscles more efficiently.
3. A dynamic warm up elongates muscles actively. This improves joint range of motion as well as the body’s ability to handle the forces experienced during play.
4. It helps to engrain proper movement patterns. This will in turn lead to improved on-court technique and performance.
5. The dynamic warm-up wakes up the nervous system and gets the brain talking with the muscles, allowing your muscles to work more efficiently.

Q: Shouldn’t a warm-up include static stretching?

A: If you are like most people, when you hear the words “warm-up” you think of a pre-practice or pre-competition routine that contains static stretching – the type of stretching where you put a muscle under light tension and then hold that position for 15-30 seconds.

However, recent research has shown that static stretching may not be appropriate when preparing to play tennis because it can reduce the amount of force and power the stretched muscles can generate. These effects can last for more than one hour after stretching. Obviously, power and explosiveness are important aspects of today's game. Therefore is recommended that a dynamic warm-up be performed before every practice or competition instead of static stretching.

Q: Does that mean that static stretching bad for you?

A: Static stretching is still very important for tennis players since it helps to improve flexibility and joint range of motion – the issue is more about when it should be performed. Regular static stretching should still be a part of every player’s training program. However, it should be performed after a practice or competition, during a cool-down period, and not as part of a warm-up routine.

Q: Are there any other guidelines that should be followed when performing a dynamic warm-up?

A: There are some general guidelines that should be followed when performing a dynamic warm-up. Some things to think about include:

• Each dynamic warm-up routine should follow 3-5 minutes of a light general warm-up activity, something like jogging, riding a stationary bike, or jumping rope.
• Follow the dynamic warm-up with some light hitting. Do not go right from the dynamic warm-up to all out play.
• You do not need to rest for long periods of time between exercises; 15-30 seconds of rest should be enough to recover for the next exercise.
• Dynamic warm-up exercises do not need to be performed on a tennis court. You can use a gym, a field, or anywhere you have enough space to perform the exercises safely.

Q: Where can I get more information on dynamics warm-ups?

A: The USTA has just released a DVD called “Dynamic Tennis Warm-Ups” that is packed with ideas to help you warm up before playing. You can purchase this DVD by contacting Human Kinetics at www.humankinetics.com or by calling them at 1-800-747-4457.

"Dynamic Tennis Warm-Ups" DVD

USA Tennis High Performance is pleased to announce the arrival of a new educational DVD on dynamic warm-up and flexibility training. Dynamic Tennis Warm-Ups produced by the USTA with Mark Verstegen, provides information on how dynamic warm-up can be used to optimize tennis performance.

Dynamic Tennis Warm-Ups presents three 10-minute dynamic warm-up routines that have been designed specifically for tennis and can be used “right out of the box.” It also outlines how you can use the exercises presented in the DVD to develop your own routines that target the individual needs of your players.

Dynamic warm-up and flexibility training is an essential element of any pre-practice or pre-competition routine and helps prepare the body for the demands of today’s tennis game. An effective warm-up does five very important things for tennis players.

1. Increases body temperature allowing muscles to work more efficiently.
2. Gets the heart and lungs ready for vigorous activity.
3. Stretches muscles actively, preparing them for the forces experiences during tennis.
4. Engrains proper movement patterns and the coordination needed in tennis.
5. Wakes up the nervous system and gets the brain talking with the muscles.

Pre-practice and pre-competition warm-up routines have typically focused on static stretching. While this type of stretching is still important for maintaining flexibility and joint range of motion, it really should be performed after play, not before practice or competition.

This is a new way of thinking about stretching and flexibility, but recent research has shown that static stretching can reduce the force and power the muscle can generate and that this impaired function can last for over one hour.

Warming up properly with the dynamic movement routines presented in this DVD will help your players prepare to play their best whenever they step on the court. Have fun with these routines and watch play improve.

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