Spring Training: How to Prepare for Pickleball

            The Northern Virginia area has recently seen an explosion of participation in Pickleball. This recreational activity is a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong open to people of all ages. It’s relatively easy to learn, has a low cost of entry, and is a great social and physical activity.  Here at AIM, we work with a lot of clients who are passionate about Pickleball! They love the brain-building challenge of learning a new skill, the exercise that’s fun and enjoyable, and the friends they meet. Our primary mission at AIM is to help everyone participate in exercise so they can reap the health benefits that include a longer and better quality of life. This means keeping all of our Pickleball players in the game as long as possible so they can live long, healthy lives.

            As the weather has begun warming, the excitement to transition to outdoor Pickleball play is taking off. Pickleball clinics are getting underway and summer tournament dates are being announced. If you’re interested in trying out this popular activity this spring, or if you’ve played all winter and want to increase your playing time, it’s important to make sure your body is prepared. While Pickleball is considered to be a low impact sport, injuries are common, especially to the feet, ankles, knees, shoulders, and wrists. If you want to stay in the game all summer long, read on for 4 ways we suggest preparing your body for Pickleball.


1.      Perform exercises specifically for your feet

            Pickleball requires you to move from side to side as well as from front to back on the court. If your ankles and feet are not strong, it’s easy to roll an ankle, lose your balance, and fall.  In fact, the most common Pickleball injury is a broken wrist due to falling.  The second most common injuries are all related to the feet and ankles. Both the issue of falling and the frequency of ankle/foot injuries could simply be mitigated by regularly performing exercises that strengthen the muscles of the toes, feet, and ankles. When the muscles of your feet and ankles are strong you are less likely to experience plantar fasciitis, heel spurs/pain, Achilles’ tendon issues, and most importantly, you are less likely to fall since you have more stability. If you are unfamiliar with exercises designed to improve these areas, check out our video here to see a sampling of exercises then contact us for a full lower leg evaluation and we’ll create a custom routine just for your feet.


2. Tune Up Your Muscular System with Muscle Activation Techniques™

            Muscle Activation Techniques™ is a unique tool used by the best athletes in the world from professional golfers, Olympians, MLB players, and football players in the NFL. They know that in order to play their best, their neuromuscular system needs to be functioning optimally. You may be thinking, “I’m not a professional Pickleball player so why should I use MAT™?” MAT™ is a unique tool that can locate poor performing muscles that are the underlying cause of muscle imbalances and compensations. Often these compensations, if not addressed, cause symptoms such as muscle tightness, pain, and weakness. If the situation continues unresolved, this can eventually lead to an injury that sidelines you from playing for weeks or months. If you play regularly, we recommend getting a Muscle Activation Techniques™ session once a month to proactively catch any neuromuscular issues so you can continue to play symptom free and avoid injuries.

            Already have an existing injury or are you experiencing symptoms after playing too much? Another reason professional athletes rely on MAT™ is because it helps speed up recovery so they can get back in the game.

            If you’d like to learn more about MAT™, check out a few of our past articles here or contact us for a free assessment.  You can also locate a Muscle Activation Techniques™ Specialist in your area by clicking here.


3. Regularly perform Resistance Training

            Strong muscles are muscles that are able to tolerate the motions and positions needed for our activities. This means more serves, more twisting motions at the spine, more quick motions, more games, etc., all without pain or injuries. Resistance training, done appropriately, builds a more resilient body that is less likely to experience injuries, overtraining, and even falls. Strong muscles built from resistance training also keep your joints healthy, helping you to avoid more wear and tear (aka arthritis) so you can keep playing Pickleball for years to come. Another benefit of resistance training is its ability to help build stronger bones; an important fact if a fall were to occur.

            With all these incredible benefits, we believe it’s worth it to include 2-3 times per week of this cross-training form with your Pickleball play. If you’re not sure how to safely lift weights, look for a certified personal trainer in your area or contact us and we’ll help you learn how to include resistance training into your weekly routine.


4. Incorporate Dynamic or Power Exercises

            A Pickleball player needs to possess power. Maybe not the same amount as a power lifter or an offensive lineman, but there are times during the game that require the player to be both strong and fast. We addressed the strength issue by recommending regular resistance training, but the element of speed should also be addressed through dynamic exercises. While injuries can occur when the muscular system breaks down, injuries can also occur when we try to move faster than what our body can tolerate.  For example, reaching quickly to hit a ball and rotating faster than your trunk muscles are able to handle can result in a painful lower back. Appropriate dynamic exercises and exercise machines can help prepare your body to be more powerful on the court.

Dynamic exercise can also include exercises to improve reaction time, or the time to takes to react to a stimulus or action. This is different than a reflex which involved the central nervous system, but does not involve the brain. Reaction training does involve both the brain and the central nervous system and has been shown to improve reaction timing in sports. A knowledgeable personal trainer should be able to help you incorporate a safe series of dynamic and power exercises during your workout.



As the spring Pickleball season begins, we wish all of you the best of luck for a successful, healthy season ahead!