When you exercise, injuries are inevitable.
Heck, simply wake up, and injuries are a likely reality.
And after 13 months of playing pickleball multiple times a week, my bell has tolled.
I played for about an hour.
Then it was my turn to sit a match out.
When I returned, my knee felt like it had experienced some direct hit.
It swelled a bit and, the following day was discolored.
I broke my own rule and Googled symptoms; it could be a meniscus issue, which is a common pickleball injury.
I do my best to recall what my 8th-grade science teacher told us, and that we should be amazed that the body functions correctly more often than not.
But that doesn’t make it any less upsetting that I might be without the game I love for a while.
I have a new league starting next week, along with the championships for another one.
Unless I can’t walk, I’m going.
[I came in 4th place, missing a bronze by three points…but the knee held up great!]
It’s human nature to look around and try to figure out what caused the injury. Perhaps it was an awkward pickleball move. Or maybe I bent over to tie my shoelace, and something went wrong.
I’ll never know.
But what I do know, is that I continue to be frustrated by the lack of warm-up before playing pickleball.
Ninety-nine out of 100 players seem to want to maximize their time on the court which is understandable; the sport is expensive and fun.
But before the knee injury, I didn’t stretch, and that’s on me.
Let my experience be a reminder.
Warm up before playing!
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And be grateful for all of those times you go out there and play without incident.
Even though pickleball is considered a low-impact sport, it still requires quick, explosive movements, so it’s important to get your body ready.
To ensure my upper body, lower body, and core muscles are prepared for the game, I’ve found several dynamic warm-up exercises invaluable. And I’ll never skip them again!
Pickleball engages specific muscles that are not always used in other sports, including rotation-based movements. Knowing how my body moves during a game helps me avoid injuries and improve my performance. Some of the muscles and areas most susceptible to injury in pickleball include the lower back, tendons, legs, hips, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. As an athlete (debatable!), it’s essential to push my body to its limits and ensure I don’t overdo it.
To make sure my muscles are ready for action, I rely on these five dynamic warm-up stretches:
Pickleball Warm-up Exercises — Forward Lunge With Rotation
Pickleball demands coordination, agility, and quick thinking, which means lots of twisting and turning. To prepare my body for this, I use the forward lunge with rotation exercise.
- Stand with feet together.
- Take a big lunge step forward and pause with hands in a ready position.
- Twist shoulders and chest towards the forward-stepped leg.
- Turn back so the chest faces forward.
- Step the front foot back to the rear foot and repeat on the other side.
Pickleball Warm-up #2: Lateral Lunges
This exercise helps me stay ready for the side-to-side movements required in pickleball while maintaining a forward-facing position.
- Stand with feet together.
- Take a big step to the left.
- Bend the left knee, push hips back, and lean forward slightly.
- Press off the left foot and step feet back together.
- Repeat by stepping out to the right.
Incorporating these warm-up exercises into my pre-game routine has made a noticeable difference in my performance and overall enjoyment of the sport. Give them a try and see the difference they can make for you too!
Pickleball Warm-up #3: Inchworms
Though inchworms might not be a movement you’ll ever perform during a pickleball game, they’re incredibly beneficial for warming up. This exercise combines upper body warm-up with core activation and dynamic hamstring stretching. It’s like a less intense push-up that also gets your shoulders ready for action.
- Begin in a push-up position.
- Slowly inch your feet forward, keeping your knees straight. Your hips will lift as you progress.
- When your feet are as far forward as possible, walk your hands forward until you return to the push-up position.
- Repeat the sequence, starting with your feet again.
Pickleball Warm-up #4: Leg Swings
Pickleball is all about using your legs. To ensure you can move swiftly during a game, it’s important to warm up your hips and hamstrings with leg swings. This exercise also helps improve your balance before you hit the court.
- Find a wall for support if needed. Stand perpendicular to the wall with your feet together.
- Lift one leg and kick it forward, like you’re kicking a soccer ball.
- Instead of placing your foot back on the ground, swing it back and up like a pendulum.
- Continue swinging your leg for the desired number of reps before switching legs.
Pickleball Warm-up #5: Arm Circles
Your upper body, especially your arms, shoulders, and chest, plays a significant role in pickleball. Arm circles are a great way to prepare your shoulders, chest, and upper back for the game ahead.
- Stand with your feet together and your hands empty.
- Extend your arms straight out to the sides until your elbows are fully extended.
- Draw small circles in the air, moving forward.
- Draw small circles backward in the air.
- Draw big circles forward.
- Finish by drawing big circles backward.
With these five dynamic warm-up exercises, your body will be primed and ready for an intense pickleball match. Don’t forget to give all those hardworking muscles the attention they deserve before you hit the court.
Which Type of Stretching Should You Do Before Playing Pickleball?
Different types of stretches and warm-up exercises cater to various sports or activities. To excel in pickleball, it’s essential to be prepared for any direction the ball may go. Engage in creative stretches or warm-ups that make your body agile and ready for those challenging shots. Consider incorporating these three types of warm-ups before your next pickleball match:
- Dynamic Stretching: This method combines stretching and light exercise, loosening muscles and warming up the body without using excessive energy.
- Foam Rolling: This stretching form incorporates massage-like therapy for the muscles, loosening them for activity.
- General Warm-Up: These light exercises, performed before more intense activities, aim to increase heart rate and warm up the body.
Understanding the benefits of each type of stretching can help you optimize your pre-game preparation:
Dynamic warm-ups warm your body while stretching, involving exercises that mimic sport-specific movements without causing fatigue. This type of stretching can improve range of motion just as much as static stretching without compromising performance. Dynamic warm-ups may even enhance your pickleball game.
Static Stretching – Not Recommended
Static stretching, like the classic toe touch, may loosen your joints but won’t increase your heart rate or warm your body. Opt for dynamic stretching instead.
Though it might be unconventional to consider foam rolling as stretching, it offers similar benefits. This warm-up method, also known as self-myofascial release, resembles a massage. Research shows that foam rolling can slightly improve performance, making you faster, and reducing muscle soreness and pain.
Simple exercises like jogging, stationary cycling, jumping jacks, or running in place can serve as a general warm-up. The goal is to increase heart rate and body temperature without expending too much energy.
While a general warm-up might not be as beneficial as dynamic stretching or foam rolling, it still prepares your body for the game. Choose the warm-up method that best suits your needs and helps you get ready for your pickleball match.