Do you love to hit the backhand dink, volley or groundstroke? I sure do! The problem is that hitting too many backhand shots can quickly lead to pickleball elbow. The wrist extensor muscles on the back of the lower arm are usually much weaker than the flexors on the front. When weak muscles are asked to perform repetitive, quick movements, they are prone to fatigue and injury.
Preventing injury starts with how you swing. If you tend to be “wristy” with your backhands, then you are at high risk for developing tendinitis. Incorporating the elbow, shoulder and core muscles into your swing will take much stress off the forearm muscles. If you are having trouble determining what is good swing mechanics, consult with a pickleball coach or a physical therapist specialized in sports injuries. Changing your swing will take some practice and old habits die hard.
Strength training the wrist extensor and flexor muscles is very important. Keeping these muscles strong and flexible is vital for longevity on the courts. Flexing and extending the wrist with resistance for 30 repetitions during your normal gym or home workouts will help. If you don’t have a normal workout, then perform the wrist exercises 3-5x per week. The repetitions can be performed all at once or broken down into 2 sets of 15 repetitions or three sets of 10 repetitions. The movements should be slow and controlled, with a weight that is moderately challenging to complete 30 times. You cannot go wrong if you start with a pound or two and add weight to tolerance each session. If you use a weight that does not allow you to finish 30 repetitions, then reduce the weight.
Stretching the muscles on both sides of the forearm is very important before and after play and/or exercise. Straighten your arm in front of your body and flex the wrist using your other hand. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and perform 3 times. Perform the same hold times with the wrist extended.
Have fun with these exercises!