You probably think that playing tennis is all you need to do to stay in shape. Tennis provides an intense workout that will, no doubt, whip you into shape and help you maintain your weight. However, don't sideline yourself with an abdominal injury. Tennis is a strenuous sport that requires strong shoulders, arms and legs, but you also need strong abs. A flat stomach does not mean your abdominal muscles are strong enough to avoid injury. Strengthening your core muscles will reduce your risk of a painful injury and help make you a better player.
You might believe that tennis elbow or a torn rotator cuff are the most common tennis injuries, but injured abdominal muscles also occur frequently. A strained or even torn rectus abdominis muscle can occur when you serve the ball. The most common way the ab muscles are injured is when you raise the racket to strike the ball during your serve. Once you injure your ab muscles, it's likely to happen again. Strengthen your abs today to avoid an injury tomorrow.
You use a lot of energy when you play tennis. Most of your energy is expended when you push off the court with your feet as you run and jump to return the ball. Strong core muscles improve the efficiency of the energy transfer from your body to the court surface. This means you will move faster and farther if your abs are strong. Strong core muscles transfer energy from your feet, through the body and to your arms. In other words, your serve and your return will be faster if you strengthen your abs.
One of the best ab strengthening exercises is the crunch. Crunches work your entire abdominal area, upper, middle and lower abs. You can do crunches the old fashioned way by lying on the floor and lifting your upper body, or you can do crunches on an exercise ball. Doing crunches on a ball forces all of your core muscles to make small, but constant, corrections to keep your body upright and stable. Incline crunches performed on an exercise bench with your feet above your head can help you focus on your lower abs.
Medicine Ball Exercises
You have to take your medicine if you want to play a better game and avoid injury, so pick up a medicine ball and strengthen your abs. Medicine ball exercises are a form of resistance exercise that can help improve your ab strength. Start with a light weight 6 pound ball and gradually increase the weight of the ball or gradually add more repetitions of medicine ball exercises as you grow stronger. Hold the ball at arms length and do trunk rotations; try medicine ball slams; and try holding a medicine ball while doing crunches.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.