The Importance Of A Pickleball Warm Up Routine.
Why warm up? Good question! There are two primary benefits to properly warming up:
1) Enhanced Performance
2) Decreased Injury Risk
Hard to argue with that right?!?
No matter your age, skill level, or how long you've been playing pickleball, it is important to invest the time to properly warm up.
Pickleball is a deceptively fast paced game with many quick movements. By taking the time to properly warm up before playing you'll likely play at a higher level and help prevent injuries.
This is the warm up action plan we follow before playing:
Loosen Up Your Body
Start the warm up process by loosening up your joints and muscles. For example, reach up and touch the sky. Do a few gentle twists, lunges, bends to gently loosen the back, hips, arms, & legs. Raise up on your tip toes. Take a brisk walk a few times around the court.
When we start our warm up, we're simply performing a handful very basic movements to begin loosening up the body. At this point your muscles are cold so don't push it. You don't want to "stretch" just yet as this should be done only after your body is a bit more warmed up (as it is best not to stretch a cold muscle). Instead, we're simply some basic athletic movements to begin loosening up the body.
Take time to "check in" with your body to see how it feels. Notice any areas of tension or soreness so you can ensure you properly stretch and loosen through the rest of your warm up.
Get Your Heart Rate Up Via Light Jogging
After our walk and initial loosening up, we like to take a brief jog to get the heart rate elevated. Increasing the heart rate switches on the nervous system and tells your body to prepare for action (jogging "gets the blood flowing"). Typically this is just a 5 minute jog around a nearby park or open space. If indoors you can jog around the gym or even use an exercise bike.
Our pace is generally pretty slow but fast enough to get the heart rate elevated. Sometimes we work in "mini-sprints" where we increase the speed for a short stretch. This simulates the short lived but fast movement that often occurs during pickleball.
Do Dynamic Stretches
Your muscles should now be warmed up. Next, we like to perform dynamic stretching which involves continuous movement through a range of motion as opposed to holding static. We like to do big arm circles, leg kicks, body weight squats, core twists, knees to chest (while on back) and touching the toes to touching the sky. Dynamic stretching is believed to be more effective than static stretching where you hold one stretch for an extended period of time. If you can warm up and stretch daily (even on non-pickleball days) do so - that will help with injury prevention.
Do Balance Exercises
Losing your balance and falling over is a common way we've seen pickleballers get injured. This often happens when backing up for a ball. These situations most commonly arise on lob shots over your head. We perform balance exercises to help prepare our bodies for these shots. We like to do this by balancing on one leg (hold onto something sturdy to get your balance if necessary). Further, we like to walk backwards to simulate backing up on for a lob.
Lastly, we tip our heads up toward the sky to loosen the neck and ensure we don't feel lightheaded as a result of the change in blood flow.
P.S. We know many pickleballers love yoga as it helps with balance, core strength and flexibility (all positives that carry over to the pickleball court).
Warm-Up With Your Partner
Next, take a few minutes working through all the various shots you'll encounter in the game. We usually start up at the net with dinks and soft shots and gradually move back. Practice a few lobs and shots above your head. Simulating the shots and movements at a non-game speed will help get your body ready for play.
Know Your Limits
Be honest with yourself about your limits. It is easy to get overly aggressive in the heat of the moment. If a ball is too far out of reach, it may be best to let it go. Better to lose the point than injure yourself. Listen to your body... some days we "have it" and feel great moving around the court. Other days are more of a struggle. Listen to your body and respect what you hear!
Learn To Say "No"
Pickleball is fun and addicting. Many people play multiple times per week. The game is as much of a social activity as it is a fitness activity. It can be difficult to say "no" to your friends or pickleball group when you receive that phone call or text message asking you to play. If you're nursing an ailment or just need more time to recover from the last time you played don't be shy in saying "no". We all like to socialize with friends and hate to miss out on anything. Listen to your body. If you're not feeling up to it take a rain check!
Finally, please consult with your doctor if you have any health concerns or are uncertain if you should be playing pickleball.