One of the largest muscle groups used while playing pickleball is those surrounding your shoulder. This is because every shot completed on the court is driven by the shoulder muscles.
As such, it is very common for pickleballers to feel soreness and tightness in the shoulder muscles after playing.
In this new Selkirk TV episode, Certified Teaching Pro & NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist Dustin Davis walks viewers through how to ensure healthy shoulders with on- and off-court exercises.
How to avoid shoulder pain while playing pickleball
Your shoulder will see a lot of motion while playing pickleball — that’s natural. And while you can’t help the repetitive nature of the game, you can ensure you’re moving properly to avoid injury.
While on the court, you should keep your chest up nice and tall, even when squatting to hit dinks. It’s also important to keep your shoulder pulled down away from your ear.
When you reach up to hit an overhead shot, ensure your shoulder isn’t scrunching up toward your ear. This can cause neck pain or injury and puts an additional, unnecessary load on your shoulder.
Believe it or not, your non-dominant hand is also integral to ensuring your dominant shoulder is safe. When making a shot, your hands tend to meet in the middle. So, if your non-dominant hand is kept low while you are making an overhead, your dominant hand has a lot further distance to travel after the shot is made.
Instead, you should bring your non-dominant hand up above your shoulder. Not only can you use your non-dominant hand as a guide to help you hit the ball, but it also ensures that both your shoulders are on the same plane of motion, which helps you avoid unnaturally twisting your dominant shoulder.
Stretching and strengthening your shoulder for pickleball
Even following best practices, you may still experience shoulder pain or tenderness when off the court. When you’re not playing, it’s important to take the time to address the muscle groups that can affect your shoulder pain.
Here are a few key exercises to help alleviate shoulder pain — and all you need is a pickleball!
Move 1: Relaxing your chest muscles with a pickleball
Grab your pickleball and head to the ground. While lying flat on your stomach, place the pickleball on your pectoral muscle, or chest, just to the inside of your right shoulder. Extend your right arm out to the side.
Roll gently on top of the ball until you find a tender spot. Once you find a spot, hold in place. Now, begin moving your right arm up and down to find the most tender spot.
Now, keep your right arm where it is and lean into the tender area by twisting toward your left, using your left arm for support. As you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, begin moving your right arm again to see if you can extend your range of motion.
Move 2: Stretching your chest muscles
Now that you have relieved the tension, it’s time to stretch your chest so that you can further lengthen the muscles.
Sit up on your knees in front of your couch or a low chair. Extend your right arm back behind you with your thumb facing up. Grab onto the arm of the couch or chair and slowly turn your torso away from your arm.
Notice where you are feeling the stretch. If it’s in your shoulder, you may need to elevate yourself. Can you lift taller on your knees? If not, stand up and head to a doorframe where you can lower your arm to help stretch properly. You should feel the stretch in your chest muscles.
Hold for at least 30 seconds, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Move 3: Massaging back tension with a pickleball
After relieving the pain in the front of your body, you need to alleviate your back pain so that your body is balanced.
Grab your pickleball and lie down on your back with your knees bent upward. Place the pickleball behind your back, close to your right shoulder blade.
Again, begin rolling gently to find a tender area. Once you find a tender area, extend your right arm over your head. Slowly make a half circle down to your waist, exploring where it is most tender.
Keep your arm extended in the most tender area and hold for at least 30 seconds before moving on to another tender area.
Move 4: How to stretch your lat muscles
Sit on your hands and knees about arms distance away from a low piece of furniture, such as a coffee table. Place your hands on the table and begin leaning backward to lower your body toward the floor.
Once you have lowered your body, tilt your hips forward to engage your core and glutes. This will deepen the stretch into your lats.
Move 5: Stretching your shoulder and upper back
Head back to the ground and lie down on your stomach. Bring your right arm under your chest and stretch it to the left side of your body, with your palm facing up.
Use your left hand to help you rotate gently toward the shoulder that is on the ground. Hold for at least 30 seconds while focusing on your breathing.
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