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External Hip Stretch for Knee and Hip Pain
To a tennis player, the hips are extremely important. Tight hips limit the range of motion and ease of movement on the court and can cause muscle strains and tendinitis. For example, if you need to get down for a low shot and if your hips are tight, you will bend in the waist rather then flexing your hips and knees and that will cause more strain on your lower back. Your shots are going to be less powerful, because you cannot engage your core the same way.
To play good and injury-free tennis, it is essential to keep the hip muscles loose and functional. Often the hips get tight because they have to pull against tight groin muscles. Before you can effectively stretch your hip muscles, you have to loosen up the groin muscles, for example with a seated groin stretch (page 81) and the laying down frog stretch (page 85).
The external hip stretch works the outside of the hip, hamstrings, lower leg muscles and the groin. Even though this exercise is aimed for the external hip, you will feel a stretching sensation—that can be quite painful—in the muscle group that is the tightest. When that muscle group relaxes then you will feel in the opposing muscle group. When that one lets go, you will feel in the original muscle group again, but you will sink deeper into the stretch. Breathe deeply and hold the stretch until it feels comfortable.
Sit down with straight legs, feet pointing up and the upper body erect. Bend your left leg and put the left foot on a top of the right thigh as close your groin as possible, letting the left knee to fall outward. Breathe deeply and allow the left hip relax. Start slowly leaning your straight upper body forward toward the right leg and grab your foot or ankle with both hands. Remain in this position for one to two minutes, while breathing deeply, relaxing in your neck and the left hip. It is normal to experience tightness and slight discomfort in the left knee or ankle if they are too tight.
Performing this external hip stretch regularly after your tennis practice will increase the range of motion in your hips, knees and ankles, which will allow for better movement and balance on the tennis court, and as a result your tennis game will improve.