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Tennis player seeking core advise, lower back locked up.

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone, this is my first post and you are probably wondering about the title, and how seemingly out of place it is. You read correctly, I am a tennis player competing in the USTA 4.0 leagues and tournaments (for those who plays tennis too, you'll know what the numbers mean). I am hoping I can compete in the next level by year's end.

 

A bit of background about me to help you, help me:

Age: 28

Height: 5'8

Weight: 145lbs

 

Fitness:

Benches: 12x195lbs, 10x215lbs, 8x235lbs

Squats: 20x175lbs, 18x195lbs, 16x215lbs

(I prefer higher reps, it's more appropriate for tennis. I do other stuff too, but I won't bore you with my entire workout routine)

Barefoot running on the beach: Averages 9mins/mile x 5miles, maybe 2 or 3x a week. (I run on the beach to minimize impact on my knees and other joints, while training muscles that I can't with normal shoes)

I have stamina to last up to 5 hours on a tennis court, and I play singles.

Flexibility: I can palm the floor when I bend over with my legs straight.

 

Tennis background:

I compete in USTA 4.0 leagues and tournaments. In tournaments, the early round matches are played back-to-back on the same day. That'll give you an idea of my fitness. Here are some videos:

 

Backhand practice:

 

Cooldown hit:

 

Match play practice 1 (note the vest as a precaution to keep myself warm in the beginning):

 

Match play practice 2:

 

Match play practice 3:

 

History of my lower back:

6-7 years ago: When I was in college, my back locked up for the first time. I had sciatic pain running down my left hamstrings (my landing leg for my serves). Knocked me out for 2months

2-3 years ago: My second episode of back spasms and this one was bad enough to send me to the PT. I couldn't get up from bed, sit down or sit up from a chair without agony. That's when I found out I have naturally short/tight hamstrings and calves. I needed to strengthen my core, and stretch out my hamstrings and calves. I've been doing the core exercises PT prescribed me to ever since.

1 week ago: Two minor episodes, my lower back seized up but I was able to recovery quickly. And my back was fine the next day. Those core exercises from my PT definitely helped. But I need more because it's still locking up on me randomly! :mad

 

Now, the reason for why I'm here seeking advise from you skiers. I snowboard myself, so I think I have a slight idea of what gets one moving on the snow, the core! With the recent Sochi Winter Olympic, I'm amazed by the core strength and stamina needed to separate lower body rotation, and upper body stillness. That's why I'm seeking the help of you skiers. When my lower back locks up, it's absolutely debilitating on the tennis court because my lateral movements go out the window.

 

Enough rambling, I love tennis, and I don't want back to tighten me up randomly (on big matches!).

 

If you can advise me a core program, I'm all ears. If any of you live in San Francisco, California, and are seeking a workout buddy, PLEASE hit me up. You'll be surprised, but the tennis community do not emphasize a whole lot on core strength (yet a lot of people complain about it). I'm all about putting in the hard work, I've had 2 rotator cuff surgeries and have made successful recoveries. I won't let this lower back thing slow me down any further.

 

Thanks for reading such a long post, I appreciate your help!


Edited by Say Chi Sin Lo - 2/23/14 at 1:56am
post #2 of 3

A few thoughts:

- I only watched part of a couple of the videos you posted, but from that, it looks like you don't move much in the hips or upper back. That may be the source of your problem. As a general rule, if the hips and thoracic (upper) back don't move well, then the lower back has to. This is particularly problematic for tennis players as tennis requires a lot of rotation. If the rotation doesn't happen at the hips and thoracic spine, then it has to happen at the low back - and that is usually trouble. 

- Hand-in-hand with that - it looks like you're not getting much power transfer from legs to arm/racket. I could be wrong - hard to tell from videos, but combined with the lack of hip rotation, and your comment about the low back locking up, and it makes me think weakness in rotary stability is a problem for you. Fix that (along with the movement) and you'll probably also see power gains in your strokes.  

- you mention being able to palm the floor with legs straight. There are some (myself included) who would suggest that's too much flexibility in flexion and a potential dysfunction. There's a train of thought (I learned it from Dr. Stuart McGill) that increased flexibility in the low back is actually correlated with increased injury.

- I would reconsider the high rep training for tennis. 

 

Most important: do yourself a favour and go see a proper trainer to help you with a program that is designed for you and for your sport. This person will do a proper assessment of your movement and will help you work on your weak links while also getting you stronger, more powerful, more resistant to injury, and more fit. A great trainer will have a huge impact! 

 

You mention San Francisco. Any chance you're near Pacifica? If so, you should go see my friend Chris Shah at Terra Nova Fitness. He will be a huge help! http://terranovafitness.com/ 

 

Good luck.

Elsbeth

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by evaino View Post
 

A few thoughts:

- I only watched part of a couple of the videos you posted, but from that, it looks like you don't move much in the hips or upper back. That may be the source of your problem. As a general rule, if the hips and thoracic (upper) back don't move well, then the lower back has to. This is particularly problematic for tennis players as tennis requires a lot of rotation. If the rotation doesn't happen at the hips and thoracic spine, then it has to happen at the low back - and that is usually trouble. 

- Hand-in-hand with that - it looks like you're not getting much power transfer from legs to arm/racket. I could be wrong - hard to tell from videos, but combined with the lack of hip rotation, and your comment about the low back locking up, and it makes me think weakness in rotary stability is a problem for you. Fix that (along with the movement) and you'll probably also see power gains in your strokes.  

- you mention being able to palm the floor with legs straight. There are some (myself included) who would suggest that's too much flexibility in flexion and a potential dysfunction. There's a train of thought (I learned it from Dr. Stuart McGill) that increased flexibility in the low back is actually correlated with increased injury.

- I would reconsider the high rep training for tennis. 

 

Most important: do yourself a favour and go see a proper trainer to help you with a program that is designed for you and for your sport. This person will do a proper assessment of your movement and will help you work on your weak links while also getting you stronger, more powerful, more resistant to injury, and more fit. A great trainer will have a huge impact! 

 

You mention San Francisco. Any chance you're near Pacifica? If so, you should go see my friend Chris Shah at Terra Nova Fitness. He will be a huge help! http://terranovafitness.com/ 

 

Good luck.

Elsbeth


Thank you, I will visit Terra Nova Fitness soon! (I'm too young to have back problems!)

 

I go to 24hours fitness but I don't really trust their "personal trainers". So thanks for the recommendation.

 

Anyone else?

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