By Dr. Mark Kovacs, CTPS, MTPS; CEO, Kovacs Institute; Executive Director International Tennis Performance Association
At Kovacs Institute, we get asked all the time about the best recovery tools that we use with our professional athletes. So, what can ALTA players learn from the pros that can help them recover faster? Our list is rather long, and it varies in price from “free” to over $100,000. Depending on your budget, there are plenty of things that can help you in your journey to play more tennis and recover faster. Below are a few items that can be part of your personal recovery routine.
- Contrast showers. The purpose of this strategy is to expand and contract blood vessels to help pump more blood in and out of working muscles. This is a strategy where you alternate between hot and cold water in the shower. We use a few different protocols, but the easiest is a 3:1 hot/cold ratio. So, this would be three minutes of hot water with one minute of cold water. This would be repeated for three to four rotations.
- Stretching. Having a daily stretching routine on the major muscles used in tennis is cheap (free) and easy to implement without any equipment.
- Sleep. Improving your sleep habits will improve your recovery. Go to bed earlier, avoid looking at your phone 30 minutes before sleeping and keep your room cool to avoid overheating and waking up during the night.
- Protein. Adding some extra protein to your diet will aid in muscle recovery. Make sure that you are consuming a good amount of protein throughout the day (including in your snacks).
- Hydration. Drink. Drink. Drink. Make sure you are hydrating well. Most tennis players do not realize how much they sweat during tennis. Many hours after the tennis match/practice, they will also have an elevated body temperature and continue to lose fluid.
- Foam roller or lacrosse ball. A foam roller (or the use of a lacrosse ball) is something that is inexpensive and can provide immediate relief for tight and sore muscles. However, you need to be aware that it provides some positive sensory responses and can help, but make sure you figure out why you are getting tight and sore, and get on a full tennis-specific fitness program to address it.
- Percussive therapy. These have become popular in the last few years. Nearly every professional athlete travels with these and it provides an immediate sensation and analgesic response. These devices come in many varieties, but the concept is the same. Provide a vibrating/percussive response to the muscle, which can result in a reduction in pain sensation (analgesic response) and also can improve immediate range of motion.
- Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS). This is a technology that allows you to place pads/sensors on various muscles and across joints to provide an electronic current which will allow for mild, involuntary muscle contractions. The goal here is to provide a non-fatiguing contraction that creates constant blood flow throughout the area. The objective is to move deoxygenated blood from the area and move “fresh” oxygenated blood to the area.