My tennis coach often tells me to bend my knees and use my legs more during our training drills. Apparently, bending your knees lowers your centre of gravity, thus providing you with more stability, and helps with shoulder, hip and trunk rotation, which allows you to give more power to a shot. This is something I particularly need for my backhand shots, but I need to be constantly reminded to bend my knees, otherwise I will naturally tend to stand up too straight. I suppose part of the reason I don’t naturally use my legs is that it is tiring to move around with bent knees, especially if you haven’t worked enough to strengthen those leg muscles.
Once a week I will work on my general fitness and strength with a personal trainer (it is something I do with my partner, and we really enjoy these joint sessions which are very much targeted at what we need to do to become better tennis players). Last week my PT mentioned that squats are a great exercise that anyone could do without needing a personal trainer, equipment, or even dedicated time. A squat is a compound exercise which means that it uses multiple muscle groups. There are so many opportunities during the day when you can fit in 10 squats: when you are waiting for the kettle to boil, your porridge to heat up in the microwave, or are brushing your teeth before going to bed. My personal trainer said we could all do 100 squats a day (and you can find many people online that are doing such a challenge), but I think that might be a bit much for a starting point and could be difficult to maintain. You also need to make sure you have got the technique right to avoid injury, with your weight on your heels, knees over (but not beyond) your toes, and your lower back with a slight natural arch and aligned spine and neck – a search on Google will bring up many videos and webpages which can explain how to do it properly.
Now that we are at the beginning of February and I have finished Dry January and 31 days of yoga (both of which I plan to continue as much as I can), I think it is time to introduce a new health goal into 2017. So I think I am going to try squatting every day to build my leg muscles. I will do at least 10 squats as I am waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning and whilst brushing my teeth before going to bed. That is at least 20 squats a day more than I would otherwise do, so that has to have an effect. I am sure I could manage more on some days, but I won’t be too ambitious about it to begin with. And please believe me that I am honestly not doing this for a peachy derrière – it is highly unlikely I will ever post a belfie on Instagram! – but I am doing this because I am hoping that with increased muscles I will find it more natural, and less tiring, to bend my knees and use my legs when playing tennis. Of course, I will happily accept any collateral effects… 😉