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Side Hustle

Side Hustle

  • These lateral moves are designed to build flexibility and strength and give you better range of motion on the court.

Being able to move quickly and powerfully as you play will help you chase down balls and return tough shots. “And increased flexibility and range of motion is a big boost to your performance,” says Robert Dunn, pickleball coordinator at Life Time in Michigan, who has been playing the game for more than six years and teaching it for almost as long. “It also helps prevent injury.”

Dunn put together these five exercises that focus primarily on rotation and side to side movement. They hit all the important muscles you need when you play, including your stabilizer muscles, which help with balance, and work your legs, core, arms, and shoulders, he says. As a bonus, they also help build your cardio endurance.

Ideally, you should do these moves before you play to get your muscles ready for the game, according to Dunn. Otherwise, aim to perform the workout throughout the week whenever you have time. “The more you do this, the more flexible and stronger you’ll be,” he says.

1. PADDLE ROTATION

A. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a paddle straight out in front of you at waist height. Rotate your torso to the left while raising the paddle up and to the left, above shoulder level. 

B. Return to start, then rotate your torso to the right, bringing the paddle to your right side, keeping it at waist height. Repeat this entire sequence, doing 8 reps.

B. Return to start, then rotate your torso to the right, bringing the paddle to your right side, keeping it at waist height. Repeat this entire sequence, doing 8 reps.

C. Switch sides and rotate your torso to the right while raising the paddle up and to the right, above shoulder level.

D. Return to start, then rotate your torso to the left, bringing the paddle to your left side, keeping it at waist height. Repeat the entire sequence, doing 8 reps. Complete 3 sets of 8 reps on each side.

D. Return to start, then rotate your torso to the left, bringing the paddle to your left side, keeping it at waist height. Repeat the entire sequence, doing 8 reps. Complete 3 sets of 8 reps on each side.

2. SKATER

A. Start with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, knees bent into a slight squat, and arms bent at your sides. Jump sideways to the right onto your right leg, swinging your left arm in front of you, and bringing your left leg behind you (don’t let your foot touch the floor, if possible).

B. Jump sideways to the left onto your left leg, swinging your right arm in front of you, bringing your right leg behind you.

B. Jump sideways to the left onto your left leg, swinging your right arm in front of you, bringing your right leg behind you.

C. Continue to switch legs and arms like a speed skater. Do 8 reps on each side, and complete 3 sets.

3. SHUFFLE SQUAT

A. Place a resistance band around your ankles and stand with legs slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Hinge slightly at the hips, keeping your chest and chin up and your back straight, and bend your knees into a squat position.

A. Place a resistance band around your ankles and stand with legs slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Hinge slightly at the hips, keeping your chest and chin up and your back straight, and bend your knees into a squat position.

B. Step out to the right with your right foot, and follow with your left foot. Continue shuffling to the right, then reverse and shuffle to the left. Do 8 reps in each direction, and complete 3 sets.

4. FRANKENSTEIN WALK

Stand with arms at sides. Lift your left arm behind you and walk forward, raising your right leg so that it’s parallel to the floor. Windmill or circle your left arm in front of you to touch your right foot with your left hand. Switch arms and legs and repeat as you keep walking. Do 8 reps on each leg, and complete 3 sets. 

Stand with arms at sides. Lift your left arm behind you and walk forward, raising your right leg so that it’s parallel to the floor. Windmill or circle your left arm in front of you to touch your right foot with your left hand. Switch arms and legs and repeat as you keep walking. Do 8 reps on each leg, and complete 3 sets. 

5. GRAPEVINE

A. Stand with legs side by side, your arms at shoulder height, elbows out. At a quick pace, move sideways, crossing your feet in front of and behind each other, alternating which foot is behind and which is in front.

B. Keep moving sideways like this for 30 feet (or whatever your space will allow). Then repeat in the opposite direction. You can start slow and build your pace—the faster you go, the more intense the move. Do 3 reps in each direction.

B. Keep moving sideways like this for 30 feet (or whatever your space will allow). Then repeat in the opposite direction. You can start slow and build your pace—the faster you go, the more intense the move. Do 3 reps in each direction.

MODEL: ADRIAN CHEN FOR BELLA AGENCY. MANDUKA TEE, REEBOK SHORTS, ON SNEAKERS


GARY A. PATTEE, M.D. is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and a motorcycle-racing enthusiast. 

DOC TALK : Muscle Flexibility

Orthopedic surgeon Gary A. Pattee, M.D., explains the mechanics of muscle flexibility.

Much of the movement on the pickleball court is lateral, and rapid changes in direction are crucial to execute a shot. Strong lateral movement also improves balance, rotational strength, and the ability to react quickly. Sport-specific exercises (like the ones here) that strengthen muscle groups across multiple joints (“the kinetic chain”) can improve a player’s performance and reduce injury risk. 

But what about flexibility—how important is that? Most of us have heard that stretching is essential for joint mobility and improved athletic performance. However, there are many conflicting reports in the medical literature about the physiology of stretching and its benefits. What studies over the past several years have consistently shown is that the gain we get in flexibility after stretching is not from a lengthening of muscle fibers, but due to the body perceiving less discomfort at the end range of motion. In other words, we become desensitized and feel more flexible, which may help improve performance.

The bottom line: Work on improving your lateral mobility to quickly get to the ball safely. And try a little stretching before and after your game because you’ll feel better, which means you’ll play better. Pregame, the stretching you do should be mainly dynamic—using your muscles to take a joint through a full range of motion, such as leg pendulum swings. After a game, do static stretching—holding a stretch at the end range of joint motion, staying below the threshold of pain. A gentle stretch, held for about 30 seconds and repeated two to three times, seems to work for most people.

PORTRAIT ILLUSTRATION BY NIGEL BUCHANAN

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