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This Five-Minute Warm-Up Could Boost Your Pickleball or Tennis Game

August 17, 2023

A cold muscle is a muscle at risk. But for recreational athletes, warm-ups sometimes take a back seat.

If you’re playing a fast-paced sport like pickleball or tennis, skipping the warm-up can hurt more than just your performance – it could result in an injury.

“For all sports that involve twisting, pivoting, short sprints and quick stops like pickleball, tennis, basketball, and soccer it’s very important to warm up and stretch before playing. This reduces the risks of muscle and tendon injury like Achilles tendon ruptures, back strain, and hamstring pulls,” says Alan Reznik, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at MidState Medical Center that specializes in sports medicine and sports related injuries.

Dr. Reznik explains why warming up keeps you healthy, and offers a five-minute routine to get you in competition mode.

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Warming up doesn’t just prevent injury – it helps you perform better.

Jumping right into a game can be tempting, but your body won’t be ready to perform optimally. This can cause a litany of injuries including cramps, strains and stiffness.

Just engaging in some light cardio exercise before starting raises the heart rate, increases blood flow and oxygenates muscles – which in turn leads to improved physical performance.

A full warm-up offers:

  • Heightened reflexes
  • Improved agility
  • Increased endurance

> Related: Pickleball Is Growing Fast, and So Are the Injuries

How long should you warm up?

Reznik says this really depends on your age and intensity of play.

  • Competitive athletes at a high level will spend more than 20 minutes warming up.
  • Most average players should take 5-10 minutes to warm up.
  • Older player may need a longer time at a lower intensity than younger players.

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A five minute warm-up to boost your pickleball or tennis game.

Reznik says you should first start with a brisk walk or jog until warmed, then:

  • Neck stretches: Gently tilt your head side to side and hold for 15-20 seconds. Then, slowly roll your head in a circular motion, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
  • Shoulder stretches: Extend one arm at a time across your chest and use your other arm to gently pull it closer to your body and hold for 15-20 seconds. Rolling your shoulders in a circular motion will also help warm up your joints.
  • Arm and wrist stretches: Extend one arm straight in front of you, palm facing up, and use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back towards your body. For wrist stretches, extend one arm straight in front of you, palm facing down, and use your other hand to gently pull your fingers towards the ground.
  • Leg (quad) stretches: Perform standing quad stretches by standing straight, bending one knee, and bringing your foot towards your glutes and hold for 15-20 seconds before you switch sides.
  • Calf stretches: Lean against a wall, placing one foot forward with a slight bend in the knee, and pressing the heel of the back foot into the ground, hold for 15-20 seconds and then switch legs.
  • Core stretches: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, raise your arms overhead, and lean gently to one side, feeling a stretch along your side for 15-20 seconds.

And don’t forget the cool down.

Once the games over, don’t hop right in the car – take the time to cool down.

“If the game is intense, then cooling off may mean drinking fluids, moving to a cooler place and walking off the muscle soreness (lactic acid build up) in the muscles. Cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of preexercise heart rate and blood pressure,” says Reznik.