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Tennis, everyone? Get in the game you can play for a lifetime

DIRK SHADD | Times Jessica Steck demonstrates the first step in a lunge with a twist at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.
Published Mar. 26

Tennis is a sport for a lifetime. Why? Because it is a low-impact and noncontact sport you can start playing in your youth and continue playing until you become a "super senior." Tennis, my very favorite sport taught to me in my younger years by my father, can be played at any skill level and is one of the most popular sports in the world. Tennis evolved years ago from a French game where players hit the ball with their hands. Wooden rackets came into play in the 1870s.

Tennis, which uses nearly every muscle in your body, involves agility, endurance, coordination, mental acuity and even balance. If you want to improve your on-court experience and help prevent injuries, spend some time off the court developing your strength, endurance and flexibility. As Hans Gallauer, director of tennis at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, says, "Whether you are playing high-level tennis or are a recreational player, you are not playing tennis to get into shape. You need to be in shape to play tennis."

CONDITIONING POINTERS

• Always warm up first.

• Training will often mimic tennis movements.

• Body-weight exercises (exercises without weights) and strength training with weights will help build strength and muscular endurance.

• When using weights, use lighter weights with more repetitions.

• Introduce compound exercises that work multiple muscles at the same time.

• Mix up your exercises to prevent your body from reaching a plateau, where muscles adapt to the movements and you stop seeing a progression of strength.

• Develop endurance with 30-minute cardio workouts three times a week.

• Integrate interval training into conditioning exercises, alternating bursts of intense activity with lighter activity.

• Include flexibility exercises, which will help you change direction quickly and easily and reduce your risk of tearing a tight muscle.

STRENGTHEN THOSE MUSCLES

Lower body: Muscles involved are the calves, thighs, hips and buttocks. Strengthening those muscles will translate to quick movements on the court and lend power to your forehand and backhand strokes. Strong calf muscles will help absorb the shock from all the start and stop movements that occur while playing tennis.

Exercises: Squats, lunges, calf raises, hamstring curls and leg extensions.

Core: Strong core muscles, which include all muscles in the torso, improve balance and agility and will increase the power and speed of your swing. They will also help prevent lower back muscle strain. Plank exercises engage all the ab muscles at once while supporting the muscles around the spine.

Exercises: Forearm plank, long arm plank, plank with opposite arm and leg lift, plank with hip rotations, side planks and bicycle on floor.

Upper body: Major muscles being used while serving and hitting ground strokes are the chest muscles, upper back, shoulders, biceps and triceps. A combination of pushing and pulling movements will help strength those muscles.

Exercises: Lat pulldown, rows, lateral raises, reverse flys, biceps curls and triceps extensions.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

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