The Benefits of Cross Training

Shake up your routine!

Looking to improve your tennis game and overall physical fitness? Growing tired of your mundane schedule of taking a weekly lesson and working out to the same fitness regime? You think you are in decent shape, as you have no difficulty playing tennis for two hours every Saturday morning, yet somehow climbing two flights of stairs leaves you winded. Mixing up your physical routine is likely just what you need – with the fitness benefits making this decision a no-brainer!

Our bodies are wired to be adaptive.

The notion of muscle memory can be an asset when it comes to honing a skill, however it can lead to plateaus in physical achievements once the body is no longer challenged. Strength, endurance, agility and speed are key components of tennis, and training these aspects with variation will pay off in dividends – and prevent injuries down the road. While tennis is life for some, for most people it is a bonus squeezed into hectic life-schedules. Being fit for tennis is important, but becoming functionally fit – so that you can perform a spectrum of activities (walking the dog, yard-work, jogging…) is key to feeling good physically, and to promote vitality.

The game of tennis is dynamic; therefore it makes sense to train for it with as much versatility as possible.

It is essential to have strong legs for quick speed, but it is also important to pay attention to the muscles that control pelvic movement while starting and stopping movement at these high speeds. Core strength is crucial for all aspects of the game – from enabling maximal extension on the serve, to being able to isolate control of the upper body on the lower body while hitting on the run.

Many ways to train off court

There are many ways to train the fundamental physical aspects of tennis off the court. Yoga or pilates is a wonderful incorporation of core strength and flexibility, while spinning will help develop leg musculature and aerobic capacity. However, cross-training does not require specific exercises per se; as long as you create diversity in your activity, you are essentially cross-training! Therefore focus on varying activities between aerobic conditioning, strength training, endurance and balance – and vary the workouts that emphasize each area, in order have the greatest fitness gains.

The repetitive nature of tennis, as well as training your body for one specific activity, can lead to muscular imbalances and greater stress and strain on the muscles and joints involved.

While cross-training is great for the aforementioned reasons – the risk of injury is still prevalent, especially the more hours you spend on the court. Early detection and treatment of injuries will get you back to your activity level sooner, as well as prevent subsequent damage. There is an array of conservative, non-invasive options available to treat injuries – soft tissue therapy, modalities (laser, interferential current), acupuncture, to name a few. The key however, is to detect and alleviate the mechanism of injury in order to prevent similar recurrences. When choosing a health practitioner for treatment, it’s imperative that they have a biomechanical understanding of the sports you participate in, and the subsequent loads being placed on your body.

Get to Know Your Practitioner and Find One that Knows You

Finding a chiropractor who you feel comfortable with, and who understands your athletic goals, can be an asset to your athletic performance. Periodic check-ups to ensure your alignment – both skeletally and muscularly, is in balance, will promote early detection of any deficits or areas predisposed to injury, and will therefore help prevent injuries altogether. Between cross-training and proper physical health-maintenance, you will be playing your best tennis and feeling fit for years to come.

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About the Author

Dr. Melissa Cutler graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College following her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and biology from Saint Louis University, where she attended on a full tennis scholarship. She then went on to become certified in Contemporary Medical Acupuncture at McMaster University, as well as Active Release Techniques, and is a Certified Running Specialist through the Running Clinic. She is also a contributing medical writer for the Ontario Tennis Association Magazine.

As a nationally ranked tennis player at the junior and collegiate level, she experienced numerous injuries and was exposed to various forms of therapies; all of which helped her appreciate the benefit of treating not only the symptom of a condition, but the biomechanical source of the dysfunction. Coaching tennis for the last 20 years to players of all levels from novice to competitive, Dr. Cutler realized the importance of teaching proper mechanics to not only improve skills, but to prevent injuries.

She can be contacted at