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The importance of physical activity

The evidence is growing and is more convincing than ever! People of all ages who are generally inactive can improve their health and well-being by becoming active at a moderate-intensity on a regular basis.

Regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease, the world's leading cause of death, and decreases the risk for stroke, colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also helps to control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles, and joints; reduces falls among older adults; helps to relieve the pain of arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; and is associated with fewer hospitalizations, physician visits, and medications. Moreover, physical activity need not be strenuous to be beneficial; people of all ages benefit from participating in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity, such as 30 minutes of brisk walking five or more times a week.

Get some sleep It doesn’t sound exciting, but spending quality pillow time is crucial if you’re trying to improve your game. “Your body needs to recover, especially after you’ve pushed yourself, and one important way to do that is to get a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Michael Yorio, M.D., a sports medicine specialist in Lake Success, N.Y. That doesn’t mean just turning off the alarm on the weekend. “Once you’ve started to fall behind in your sleep debt, it’s hard to make it up,” Yorio says. At a minimum, aim for 6–8 hours of shut-eye a night.

Make your rest count While we’re on the subject of recovery, remember that what you do during off days can go a long way toward helping you be more “on” when you’re playing. “Low-level aerobic exercise like brisk walking or light cycling or swimming will reduce muscle stiffness and help you recuperate more quickly after a hard game or workout session,” Ellenbecker says. Investing in a deep-tissue massage every couple of weeks or even rolling sore muscles over a foam roller (available at performbetter.com) can also help get you ready to hit the court/course again.

Eat smart It’s no surprise that a well-fueled body will function better. A balanced diet means eating several kinds of nutrient-dense foods at each meal, says Nancy Clark, R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (Human Kinetics). She suggests eating from at least three of five food groups—grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein—at each meal. Instead of having just a buttered bagel for breakfast, try it with peanut butter and a glass of low-fat milk. At lunch, put grilled chicken on your salad and add a whole-grain roll. Try to eat even-size meals of about 500 calories every four hours. And remember to eat an easily digestible snack of around 200 calories, such as a banana or a granola bar, an hour before a match, and again afterward. “Eat within one hour after play, because that’s when the doors to the muscles are wide open and most receptive to refueling,” Clark says. Choose a protein-carbohydrate combo like yogurt with fruit or a turkey sandwich.

Get into the right mind-set “Mental preparation can be just as important as physical,” says Daniel Gould, Ph.D., director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. Think back to your best matches: Were you charged up or laid back? “Find out where you want to be, then turn the heat up or down to get there,” Gould says. Get more out of your practices by setting a goal, such as having a consistent ball toss or be a better shotmaker. Finally, be steady in your outlook. “The pros don’t just get up for some matches and not other ones,” Gould says. “They go through the same mental checklists each time so they’re always playing their best.” more ........

Basic Strength Training Exercises for Overall Muscle Conditioning

During the past few years, endurance athletes in a number of sports have added resistance exercises to their training programs to boost their muscle power. Scientific studies have linked resistance training with a reduced rate of injury in athletes. It fortifies leg muscles and strengthens weak links' in athletes' bodies, including the often-injured hamstrings and shin muscles, as well as abdominal and low-back muscles.

Resistance work also improves tendon and ligament strength and increases bone density, which decreases the risk of injury.

Strengthening Various Muscle Groups

All parts of the body can benefit from building strength, players should key on these specific areas:

Table 1 Basic Strength Training Exercises for Overall Muscle Conditioning for Tennis & Golf
Nautilus ExerciseMuscles Addressed Effect on Swing Dumbbell Exercise
Leg extensionQuadricepsPower productionStep-up
Leg curlHamstringsPower productionLunge
Leg pressQuadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal musclesPower productionSquat
Low backErector spinaeForce transfer-lower to upper bodyBack extension (bodyweight)
Abdominal curlRectus abdominisForce transfer-lower to upper bodyTrunk curl (bodyweight)
Rotary torsoInternal obliques, External obliquesForce transfer-lower to upper bodyBench press
Chest crossoverPectoralis major Swing action golf swing tips Bench press
Super pulloverLatissimus dorsiSwing actionOne-arm bent row
Lateral raise Deltoids Swing action tennis swing tips Lateral raise
Biceps curlBiceps Club/racket control Standing curl
Triceps extensionTriceps Club/racket control Overhead triceps extension
Super forearm flexionForearm flexors Club/racket control Wrist curl
Super forearm extensionForearm extensors Club/racket control Wrist extension

Table 2 Changes Experienced by Players Following Eight Weeks of Training
FactorsStrength training only (N = 52)Strength training only and stretching (N = 25)All participants (N = 77)
Club/racket head speed (mph) +2.6+5.2+3.4
Body weight (lb)-0.7+1.0-0.2
Percent fat-2.3-1.7-2.0
Fat weight (lb)-4.6-3.0-4.1
Lean (muscle) weight (lb)+3.9+4.0+3.9
Mean blood pressure (mmHg)-4.4-4.8-4.5
Muscle strength (lb)+56+56+56

After eight weeks of strength training, the players in these studies made significant improvements in their driving power, as indicated by faster club/racket head speeds. As shown in table 2, the players also replaced four pounds of fat with four pounds of muscle, increased their muscle strength by almost 60 percent, and reduced their resting blood pressure by more than 4 mmHg. Even more impressive, the players who also strength trained and did stretching exercises experienced twice as much increase in club/racket head speed as well as a 30 percent improvement in overall joint flexibility.

These results should be compelling for players who want to play better, look better, feel better, and avoid injuries. It is encouraging to note that all the players who completed the strength training program remained injury-free throughout the entire tournament season. Furthermore, most reported a higher overall level of play, with less fatigue and more energy than they had experienced in many years. Clearly, sensible strength training is beneficial for both the player and the game.

The basic program of strength exercise is simple, short, and easy to complete. We recommend that players do one set each of 13 exercises, for a total of just 13 training sets per session. Use a resistance that permits between 8 and 12 repetitions performed at a controlled speed through a full movement range. When 12 repetitions are completed in good form, increase the weight load by 5 percent or less. The entire strength workout should take about 25 minutes, three days a week. The latest studies have shown about 90 percent of the benefit can be realized from only two strength training sessions per week, however, which is good news for time-pressured people and active players.

With these facts in mind, here are your basic guidelines for a beginning strength training program:

Generally speaking, this program should produce noticeable changes in your muscle strength and body composition within one month. After two months of training, you should be about 50 to 60 percent stronger on your exercise weight loads. You should also replace up to four pounds of fat with four pounds of muscle, which should help you look, feel, and function much better than before you started training. Your fat/ muscle changes can be assessed best by body composition tests, typically performed with skinfold calipers. You also should notice firmer muscles in your legs, arms, and upper body, in addition to more slack in your waistband.

We recommend that your strength training program become a standard component of your lifestyle. Even when you achieve a high level of muscle conditioning, regular strength training is necessary to maintain your physical capacity and performance ability.