So you grab a partner for a quick warm up. Dink a few balls, serve a few, do some overhead smashes and third shot drops. Then, you proceed to play, BUT are you actually warmed up? Did you STRETCH?
It seems as though stretching has gone from a must-do before exercise, to a must-do after exercise to a forgotten exercise. However, I feel stretching is an effective injury-prevention practice. It's crucial to do at any age and at any level of athleticism.
A proper warm-up before your activity is the best way to reduce the risk of injury.
It's important to define “stretching” because static, dynamic, and ballistic stretching each differ from one another. Also, how trainers utilize stretching in training or pre-competition may be different as well. Dynamic stretching has been the accepted approach to flexibility, while static stretching has been largely used in yoga and is very safe and effective.
Any stretch is only as good as the stability exercise that follows it. So, the best way to use stretching as part of an injury-prevention program is to either stretch (mobilize) and then strengthen (stabilize) a joint or perform exercises that use both mobility and stability.
Improving mobility allows for better positioning, which allows for enhanced movement, which leads to improved coordination, power and strength, and decreased risk of injury.
The following exercises target areas of need for most people: calves, hips and posterior chain (hamstrings and spine). You can do these stretches anywhere in your home or near the courts and it doesn't take long to do them.
Prone Calf Stretch
In a prone position, place the left foot over the right heel. Walk the hands toward the feet and stick the hips in the air until the right foot is completely flat on the floor. Keep the right heel down and the right knee straight. Slowly rock the hips from side to side, keeping the right heel down. Drive 10 times to each side and repeat on the left leg.
Modifications: Hands against a wall; hands on 12-24” box; slightly bent knee.
Kneeling Hip Stretch
In a half-kneeling position, reach the arms overhead while pushing the hips slightly forward (keep the thigh perpendicular to the floor). Complete five to 10 overhead arm drives and then reach over the right shoulder and the left shoulder, five to 10 times on each side. Repeat on the other side.
Modifications: Place hands on the hips (if you experience low-back pain); prop the rear foot onto a 12” box or chair.
Spiderman With a Twist
Start in a push-up position. Bring the right foot to the outside of the right hand. Keep the right foot completely flat and the left leg completely extended. Slowly drive the hips from side to side five to 10 times each. Rest the left knee on the floor and reach the left arm up and back. Hold for a 2-count and bring it back to the floor. Reach the right arm up and back and hold for a 2-count. Next, walk both hands forward (keeping he right foot in place) until you are back to a push-up position. Repeat on the left side and complete five reps (or cover 10-15 yards).
Modifications: Thread the needle pose, Supine spinal twist with legs crossed.
Hold onto a wall or fence with the left hand while balancing on the left foot. Point the right toes forward, but keep the foot relaxed. Swing the right leg forward (driving from the hips) 10 times. Repeat with the right toes pointed outward and again with the toes pointed inward. Face the other way and repeat on the left side.
Modifications: Lying on the floor, Supine hamstring stretch.
Try these stretches before your next pickleball play or activity. You may prevent an unwanted injury and we all know that when you are recovering from an injury, it takes time and patience. Good luck!