There are still people out there who are using terms “abs” and “core” interchangeably, and who think crunches are the best option for a strong core. Other people are not paying much attention to the value of the core strength, although core is the thing that can get your through most of the everyday activities safely and unharmed. Core is more than abs, it is a group of muscles, starting from below your pecks, going down to the middle of your tights.
As for tennis, core strength is one of the key assets for improving your tennis game. Core helps you stabilize your body during the match and adds power to your swing. Since tennis is a sport where there is a lot or running, changing directions, suddenly stopping and then moving again, core is the key for making it happen.
Core is the part of your body that connect your feet and your arms. It takes the powerful energy you invest in pushing yourself off the ground and transfers it to your shoulders, arms and wrists. The stronger the core – the more energy it will transfer and with more speed, thus the harder and faster the hit. It’s simple as that.
We picked out 3 ultimate body-weight exercises for improving core strength in tennis players and their variations (to make it more interesting).
Push-ups are one of the best and most basic body-weight exercises for building strength. The push-up strengthens your upper body (chest or pectoralis, “wing” muscles or serratus anterior, shoulders or deltoids, the back of your arms or triceps brachii, and Coracobrachialis - runs from the shoulder blade to the middle or the upper arm), your abdominals (upper and lower) and your core, but it also engages muscles in the back, neck and legs.
Important is to watch your posture and engage your whole body to do the move correctly: hands are shoulder-width apart, back straight, eyes forward, bellybutton pulled in, glutes engaged, legs straight. Breathe in on your way down and breathe out on your way up.
So, push-ups are the ultimate exercise as it is, however, you can do numerous variations to target specifically your core and to raise your endurance.
1) Spiderman push-ups
How to do it: From a normal push-up lower yourself to the ground, but on the way down, raise your right knee to touch your right elbow, hold for a couple of seconds, and then bring it back. Repeat with your left leg. You can intensify the move by adding a jump when switching legs.
2) Walkout with push-up
How to do it: From a standing position and while keeping your legs as straight as possible, bend at the hips and reach the floor with the palms of your hands. Walk out to a plank position, do a push-up, then start walking backwards with your hands until you return to a standing position. Repeat. You can intensify the move by standing only on one leg at the time while performing the move.
3) T Push-ups
How to do it: From a push-up position, lower down like you would do in a standard push-up, but on the way back raise your right arm to the sky, follow it with your eyes and transfer the weight to your left hand. Try to keep your toes planted and hips straight.
Important thing with any of the plank positions is to watch your posture. Your hands need to be shoulder-width apart, keep your eyes in front, extend the crown of your head, don’t let your hips sink, keep your back straight and parallel to the ground, bellybutton pulled in.
You can start by modifying all plank positions stated bellow- do the exercise on your elbows (one or both) or knees, and then slowly work towards getting on your hands and feet. Just staying in plank position (modified or non-modified) takes some serious effort and core engagement, but here are a few plank positions to kick it up a notch.
1) Side Plank Crunch
How to do it: Start in a plank position on your right forearm. Put your left hand either behind your ear or extend it above your head. Raise and bend your left knee, flex your elbow and start bringing your knee to your elbow. Stay in this position for a couple of seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat.
2) Plank with Arm and Leg Lift
How to do it: Get in the normal high plank position. Reach your left arm up and forward and your right leg up and back. Stay in this position for a couple of seconds, lower the arm and leg and repeat on the other side.
3) Side Plank with the Leg Raise
How to do it: Get in the side plank position on your right hand, stack your feet, keep your body long, activate your glutes and core and raise your left arm up. Next, raise your left leg up and flex your left foot. Stay in this position for at least 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
4) Plank with Hip Twists
How to do it: Start in the forearm plank position. Start twisting your torso to the left side, trying to touch the ground with your left hip. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
5) Plank Knee Twist
How to do it: Start in the high plank position. Brace your core, flex your right knee and bring it to your left elbow, hold for a couple of breaths and return to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg.
3. Bird- Dog
Since tennis requires your full body to work in coordination, bird-dogs are an awesome exercise to teach your right and left side to work together. What is great about this exercise is that it really challenges your core, since there are two points of contact and our body wiggles and wants to fall over, so the core must work hard to prevent that.
Basic bird-dog move would be on your hands and knees, alternately raising and extending your opposite arm and leg. Here are a few variations for an extra core engagement.
1) Bird-Dog Crunch
How to do it: Get on your hands and knees, hands shoulder-width apart, back straight, abs tucked in, eyes in front, crown of the head reaching to the wall in front. Now, raise and straight your left arm and right leg, and then bring the knee and elbow of the raised arm and leg as close as you can. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
2) Elevated Knees Bird-Dog
How to do it: Get down on your hands and knees, arms shoulder-width apart. Lift your knees a few inches of the floor and hold position. Make sure your lower back doesn’t rise and brace your abs. Now, raise and straighten opposite arm and leg and pause for a couple of seconds. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side. Make sure your hips and lower back remain still during the movement of your arms and legs.
3) Push-up Bird-Dog Crunch with Side Arm Balance
How to do it: Begin in the push-up position, do a push-up, then bird-dog by extending your right arm and left leg, next, do a crunch (bring knee and elbow of the extended arm and leg to touch), extend to bird dog again. Next, do the side arm balance on your left ride. Keep both of your feet on the ground. Return to a push-up position. Repeat.