Ask the Doc Off Season Conditioning



For many recreational and competitive tennis players, there is no defined “off  season”. Regular court times and groups, availability of tennis leagues, multiple tennis tournaments and sheer desire to play and enjoy tennis all facilitate and allow year-round participation and reinforce the idea that a player can and should play as much and as often as they wish. 

This capability should be balanced with the known need of the athlete’s body to have some variability and downtime from continued stresses of tennis play. There are many benefits to having a time during which tennis play is modified and the athlete’s body can recover and be readied for further tennis play. The professional players at the highest level of play understand this and all develop a periodized program of alternating play, rest and recovery for their seasons. Their off  seasons are well defined and have specific times for rest and conditioning. 

Recreational and competitive tennis players will also benefit from an off  season and an off -season program to address building strength and power throughout the kinetic chain. In these cases, the modification may be 
in limiting the amount of play or not playing at all for periods of 1-3 weeks. Other reasons would be to prepare for a specific season or competition, to address a specific issue such as a new serve or groundstroke, to work on improvement in strength or power, or to recover from an illness or injury. The goals of an off -season conditioning program are to maximize the player’s ability and to serve as a prelude to return to optimum play.

At the start of the off -season program, any deficits in flexibility or strength should be identified and addressed. It is very common to develop tightness, inflexibility and muscle weakness or imbalance during a long season of playing. The most commonly identified areas include core weakness and hip/hamstring tightness, back and trunk inflexibility, shoulder rotation tightness and forearm muscle tightness and weakness. Simple screening evaluations for these areas include the ability to reach down and touch your toes, stand and jump on one leg, rotate the shoulder though an arc of 90 degrees without pain and rotate the forearms from palm up to palm down without tightness or pain. Specific exercises as the ones in this LINK below can be done to minimize any of these deficits before starting on more strenuous activities. 



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