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Stretch to be match ready

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

Warm-Up and Flexibility Routine

Major changes have occurred in the way athletes warm up and stretch before performing. The biggest change has been in the shift away from doing static stretches before playing or practicing and performing a more complete dynamic stretching or warm-up routine to optimally prepare the body’s muscles, tendons, and joints for the stresses of physical activity.

Until recently, sport scientists and sports medicine professionals recommended static stretching before and after tennis play or any other type of vigorous exercise. The slow movements and periods of holding at or near the end of the range of motion characteristic of static stretching programs were found in several studies to provide optimal lengthening of the muscle tissues. Dynamic stretching and warm-up were mentioned but not necessarily emphasized in most workout routines.

However, recent research has identified temporary decreases in skeletal muscle performance immediately after static stretching. This decrease in muscle performance includes decreases in both muscular strength and power and can last for up to 1 hour after a static stretching program. Applying this research to athletes has led sport scientists and medical professionals to now recommend static stretching at least 30 minutes before the start of an activity such as tennis or training and to emphasize the importance of a dynamic warm-up immediately before tennis play, practice sessions, and vigorous training sessions. Specifically, the use of a generous warm-up (jogging in place or riding a stationary bicycle for 3 to 5 minutes to break a light sweat) is now highly recommended along with dynamic stretches immediately before the activity is performed. Static stretching, although still important and still used, is now applied primarily after training.

This is an excerpt from Complete Conditioning for Tennis.

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