Being an avid pickleball player, I never hit the court without my tested and vetted pickleball warm-up routine. Before both casual games and intense tournaments, I make sure I’m primed and ready. After some tweaking (get it!?), here’s is the routine I employ to avoid pickleball injuries.
Given the intense action your shoulders and upper arms face during pickleball, starting with shoulder shrugs is essential. Not only does this warm up the muscles, but it also helps in aligning my posture.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, keeping knees soft.
- With arms at the sides, slowly lift the shoulders towards the ears while inhaling.
- Exhale and lower them in a smooth, controlled motion.
I have a buddy who calls these “I dunno’s” because that’s the motion to make with your shoulders.
To prevent injury from reaching with the pickleball paddle, I ensure my arms are well-stretched.
- Deltoid Stretch: Extend one arm straight across the front of your body. Use the other hand or arm to hold it in place.
- Tricep Stretch: Bend an arm, touching the hand to the shoulder. Raise the elbow level to the head, holding it with the opposite hand.
- Bicep and Forearm Stretch: Extend arms in front, palms up. Gently pull fingers downward with the opposite hand, feeling a gentle stretch from the wrist to shoulder.
Dynamic Arm Circles
This offers a more dynamic stretch than traditional arm stretches.
- Execute 3-4 large circles with each arm in various directions: front to back beside the body, side to side in front and behind the body, overhead like twirling a lasso, and finally, leaning forward with arms hanging and rotating.
Tight hamstrings can be a pickleball player’s downfall. The standing hamstring stretch has been a game-changer for my flexibility.
- Stand straight and extend one leg forward, slightly bending the other.
- Lean forward, placing hands on the extended leg, ensuring the back remains straight.
- Maintain this position for about 30-40 seconds before switching legs.
This light cardio warm-up increases my heart rate and works all my muscles. However, it’s essential to be mindful of your knees, especially if you’ve had past injuries or are older.
- I typically perform 10-20 hops on each side, using my paddle’s length as a guide for distance.
Before diving into a game, I engage in some straightforward dinking, progressively moving backwards every two minutes until my opponent and I are at the baseline…and then we work our way back to the net. It’s all about getting the feel without going all out.
Your quads are crucial for those quick sprints and sudden stops in pickleball.
- Standing straight, bend one knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks.
- Hold onto your ankle with the same side hand, ensuring your knees stay close together.
- Tilt your pelvis slightly forward to intensify the stretch and hold for about 30 seconds before switching to the other leg.
Calf Raises and Stretches
Calves often get overlooked, but they’re vital for agile movements on the court.
- Start by facing a wall with your hands pressed against it for support.
- Slowly raise both heels off the ground, standing on your toes, and then lower them back down.
- For a deeper stretch, step one foot back, pressing the heel into the ground and leaning forward slightly. You should feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
Good for loosening up the core and lower back.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Extend your arms straight out to the sides, keeping them at shoulder height.
- Slowly twist your torso to the right, looking over your right shoulder, then twist to the left, looking over your left shoulder.
- Repeat this motion several times, ensuring you’re moving from the torso and not just the shoulders.
Integrating these stretches ensures that most major muscle groups are addressed, setting the stage for an injury-free pickleball session. Remember always to perform stretches slowly and smoothly, avoiding any jerky motions. If you ever feel pain (not to be confused with the mild discomfort of a stretch), stop immediately.
Warm-ups aren’t just an afterthought; they’re vital for performance and safety. Whether you adopt my routine or tailor it to your needs, always ensure you’re warmed up before any pickleball game.