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Exercises for Pickleball Players
How to improve your game and keep yourself healthy!
Pickleball is not for the faint of heart. It’s a racket sport, played on a 20’ x 40’ court. It’s a fast-paced game that challenges a player’s fitness, reaction time, coordination, and agility.
Recently, we held the first-ever Ronald Francis Paglia Sr. Pickleball Tournament and we sure did learn a lot. First, we learned that pickleball players are fierce. Second, we learned that a lot of pickleball players suffer from weekly injuries. Third, we learned that Justin shouldn’t play racket sports as he pulled a gluteal (aka butt) muscle in the process.
As we learn more about the sport and as it becomes more popular here in the northeast (we’re seemingly behind the rest of the country), we figured it would be good to share some knowledge regarding performance improvement and injury risk reduction when it comes to getting your dink on.
So, here are some of our best recommendations (with exercises included) to help you stay healthy on and off the court.
- Make sure you warm up & cool down properly. Did you know that static stretching prior to a sport like pickleball may negatively impact your performance? Ultimately, we recommend a good dynamic warm-up routine. This may include but is not limited to: forwards/backward jogging, side shuffles, small skips, lunges, knee-to-chest, butt-kicks, walking quad stretch, hamstring swoops, toe/heel walks, shoulder circles, shoulder field goals & bear hugs.
- Wear proper court shoes! Wearing appropriate footwear for pickleball not only helps improve your game but decreases your risk for injury. Why? Pickleball shoes are sturdier and constructed to withstand lateral movement far better than running shoes. Pickleball shoes often have specialized tread, a sturdy stability shank, and a lower drop than most running shoes. This is important as it will better support your foot and ankle and even decrease your risk for ankle sprains.
- Don’t push through pain great than a 4/10. This is something we tell all our clients who participate in athletic activities. Remember, pain is a warning sign and not always a red flag. Playing through some discomfort (< 4/10) is perfectly normal; however, if your pain worsens as you’re playing, or is worse later that evening, you probably pushed your body a little too hard.
- It’s important to take rest days. Oh, we’ve heard pickleball is addicting. So, make sure you’re listening to your body and at least taking 1-2 rest days per week. This will help you recover and be able to perform to your highest potential.
- Exercise outside of pickleball is important! Often, athletes will ignore exercising outside of their sport of choice. However, this is when injuries often pop up. Here are 8 exercises we recommend doing to keep your body in tip-top shape for pickleball! Check out this video to learn more.
Multi-Directional Lunges- Pickleball is a multi-directional sport that requires acceleration and deceleration! Multi-directional lunges (forward, backward, lateral, curtsy) are a great addition to your exercise repertoire for decreasing injury risk. Not only will they help you improve your strength, but this exercise also challenges your balance. We recommend beginning with 3 sets x 4 repetitions on each side.
Single Leg Calf Raises- Ever have a nagging calf strain or Achilles problem pop up? Well, as an individual ages, the calf muscle complex is known to lose strength quickly. We recommend performing 3 sets x 10-12 reps of a single leg calf raise. If this is too difficult at first, it is perfectly fine to perform double-leg calf raises instead.
Multi-directional Pogo Hops – Yes, hops are important, especially in pickleball. It’s important to be able to withstand quick movements and accelerate! We recommend implementing a small multi-directional hopping drill such as pogo hops (small hops with minimal knee bend) to help improve the capacity of your calf muscles and Achilles tendon! Perform 3 rounds of about 30 seconds each and you’ll thank us in the long run!
Hamstring Bridge Marching- Ever try to slow down or reach for a ball and your hamstring yelled at you? Well, this one is for you! This is a modification of a normal exercise bridge; however, you emphasize being on your heels versus your whole foot or toes. You’ll lift into a bridge on your heels and perform a march! Begin with 3-4 sets x 8 repetitions. Your hamstrings will thank you later.
Shoulder Internal/External Rotation- Shoulder health is important, especially in pickleball. Making sure your rotator cuff muscles are in tip-top shape is extremely important. We recommend utilizing a band and performing both internal and external rotation exercises for 3 sets of 12 repetitions each.
Wrist flexion/extension- These two exercises aim to keep your forearms healthy and prevent things such as tennis and golfer’s elbow. Start with three sets of 8-10 repetitions each and I’m sure you’ll feel the burn.
Banded Lateral Walk with a Squat- Keeping the muscles that help you move laterally on the court healthy is important. For this exercise, we put two very important things together- a lateral walk with a band and a squat! Put a mini band around your knees/ankles or you can utilize a longer band and put it around your feet. Walk laterally making sure you keep tension on the band throughout. With each step you take, you will also squat! Try 3 laps of 20 feet or so to start.
Single Leg Balance- Working on balance is important. However, challenging your balance is even better! We recommend doing things such as standing on one leg and playing ball toss, bouncing your ball on your racket, or throwing a tennis ball repeatedly against the wall. This doesn’t only challenge your balance, but also your coordination skills!
If you’re a constantly aching pickleballer, make sure you implement these five things into your regular routine! They will help improve your mobility and keep you healthy. Also, if you’re unsure how to perform any of these exercises, make sure you check our latest YouTube Video! Oh, and don’t forget, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post them below or shoot us an email!