Stretching is important, but not all stretching is equally helpful.
Research has shown that static stretches, like touching your toes, can actually reduce performance in sports that require strength and power. Instead,
chief medical officer for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, has her athletes perform dynamic stretches before workouts or games.
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“These functional movements prepare the body for activity by increasing blood flow, activating the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems, and moving the muscles through a full range of motion,” she says.
This dynamic warm-up features exercises that incorporate lateral moves, balance and core work, which are important for tennis players and weekend warriors alike. Because tennis involves forward and lateral movements, quick changes of direction and pivoting, Dr. Colvin says it’s important to warm up with lateral movements. Most of our daily activities don’t involve side-to-side movement, she says.
In tennis, the core generates the power for the serve. This power then gets funneled through the arm to the racket and then into the ball. When treating a tennis player for shoulder problems, it’s critical to incorporate core strengthening into a rehabilitation program, she says.
“A strong core is universally beneficial for athletes in all sports, as well as for those of us who spend much of our day sitting at a desk,” says Dr. Colvin. Some of the exercises also incorporate balance, which is important for preventing falls as we get older.
You can perform these six exercises as a warm-up before your workout or add sets to turn this into a workout when you’re short on time.
Why: This grade-school gym-class exercise can help people of any age. The full-body movement improves coordination and quickly raises your heart rate.
How: Stand with your legs together, arms at your sides. Bend your knees slightly and jump your feet out to shoulder-width apart while simultaneously bringing both hands to touch overhead. Jump back to the starting position as you bring your arms back down to your sides. Perform for three to five minutes.
Options: If you have shoulder problems, you can cross your arms in front of your chest instead of bringing them overhead. If you have knee or ankle pain, step out to the side instead of jumping. Switch it up and jump your feet forward and back. Start with 10 jumping jacks if you are a beginner and advance in increments of 10. Or try to start with 30 seconds of jumping jacks.
Why: To increase hamstring flexibility and mobility while improving unilateral balance.
How: Stand with your arms at your sides, knees slightly bent. Bend at your hips to lower your torso until it is parallel to the ground. At the same time, raise a straight right leg behind you until you form a straight line from head to foot. Your arms can follow to extend alongside your right leg, or you can extend them out to your sides like an airplane for more balance. Hold for two seconds then return to start. Complete 10 to 12 reps on each side.
Option: Hold on to a chair or wall for balance support.
Lunge With a Twist
Why: Adding a twist activates your core as you work your glutes, quads and hamstrings.
How: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Step your right foot forward and lower your body until the right thigh is parallel to the floor, knee in line with your ankle. Don’t let the knee pass over the toes. Your left knee will be bent at around 90 degrees. Rotate your torso to the right, then back to center. Press into the right heel to come back up to the starting position. Alternate and step the left foot forward and twist to the left. Complete 10 to 12 reps.
Option: If you have balance issues, sink into a static lunge position and twist the upper body side to side.
Lateral Lunge With Knee Hug
Why: The lateral lunge works the quads, hamstrings, as well as inner and outer thighs while improving balance.
How: Stand with feet hip-width apart. As you step your right foot out to the side, sink the hips down and back into a side lunge. Your left leg should be straight, toes pointed forward. Push down into your right foot to return to the starting position. Shift your weight to the left leg and hug your right knee to your chest while maintaining a straight spine. Return the right foot to the floor. Perform 10 to 15 reps on each side.
Option: Leave out the knee hug or try to raise your foot slightly off the ground.
Side Plank With Reach
Why: This twist on the plank challenges core stability.
How: Lie on the ground on your left side, legs together, feet stacked. Prop your upper body on your bent left forearm with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder. Lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a diagonal line from feet to head. Reach your top arms straight up to the ceiling, then bring the hand under the torso without letting your hips tilt forward. Repeat 10 to 12 reps on each side.
Options: Stagger your feet one in front of the other for more stability. Perform with knees bent to the side.
Why: This explosive exercise develops power and balance while building leg strength. It also gets the heart rate up.
How: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Explosively jump to the right and land softly on the right foot with knee and hip slightly bent to absorb the impact, left foot landing just behind the right. Immediately jump to the left. You can swing your arms across the body as you jump. Complete 10 reps on each side.
Options: Start by stepping rather than jumping. For a challenge, try to reach down and touch the front toes with the opposite hand.
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