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NO GUTS, NO GLORY
- BY PETER BRUNO, M.D

When people say it takes guts to play well, the claim is more literal than they know.
Most tennis players know they , must develop the muscles in their upper and lower bodies if they want to become stronger and increase their aerobic capacity on the court. But these same athletes often neglect another set of muscles that are just as important-the abdominal, or stomach, muscles.
The abdominals consist of several Muscles, including the rectus abdominus, which is the main
abdominal muscle, and the internal and external obliques, which run along the sides of the abdomen. The top area of these muscles attaches to, the rib cage, while the bottom area attaches to the pelvis. In connecting, the upper and lower body, the abdominal muscles serve as a center, for power.

The abdominals are often neglected because they are not much ; used in the activities of our daily life. Other muscles, such as the triceps or the hamstrings, are used : and strengthened every time a person lifts his arm or walks across the street. But the abdominals are strengthened only if one concentrates on specific exercises geared for that area of the body.

Even an athlete who is in reasonable shape may have very weak abdominal muscles unless he includes such exercises in his regular training regime. It is important to train all the muscles in the body-not just some of them-in order to avoid any kind of muscular or strength imbalance. The muscles in the body work together, and every muscle has a counter muscle. When lifting a weight in a curl motion, for example, the bicep muscle pulls the arm into the body. But a separate muscle, the tricep, works when taking the curl back down again. And when one muscle becomes - much stronger than its counter muscle, there is greater chance for injury. The same is true for the back. The spine is held in place by two different muscle groups. One group is the paraspinous muscles, which stretch up and down the spine. For most people, and especially for tennis players, these muscles tend to strengthen during normal daily activity. If the counter muscles in this case are the abdominals. If the paraspinous muscles become much stronger than the abdominals, they may begin pulling the spine, causing it to curve abnormally. Strengthening the abdominals will not only counteract the strength of the paraspinous muscles, it will hold the back in proper alignment as well. This is I especially important for people who I are overweight.

Extra weight, in combination with weak abdominal muscles, puts excessive pressure on the spine. This can result in back strains, or worse-disc problems. Those who play tennis seriously are also prone to back injuries. In many cases, such people have stronger paraspinous muscles than non-players do, simply because the game calls for so much running and upper body movement. Tennis players, however, won't necessarily strengthen their abdominals through these motions.

The abdominal muscles, which serve as the body's center, are used in nearly every tennis stroke. The internal and external obliques, for example, are the primary muscles used for driving groundstrokes, and players can get more power in this part of their game by strengthening these muscles. Stronger muscles will also help deter any tears or pulls
that may result when hitting a shot too hard or off-balance.

A player who wants to strengthen his abdominals should lie on his back, on a hard surface, with his knees bent. When lifting his shoulder blades off the floor-and also when lowering them-he should make sure that his back remains parallel to the floor. To train the obliques, he can lie on his back and cross his left foot over his right knee. After lifting his shoulder blades, he should turn his upper body at an angle and point his right elbow at his left knee. If this
exercise is done correctly, he will feel tension along the side of his body. But remember, strong abdominal muscles are only beneficial when the back muscles are already strong. To be in the best L shape, a player must train every muscle in his body.



 





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