Work It Out: Tennis and golf training for May
Arms and upper body tend to take a beating in the summer months. From golf and tennis to fly fishing, warm-weather sports demand new and dynamic movements from joints and muscles that went largely unused in the cold of winter. Add Summit County’s dizzying altitudes and, suddenly, these typically low-impact sports become an intense workout for folks who aren’t prepared.
That’s where High County pros come into the picture. Before June arrives, the Summit Daily sports desk talked with local tennis, golf and fitness experts for simple ways to prep your upper extremities — and your body at large — for long days on the court and course.
For the golfer
Golf is a lot like baseball: The motion of swinging a club is unlike anything else your body encounters on an average work day, placing stress on side-body muscles like the obliques and lats. It also demands new movement from your rotator cuff, wrists and shoulders.
“People aren’t usually strong in those areas,” says Julie Wilson, a local trainer with BeNShape fitness. “Our day-to-day life doesn’t really hit those.”
To prep for the links, Wilson suggests something any athlete can appreciate: yoga.
“Yoga is great for strength, balance and flexibility,” Wilson says. “It incorporates all of that into one, so when you’re doing yoga poses it makes for a quick workout. This sport encompass all of these elements and I just think it’s important for people to know basic yoga poses, stretches — all of it.”
Yoga and dryland sequence: Wilson’s workout for golfers combines yoga poses with body-weight exercises and stretches.
1. Side-bend warm-up. With feet slightly apart, face forward and reach above your head with both arms. Grab your right wrist with your left hand and gently pull overhead to the left. Hold for Slowly return to center and reverse the pose.
2. Renegade row. Take light dumbbells in both hands and get in a pushup position, with feet spread to shoulder distance. Slowly pull the right hand up and into your body while keeping your core tight. Return to the ground and repeat on the left side. Do 10 reps on each side and rest. Repeat for three sets.
3. Oblique windmill. Begin with feet set in a triangle stance (past shoulder width) and your left arm at your side. Raise a light kettlebell overhead. With eyes on the kettlebell, slowly trace your left fingertips down your side to your shin or the ground, keeping the weight overhead. Return to standing and repeat for 10-15 reps. Switch sides. Repeat for three sets.
4. Plank up/downs. Begin in a plank position, with hands set beneath shoulders and core tight. Slowly drop to your right forearm, then the left forearm. Return to your hands in a controlled motion. Don’t let your back arch or drop. Repeat for 10-15 reps and three sets.
For the tennis player
Tennis is an unassumingly demanding sport, from leg and arm strength to pure cardio stamina. It’s the definition of a full-body sport, even if it seems relatively relaxed compared to something like skiing or snowboarding, and the best athletes find a combination of strength and stretching to stay healthy all season.
“There are so many muscles being worked in tennis,” Wilson says. “It’s a dynamic sport.”
The stop-and-go nature of tennis makes pre-match stretching vital. John O’Connor, tennis coordinator for the town of Breck, says he regularly sees two injuries during the season: tennis elbow, or stress on the outside of the elbow, and tennis calf, or stress along the backside of the lower leg. He also sees rotator cuff strain from the repetitive motion of swinging.
“These three really are the most important pieces to stay healthy,” says O’Connor, who suggests beginning with an easy jog around the court. “When you get on the court, don’t start right away with the big swing. Let your body warm up, maybe break a sweat, and then get into full pace. That’s true for beginners and experts.”
Tennis elbow stretch: Before taking a swing, O’Connor recommends gently stretching the elbow and wrist on your racquet arm. Extend the arm directly in front of your body, lock the elbow and point your fingers to the ceiling. Gently pull back on the fingers with your opposite hand, keeping your elbow straight. Pull until you feel tightness and hold. Don’t pull until painful or bend your elbow. Hold until the tightness disappears, and then reverse by pointing fingers at the ground.
Tennis calf stretch: Find a wall, fence, net post or other stable, vertical surface. Step back with one leg, keeping the toes and heel on the ground, and then lean into the wall with a straight knee. Lean forward until you feel tightness, but don’t push until it’s painful. Hold for one minute and switch legs. Repeat three times on each side.
Rotator cuff warm-up: Take several gentle serves to loosen your muscles. When finished, extend your racquet arm straight across your body and cradle it with the other arm. Gently pull in and slightly up with the cradling arm until you feel a stretch. Hold for one minute.
Hand and wrist strengthening: Along with stretching, O’Connor also suggests regularly working your hands and wrists with squeezing exercises. Take a tennis ball and puncture it with a nail to make it soft. Squeeze and release the ball for 5-10 minutes at a time, several times daily. For more resistance, use a solid ball or buy a specialty ball made for rock climbers. Not only will this strengthen your hands, wrists and forearm muscles, simply handling a ball will improve your serve and coordination.
“I like to use tennis balls because it’s always important to coordinate your off hand, so you get used to the coordination you need (for serves),” O’Connor said. “It’s not only about your dominant hand.”
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