Injury Proof the Shoulder
The average committed junior tennis player spends anywhere from 8-12 hours on the tennis court per week. Volume, consistency, and repetition are key components for tennis development. This equates to around 1,200 - 2,000 combined groundstrokes and serves per week. With every contact of the racket with the tennis ball, force is exerted upon the shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles and tendons. This knowledge helps us to understand the amount of work placed on the shoulder.
Athletes often become more susceptible to shoulder injury when an increase in total volume reaches above 25% from an average week. This sometimes happens during tournament play where an athlete may take up to 100-200% more strokes than an average week depending on how deep he/she plays into a tournament.
With every forehand and serve, the shoulder moves through forward motion stretching the posterior shoulder complex. Over time, through repetition and lack of posterior shoulder strength, the shoulder joint can become weakened and less stable. A myriad of injuries can occur from this point. Often, the rotator cuff becomes the first victim of injury. The root of the problem often lies in the substantial difference in the strength of the anterior shoulder complex vs the posterior shoulder complex. Weaknesses and imbalances in the posterior shoulder complex often result in inflammation of the muscles, tendons, or joints in the shoulder.
This likelihood of injury can be substantially reduced by building a stronger structure of the posterior complex. This series of shoulder exercises help improve shoulder strength and function with just a few minutes per week. In a few short weeks, you will feel a stronger, more supported shoulder.
Frequency: 3-4 times per week
TRX W – 1 set x 15 reps
Wall Angels Pre-exercise Talk
Wall Angels – 1 set x 10 reps
Serve enough times in your tennis career and at some point, you’ll likely come across pain in your shoulder joint, that nagging, tight pain that when you move your arm in a circle enough, it feels like it might just work itself out.
Chances are that the source of your pain derives from your lats and core. To explain this, it helps to understand what the lat is and how it functions. The latissimus dorsi is a large muscle that attaches underneath the shoulder blade, along the thoracic spine, all the way down to the fascia of the lumbar spine and iliac crest on one end(all along the middle and lower back). On the other end, it attaches to the inferior tuberosity of the humerus (underneath the front of the shoulder). It acts as one of the primary muscle groups for overhead pulls and stabilizing the thoracic spine. Unfortunately for tennis players, this muscle group acts as an opponent to overhead shoulder motion. Tight lats internally rotate the shoulder placing the rotator cuff in an unstable position. When the arm extends overhead, any tightness in the lat restricts the shoulder joint from freely moving through the serve motion leaving the athlete with a stiff, dull pain in the shoulder joint.
Assessing this issue and freeing up the shoulder joint is a simple fix with the use of wall angels. Sounds enjoyable right? it’s not quite the snow angels we created as a child. To perform wall angels, follow this setup and procedure.
- Stand against a wall with knees slightly bent
- Place tailbone, middle spine, and head against the wall - Place elbow and forearms against the wall with elbows tucked into sides (make a W) Procedure:
- Take a deep inhale
- Exhale and brace core tightly (ribcage should pull down)
- Press arms up the wall with control while keeping core braced
- Inhale and pull arms to starting position
When performed correctly, you could experience stiffness in multiple areas including the middle back, lower back, abdominals, shoulders, and biceps. Continue working through the stretch maintaining form.
- Avoid fighting through restrictions. If the motion creates pain or discomfort in the shoulder joint, stop or take a break and reset.
- Keep lower back depressed against the wall. A common tendency for this stretch is allowing the lower back to lift off of the wall to help with arm motion up.
- Avoid holding breath.