Tennis can be a grueling physical activity that stresses your upper body from constant swinging motions and pounds your lower body as you take quick forward, backward and side-to-side steps to chase the ball across the court. Massage can be an excellent tool to help relieve the strain and pain of sore muscles from playing tennis, but it also can be an effective strategy for elevating your game on and off the court.
Set Your Game Up for Success by Prepping Your Muscles
"Whether it’s serving the tennis ball, returning a serve with a forward moving swing or using your backhand to crush your opponent, the game of tennis includes a lot of repetitive movement that can stress and tighten your muscles. Tennis players tend to have aches and pains in the shoulders, scapula and upper body areas due to swinging a tennis racquet, as well as in their calves, hamstrings and ankles from constant movement across the court," says Matthew Smith, massage therapist at Elements Westford.
When Smith works on tennis players, he focuses on massaging deep into the muscles to release any tension that has built up from practicing or playing in a match. He also focuses on loosening up the body to help promote healthy muscle tone so players are flexible and relaxed enough to function optimally when competing.
“Tennis is a constant moving sport where the players don’t stop until someone misses the ball,” reflects Smith. “Then, they only get a short break before it all starts up again. This type of constant movement can really tighten players’ muscles, ultimately restricting their aim and swing.”
"Massage can be a really good way to prepare your muscles to perform at an optimal level by releasing all of the tension and tightness that can build up during a match.”
Make it a Point to Relax Your Mind, Fine Tune Your Focus
Dealing with the mental stress of competing one-on-one against an opponent can be daunting in any sport. But when your opponent is hitting a ball at top speed toward your side of the court, tennis players have to not only be physically strong to return the ball, but also mentally prepared to perform their best.
Massage can help strengthen a player’s mind and body connection by relieving mental stress and promoting a sense of calmness throughout the body. This type of calmness can lead to increased focus and concentration levels.
“Once the body is calm, it helps calm the mind,” explains Matthew. “A lot of the time we don't even realize how much the tension in our body is affecting what's going on in our mind. Once our body is relaxed and the tension has been dissipated after a massage, the focus level is amazing.”
"If you get a massage the day before, or even the same day of a match, you’re going to be a lot more in tune with your body and your mind. This can help you be sharper on the court.”
Regular Massage Can Make a Real Difference in Performance
Regular massage therapy sessions can be a great training and preparation tool for both competitive and recreational tennis players. If you have an important match ahead of you, Smith suggests a full body massage a day or two prior to prepare your mind and muscles to perform their best.
A pre-match massage shouldn’t be too deep because you don’t want to be sore before your match, says Smith. It should be a lighter, less intense massage that focuses on loosening up any tight areas throughout your body.
Following a strenuous match or intense training period, Smith advises his clients who play tennis to come in for a deeper massage therapy session to really release the built-up muscle tension and promote proper healing.
As competition heats up on the tennis court this summer, make sure to cool down your mind and muscles with weekly or bi-monthly massage therapy sessions. Massage can help you elevate your swing and keep you playing strong as you attack each match of the season.