Not Your Average Tennis Exercise Plan

 

Rotation is a critical movement required for peak tennis performance. Learn how training your body’s visual system improves your rotational skills.

Hey mindful movers! Each month, we’ll be featuring a sensorimotor training move--one that integrates both your body and your senses--to help improve your balance, coordination, and form. However, we won’t be offering you the run-of-the-mill tips and tricks. We’ll show you how to use mindful movements (using the WAV) for functioning at your optimal level whether in sports, working out, or everyday life.

June’s move-of-the-month is ideal for sports like tennis, a perfect way to begin or end a hot summer day (gotta stay off those hot courts in the mid-afternoon sun!). Whether you’re an amateur or pro, rotation is a crucial tennis movement pattern that’ll ensure you’ll never lose a match--and reduce your injury risk.

Serve it, Smash it, Win it...Spin it?

  Photo by    Josh Calabrese    on    Unsplash
 
 

If you’re a tennis fan, you know your forehand, backhand, and serve require super-quick directional changes. Most of the time, you’re not even thinking about these motions, but your body performs them every time you hit the courts. These efforts engage more than just your muscles, though. Every time your body rotates, you’re engaging  your nervous system’s visual patterning.

When Serena Williams delivers a lethal return to her opponent, she’s showing us remarkable core control and full rotational symmetry, both crucial for your body’s natural rotational patterns.

Think about infants and their rapidly developing visual systems. They activate “gaze shifting,” the way eyes and nervous systems process sensory details, helping them to turn toward toys and caregivers. Turns out, this is a technique you rely on for the rest of your life, becoming so ingrained you just don’t realize its role in your rotational ability. If you experience rotational issues, visual impairment may be the cause.

Even if you’re not battling visual processing issues, visual system training paired with movement training will help you fulfill your body’s potential. Check out Serena Williams deliver a lethal return to her opponent. At that moment she’s demonstrating the remarkable core control and full rotational symmetry crucial to moving your body as it was naturally programmed to do.

Get Back to Basics for Focused Functioning

So, how do we achieve our full rotational capabilities? We might not all be Roger Federer or Serena Williams, but training our body’s unique movement systems still benefits us. Our trainers have developed supplementary rotational moves you can add to your existing core strength exercises.

Here's an easy to follow WAV based rotation exercise you can try at home. As you work through each move, we’ll explain what your body is doing and how it’ll benefit your rotation (and other sensory skills).

In our video below, feel free to follow along as though you had one of our personal trainers with you. Can’t view the video? No worries! We’ve broken out the moves step-by-step and provided screenshots to guide you.

 
 

Bonus: Interested in the more technical details of what your body is doing and why? You’re in luck--we’ve provided a brief explanation after each step so you can further your knowledge and enhance your workout.

 Recognize this position? Think about how young babies often position themselves when lying on their backs. This is what we’re aiming for in this movement.

Recognize this position? Think about how young babies often position themselves when lying on their backs. This is what we’re aiming for in this movement.

Step One

  1. Hold the WAV in a two-handed overhand grip (use the smooth bands on the WAV to make sure your hands are evenly placed).

  2. Lie on your back. Position your body into what’s called the three-to-six month supine position (the term for the common posture of being on our backs in early infancy), drawing your legs up so your legs form a right angle with the floor.

  • What am I doing?

The three-to-six month supine position works spinal stability; improves posture.

  • Am I doing it right?

Be sure you maintain proper intra-abdominal pressure.

Check that you’re bearing weight on the appropriate loading zones: your scapula, mid-back and sacrum.

 Only the WAV® and arms moved a bit and the mindful mover hasn’t shifted his head or torso.

Only the WAV® and arms moved a bit and the mindful mover hasn’t shifted his head or torso.

Step Two

  1. Warm-up your visual senses by slightly tipping the WAV back and forth.

  2. Watch the liquid flow from side-to-side.  

  3. Let only your eyes, not your head or body, follow the liquid’s movement.

  • What am I doing?

You’re warming up your visual senses using “gaze tracking,” or how your eyes work to track subtle movements back-and-forth.

  • Am I doing it right?

Ensure your head, neck, and body haven’t changed positions, so keep still and shift only your eyes at this point.

Important: Just like you get muscle fatigue, your senses can get tired, too. If you start feeling tired or you need a break from gaze tracking, take a break and come back when you’re ready.

 

 This looks easy, but requires focus, coordination, and core strength.

This looks easy, but requires focus, coordination, and core strength.

Step Three

  1. Close your eyes.

  2. Roll your entire body gently from side-to-side with your eyes closed.

  3. Maintain the three-to-six month position.

  • What am I doing?

The shifting WAV helps your body receive mechanoreceptor stimulation, allowing you to work all your senses plus your core together.

  • Am I doing it right?

Since you’re challenging your proprioception and moving with closed eyes, you should be using your sense of hearing to guide your movement. As the liquid flows back-and-forth, listen to ensure you’re correctly positioned.

Important: If you suffer from tinnitus or other auditory issues, it’s crucial to tune into your sense of hearing. This move can help strengthen your body’s ability to receive auditory cues.

 Eyes reopened with your gaze helping maintain relaxed and smooth movements.

Eyes reopened with your gaze helping maintain relaxed and smooth movements.

Step Four

  1. Open your eyes.

  2. Continue rolling gently from side-to-side.

  3. Track the WAV’s fluid, in time with your body’s full back-and-forth movement pattern.

 

  • What am I doing?

Performing the entire movement exercise (or movement pattern), using full sensory integration.

  • Am I doing it right?

Use all of your senses and full coordination of your head, body and eyes in unison from side-to-side.

How often should you perform this exercise? It’s entirely up to you, but we recommend a few times a week for optimal rotational motion symmetry and training.

Command Your Coordination to Serve Your Next Opponent

Developing rotational coordination can take time, so be patient. This is normal and part of learning healthier movement.

As you work through this month’s exercise, you may find it hard to keep everything balanced while performing the moves. Don’t let your coordination (or lack thereof) discourage you! Developing rotational coordination is a process that can take time to master. This is totally normal and part of teaching (or re-teaching) your body healthier ways to move. With time and practice, you’ll find yourself translating these skills to the courts, exerting more control when twisting and turning to smash that ball (or twist, spin, reach, and grab).

Need help with this exercise or are you ready for more? Let’s chat!


Lily is the chief movement officer for WAV and a lifelong athlete and student of movement. She holds a Master’s degree in kinesiology with a focus on sports psychology. Lily is also a contributing author to sports journals. She uses the brain-body approach to train athletes at all levels to avoid injury and achieve top performance.

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