Winning your warm-up has nothing to do with actual shot making. Don’t try and impress your opponent by hitting huge groundstrokes, going for winners or practicing drop-volleys. Angling off an overhead smash and then asking for another half-dozen softball overheads won't do much for you in the actual match.
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How to win your warm-up: Prepare your mind and body for a seamless start
It's the first step to winning your match.
Published Jun 24, 2021
These five valuable minutes should be spent searching for holes in your opponent’s game.
Which wing is stronger, their forehand or backhand? Which volley is crisper? What is their smoothest stroke? Are they telegraphing their serve location with their toss? Do they bend their knees for a low vol- ley? Do they have a good overhead? Ask these questions and look for the answers. Brad Gilbert discussed this information download in his seminal book, Winning Ugly, and it remains some of the most important advice for any recreational player.
In addition, you want to use the warm-up to be ready for the very first ball of the match. A slow start is difficult to overcome, no matter what level of tennis you're playing.
1. First, activate your core. Start your warm-up by holding a forearm plank for as long as you can. This exercise engages multiple muscle groups, simultaneously building core, back, leg and arm strength. Then switch to a side plank to further engage your obliques. Hold a side plank as long as you can on both sides, then do it again. By now you should be starting to sweat. There’s never been a great tennis player with a weak core; every stroke requires both core rotation, stability and strength.
2. Once your core is on fire, begin to activate the largest muscle group in the body: the glutes. Start slow with a simple glute- bridge. Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, about shoulder width apart. Push into your heels and lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold this pose for one minute, and repeat three times. If this is too easy, alternate lifting each foot and support your weight with a single-leg glute-bridge. Activating your glutes before the match will not only improve your quickness and power, it will prevent strain on your lower back.
3. Next, loosen up your shoulder. If you own some exercise bands, grab them. (If you don’t, you should get some.) It’s imperative to focus on your posture and retract your shoulder blades before beginning any shoulder warm-up. Start by simply raising both arms to the side, then diagonally forward, then straight out in front (also known as Y’s, T’s and W’s). Once you feel the burn in your back and shoulders, start warming up your rotator cuffs. If you’ve ever felt soreness in your upper-arm/shoulder area after a match, it’s likely your rotator cuff.
4. Focus on the specific areas of your body that bother you the most. Trigger-pointing is an effective technique used by almost every professional athlete. If there is a spot that pains you when playing,
lie down and roll that area on a tennis ball. It should be uncomfort- able—that’s how you know you’re hitting the right spot. Foam-rolling is also a great way to alleviate pain and loosen-up tight areas. Doing this to your groin and inner-leg is a phenomenal way to prevent injuries and simultaneously loosen your hips.
There’s no one-size-fits-all warm-up (there are countless video exercises available online, for free, with and without an exercise band), and there are no shortcuts. But this fact is universal: A proper warm-up requires time, discipline and effort— the same things that are required to win a tough match.
The next time you really want to win, challenge yourself before the match by making sure that every muscle in your body is primed and ready to go.