Tennis: An Ace of a Workout

Learn to love tennis and serve every muscle in your body.

From the WebMD Archives

Who knew? Tennis is one of the best total-body workouts you can get.

"It's a high-intensity interval training workout that burns between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour," says Mark Kovacs, PhD. He's the executive director of the International Tennis Performance Association.

It's also an ace for strength training. "Tennis play uses nearly every muscle in the body," Kovacs says. That includes your lower body, upper body, and core. Playing tennis two to three times a week also boosts your stamina, coordination, and bone density. Did we mention flexibility, balance, speed, and agility?

Good form and proper technique will improve your game as well as keep injuries at bay.

Warm up. Before you play, do a few sets of jumping jacks or 3 to 5 minutes of walking or jogging. Then do a few slow, controlled movements, taking your joints and muscles through a full range of motion.

Balance it out. Remember to bend your knees. Don't overarch your back when you serve.

Bottoms up. The energy of your stroke comes from the ground up. As you bring your racket up, you're transferring energy to the ball.

Wear a heart-rate monitor. Set a target heart rate and try to keep it above that number throughout play. About 140 beats per minute is a good number to aim for, whether you're a beginner or more advanced.

Take Advantage

Gear up with proper equipment, says Kovacs. The right stuff will help you avoid common tennis injuries.

Sneak up. Look for sneakers made just for tennis. A good pair can ward off ankle injuries. They support your heel so your ankle doesn't roll. For extra support, try padded tennis socks.

Size it up. Go to a specialty tennis store to get fitted for the right racquet. If your racquet is too light or too heavy, you may end up with shoulder and elbow injuries. The wrong grip size or string tension can spell trouble for your wrists and arms.

Stay dry. Sweaty hands can lead to blisters, so dry the handle on your racquet as you play. Keep your feet dry by wearing socks made from synthetic fabric instead of cotton.

Be picky about your court. It's best to stick with softer courts. If you can't, slip heel inserts into your shoes. They'll help absorb the shock.

Expert Tip

"When playing tennis, run between games when you change ends of the court. This is a 90-second period that occurs every 10 to 15 minutes during tennis play. It can increase the number of calories burned by 10% to 20%." -- Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 23, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, executive director, International Tennis Performance Association; elite professional, United States Professional Tennis Association.

American Council on Exercise: "Tennis Everyone?"

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Tennis Injury Prevention."

The Nemours Foundation: "Safety Tips: Tennis."

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