Tennis After Baby
Giving birth is one of life’s greatest accomplishments however, when you’re a renowned tennis player and rely on your body to achieve other amazing accomplishments such as being a world ranked player you need to get back to a high level of competing quickly. The return to form is termed a snapback.
In this era of the snapback where mothers show off their postnatal bodies in photos just weeks after having a baby to reveal that they have quickly returned to their prenatal weight, Tennis Identity asked me to outline the next steps players like Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams might take to ensure they stay on top of their game?
.@Vika7 wins first match back after 12 months!
— WTA (@WTA) June 21, 2017
As a rehab specialist and a mother myself, I know the importance of rebuilding one’s strength and restoring the body to what it was prenatally.
For Azarenka and other future pro tennis mamas, the most important goal is for them to regain their deep intrinsic core strength. In the medical world, we call this intra-abdominal pressure. It is made up of the transverse abdominus, diaphragm (your breathing muscle), and your pelvic floor.
The first step in getting this back is retraining one’s belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is similar to how babies learn to stabilize and breathe during their first year of life . We essentially need to train the same way after giving birth. This is especially true since the abdominal muscles have been stretched out during pregnancy, they need to regain tone. And, after baby has been pressing up on the diaphragm, there is tightness there that needs to get worked out. Diaphragmatic breathing is so important, yet most women breathe short and shallow breaths which cause their core muscles to not fully fire, leading to core instability. I work with my clients to get them back to breathing properly, as they first did as babies.
Women returning to play should be checked for core insufficiencies that would present as diastasis recti or separation of the six-pack muscles and pelvic floor dysfunction, which would cause pressure and pain in the lower groin and abdomen.
If they had a C-section, definitely get assessed for scar tissue, which can bind around the scar and shut down the strength of core muscles. This is a routine assessment we do at Urban Wellness Clinic through muscles testing.
When a great tennis player hits the ball, their diaphragm and pelvic floor ideally will be parallel to the floor. There will be a lack of lower rib flare, keeping an engaged core, and their limbs gracefully following the power production from the core. Roger Federer is a great example of this in slow-mo.
Here is not such a great example of this from Nadal, not that we don’t love him, just a great slow motion example:
Even if your name is not as recognizable as Azarenka or Williams, here are 5 things you need to do to get back on the court after having a baby:
• Try using a Core 360 Belt (Core360belt.com). The device helps you breathe fully into your belly, helping you find your own personal “weight belt.”
• Use kettlebells to execute KB swings, one of our favorite full body integrative core exercises. Check with your doctor on weight.
• Use a breathing monitor. Check out Spire (spire.io) They just added a feature so that your doctor/rehab specialist can track your breathing, even when you are not breathing well as when you are tense. It can also track activity level overall. It’s a great tool I use to get my clients breathing optimally, and I can increase compliance to breathing drills without them being in my office.
• A high quality water bottle like what we use at Urban Wellness Clinic, MOBOT. Breastfeeding can make mothers super thirsty and dehydrated, so these water bottles help stay hydrated, and can also be used as a foam roller to work out those tight muscles.
• A strong and well made sports bra to help hold the girls in while training. I like Lululemon’s Enlite Bra.