Besides the obvious use of a tennis ball–moving it around the tennis court–you may also think of playing fetch with your dog, but do you know that you can use tennis balls for many beneficial exercises, such as grip strengthening, foot massage, trigger point release, or juggling to improve your hand-eye coordination?
Tennis Ball Squeezes
It is good to have a strong grip, not just for tennis and other sports, but also for your leisure activities such as cleaning, gardening or repairing your car. Grip the tennis ball with all fingers and squeeze it with maximum power for one second, then relax. Repeat at least 20 times, then switch hands.
Tennis Ball Foot Massage
Place one or more tennis balls on the floor, take off your shoes and put one foot on the ball(s). Stand up and slowly transfer your body weight on the balls until you feel good pressure. Roll your foot over the balls, massaging the entire surface of your foot. This will refresh your tired feet after exercising and walking around all day. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, this exercise will relieve the problems.
Piriformis and Glute Massage
If you have ever suffered from sciatica problems, you know how painful this condition feels. Often, the sciatica pain is nothing more than “piriformis syndrome”, a tight piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle stretches across the glutes, and with prolonged sitting or intense activity, it can get tight and shortened and impinge on the sciatica nerve. You then feel the pain in the hip and shooting down the leg. There is an easy solution: sit on the floor, bend both knees and place the foot of the painful leg on a top of the other knee. Place the tennis ball under the painful glute, toward the outside, and transfer all your body weight on it. Search for the tight and painful spots (called trigger points) and stay on each spot, breathing deeply, until the pain goes away. Roll around the entire glute area, until you don’t find any more trigger points, then switch sides.
Upper Back Massage
If you sit for prolonged periods, you may have tight upper back and neck area. It is even more common among tennis players. This tightness may cause tension headaches. A tennis ball is a perfect tool to release the upper back tension. Lie down on the floor, put the tennis ball under your upper-back area, and transfer the weight on it. Roll around and search for trigger points. When you find one, stay on it while breathing deeply and relaxing, until the worst pain goes away. Work the entire upper back area, stretching wide toward the armpits.
Front Shoulder Massage
Tennis players often feel tightness or pain in their dominant shoulder, because the muscles are tight and shortened. You can use a tennis ball to relieve the pain in the shoulder and upper chest. Lie face down, place the tennis ball under your right shoulder, and stretch your right arm to the side. Transfer your body weight on the tennis ball, while supporting yourself on your left arm to control the amount of pressure. If you find a very sensitive or sore area, stay on it while breathing deeply and relaxing until the pain goes away. Cover the entire chest and front shoulder area, then switch sides.
Side Shoulder Massage
Stand sideways by the wall and place the tennis ball between your shoulder and the wall. Lean onto the ball and using your legs, move your shoulder up and down, letting the ball massage the outside of your shoulder.
Lie down on the floor. Put two tennis balls into a sock and place them high up on your neck, almost at the bottom of your skull, one ball on each side of the spine. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, relaxing for 5 to 10 minutes. This is an excellent technique to refresh your mind when you are tired.
Spinal Muscles Massage
Use the two-ball-in-the-sock tool from the previous exercise. Lie down on your back and place the balls under your lower back, one ball on each side of the spine. Slowly roll up and down, along the entire length of the spine. If you find tender spots, stay on them, breathe deeply and let the pain go away.
IT Band Massage
Lie down on your left side and place the tennis ball under your left hip. Support yourself on your hands to adjust the amount of pressure. This exercise is often very painful, because tennis players have their IT bands overused and full of trigger points from the continuous direction changes on the court. When you encounter a painful trigger point, stay on it, try to relax and breathe deeply until the pain goes away. Then move slowly on the next trigger point. Roll through the entire area from the hip down the knee, and back up toward the hip, several times. Then switch sides.
Juggling Three Tennis Balls to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
Let us call the three balls A, B, C for an easier understanding. Hold two tennis balls (A, B) in your right hand, one ball (C) in the left hand. Toss one of the two balls (A) into the air and when it reaches the highest point, toss the ball (C) from your left hand up in the air, then catch the first ball (A) with the left hand. Now, as the ball (C) is hanging in the air, toss the right hand ball (B) and catch the ball (C). There is always one ball in the air and one ball in each hand. Repeat until you feel relaxed and your movement is smooth. This exercise will improve your focus, coordination and patience!
Tennis Drills, Strategy and Tips
Not too long time ago, I found a very nice website for tennis enthusiasts: www.WebTennis24.com. The site’s owner, Cosmin Miholca, who is a very successful tennis coach in the Southern California, shares his knowledge and passion for the sport. He put up over 400 videos and articles of pure tennis content: video lessons, tennis tips, tactics and strategies for singles and doubles play, tennis drills, footwork and fitness drills (my favorite area!), and the newest section – The Hot Seat – where tennis experts answer questions from the site’s members.
Once you are there, you might want to grab a FREE copy of his “Winning Tennis Tactics for Singles and Doubles” ebook that you can instantly download and begin applying the lessons to your game. So take a look at WebTennis24.com to see it for yourself, and let me know what you think.
Book of the Month: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
I must say it is a little bit “hardcore” book, but it is amazing, if you enjoy reading about the brain, thinking, decision making and problem solving. It is over 500 pages long, only 6 months old and has been residing on top 1 spot of many lists since it came out.
Daniel Kahneman got a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and engaged in psychology research for decades. His book gives you a really deep (and sometimes scary) insight what is going on in your head during your reactions, conclusions, choices and judgments. If it is your style of reading, you must definitely check it out. If you don’t love things like this, then it’s going to be too heavy for you. Here it is on Amazon, you can read a bit more about it.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, feel free to pass it on your friends, and share on your favorite social media. The spring is here and the summer will arrive before we even notice it. Start working on your fitness even more, so you are ready for the bikini season and long hours on the court.