Pickleball’s secret to winning more and getting hurt less


Pickleball is a racket sport that creates a lot of imbalances. It uses the same arm and hand to strike and requires quick pivoting. There’s a lot of footwork starting and stopping, hard court impact, and repetitive core rotation. It can be hard on rotator cuffs, wrists, elbows, knees and hips. This can quickly spoil the fun for an athlete who doesn’t know how to counter these effects.

We asked Polestar Certified Pilates Master Instructor Kristin Anderson to share her thoughts on how Pilates can help pickleball players.

A little about Kristin: Her athletic background is that of a competitive figure skater. Figure skating requires focusing on many aspects of fitness – in addition to nutrition, psychology, and recovery – if you want to be successful.

Kristin approaches many aspects of her life with this vision, integrating whole-body health into teaching and training. Not only does variety perform better with fewer injuries, but it also avoids feelings of boredom and unnecessary plateaus that can result.

Along with teaching and training, Kristin enjoys inventing fitness products and apps. His latest is The Pilates Wheel, which you can find at trypilateswheel.com, and his app, PilatesWheelDigital.com. Check it out!

Here is his take on pickleball and Pilates:

Pilates basically involves tightening your stomach or core, first, then using your muscles to perform a movement with an emphasis on postural alignment and precision. This is achieved by keeping your stomach tight and engaged, shoulders down and back and ribs up during the concentric and eccentric portions of a movement, giving you control of your body through every step of the exercise.

This controlled engagement is what creates that long, lean effect while breaking down muscle fibers to gain strength. This is also why Pilates develops body sense, balance, joint mobility, strength, core strength and stability in the frequent practitioner.

Pilates can be practiced standing on a mat or with equipment. Since it is a methodology, it can be practiced in different ways while gaining or maintaining the same benefits.

Thinking of pickleball, if you don’t have good postural alignment, rotation is impossible and injury is imminent.

Fortunately, the Pilates methodology is also increasingly well known and popular and is the perfect solution to these problems!

So how much Pilates should a player do to stay healthy? Suppose your nutrition and hydration are good.

I recommend one 45 minute session, or two 20 minute sessions for every 6 hours of pickleball played (not in a row, but in total). On top of that, a three-move warm-up and three-move cool-down every time you’re on the court will give you more balance and alignment than you might think.

Try these 90-second warm-up and cool-down sequences the next time you play. Your physical and mental state will improve immediately after just one attempt. You may find that it helps the rest of your day and your attitude as well.

I suggest a standing 100 warm-up (5-10 long breaths), standing spine twists (double twist 4 times on each side), and frog jumps (10-20 jumps). For a cooldown, try the standing paddle twist (4x each side), the seated 100s (5-10 long breaths), the seated hip stretch (5 breaths from each hip), in the twist of the seated spine on either side and a few swinging shoulder crossovers (6 in total alternating which arm is on top). Instructions for each are below

Standing 100s – How To:

Standing 100s.
  1. Inhale for 5 seconds raising your arms to the sky. Keep your heels planted and your belly tucked in.
  2. Exhale for 5 seconds while pressing your arms straight behind you, palms up, weight on the soles of your feet. Keep your stomach tucked in. Repeat for three to five full inhales/exhales.

Standing Spine Twist – How To:

Standing twist of the spine.
  1. Make a goal post shape with your arms. Keep your hips and toes pointing forward the entire time, countering the movement of the torso with your abs and obliques.
  2. Inhale as you face forward, then do a double exhale as you twist to the right, then inhale as you return through the center.
  3. Exhale twice as you turn left.
  4. Repeat two to four times on each side.

Frog squat — Instructions:

Frog squats.
  1. With your hands on your shoulders (shown in the photo) or in front of you, or with your paddle in hand, swing both legs outward and lower them into a sumo squat position with your feet wide apart and feet turned outwards.
  2. Then do a small jump and land in the sumo-squat or just straighten up and bend your knees without jumping.
  3. Repeat five to 10 times.

Stand Up Paddle Twist – How To:

Stand up paddle twist.
  1. Hold your paddle at each end, keeping your stomach tight.
  2. Inhale while turning right, exhale while turning left.
  3. Repeat three times on each side, squeezing the paddle a little tighter or softer each time.

Seated Hip Stretch in Spinal Twist — How To:

Sitting hip stretch.
  1. Start sitting up straight with your stomach tight and your spine straight, with one hand on your ankle and one on the knee of the same leg
  2. Inhale, then exhale as you bend forward.
  3. Come back
  4. Repeat this operation two more times.
  5. Next, use your core to keep your legs in this figure 4 shape, hip stretch position and inhale, while twisting your torso to one side. Touch the back of the chair, then exhale and go the other way.
  6. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.

Hundreds of seats — Instructions for use:

  1. Inhale for 5 seconds and raise your arms
  2. Exhale for 5 seconds, lower your arms.
  3. Repeat three to five times.

Easy Shoulder Swing — How To:

Easy shoulder swing.
  1. As you inhale, let your arms open, below shoulder height. Keep your abs tight.
  2. Exhale and let them swing across your chest. One will be on top. Keep changing.
  3. Repeat three to five times.

Bonus: let others see you and participate in your warm-up and cool-down. It will give you a sense of responsibility and your friends will be grateful and impressed with their new abilities.

Do you have a question or a comment? Email us at [email protected]

Pickleball columnist Mary Barsaleau in Palm Springs, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2021.
Julie Makinen is the editor of The Desert Sun.

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