Workout of the Month: Quick Stretch
Limber up to get around the court faster.
A single factor can mitigate an opponent’s superior consistency, pace and variety: movement. Gary Kitchell, a physical therapist who has worked with pros such as Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Mats Wilander, says that increased flexibility gives the muscles and joints a greater range of motion and helps you cover more ground in less time. Avid stretcher Novak Djokovic recognizes the benefits of a good stretch. “Flexibility is always something you should keep at a good level. [I’ve stretched] before and after practice throughout my whole life,” he says. “You prevent injuries and have a bigger range of movement and more options.”
Here are some post-match moves recommended by Kitchell to increase flexibility and improve your movement. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
TWO-WAY ROTATIONAL HAMSTRING STRETCH Improves trunk rotation and prevents lower back and hamstring injuries. From a standing position, place your left heel on a table or the back of a chair with your leg straight. Keep your back in line and flex forward through your hips. Reach down toward the arch of your foot with your left hand. Bring your right hand over your head, rotate your chest open, and look up. Relax and take 6–8 full breaths. Now slide your right hand toward the outside of your foot. Bring your left hand overhead and rotate to the other side, looking up at your hand. Switch legs.
CHEST RELEASE Improves trunk rotation and reduces stress on the rotator cuff. Lie on your back with your arms out at your sides. Bring your knees to your chest and let them roll to the left. If the back of your right shoulder comes off the floor, slide your right arm under a couch to hold it down. Take 6–8 slow breaths and switch sides.
POSTERIOR HIP STRETCH Increases hip rotation and alleviates lower back tension. Stand with your right leg on a table or the back of a chair with your knee bent so the outside of your foot, ankle and calf are in contact with the surface. If your knee doesn’t touch, fill the gap with a towel. Maintain good posture and lean forward at your hips. Hold for 6–8 slow breaths. Switch legs.
POSTERIOR SHOULDER CAPSULE STRETCH Reduces tightness in the shoulder. Lie on the floor on your right side with your head resting on your shoulder and your arm straight out on the floor in front of you. Bend your elbow 90 degrees so your forearm is perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your palm and forearm toward the floor and place your other hand just above your wrist. Press down gently to stretch the back of your shoulder. If you feel a pinch or pain in the front of the shoulder, stop and adjust the angle of your shoulder or place a small towel under the elbow. Hold for 6–8 full breaths and repeat on the other side.
Originally published in the November/December 2009 issue of TENNIS.