“Don’t rush to strengthen stiffness. Learn to move first.” Thoughts from Graham Anderson at the Australian Open Tennis

Some thoughts from Graham on Day 10 of the Australian Open Tennis in Melbourne. Graham is there providing Sports Physiotherapy for the men in this Championships – as he does for several months every year on the ATP World Tour – men’s professional tennis.

Day 10:

“Don’t strengthen stiffness, learn to move first!

Here at the Tennis we spend much of our time assisting players to stretch and mobilise tight structures that are causing them pain and/or problems during play and practice. Many players spend their non-playing days in a gym strengthening, but we encourage them to strengthen only once “mobility” is available. i.e mobility is key.

At Balance Performance we have coaches teaching movement skills specifically for this reason (Sean O’Leary and Jonathan Lewis) and ALL of our strength and conditioning coaches emphasise on-going mobility practice and movement accuracy in their physical training.

Often tennis players, and lot of other people besides, get back pain as one region of their back is very stiff whilst other more mobile segments are called upon and a “hinging” occurs through them at great cost, in terms of pain, injury and energy expenditure. This segment complains as the majority of the load is forced through it. If we can learn to share the love (and stress and strain) of movement across all joints/segments and regions then these painful sites will recover and normal service can be resumed.

Most often extension and rotation of the back is blocked at the thoraco-lumbar junction on the dominant side during serve with tennis players. Regaining mobility here takes pressure off the relatively hypermobile lumbar spine: as mobility and skilled control is (re)introduced, core and strength training can become the focus. Speed and diversity of movement comes during practice.

Similarly the stiff foot will not recover with mobility alone, it needs intrinsic strength to support and mitigate the repeated stress/trauma of impact. If the foot is not mobilized and strengthened we often see Achilles and knee problems develop later.”

Graham will be back with at least one more blog but won’t be back in Clapham at Balance Performance for another few days so don’t put it off, make good use of our large team of sports injury specialists and other specialist practitioners.

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