Fit to Play™ –  Upper Core & Shoulder Warm-Up (Part IV)

By Carl Petersen BPE, BSc.(PT)

Whether you’re training hard or just out for some fun doubles, following the advice below and in the previous 3 articles will help in keeping you Fit to Play™. This is Part 4 of a 4 part series that has focused on proper warm-up for both the upper and lower body.

Always warm-up to play or practice, don’t play to warm-up.

To help improve the function and control of your upper core (scapula & shoulder) use a light stretch cord and do the following shoulder exercises. With each exercises think about kissing your shoulder blades together and opening up the front of the shoulder. Stand next to the net or fence with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Place a light stretch cord around a solid anchor and hold onto each end.

Start with arms out in front and keep elbows straight and pull the stretch cord down until hands are by side of thighs and you look like the letter I. Do 2 sets of 6-10 repetitions.
Start with arms out in front and pull the stretch to the side below shoulder height until hands are in line with your torso and you look like the letter T. Do 2 sets of 6-10 repetitions.
Start with arms out and elbows at your side and pull the stretch cord to the side until hands are in line with your shoulders and you look like the letter W. Do 2 sets of 6-10 repetitions.
Stand sideways next to the net or fence. Keep the elbow bent at 90 degrees and at your side. Stretch the cord from a hand position in front of your belly button out to about 45 degrees. Do 2 sets of 6-10 repetitions to activate the posterior cuff muscles of the shoulder.

On-Court Warm-Up

Work with your coach or hitting partner to develop an on-court warm-up strategy that works best for you. Warm-ups will vary depending on whether you’re just out to hit, play a practice match, or play a tournament.

* Suggested minimum on-court warm-up includes a sequence of 5–10 minutes of short-court tennis. Warm up the eye muscles by focusing on tracking the ball.

* Try for easy topspin with good contact and control. Do a dynamic and disciplined split step prior to each stroke. Get the racquet back early and groove the low to high motion focusing on contact and follow through.

* Move back gradually and hit 20 forehands with minimal spin and medium pace.

* Next, hit 20–30 alternating backhands and forehands, increasing the spin, pace, and depth.

* Now it is time to come to the net and hit 10–15 volleys per side. Then hit some swinging volleys.

* Progress to some easy overheads. Try ten to warm-up the muscles in the posterior cuff before hitting with any pace.

* Finally, try some easy serves. Start off concentrating on placement and rhythm using minimal spin or power for the first ten. Hit up the T first, then hit some jam serves up the middle then swing out wide on the deuce side. This gradually increases the upper body and hip rotation. Try doing the opposite on the ad side.


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.