7 Best Tennis Stretches

Tennis is a racket sport that requires strength and endurance and is associated with many health benefits. Since tennis players move quickly across the court with minimal rest while exerting physical force, dynamic stretches are a must to warm up before a match. Tennis challenges all of the major muscle groups, so a full body stretch is in order.

Dynamic vs. Static Stretching

Stretching is recommended before playing any sports, including tennis. If you play tennis without properly stretching beforehand, you may run the risk of common tennis injuries. Tennis players often experience pain in the elbows, forearms, wrists, and shoulders, so upper body stretches are especially recommended.

Dynamic stretching is encouraged before a workout as this warms up the muscles and gets them ready for physical activity. While static stretches are performed by holding the movement for several seconds, dynamic stretches consist of repeating the stretch. When doing dynamic stretches, enter and release the stretch multiple times to warm up the muscle.

These are the best tennis stretches to do before playing the sport. A cool down with static stretches after playing tennis is also recommended to encourage a normal heart rate and encourage relaxation after a grueling workout.

Tennis Elbow Stretch

Young woman performing tennis elbow stretch

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Since many tennis players complain about tennis elbow pain, it is essential to stretch the elbows before playing. This can help prevent elbow pain. This stretch can be done seated or standing, and you can do it anywhere. It is called the Wrist Flexor Stretch and the Wrist Extensor Stretch as it stretches muscle groups on both sides of the elbow, wrist, and forearm. Here’s how to do it:

  1. In a comfortable seating or standing position, look straight ahead and lift your left arm in front of you. 
  2. Extend your wrist so your palm is facing outwards and your fingers are pointed towards the sky. This motion is called extension of the wrist
  3. Use your right hand to pull gently on your left hand. Keep your left arm straight. You will feel this stretch in your left elbow, wrist, and forearm.
  4. To make this a dynamic stretch, use your right hand to pulse gently on your left hand.
  5. Stretch for 20-30 seconds. Then release and repeat on the other side.
  6. This stretch can also be performed with the fingers pointing down so the palm faces your body. You will also feel this stretch in the wrists.

Anterior Shoulder Stretch

Young woman performing Anterior Shoulder Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Tennis players are also prone to shoulder injuries, especially tears to the rotator cuffs. This can be caused by intense swinging, serving, and jerking of the arms. The anterior shoulder stretch specifically targets the rotator cuff and pecs muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand upright and face forward. Keep your arms at your side. 
  2. With your arms at your sides, clasp your hands behind your lower back. Your elbows should be slightly bent. This requires some flexibility, so use a towel or yoga strap if needed. This will help improve your flexibility until you can perform this stretch without the modification.
  3. Roll your shoulders back. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Slowly straighten your arms behind you. Your arms should be raised gradually but not to the point of pain.
  5. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat for a dynamic stretch.

Towel Calf Stretch

Young woman performing towel calf stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Achilles tendon injuries are common in tennis players. The towel calf stretch targets this tendon as well as the calves. This may help prevent ankle injuries as well as strengthen the muscles in the lower leg, which are needed for sports like tennis. Here’s how to do this stretch:

  1. Begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you, your toes pointed up. You can do this on the floor or on an exercise mat.
  2. You will need a towel for this stretch. Lean forward to wrap the towel around the ball of your foot. 
  3. Pull on the towel gently, which will raise your foot slightly. Keep your legs straight and do not bend your knee. You should feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg as well as in the heel of the foot.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Release the stretch, rest if needed, then repeat on the other side.

Cross Body Shoulder Stretch

woman doing standing shoulder stretch

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Ana Alarcon

The cross body shoulder stretch stretches the posterior shoulder (back of the shoulder).

  1. Take your right arm straight across your chest and curl the left hand around your elbow, gently pulling on the right arm to deepen the stretch in the shoulders.
  2. Try dropping the shoulder down if you're not feeling a stretch.
  3. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and switch sides, repeating one to three times on each side.

Low Lunge Twist Stretch

Young woman performing the Low Lunge Twist Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Though the tennis racket is held in the hands, the lower body is heavily involved in sports like tennis. Stretching the muscles in the hips and legs is a good way to get these muscles ready for exercise. This is how to do a low lunge twist stretch, which targets the hip flexors and lower back: 

  1. On an exercise mat, begin in a forward lunge position. Step forward with your right leg and drop your left knee so it is touching the ground.
  2. Twist your torso to the left and press your right elbow on the inside of your right knee. 
  3. Extend your left arm out and behind you. You should feel a gentle stretch on the inside of your right thigh as well as your lower back.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before releasing and repeating on the other side.

Standing Quadriceps Stretch

Young woman performing the standing quadricep stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Since there is a lot of cardio involved in tennis, it is beneficial to stretch the quadriceps. These muscles are helpful for standing, walking, running, and moving around, all of which are done in tennis. Here’s how to do the standing quadriceps stretch:

  1. Stand upright with good posture. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your right knee, raising your right heel. 
  3. Reach behind you with your right hand. Grab your right ankle with your right hand.
  4. If needed for support, hold onto something like a wall or chair.
  5. Use your right hand to pull your right ankle closer to your body. This will stretch the muscles in the front of your thighs, especially the quadriceps. 
  6. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Then release and repeat on the other side.
  7. For a deeper stretch, perform this stretch multiple times on each leg.

Simple Hamstring Stretch

Young woman performing a simple hamstring stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Tight hamstrings can limit your performing when playing tennis. The simple hamstring stretch is a beginner-friendly stretch. It can also be incorporated in the beginning of your lower body stretching routine to warm up the hamstrings before exercise. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Sit on the floor or on an exercise mat with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Keeping your knees straight, bend at the waist to lean forward.
  3. Lean forward as much as possible without bending the knees.
  4. Bend your elbows and place your palms facing down on the side of your legs. Depending on your flexibility, you may be able to rest your chest or forehead on your legs. If you are working on improving your flexibility, do not strain yourself.
  5. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Then release and repeat several times to get the most out of this stretch.

A Word From Verywell

Performing these dynamic tennis stretches before a match can help warm up the muscles, prepare for exercise, and promote energy. Remember to follow-up intense exercise with static stretches to help cool down and relax the muscles.

Since tennis requires a lot of endurance and strength, proper training is recommended to prepare for the sport. This includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and regular stretching.

If you feel pain when doing any of these stretches, release the stress immediately. See a doctor or physical therapist if the pain persists.

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