With Wimbledon well under way I felt it appropriate to write a little about tennis related injuries, and more importantly, how Pilates is a wonderful tool for correcting muscular imbalances created in unilateral sports such as Tennis. As wonderful as movement and exercise can be, we need to be mindful of alignment, strength and flexibility, and super conscious of balance within the body. Just like carrying a child or bag on one side constantly can put strains on our bodies, so too can these one sided sports when played repetitively, the effects of this on our spine and compensations throughout the body is something to consider.
Tennis players need to be agile and strong through a wide range of movement, they need to be grounded and move from a strong centre (that’s your core!) to ensure a fast response and a powerful return. The shoulder is a highly mobile joint that is relatively unstable, compared say, to the hip. Shoulder girdle strength, stability and range of movement are necessary for a strong serve and powerful game.
Is it enough just to be strong? No, we must be flexible as well! So how can Pilates Help?
Joseph Pilates developed his method, originally called ‘Contrology’, around the ‘powerhouse’ or core. To have a strong centre means a stable body enabling freedom of movement without restriction or compensation. The Pilates method looks at healthy movements of the spine in all directions (flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation) Tennis incorporates many of these movements so it is easy to see how a healthy, mobile spine would improve your game. Increased spinal mobility, particularly in rotation, will not only improve your game but reduce the risk of some injuries.
We must also think of our ‘bad side’, we can’t just work the ‘good side’ and expect to see improvements. Bridging the gap between our two sides creates less imbalance within the body and will in fact have a positive effect on the dominant side. Pilates programming for Tennis players should address trunk stabilisation and spinal mobility, oblique and gluteal strength, and work the arms through full ranges of movement to develop not only strength, but flexibility and stability.
Athletes are starting to recognise the importance of cross training to better their game – whatever that may be. It isn’t just the practice of hitting/throwing/catching the ball that is going to have positive effects on their sport, they need to consider how to improve body and muscle functions to move more efficiently and maintain a balanced body, this will allow them to play harder for longer.
When I was teaching members of the Uk Female Tennis Team in 2010 I remember spying Andy Murray on the Pilates Reformer and Cadillac – clever man for thinking outside the box when it comes to his training!
For more tips on how Pilates can benefit your sport feel free to get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy training everyone!