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Prevent shoulder injuries with these stretches

By Paul Roetert and Todd Ellenbecker with the United States Tennis Association

Stretches to Prevent Shoulder Injuries

The two most important shoulder stretches for tennis players are the Cross-Arm Stretch and the Sleeper Stretch. Research shows that using these stretches as part of a regular program will improve the range of motion of internal rotation.

Preventive Shoulder Stretches

As with any stretch, perform them after tennis play and complete two or three repetitions of each stretch, holding each for 20 to 30 seconds. This will improve or maintain flexibility in the shoulder.

Cross-Arm Stretch

Focus: Improve the flexibility of the muscles in the back of the shoulder and back of the shoulder joint capsule.


1. Stand next to a doorway or fence, if possible. Raise your racket arm to shoulder level. Brace the side of your shoulder and shoulder blade against the wall or fence to keep the shoulder blade from sliding forward when you begin the stretch.

2. Using the other hand, grab the outside of the elbow of your racket hand and pull your arm across your chest (figure 11.3). You should feel the stretch in the back of your shoulder.

Note: If you feel a pinching sensation in the front of your shoulder, discontinue this stretch and use the Sleeper Stretch to accomplish a similar stretch for this portion of the shoulder.

Sleeper Stretch

Focus: Improve the flexibility of the muscles in the back of the shoulder and back of the shoulder joint capsule.


1. Lie on your dominant shoulder in a position you might adopt when sleeping on your side (hence the name).

2. Place your dominant arm directly in front of you, with the elbow bent 90 degrees.

3. Using your other arm, push your hand down toward your feet, internally rotating your shoulder (figure 11.4).

4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.


This is an excerpt from Complete Conditioning for Tennis.

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