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Cool Down Exercises for Tennis Players

Tennis balls on a tennis court

Whether you finished playing a 5 setter at the humid Australian Open or hitting recreationally with your friends in Central Park it is important to allow your body the opportunity to “cool down.”

A “cool down” is a general term used to describe the initial phase of recovery after a strenuous activity. It is crucial to allow your body the opportunity to gradually decrease stress rather than stopping the stressor abruptly.

While playing tennis, your body is constantly working to meet the demands of every shot while also handling the environment. When the match or practice session is over the body tries to return to its normal comfortable state. At this time the body gets an instant “shock” because it is no longer under continuous stress. The body ends up decreasing adrenaline and tightens up in order to start recovering. Therefore adverse events can occur like cramping, joint stiffness, muscular tightness, or even sensations of lightheadedness/dizziness. At times you may feel excessive coldness in your extremities because all the blood is racing back to your vital organs.

Therefore it is important to stay well nourished, keep moving, and stretch your joints and muscles after playing.

Just Remember: N. M. S. (Nutrition, Movement, Stretch):

  • Nutrition:
    • In order to replace the nutrients and water lost after playing tennis you can follow these simple steps within the first two hours after playing.
      • Have a sports drink directly after playing to replenish lost electrolytes
      • Eat a meal full of healthy carbohydrates with a lean source of protein in order to start the process of repairing damaged/sore muscles while replenishing the body’s energy system
      • Continue to hydrate to replace the fluid lost in the body. In general, for every pound of water lost when playing you should drink about 24 ounces of water. All within 2 hours of playing.
  • Movement:
    • Directly after playing try to keep moving so that your muscles and joints do not stiffen up with an accumulation of lactic acid that can contribute to soreness. It is recommended to gradually decrease the amount of movement during your “cool down” in order to ease your body back into a normal state. Therefore, directly after playing you can go for a short (10-20 minute) walk/jog at a comfortable pace that does not cause you to be short of breath. If available, you can also utilize a stationary bike at minimal to no resistance after playing to allow for increased circulation in the body and therefore decrease soreness.
  • Stretch:
    • Once you finish the “movement” portion of the cool down it’s important to stretch your muscles and joints in order to prevent increased stiffness and therefore improve the recovery process. (30 sec hold x 3)
      • Quadriceps Stretch
      • Hamstring Stretch
      • Butterfly stretch for the groin
      • Calf stretch
      • Knees to chest
      • Child’s Pose
      • Pec Stretch
      • Bear hug
      • Wrist/forearm stretch
    • Foam Rolling can also be incorporated in the stretching section of your program to further decrease muscle soreness and stiffness
      • Do not hold your breath while stretching/foam rolling. Focus on slow deep breathing in order to achieve a deeper stretch.

Your “cool down” routine should take about 20-30 minutes from when you step off the court. In that time you could have a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes, have a light jog/bike ride, foam roll/stretch all while staying hydrated. And then after your cool down you can look forward to a nutrient filled meal to replenish your body and further aid in the recovery process.

HSS physical therapist Anil Nandkumar

Anil Nandkumar, PT, DPT, CSCS is a physical therapist with HSS Rehabilitation. He received his doctorate of physical therapy from Northeastern University and is currently working with a variety of populations providing pre- and postoperative care. He enjoys working with athletes to aid in recovery and to return to a high level of sport, in a safe way. Anil is a member of the HSS recovery team for many races throughout the 5 boroughs, as well as presenting at the NYRR RunCenter, and featured on NYRR Facebook Live Chat in December 2018. His clinical interests include orthopedics and sports medicine, with a special interest in treating runners and tennis players.


The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.