Many athletes are surprised to discover that a basic groundwork in Pilates provides many benefits across a great number of sports, including tennis. In fact, incorporating cross training with Pilates can help tennis players to improve their speed, stamina, balance and control. Whether casual tennis players or competitive athletes, there are lots of great reasons that that Pilates and tennis work well together.
Here are four Pilates exercises for tennis players you can try right now!
These four mat based exercises will help tennis players to get more out of their game. None of these moves requires anything in the way of equipment – other than the mat. For great results, use these exercises to form a mini-routine that you practice every day or a few times a week. With just a few minutes of effort, tennis players will find that they get a great bang for their buck in the pursuit of making their tennis game better.
1. Hip Circles
Stability on the court is an essential part of the puzzle for tennis players in order to prevent injury and to allow for more controlled movement in pursuit of the ball. Hip Circles will help tennis players to strengthen the upper body as well as the core and thighs.
- Sit on the mat, arms bent behind you at shoulder width. Palms are on the floor with fingers pointed back, away from the body.
- Bend the knees and shift the weight to the arms as you pull your belly button towards your spine.
- Pull the legs in firmly together, inhaling as you draw your legs up towards the ceiling until they are at a 45 degree angle.
- Extend the arms behind you and press the palms down into the mat, fingers still pointed behind you.
- Point the toes straight up towards the ceiling and exhale as you swing the legs together in a clockwise motion towards the floor but not touching it. Inhale as they come back around in a large arc towards the starting position.
- Repeat the same process going counterclockwise for one full cycle.
- Start by completing three total cycles, pushing yourself to ten over time. Each circle should be bigger than the previous one, with more stability in the upper body.
2. Side Bend
The Side Bend helps tennis players to take better advantage of lateral movement through improved core and inner thigh strength. This is another move that improves stability, which again is a key to great tennis.
- Sit on the mat, legs folded in to one side.
- Extend the legs out, placing the top foot on the floor in front of the bottom foot.
- Place the palm of the lower arm on the floor.
- Push down from the hips, using the top arm for stability.
- Pulling in the abs in, allow the shoulders to drop down and the spine to lengthen.
- Inhale, pressing the lower palm into the mat as you lift the upper arm and straighten the legs to lift the pelvis off of the mat.
- Preserve that long line, exhaling as you reach the top arm in a wide arc over your head. Pull the shoulder blades back as your arm reaches the top.
- Be careful not to either lock or hyper-extend the elbow of the lower arm.
- Inhale, lowering the arm and gently returning the hips to the starting position.
- Repeat 5 times on each side.
3. Pilates Push-up
Great tennis is all about powerful, controlled movement. This variation on the classic push-up will give tennis players stronger core muscles, shoulders, back and legs for total body challenge that will offer more speed and control on the court.
- Stand up tall on the mat, arms straight overhead.
- With control, allow your arms to lead your head, neck and shoulders as you roll down towards the mat.
- Tighten the core muscles as you roll, pulling the abs in towards the spine.
- As your arms reach the ground, bend your knees and walk your hands forward, inhaling deeply and slowly.
- Exhale when you reach plank position.
- Inhale, bending the arms straight back along your ribs. Keep shoulder blades steady and firm on the back. Controlling this part of the exercise will improve stability in the shoulders and torso.
- Exhale, lifting the abs and push up slowly, the body in one continuous line.
- Inhale, pushing up and walking the hands back as you reverse the movement. Try to keep the legs as straight as possible. Extend the arms all the way above the head
- Repeat for ten total reps.
4. Rocker with open legs
To finish off this mini workout, the rocker with open legs is a lot of fun. The core is the focus of this movement, and building these muscles will help to preserve the muscles through strenuous exercises like tennis. Fatigue is a serious issue for tennis players, and it’s important to build the right muscle groups in order to keep that stamina.
- Sit up on the mat, back straight, legs long in front of you and arms to the side.
- Bend the knees, then scoop out the stomach by pulling the belly button towards the back.
- Grab your ankles and lift first one leg, then the other.
- Maintain head and neck control, with both staying up.
- Inhale, rolling back towards and then onto your shoulders, keeping that belly button pulled in.
- Exhale, rolling back up and balance, legs extended up.
- Repeat 8 times, then bring the leg back down.
Pilates exercises are focused on control of the body and should push to the point of being a challenge, but never to the point of pain. Take as much time as you need to with each exercise and keep it slow and simple. Slow down and ease up if you feel that an exercise is too much for your body, then build up to more challenging movements.
Though tennis is a fast-paced game, Pilates is a slow jam that allows players to learn control of movement in an environment that’s far less stressful and hard on both the body and mind. Regular Pilates is a wonderful way for tennis players to enrich their game. Improved bodily awareness, stability and control, along with a tremendous boost in mental clarity mean that tennis players not only get a better game with Pilates, but also that they enjoy themselves on the court even more.
Try spending as little as 5 minutes a day for the next 100 days, and let us know how it improves your game!