Every Athlete needs strong and mobile joints. Whether it’s a game of tennis or Freeletics Bodyweight workout, the following stretches and mobility exercises will protect your joints from injury and increase your body’s elasticity. Here’s how to prepare your wrist and shoulder joints for the next serve you smash on the tennis court or PB you hit on the training ground.
Wrist mobility: The flick of the wrist
Cut shot, topspin, volley: whether it be a twist of the racket following through a ball, or the power to keep the racket still so that you can lay the ball up short, in tennis, it’s all about the wrist. A strong grip strength in combination with a mobile wrist are essential in being able to take control of the court during a match. But not just in tennis! Wrist mobility is required for all bodyweight workouts involving the upper body, especially pushups. In order to increase wrist mobility, you need to warm up your wrists properly before a workout or game, as well as stretch them regularly - off the court too. This can be done simply by circling the wrists. Start with smaller circles and slowly work your way up until you’re making the biggest circles you can, flexing the wrist as far forward and backward as it can go on its own. Repeat this in both directions with both hands. Your wrists should feel warm and loose before starting to play or train.
After the wrists have been warmed-up you can try some of the following stretches (remember always start slow and go at a pace that feels right for you when stretching, over stretching can lead to lower performance and injury):
Praying position: put your hands together in front of your chest as if you were praying. Slowly move the bases of your hands down towards the stomach while keeping your hands pressed together. You can also flip your hands around, still pressed against each other, and move the bases of your hands up towards your chest.
Extended arm up: lift your arm with your palm facing the ceiling. Using your other hand, pull the fingers on your elevated hand down towards you.
Extended arm out: put one arm out in front of you and point your fingers downwards, bending at the wrist. Grab your fingers with your other hand and lightly pull them towards you.
Serving it up injury free: shoulder mobility
From a regular return, to smashes and serves, shoulder mobility is essential for a tennis player. The shoulder is naturally the most flexible joint in the body, and is located where the humerus head (upper arm bone) meets the cup formation of the scapula (shoulder blade). The cup of the scapula is very shallow which allows the humerus head to rotate quite freely inside of it. This is very convenient as it gives our arms a great range of motion. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy to over-rotate the joint, and is why shoulder injuries happen frequently. The shoulder joint consists of 4 joints that make it even more complex: 1) Glenohumeral Joint (GHJ), 2) Acromioclavicular Joint (ACJ), 3) Sternoclavicular Joint (SCJ) and 4) Scapulathoracic Joint (STJ). These four joints determine shoulder mobility and health, along with all the muscles/tendons/ligaments that are attached to the different joints. Yeah...it’s a mess up there. For this reason, we must train and stretch these muscles in order to reduce the chance of injury and maintain a healthy shoulder joint.
Bodyweight exercises are perfect for this. The reason being that bodyweight exercises not only put resistance on the muscle but also include functional movements which train the shoulder to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries. Pikes, shoulder pull ups, supermen, and any variety of pushups and pullups are all great ways to holistically train the shoulder joint.
Stretching the rotator cuff is also very important to reduce injury and increase range of motion. A plethora of wonderful shoulder stretches are found in yoga practices, such as downward dog. But the most simple shoulder stretches are found in Freeletics warm ups and cool downs. These include shoulder and arm circles, chest stretches and tricep stretches.
Healthy joints lead to higher performance and longevity, take the time to treat them well!