Pickleball comes with its share of fun and excitement, but as with any sport, there’s the not-so-unlikely opportunity for injury. For 30 years, physical therapist Randy Bauer of Orange County, California, has been helping pickleball players of all levels improve their game and avoid harming themselves in the process. His best advice? Prioritize strength, mobility, flexibility, and endurance that specifically target the muscles and motions used during pickleball play.
These exercises can be performed prior to a game but also as a component of your overall training regimen. “The goal is to maximize the preparedness of the body for the demands of pickleball,” Bauer says. (As always, he notes, if you experience joint or muscle pain, consult with a health care provider for a checkup.)
Here are Bauer’s top six moves for pickleball prep and recovery.
1. Hip adductor stretch
Keeping your legs apart, lean to one side with both hands on one knee, a bench, or a chair in front of you. You should feel the stretch on the inside of the opposite hip and thigh. Repeat two to three times on each side, holding for 15 to 20 seconds.
2. Squat Stretch
Holding on to a fence or a stationary post, squat down with a neutral spine—don’t round your back. Stretch your hips, knees, and ankles while supporting your body weight with your arms.
3. Scapular Circles
A. Bring your elbows and forearms together so they’re aligned.
B. Open your elbows as you reach overhead, keeping your palms together.
C. When your arms are fully extended overhead, open your hands and slowly
pull your elbows down toward your hips. As you lower your elbows, pull
down the shoulder blades and squeeze them together.
4. Lateral side bending
Lean to the right with your left arm reaching overhead, right hand on hip. Switch arms and lean to the left, repeating the movement five times on each side for better spine mobility.
The goal is to maximize the preparedness of the body for the demands of pickleball.”
5. Back Extension
To improve the spine’s range of motion, place your hands on your lower back, open your chest, and arch backward. Perform five times.
6. Hip and Thigh Stretch
Supporting yourself with your hand on the floor or a bench, stretch the front of the hip and thigh. Hold for 20 seconds, two to three times on each side.