Stretching is a core fundamental that every athlete should have down pat.
The benefits are simply too good to ignore.
Stretching after a tennis match or practice can improve your recovery time, reduce pain and fatigue, and make you that much more ready for the next match or practice.
But what stretches should you do?
Each person is unique, with unique needs, but we have three effective stretches that work well, are easy to learn, and can make a big difference once they become part of your new routine.
Stretch One: Lunge Stretch
We’ve probably all done a lunge stretch before, whether it be part of our warm up or simply something our gym teacher made us do.
It may seem simple, but the lunge stretch is actually incredibly good for tennis and pickleball players when done right.
To begin, pull one leg back keeping the knee straight and bend the other knee to get a comfortable, balanced position.
Try to keep the knee on the back leg straight, while keeping the bent knee centered over your foot.
Make sure your hips are square and even, or you may feel some pain.
Next, use your arms. Stretch your arms out and back to open yourself up. Everything should feel engaged.
You can change this stretch by kneeling down on your back leg. If you do this, your forward leg will have a more extreme bend, so you can keep your balance.
But the idea is the same. Engage all your muscles and really open up yourself using your arms.
Keep this stretch for at least a minute, and do it a few times on each side.
Stretch Two: Seated Stretch with a twist
In a seated position, cross one leg over the other, resting your ankle over your knee.
Then, slowly, lean forward, making sure to keep your back straight; don’t slump forward!
You’ll feel your body pull on your muscles and especially your hips. Don’t take the stretch too far, this isn’t a workout.
Once you find a comfortable spot, where you can feel the stretch but there is zero pain, hold that for a minute before switching to the next leg. Again, you can do this a few times on each side.
A variation for this stretch makes it a little bit harder. Simply take the bent knee and lift it, with your hands, towards you slowly. Again, you are not working out here, don’t force it.
If you feel pain in your back or hip, stop!
But as long as it feels good, lift the knee up to your chest and you’ll be able to feel that the pull on your hip and psoas muscle has changed.
Hold this for a minute before switching legs.
You can even do this stretch on the ground, down on your back. In that stretch, you’d lift your legs up, as if you were sitting.
You’ll be able to get a deeper stretch this way, but it’s obviously harder to do, especially if you don’t want to lie on the ground for the stretch.
Stretch Three: Deep Tissue Massage
This stretch needs a little tool to make, but it is oh, so worth it. It’ll give you a deep tissue massage that you can basically do whenever you want.
All you need is a long tube sock and six tennis balls. Obviously, make sure the sock is long enough to fit the six tennis balls, which is a pretty long tube sock, but you can find them just about anywhere that sells clothes.
Add the tennis balls to the sock and tie off the end.
Now you’re ready to go.
When it comes time to use it, make a space, just by moving the balls around, so there are three on each side.
This is a self massage tool for your whole body.
Roll it across any muscle group that you feel like needs it.
And if you want to get a really good massage in, you can lay on the sock and roll over it, again and again.
After a long practice, this is a great way to target the muscle groups that are the most sore.
Stretching can be deceptive. It’s so easy to do that, somehow, it’s become incredibly easy to NOT do it.
But we benefit so much from making stretching a part of our routine we really owe it to ourselves to put in an intentional effort.
Hopefully, these three post match stretches help you develop this habit once and for all.
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.