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Pilates for Pickleball

Pilates for Pickleball

  • 5 Moves to help increase your mobility, strengthen your core, and improve your pickleball game.
InPickleball Issue 1 | On the Bounce | Peak Performance | Pilates for Pickleball | Pickleball

A Pilates expert for more than two decades, Shannon Willits has carved out a niche training aspiring and pro tennis and golf players from her Club Pilates studios in Ft. Myers, Florida. Her clients began taking up pickleball, and she knew just how to help them harness their full potential: with a conditioning program, called Pilates for Pickleball, that aims to prevent injury and improve performance on the court. “Pickleball is an easy sport to love, but there are a lot of quick movements, and that’s where the injuries [can] come in,” Willits says. Master these five moves (eight to 10 reps each, demonstrated here by model Maria Clifton) to work toward better balance, joint mobility, endurance, and strength in your game. 

 1. FENCER’S LUNGE

This coordinated lunge incorporates functional movements, like reaches and twists, that focus on control and let players move through rotation more efficiently, which can help prevent many common injuries. Standing with legs together, step left while reaching your left arm up and your right arm out to the side. Return to the center and repeat on the other side.

2. STANDING CAT STRETCH 

This stretch facilitates core strength, helping players maintain a more neutral spine and develop better rotational control. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and your knees bent, with hands resting on your thighs and a neutral spine. Inhale. 

A. On the exhale, begin to engage the abdominals as you rotate the tailbone under, articulating the spine into a round back, like an angry cat, and reach the arms forward as the spine flexes.

A. On the exhale, begin to engage the abdominals as you rotate the tailbone under, articulating the spine into a round back, like an angry cat, and reach the arms forward as the spine flexes.

B. Now rock backward while straightening the front leg and bending the back leg, maintaining a neutral spine and lengthening the hamstring.

3. ROCKING HORSE

A. Stand in a forward-facing split stance, then rock toward the front, moving the pelvis forward and straightening the back leg while lengthening the hip flexor.

B. Now rock backward while straightening the front leg and bending the back leg, maintaining a neutral spine and lengthening the hamstring.

4. STANDING MERMAID SIDE BEND

This pose helps the hips, spine, and shoulders move more freely. Start by standing with your legs hip-width apart, then cross your left foot over your right, reaching your right arm overhead while laterally flexing the spine. Repeat on the other side.

5. ROTATIONAL LUNGE

Add arm swings to this lunge to prepare your body and create muscle memory for real play. Standing in a split stance with your right foot forward and your left foot back, reach your left hand back on the diagonal, then reach that same hand across and over your right knee while bending that knee, as if hitting a shot. Reverse your stance, step your left foot forward, and repeat the same arm swing with your right hand. 

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