Arias Tennis Wizard Seven

FITNESS: Flex Plan

No more excuses—here's a postmatch stretching routine that takes just 10 minutes.

By Alyssa Shaffer
From the September 2004 issue of TENNIS Magazine

You've played your match and wiped away that hard-won sweat. Ready for the showers? Not so fast.

You know what you need to do next—stretch your muscles. But your mind might have other ideas: "Stretching is boring," "Who has the time?" or, "It doesn't really help."

Those are valid responses. Stretching can be boring, and some recent research suggests that static stretches—where you lean into the muscle and hold for several seconds—before play can inhibit your muscles' performance for up to an hour. But that doesn't mean you can get out of doing flexibility work after you play.

Experts say that after a workout, when your muscles are warm and pliable, is the time to stretch. "This is when your muscles are most likely to accept change," says David Donatucci, director of performance at the International Performance Institute, a Bradenton, Fla., training center. For tennis players, who often have chronic tightness on one side due to the game's asymmetrical demands, staving off muscle shortening is vital. "Most limitations in play are due to a lack of flexibility," Donatucci adds.

There's no instant gratification to stretching. You don't sweat much and your muscles don't get bigger. But there is at least one upside—improving your flexibility doesn't take much time. "Just a few minutes a day can help increase your range of motion," says Todd Ellenbecker, clinical director of the Physiotherapy Associates Scottsdale Sports Clinic.

To keep yourself feeling strong through the day, try these nine exercises. They'll stretch the key muscle groups used for tennis, and the whole routine shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes.

Sit with the bottoms of your feet together, knees out, holding your toes. Gently pull forward, bending from the hips and bringing your chest toward your feet (don't round your upper back). Use your elbows to gently push your knees toward the ground. Hold for 10–30 seconds.

Lie face-down on the floor with legs extended. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your foot or ankle with your left hand. Pull your foot toward your glutes, being careful not to twist your knee. Hold 10–30 seconds; switch sides. 

Lie on your back with your right leg on the floor, your left leg extended above the hips. Grasp the back of your left thigh with both hands, then slowly straighten your leg as you pull it toward your trunk. Hold 10–30 seconds; switch sides.

Lie on your back with your right knee bent and your right foot on floor.
Cross your left ankle just above the right knee. Slowly bring right knee toward chest, feeling the stretch along the backs of the legs. Hold 10–30 seconds; switch sides.

Stand in a lunge position with your left foot pointed forward and right foot back. Lower into a partial lunge (don't go too deep). As you come down, tilt pelvis forward, feeling the stretch along the front of your hips and quads. Hold 10–30 seconds; switch sides. 

Lie on your back with knees bent. Hug both knees into chest, grasping legs just below the knees. Keep your shoulders pressed down and lower back on floor. Hold 10–30 seconds.

(Left) Stand up with your arms extended in front of you at shoulder level. Turn your right arm so the palm faces out, fingers pointing down. Use your left hand to gently press fingers back, keeping your right elbow straight. Hold 10–15 seconds; switch sides.
(Right) Repeat stretch, this time turning your palm in (fingers still pointing down). Hold 10–15 seconds; switch sides.

Sit tall and cross-legged on the floor. Lean forward a few inches at your hips, clasping hands behind your back. Relax shoulders downward while lengthening your arms behind you, feeling the stretch at the top of your shoulders. Hold 10–15 seconds.

Stand with your right side next to a fence or wall. Move your right arm across your body at shoulder height, placing left hand on your right elbow. Leaning right shoulder into wall (this isolates the shoulder muscle, making for a better stretch), pull right arm across your body with left hand, feeling the stretch in your shoulders and upper back. Hold 10–30 seconds; switch sides.

You can find more articles like this to help your tennis game by going  to www.tennis.com 



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