Prevent injuries at tennis by warming up properly

Mark Grabow, the man used by Brad Gilbert to improve the fitness of Andrew Murray, reveals his essential five-minute start-up session. If you don’t do this you may end up seeing our physiotherapist at the Angel Sports Injury and Physiotherapy Clinic.

Part 1
Dynamic Flexibility Warm-up

Tennis is a skill sport that starts from the ground up. Everything is initiated with the legs. This is the part of the body that should get the first and the most attention, the large muscle groups of the legs. What you want to do first is a very sport-specific (ie specifically for tennis), low-intensity warm-up that will raise the core temperature of the primary muscle groups between the hips and the feet. Your warm-up will mimic the leg movements used during a match, but at a much lower intensity:

A Circle The Square
This is the first movement and should be done very gently and at a low intensity. Basically you're going to jog around your half of the tennis court (the "square") while always facing the net.

Start back at the point where the doubles sideline intersects the baseline. Then slowly jog forward along the doubles sideline towards the net. When you get one yard from the net change direction and glide parallel to the net at the same pace. Your body will still be facing the net as you jog sideways along it. When you reach the other doubles alley, change direction (while continuing to face the net) and begin jogging slowly backwards toward the baseline. Keep at a very easy pace. When you get to the baseline again change direction (while still facing the net) and jog sideways along the baseline to the opposite alley.

B Kick Your Butt
After you've circled the square twice, add this to what you're doing. As you run forward to the net (and then backwards away from it) begin increasing the height of your heel kick. On each step raise your heel up toward your butt as if you were trying to kick yourself in the behind. Don't overdo it. The key to a good warm-up is a gradual increase of movement. This will continue the warming-up of your legs, especially the quads (the fronts of your thighs). Do this for a minimum of one time around the circle.

C The High Stepper
Finally, add this to your Circle The Square procedure after you've done Kick Your Butt. When you are moving forward and backward (toward and away from the net) bring your knees up higher and closer to your waistline - step high. Imagine bringing your knees up to your chest. One time around the circle with this and you're ready to run hard from the first point. If you have time to continue this routine, take advantage of it.

Part 2
Static Flexibility Warm-up

D The Stork
This stretching exercise is easy to remember. You end up looking like a stork. Start out by standing near the net so you can hold it if you need balance. Raise one foot up behind you (bring your heel toward your butt) and grasp the top of your foot with your hand. Very gradually and gently pull your foot closer towards your butt. Don't overdo it. This will continue to stretch out your quads, or thigh muscles.
Do this for 15 seconds on each leg, gradually stretching and releasing, stretching and releasing.

E Bow To The Emperor
Standing with your feet slightly apart, bend over at the waist as if you were bowing to royalty. Keep your knees slightly flexed and your back relatively straight. Let your arms extend down towards the ground. Do this for ten seconds and repeat. You'll feel it in the back of your legs (the hamstrings) and lower back as you bend farther over. Don't force this or any movement. And don't bounce as you attempt to get a full stretch. Never strain while stretching. The movements are gradual, gentle and smooth.

F Pull Your Own Groin
Stand with your feet about 24 inches apart. Gradually transfer your weight over to your right foot (without moving either foot). As you do this flex your right knee (it will move slightly forward) so you can accommodate the weight transfer. Keep your left foot solidly on the ground and your leg straight.
You'll start to feel a pull in your left groin. Gradually move into it and stretch. Hold it for 10 seconds.

Then do the same for the other leg.

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