Category Archives: flexibility

How Yoga Can Boost Your Tennis Game

Yoga for tennis – a no brainer right! Yeah!

Well I bet most of the tennis players reading this do not practice yoga regularly. I know because I see it first hand every week at the tennis club I where I play and with almost every one I play against. Eventually the conversation with my peers arrives at the topic of getting older, getting injured more often and slowing down but that’s where I interject and tell them it doesn’t have to happen that fast…have they considered practicing yoga to boost their tennis game? Answer: uhh no. Well if you also answered no then read on and get a really good idea of what yoga can do for your game.


About 6 months ago I finally decided to start practicing yoga on a daily basis. Believe me when I tell you that it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for my body.  You see I’ve had my share of injuries throughout the years as I’ve not only played tennis but also practiced soccer and even did numerous triathlons – I’ve suffered through pulled calf muscles, back strain, quad strain, etc – and I’ve been quite upset at myself because I knew these could have been avoided if I had taken stretching and yoga more seriously.

So what prompted me to finally decide to give yoga a serious try?

Well, a couple of years ago I suffered a partial tear in my left meniscus and I needed to have surgery to repair it. The recovery took several months and afterwards I still felt a little pain specially after playing on a hard court. I was aware that yoga had been used by athletes to recover from a knee injury but I never took it seriously. Only after suffering through the pain for several more months did I decide to look at yoga in more detail.

I didn’t have the time to attend a full class in the morning or evening, so I did the next best thing and downloaded  an app on my android phone and started practicing yoga on a daily basis. By the way, the apps these days keep on getting better and better! Well, in time I started to see the wonderful benefits that practicing yoga daily can bring. You see, yoga not only helped increase my flexibility but it also assisted in reducing the pain I felt in my knee. As I strengthened the muscles around my knee, the pain gradually diminished. This was my primary goal and I accomplished it.

However I also found other amazing  benefits which actually became my favorite part about yoga. The first side benefit received was learning to slow my breathing and to breath deeply. This has helped me recover faster from a high heart rate after playing a long point. Deep slow breathing also improved my mental focus. As I worked on slowing down my breathing between points I was forced to concentrate on the next point and the strategy that I was going to use.

Now that you understand the benefits, what poses should you do? Well, when I decided to look more seriously at yoga, I looked at the best possible poses specifically related to tennis and these are the most recommended poses that I found:

  • tree pose – helps strengthen your thighs, calves, ankles and back. It can also increase the flexibility of your hips and groin. Your balance and concentration can also be improved with constant practice.
  • triangle pose – this exercise builds up strength in the lower back and upper legs while you remove tension from the lower and upper back, the hips and the hamstrings through both the twist and the stretching. The exercise is good for your sense of coordination and sense of balance.
  • warrior II pose – strengthens your legs, back, shoulders, and arms, building stamina. It opens your hips and chest, and improves balance.
  • spinal twist – one of the few basic poses that rotates the spine. Most bend the spinal column either backward or forward, but to become truly flexible it must be twisted laterally as well. The movement also tones the spinal nerves and ligaments, and improves digestion.
  • chair pose – strengthens the lower back and the legs and by doing so,  creates more space in the chest and belly.

planting roots

Incorporate these poses into your regular fitness program and the most important part, of course, is for you to be consistent. You will be pleasantly surprised at how yoga can help transform your game.  Remember that while yoga is improving your flexibility, it is also increasing your strength and balance and even your focus. Practicing yoga will train your brain to relax during a match!

Here’s a quick list of all the positives that yoga practice can bring:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved balance
  • Stronger core muscles
  • Increased leg strength
  • More stamina
  • Restored and revitalized energy
  • Injury prevention
  • Improved full-body coordination
  • Symmetry and balance on both sides of the body
  • Improved mental focus

It doesn’t matter how old you are. Even if you are in your teens or twenties, getting into the daily routine of practicing yoga will provide great sports and overall health benefits. Follow a routine that you can do every day for at least 15-20 minutes or even develop your own routine. As I mentioned before, with today’s smartphones it is extremely easy to download an app which will lead you through a complete routine.

From experience I believe the best time for running though your routine is early in the morning as it will energize you and get your day started  with a great burst of energy. I also recommend that you have a shorter routine that you can follow right before you play your match AND right after you finish your match. This routine can be a short 5-10 minute routine which will warm up and stretch your body before you go into your hitting warm up full speed. The yoga routine after your match will help you cool down the muscles properly and it will assist in improving even more your flexibility.

Enjoy your yoga routine!





Getting the Most from your Practice

One of the main issues I have with my teenage kids today is constantly reminding them to practice effectively or as I put with a specific purpose in mind. Whether it is on the tennis court or on the soccer field where I have also taught recreational soccer, it always good to have fun but to also focus on practicing with specific objectives in mind. Today I will focus specifically on things you can do on the practice court that will help you help you tremendously when you play a match that really counts.

Plain and simple, practicing with a purpose means that every time you go out on the court for any type of practice, be it with a ball machine, a partner or just a hopper of balls to hit serves, you should have before hand a specific goal you want to achieve from that practice session.

When I play a practice match with my tennis buddies, I always have in my mind what I want to practice usually in groups of games. For example the first 3 games of the first set I will focus specifically on hitting my backhand down the line as much as possible to create winners or force errors. If I’m not satisfied with the results after 3 games I’ll extend that goal to another 3 games until I am hitting that shot consistently. The next 3 games I could focus on hitting cross court forehand with a severe angle to open up the court. Of course I’m not trying to attain my goal on every single shot but as soon as I get a good opportunity I go for my “goal” stroke.

I also have complete sets where I’m just focused on minimizing my unforced errors and trying to keep the ball in play as long as possible. I try to avoid going for winners and keep my opponent moving back and forth. This specific practice strategy has helped me in matches where I’m behind in the set and have slowly crept back by forcing my opponent into errors before I do.

I will also practice my serve and volley for several games at a time or also play aggressive tennis where I take any short ball and come into the net. The key is sticking to your plan whether or not you are winning the set against your partner. Remember that the goal is to improve the stroke or tactic you are working on.

Pros of course have specifics that they work on every time on court. Here’s a couple of videos showing the Pros in action. Check out Tsonga  below hitting every ball with a purpose, practicing a forehand backhand burst drill


Here’s Del Potro practicing groundstrokes also at high level.


Besides practicing with a purpose, there are other valuable practice tips I want to leave you with which you should also develop into habits.

1. Get into the habit of visualizing your shots. Before hitting the ball your shot must have a purpose and that means just before you hit your shot in your minds eye visualize exactly where you want the ball to go, what trajectory it will have over the net and exactly where it will land. You’ll be surprised how well this works once you do it often.

2. Watch yourself practice. With today’s smartphones everyone has a video recorder in their hands. Have someone else record part of your hitting session or use a tripod, which are are also inexpensive these days. Watching yourself hit you will discover a wealth of information which you can then compare to videos of pros on you tube. Watch your technique for example on the forehand and then compare to how some of the pros hit theirs. You’ll be able to make the adjustments necessary to improve your stroke.

3. Practice your swing in slow motion. You’ve probably seen some of the Pros do this often after missing a shot. They will do several slow motion practice swings of the shot they just missed. By doing this you can see exactly what your form looks like and make corrections if needed. It will also help create muscle memory of the correct technique.

4. As mentioned above, set goals for your practice session. Have a very clear goal of what you want to accomplish. It is best to concentrate on a single stroke for a while or for the whole session until you are satisfied with the results.

5. Stretch for full benefit from practice. Stretching properly before practices is probably one of the most important tips I can recommend. Stretching should be developed into a daily habit because it will prevent injury and allow you to become more flexible over time. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I actually like to include stretching and a short yoga routine into my daily exercise. For Pros, stretching is a must as described in this article by Nadal’s physiotherapist where he states “Several hours of stretching is a very important part of the daily routine both as a warm up, an exercise in itself and then recovery.”

So next time you decide on hitting the courts, make sure that you have a specific plan for what part of your game you want to work on. You will get so much more out of your routine practice.

Until next time. Enjoy your practice session!

YouTube Videos courtesy of  TheUSTATennisPlayer