Pickleball puts a lot of strain on your elbow, which is why many players experience pickleball elbow at some point in their playing career.
When playing, you ask a lot of your dominant arm. When hitting forehands and backhands, you need wrist flexibility to execute them properly. When hitting drives, you ask a lot of your shoulder and bicep.
If your muscular systems aren’t ready to execute these shots properly, it can put undue strain on your elbow. That’s why it’s important to build up your arm strength in the muscles around your elbow to protect it.
In this Selkirk TV episode, Certified Teaching Pro & NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist Dustin Davis shares several exercises to help prepare the muscles in your arm for pickleball. Complete these exercises two times a day to improve your arm strength.
Move 1: Resistance band bicep curls
Grab a resistance band and place it under one of your feet about equidistant from each end. Grab one end in your right hand and complete a bicep curl, keeping your elbow stationary and tucked to your side.
If the curl is too easy, shorten the distance between your foot and your hand on the band. If it is too hard, lengthen the distance.
Once you have the appropriate strength level, complete another bicep curl, but this time, hold the curl at the top for five seconds. As you hold the curl, make sure you feel the exercise in your bicep and not your shoulder. If you feel it in your shoulder, release the tension, relax your shoulders down away from your neck, and try again.
After you hold for five seconds, complete five bicep curls without pausing at the top. Then, hold for four seconds at the top followed by four bicep curls. Continue this pattern for three seconds, two seconds, and one second.
You can try holding your hand in different positions to activate both bicep muscles. Complete some traditional curls with your palm facing your chest and some in a hammer curl position, with your right palm facing the wall to your left.
Once you complete the whole pattern on your right arm, switch to the left and repeat.
Move 2: Resistance band tricep extensions
Stand in a staggered position with your left foot in front of you. Place your resistance band under your left foot, with more band length on the right side.
Grab one end in each hand and hinge forward, place most of your weight on your left leg. You can rest your left hand on your left leg if you like.
Bring the resistance band in your right hand to the bottom of your rib cage, keeping your elbow tucked toward your body. Slowly extend your behind you, ensuring that your pinky leads the motion and your elbow stays still.
Again, feel out the strength of the band and adjust as needed. When you find a good strength, complete the ladder pattern, starting at a five-second hold followed by five tricep extensions, and working your way down to one. Repeat on the other side.
If at any point you feel the exercise in your neck or shoulder, loosen the band to a more manageable resistance level.
Move 3: Forearm strengthening with a resistance band
To target the forearms, start with one foot on the band about equidistant to both ends. Grab one end with each hand.
With your right arm bent at a 90-degree angle and your elbow tucked to the side, hold the band with your palm facing the ground. Now, slowly lift your palm to face your knuckles to the roof. Then, slowly lower to face your knuckles to the ground.
Take note of the resistance level and adjust accordingly. Once you find the correct resistance level, lift the band to point your knuckles to the roof and hold for five seconds. Then lower and raise five times. Continue this pattern down to one second and repeat on the other hand.
Remember, your elbow should remain stable the entire time. If you find more of your arm is moving than just your wrist, let out some of the tension on the band.
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