Tennis For Fitness

Tennis is the perfect sport for adult exercise. It requires quickness, agility, strength, endurance and flexibility.

Tennis is also a game of intense competition while balancing social etiquettes, the perfect adult stress reducer. All of these benefits in one incredibly fun activity can be experienced with a little practice.

Speaking of practice, pre-season preparation should include 30 minutes per day of some form of cardiovascular exercise at least five days per week. Cardiovascular exercises include such things as walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, aerobic classes, or any indoor training devices (ellipticals, treadmills, steppers, etc.) that you prefer. The key is to increase your heart rate to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) and keep it elevated for at least 30 minutes.

Strength training should also be included in your pre-season tennis program. Strength is an important aspect for every successful tennis player. Movement on the tennis court requires strong muscle contractions for quickness and flexibility. Properly trained muscles are important to prevent injury and prolong your tennis career.

I recommend a series of eight to 12 exercises of various muscle groups for most players. The important muscle groups for tennis are legs, shoulders, chest, back, arms and core (abdominals and obliques).

The following is a list of specific exercises to accomplish best results for tennis: leg extension, leg curl, leg press, adduction, abduction, rowing, shoulder press, lat pulldown, chest press, arm curl, rotary torso and abdominal crunch. Two sets of each exercise with 15 to 20 repetitions per exercise at least twice a week will give you the most benefit. Choose weight loads on each exercise that allow you to do a minimum of 15 repetitions.

The final piece to the exercise puzzle is training for good flexibility. Most people are under the impression that all stretching should be done immediately before playing tennis. Actually, rigorous stretching done while the muscles are cold can be harmful. Always perform about 5 minutes of light jogging, jumping jacks or jumping rope before stretching. There are some various on-court warm-up drills that can be done before stretching to enhance your on-court performance. Ask your local tennis professional or tennis instructor for some good warm-up drills. Drills are also featured each month in Tennis magazine.

The bigger benefit from flexibility training can be achieved with specific stretches done after your tennis match or hitting session. The muscles are warm and more pliable so they respond better to the stress put on them. .

The important muscles to emphasize in your flexibility program are your calf muscles in the back of your lower leg, the hamstrings in the back of the upper leg, the quadriceps in the front of the upper leg, the lower back, the shoulders, and the wrist and forearms. The proper technique is to hold each stretch position for about 30 seconds without bouncing or forcing the muscle beyond its proper range of motion. Proper stretches for any sport can be demonstrated by a local fitness trainer or exercise physiologist.

Tennis can be very fun and rewarding if you train yourself properly before you take the court! Remember, tennis is the only sport where love is part of the scoring system.

Have a healthy and blessed spring and summer season.

George S. Frazier is the manager of CentreTown Fitness in Wheeling. He is an exercise physiologist and received a Master of Science degree in exercise physiology at West Virginia University. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education/physical education from West Liberty State College. He has worked for 24 years in the fitness industry. He is a member of the West Virginia Wellness Council.