Sunday, 5 January 2014

Tennis Training: CORE & ABS EXERCISES PT.2 [P.3]

So this is part 2 on exercises for the core (abdominals and lower back [i.e. lumbar, gluteus and piriformis]). If you haven't already done so, read Part 1 here first. In Part 1 on exercises for the core (abdominals), I showed an image with the different components of the abdominals. Well, the core as well as including the abdominals also includes the lower back muscles (lumbar, glutues and piriformis). So in this post i'm going to show a training video which trains both the abdominals and lower back and thus encompasses the entire core! Part 3 will cover further the lower back muscles. The difference between part 3 and part 2 is that this blog post will cover the TRANSVERSE abdominal muscles. These are the muscles which hold together the entire core. Think of the transverse muscles as the glue in a pair of Nike trainers. The glue keeps the trainers from falling apart while also giving it strength. This is the function for the transverse abdominal muscles in your body. So they are absolutely key for preventing back injuries!

Check out my 'ISOMETRIC' core exercises in the training video below.

My source for this post is Luis Emilio Ramos, physical trainer in Miranda Gym, Palma de Mallorca. Luis has trained multiple European boxing champions. 

Abdominal and lower back muscles (core muscles) - vital for tennis professional

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Tennis Training: Physical - CORE & ABS EXERCISES PT.1 [P.2]

Im back as promised with more on core and ab exercises!

As I said in the previous blog post, for tennis the most important muscle group to train is the core. This prevents injuries, creates stability and balance and enables explosive acceleration in shot rotation.

In this post I'm going to present a 12 minute physical training video. Whereas the previous blog post was a general introduction this blog post and the next two (that will be published right here on is specific to the muscle groups of the core and adominals in tennis. This blog post is going to cover the rectus, external oblique, internal oblique and lower adominal muscles. The following posts will cover the transverse admonials and lower back muscles.

Core & Abdominal muscles vital for tennis professionals
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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Training Area: Physical - ex.P1 [CORE STRENGTHENING]

Hey ya,

This blogpost is the first one on physical training and I wanted to start with the most important part of the body for a large number of sports, including tennis, which is the CORE. If you like my posts you could sign up for email alerts using the white box on the right hand side of this page.

We try to train the core every day as its not like training the calve or bicep in that the body needs at least 24 hours recuperation before another session. The core can be worked everyday with one rest day a week. We sometimes do 20-30 minutes of core and sometimes 2-3 hours of core! It's key for explosive strength, balance, agility and preventing injuries.

Here I wanted to put some of my training exercises - I will add more in future posts! Follow me on twitter using the twitter feed on the side of this page to receive updates about my blog. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Training Area: Recuperation - ex.R5 [HEAT & ICE]

Ok another post on recuperation for you. 

This post is going to be on the general subject of using cold and hot to recover from training or injuries. There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this depending on who you talk to. I'm going to give you the story from the 'warzone'. I'll share what works for me - these techniques have helped me to train longer and harder without injury. I had almost 1 year of full-time 6 hours a day, 6 days a week training without injury so I think I can put my confidence in these exercises.

Daily Exercises

I have 4 Decathlon Hot/Cold Packs (click link to view). After training I take them out the freezer and put them on my joints/muscles which have a slight tendon problem or tendonitis for around 30 minutes. Afterwards I then put the packs in the microwave and place back on the same joints/muscles to warm and relax them for another 30 minutes. Muscles which are super tense from over-use I treat with heat only. I put the hot packs on for about 30 minutes.  
Ice packs on knees to treat sore cartilage & tendons
Ice pack on knee cartilage | Heat pack on wrist and neck
Weekly Exercises

Every Friday I take an ice bath followed by a hot bath (also known as contrast bath). This is absolutely vital for me to recover from a tough week of training. I started this when my knees started to give me problems - I had an MRI scan which showed no problems. My father suggested I take ice baths and my physical trainer ice baths with hot baths. So reluctantly (!) I started the weekly routine and I haven't had knee problems since. My process is to fill the bath with cold water and then put in a couple buckets of ice - I will then lay in the bath for 8 minutes (or try and lay in it!?!?) with my chest, shoulders, back and neck also immersed if my upper body is sore [this really really hurts!]. After the 8 minutes I take a really hot shower (if you have access to a shower which is not in the bath [if not then just take one ice bath for 15 minutes]) and then return for a second 8 minute session in the ice bath (yeyyyy ;) ). I then let the cold water drain away and I replace it with lovely super hot water and I add salts and eucalyptus oil for a better muscle soak. Then I stay in the bath for at least 20 minutes.

Ice bath with my coach in a natural lake in england

One-off Exercises

An exercise I perform when I have torn a muscle and am in the rehabilitation phase (not the first 3 days and not before all the bruising disappears) or don't have access to a bath is to use an infra-red heat lamp to promote blood flow to the area and relax muscles.

I have found this to be even more effective that using the heat packs mentioned above.

Using infra-red heat lamp to relax lower-back muscles

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Training Area: Recuperation - ex.R4 [PILATES]

Ana Barretxeguren, from Blibao (Spain); a pilates guru, biomechanics expert and amazing spiritual person. This was for whom I had woken up at 4:30 in the morning and driven 5 hours to see after a recommendation from family. It was more than worth it. :)

Ana works from the feet upwards and is a specialist in myofascial tissues. When I arrived she did a few tests on how I walked, my posture, my head position, my movements, my general biomechanics. I was told that due to my pelvis injury I was walking with one side of my hips higher (e.g. skewed to one side). I had to improve my flexibility in this hip to eradicate my problems in the right lumbar muscle. So I've been working on exercises similar to this one below:

On top of this Ana told me I was walking on the "sides" of my foot. This is likely to have been accentuated when I broke my ankle ligaments. As the ankle is directly connected to the adductor (groin) muscle and abdominals it is very likely a lot of my muscular problems in these zones have been caused my walking differently to before the injury. In addition by walking on the ball of the big toe when extending or lifting up the foot (instead of the little toe which the majority of people do) which gives greater spring and explosivity. This is because the big toe is the connected to the high arch of the foot (the bones which are at the top of the foot) whereas the little toe is connected to the heal of the foot (at the bottom of the foot and importantly flat). You can view this in the anatomy of the foot photo below.
Using statics theory in the field of engineering an arch shape is stronger and more powerful that a flat one which is way so many bridges were made with an arch in the past. So by walking on the big toe also gives more performance, more speed, more spring as well as correcting my pains in the back and legs.

My exercises are presented below.

So I bet your saying this is impossible:
      - "How can you change something which you have done all your life. How can change how you walk after 24 years." Well firstly, it is the natural way to walk - we have diverted from this as we have evolved but if we connect our minds with our body we will revert to what is most efficient and effective. Besides if you have an attitude that you can not change then you will never change. There are countless cases of people who have been told by doctors that they would never walk again but after decades of trying they find a way to walk again. One should never say its impossible.
      - Or maybe you're saying "His problem is in the back, not in his foot or how he walks". Well this is true but we contact and impact the ground firstly and always. If we don't do this well we are going to get problems in some part of the body. Imagine walking with one leg longer than the other, you are really going to put stress on the knees, back, spine, neck and hips. Thats why doctors usually operate on children who don't have equal lengths legs because they are going to have problems later in life.

Well perhaps the best defence is after 2 weeks working on the exercises once/twice a day (1-2 hours) I am feeling the best i've felt in 4 months. I'm swimming 1-2 hours a day, doing core exercises and walking an hour without pain. Im going to keep you updated but right now its definitely doing me good. THANKS ANA :)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Training Area: Recuperation - ex.R3 [OSTEOPATH]

Its been a month since I last posted about my treatment and rehabilitation for the pelvis injury I sustained during my fall in July. Since then I've had 4 treatments with my osteopath Nick Tuckley.

The first couple of treatments Nick had to re-align the pelvis as it would not go back into place easily. I guess its like trying to go on a no-cake diet after months of eating loads of cakes...The first few weeks you crave cakes and probably will eat a few - but then it gets easier until you stop altogether!! Well thats what its like for my pelvis - its been so long in the wrong position that it now doesn't want to stay in its new position. However, Nick has managed to stabilise it and now its well aligned. However, my injured ankle was also poorly aligned and the changes in my bodies structure was causing pain in my legs, my trapezius muscle and my lumbar, so Nick still had lots of work to do in our sessions. All in all it was 3-4 weeks of treatment until I was back training (well rehabilitation training).
Some pilates exercises
Nick instructed me to start with light swimming, pilates and no rotational movement. A week of increasing from 20 minutes to 1 hour of front crawl, breast stroke and back stroke followed:

However, on Friday the day of Nick's final treatment I had a sore right Lumbar. It turns out this was done from the previous day and Friday's side-running (in the pool) of 4 minutes. After a long time without training I can understand that you can easily injure yourself again but after just 8 minutes of side-running I wouldn't expect the injury I got...I had 3 frustrating days of rest in pain that followed. 

We are now looking in to the reason as to why I'm getting some many injuries. Right now we're stumped but my next blog post is hopefully going to shed some light onto the reason. I have a meeting with a well-respected pilates expert. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Training Area: Diet - ex.D1 [WEEKS FOOD]

Thought i'd put down an example of the food I have for lunch/dinner. When training full-time the goal is to eat 5,000 GOOD calories (thats GOOD calories, not just 5 big mac burgers!?!?).

Breakfast everyday: Spanish Tortilla
Breakfast: Spanish tortilla with some tomato salad

Breakfast: Chorizo & Asparagus Scrambled Eggs | Homemade apricot jam
Breakfast: Apple Tart
Lunch: Spicy meatballs with rice
Lunch: Rice, potato and vegetable tambor with breaded turkey.
Lunch: Sausage pasta bake
Lunch: Chicken, Spinach,  Sweetcorn & Ricotta Lasagne
Lunch: Fish Cakes with rice and salad
Dinner: Salmon, Asparagus, Pea & Green Bean Lasagne
Dinner: Above recipes with salad and rice
Dinner: Mushroom Soup with parmesan & rice

Dinner: Cod fillets in tomato and white wine sauce rice and salad
Dinner: Turkey Croquetas with tuna salad and rice
Dinner: Tomato Soup with rice
Dinner: Preparation for Butternut Squash, Bacon & Mushroom Lasagne

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Training Area: Recuperation - ex.R2 [PHYSIO/OSTEOPATH]

Hey there, in this post i'm going to build on the previous blogpost where I briefly talked about some physio and osteopath treatment I had.

As the previous post states I had some peculiar injuries that my coach and I were trying to cure ourselves with stretching, ice, heat, massages, Pilates and joint mobilisation. Unfortunately none of these completely cured the injury (but they did help) so first we went to a physio recommended to me
Adductor (groin) strengthening exercises
by a family friend. The physio, Carole McAthey, was fantastic. She found that my adductor strain had been caused by stiffness of the lumbar spine and Sacro-iliac joint. She gave my coach and I clear exercises to perform on the adductor and lumbar and to iniate Pilates, preferably based on the APPI course (this is the Australian Pilates organisation which is a kind of hybrid physio/pilates course). All of this helped considerably and cured all of my pains except the back which needed further treatment from an osteopath as it was skeletal rather than muscular (where a physio is better).

The osteopath, Nick Tuckley, I have used for many years and I haven't met a better osteopath. He confirmed the pelvis alignment was out due to the fall when I broke my ankle ligament in July. He stretched my L4 disc of the lumbar spine and instructed me to rest for at least 24 hours. For 40 minutes after the treatment I chose to lie down to let the body accustom to the new position of the skeleton before driving home. I personally believe this is vital after an osteopath session - you are paying £45 for 30-40 minutes of treatment, for that cost you should have the patience to let the body rest so the skeleton doesn't return to its previous position! I have a follow-up session 5 days after the first to see how the alignment in the pelvis is and hopefully if all goes smoothly I should be back training 3-5 days after that!

I wanted to write about my experience as I think sometimes one has to bite the bullet and pay the price to have experts look at your body and then cure you. Without these two professionals I would still be injured and no closer to being cured. Now I'm more than half cured and within the week I should be back training touch-wood. It was more than worth spending the money and in the future I will be quicker to go to a top physio/osteopath after an injury.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Training Area: Recuperation - ex.R1 [ICE MASSAGE]

Its been more than 2 months since my ankle ligament tear but the accident continues to haunt me! After a grade 2 tear in my groin and pains in my calve, hamstring, back and glute I decided to take a trip to the physio and then to an osteopath (im going to talk a little bit about these in my next blogpost). The result is that the impact of the fall when I tore my ligament had dislodged the alignment of my pelvis and caused the L4 (one of the discs of the lumbar [lower back]) to become highly stressed thus commencing a break-down of my entire body...I guess it was a good decision to seek professional advice!

What I wanted to write about in this blogpost was what we did (my coach and I) wrong and then what we did right. 

The mistake we made was that we continued to train for a week after the groin strain - we should have stopped immediately and sought professional advice as to why it had occurred. I hadn't strained a muscle like that for over a year (especially during stretching which is how I strained the groin!?!?) and we probably should have been more worried as to why I had strained it. Instead we continued to train until it got too bad and other parts of the body started to break down.

What we did right is we massaged the groin strain with ice which brought out a blue bruise which then continued to reduce to red then pink and finally disappear. Icing a torn or strained muscle is very beneficial to me (some say icing doesn't help but for me it does 100%) for the first 3 days or until the bruising disappears - after that it is more necessary to put heat on the area rather than ice (but I will talk about heat in another blogpost). The photo to the right shows the blocks of ice we used for the massage - this is a really cheap and quick alternative to an ice bath. The moulds are for muffins/cup-cakes (a good size for handling during the massage) and are made of silicon so its really easy to get the ice out!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Training Area: Mental - exercise.M1 [ANTICIPATION]

Today I've been working on anticipation exercises. During the first few weeks after my injury I kept myself from going crazy in my bed by working on my anticipation. Roger Federer has been studied to react faster than is possible with the human brain - this is because he anticipates where his opponent is going to hit the ball. The difference that distinguishes the top pro's is their ability to anticipate and therefore seem as if they are lightning fast and have so much time on the ball. This ability is normally developed from playing hours and hours!However, I haven't had the luxury of playing 6 days a week from 4 years old and now at 23 I don't have the time. So I developed an exercise to improve my anticipation in dramatically short time although incredibly boring! [i have played points since this work and i can honestly say it has made me be so much quicker on the court and really improved my game]

Basically the exercise is to use a tennis match video (e.g. from youtube) and take snapshots/photos (min. 10) of a players shot. The earlier that you can 'anticipate' where they are going to play the shot (cross-court, down-the-line etc… before they make contact the better [see slideshow]. Once you get better at this (success > 80%) move to a live video slowed to 25%. Once better at this move to 50%, then 70%, then 90% and finally 100%.

And of course please send me your comments as to where you think he's playing the shot!?!?