Stretches for Pickleball

The Fastest Growing Sport

Pickleball popularity grew 159% in 3 years. As of 2022 there were 8.9 million people playing pickleball. It's a combination of tennis, badmiten and pingpong. It's played on a smaller court than tennis and the ball moves slower so it allows people of all ages to play. Most pickleball injuries happen in people over 50 years old. 

Just as tennis elbow is one of the most common injuries for tennis, the same injury (referred to as pickleball elbow) is very common with pickleball. In addition to that, muscle strains, back strains, ankle strains and rotator cuff injuries are also very common. 

Staying active is huge to keep your body healthy and happy... and your mind too. We all know this and experience it, so it's no surprise that this fun and active sport is taking off among the young and old. However, at Bendable Body we like to say, you can only spend the money you have. Of course some people do spend more than they have, go into debt, and it catches up with them eventually in a very unpleasant way. The same is true for the body. You can only use the body you have. 

What does this mean exactly? The prevalent belief out there is that using your body - exercising in other words - is what keeps you mobile, supple and strong. The truth is it's not that black and white. There are a number of factors that determine the health of your body. 

  • Your genetics. The kind of body you were born with, not the one you developed. 
  • How you move your body. Do you defer to how your body wants to move and is able to move and push it incrementally from that starting point or do you control your body and impose your will over it excessively. 
  • Injuries that have occurred over the course of your lifetime. 
  • Lastly, you may think that a life long 'couch potato' is going to be much more physically worse off than someone who has spent their life exercising regularly. That's not necessarily true. The couch potato might not have made any progress but they also might not have done too much damage. Verses the 'exerciser' (depending on how they were exercising) may have so many injuries and poor biomechanics that it would take much longer to repair than it would take the couch potato to develop.   

What does this mean for you? If you want to play pickleball (or any sport) and use it to develop your body and health, you need to add in some resistance stretching to your daily routine. You also need to pay attention to how your body feels when you are playing and defer to the movements that feel good and natural, but also challenging, as opposed to challenging and painful.

The 5 Best Stretches for Pickleball

Just a quick reminder - at Bendable Body we name stretches by the organ and meridian they impact. For any sport it is important to address the body as a whole and stretch all 16 muscle groups in the upper and lower body on a regular basis. Also, it's valuable to identify your specific weak and tight muscle groups. Even if an area in the body is not specifically associated with or used the most with the sport you are doing, if that area is a problem for you specifically, it will probably continue to be when you play your sport. Specific sports do however tend to create specific injuries. The following list covers the major areas of the body that tend to get over use and experience injury during pickleball. These stretches will also increase your pickleball game performance specifically, even if you aren't dealing with an injury. 

Stretches 1 & 2 - Helps movement on the court; back strain; ankle strain

  • Gall Bladder stretches for the outside of the thighs - the IT Band (Anterior gluteus medius, iliotibial band, tensor fascia latae) 
  • Bladder stretches for the back outside of the legs - lateral hamstring (gluteus maximus, biceps
    femoris, and gastrocnemius) 

The Gall Bladder muscle group (IT band) when healthy and functioning well, allows you turn your body with ease. This makes forehands and backhands easier because you can get your body in a better position to hit the ball. It also gives you more stability while moving and helps with low back pain.

The Bladder muscle group (lateral hamstring) helps with ankle and back pain. Since this muscle group impacts pelvis movement more than any other, the forward pitch in the pelvis will improve - which will improve your general movement on the court.

Stretches 3 & 4 - Helps the rotator cuff and elbow

  • Heart stretches for the chest and biceps (pectoralis major, biceps brachii, brachialis)
  • Small Intestine stretches for the back of the shoulders and back of the arms (Infraspinatus, teres minor, and supraspinatus)

When you swing the pickleball racket, your entire arm and primary joints (wrist, elbow, shoulder joint and shoulder girdle) are all involved in the swing. Injury and strain seems to predominantly show up at the elbow and in the rotator cuff. Heart and Small Intestine stretches will strengthen your shoulder and improve flexibility and help with power and accuracy. These stretches will also take stress off of the elbow joint specifically and help with pickleball elbow and rotator cuff issues. 

Stretch 5 - Helps the shoulder girdle and your swing

  • Thymus stretches for the lateral hamstring (upper trapezius, triceps brachii, supraspinatus)

The Thymus muscle group includes the back of the neck and the shoulder. Stretching this muscle group with resistance improves flexibility and strength in the shoulder girdle allowing ease of movement with both forehand and backhand shots.

3 thoughts on “Stretches for Pickleball”

  1. Great stretches for loosening up. Didn’t realize I was carrying so much tension and stiffness until it wasn’t there.

  2. Though I don’t play pickle ball, the shoulder injury I deal with was caused by overextending my arm while backhanding a piece of freshly split firewood onto the woodpile. Other aspects of life exaserbate the injury. Some of the bendable stretches have been helping me sleep by keeping the shoulder from twinging me awake in the night. These make the shoulder feel relaxed in a different way. I’m not at a place where I get down on a mat, but I have an “overstuffed” chair with rounded upholstered arms that come to my ribs when I sit in it. I can press my arms into those to resist and move.
    I’m learning that the measure of success is different than in previous ways of stretching. It isn’t about further, faster, more. Today I might do ten reps, tomorrow only four. That isn’t going backward. I can vary resistance, reps, sets, and still be ahead of where I’ve been. That flexability is motivating.

    1. Hi Yolana, This is great to read. For every muscle group there is a standing or seated version and you can get amazing results if you resist maximally – that is the ticket. Keep up the good work and keep us in the loop.

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