Fit to Play™ -Dynamic Warm-Up (part 3) Lower Core & Legs

By Carl Petersen BPE, BSc.(PT)

Proper dynamic warm-up of the lower core and legs is important to prepare the player for the on court demands of tennis. The average point length in tennis is less than ten seconds. On average there are 3 to 5 directional changes per point. In a study on professional players by Weber et al in 2007, it was found that more than 70% of movements were side-to-side with less than 20% of movements in forward direction and less than 8% of movements in a backward direction. These quick movements pass through many planes of motion and create rotational and torsional forces on the joints and soft tissues. Adequate warm-up should take all of the above factors into consideration. This is Part 3 of a 4 part series on dynamic warm-up.

Balance (Ankle, Knee & Hip) Warm-Up:

Hang onto the fence or net and warm-up the lower core with leg swings front and back, side to side and figure of 8’s. As well try some hurdlers high knees challenging your balance, switching on your core and warming up the hip by doing inside, straight and outside.

Stand tall and keep your lower abdominals switched on while swinging legs in different patterns. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions each.
Bring your knee up to hip height, first inside, then straight in front and then outside. Do 5-6 repetitions of each.

Speed Warm-Up:

This speed warm up will help trigger your central nervous system (CNS) for the quick movements needed on court. Try doing some running on the spot sewing machine runs for 3 x 6-8 seconds at a medium tempo -going from 0-60 % of full speed. Follow these with 2-3 x sewing machine accelerations going from 0-80-90% of full speed. Keep the work time below 8 seconds so that you do not build up lactic acid in the muscles involved.

Start slowly and maintain good running form while gradually accelerating up to the desired speed.

Muscle & Tendon Warm-Up:         

You need to warm up the muscles and tendons as well. One of the best ways of doing this is to combine ricochet jumps and alternating lunges.

Ricochet jumps are done in place as follows:

  • 2 x 20 jumps at your personal rhythm
  • 2 x 20 as fast as possible (short ground contact).
Stand tall & try to have as short of ground contact as possible.

Alternating Lunges can be done on court or off court as shown on a soft surface like grass. These are done in place gradually increasing the depth of lunge (don’t go past 90 degrees), keep knee lined up over toes. Try 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Every tennis player no matter what the level of ability will benefit from incorporating a proper dynamic warm-up into their pre-hitting routine. The last few articles contain many practical ideas that can be implemented immediately to add to your personal warm-up. Have fun on court and Keep Fit to Play™.

Carl Petersen is a partner/physiotherapist at City Sports Physiotherapy Clinic in Vancouver. He is an internationally recognized speaker and has co-authored the book Fit to Play™ Tennis as well as a variety of other training resources with former WTA professional and current coach and exercise model Nina Nittinger based in Davos Switzerland.