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    Experiment with These Practical Pilates Exercises to Embrace Your Pickleball Game

    Part of why pickleball’s popularity has been surging is that it feels, well, a bit easier than a sport like tennis. The court is smaller. The name is charming. The ball seems less intimidating. But with the surge of pickleball, there has also been an increase in pickleball-related injuries. The sport can subtly challenge your stamina, speed, agility, and balance.

    To stay safe on the court, consider cross-training to fortify your muscles with a gentle workout like Pilates. That’s why Shannon Willits, a proficient Pilates instructor for Club Pilates and a functional Pilates expert for golf & racquet sports, crafted a Pilates session tailored for pickleball enthusiasts.

    The routine is centered around functional movement sequences that you engage in during pickleball matches. “Squatting, lunging with stretches and twisting, and pivoting shifts to alter direction—it is crucial to enhance these functional abilities with an emphasis on flexibility, stability, and power, not only for enhanced performance but also to decrease the likelihood of injuries,” explains Willits.

    Why Pilates Aligns with pickleball

    While traditional resistance training can enhance your performance on the pickleball court, Willits mentions her preference for incorporating Pilates.

    “Ordinary resistance training usually reinforces the muscles from attachment to origin and concentrates on the contraction phase or shortening of the muscles,” notes Willits. However, pickleball necessitates the use of strength in various directions on the court, whether muscles are contracted or extended.

    “The Pilates approach strengthens the whole body through the core,” elucidates Willits. “The factors of control and alignment reflexively activate the core, which stabilizes the hips, spine, and shoulders, making it suitable for all, while fulfilling the strength demands specific to pickleball.”

    Willits adds that Pilates boosts the mind-body connection, subsequently enhancing your proprioception (also known as your awareness of your body and limbs in space). The better your proprioception, the more agile and coordinated you will be, decreasing the risk of stumbling when lunging or executing swift movements on the court.

    The suppleness you can attain through Pilates can also assist in preventing tumbles on the court as it allows you to move your body through the full range of motion in a fluid and nimble manner while sustaining your equilibrium. In particular, Willits suggests initiating a functional flexibility warm-up before playing—she provides a complimentary one at pilates-pickleball.com.

    Give these Pilates moves a shot for pickleball

    Willits enthusiastically advocates for incorporating Pilates exercise gear, like a springboard and EXO chair, in her Pilates sessions aimed at pickleball players. These tools further challenge your stability and core engagement.

    Nevertheless, if you lack access to these training implements, you can still carry out certain Pilates drills on the floor. Here are some functional Pilates and strengthening exercises we suggest for pickleball:

    Leg Scissors

    This stands out as one of the prime Pilates moves for pickleball enthusiasts as it mirrors the alternating leg rhythm on the court, all while enhancing your core and hip strength.

    • Recline on your back with your knees bent, feet planted flat on the floor, and core activated.
    • Utilize your abdominal muscles to elevate your right leg so that your hip and knee are bent at a 90-degree angle each, and your shin is parallel to the ground.
    • Gradually lower the right leg down, lightly touching the floor, while simultaneously elevating the left leg in the same manner for a reciprocal leg movement.
    • Maintain the 90-degree bend in your knees as you move your legs up and down. Avoid completely planting your foot on the ground with each repetition—simply tap it.
    • As you develop more core strength, progressively straighten your legs further so that your feet tap down farther away from your body.
    • Complete 10 to 12 repetitions per leg.

    Hollow Holds

    This drill boosts core and pelvic strength. Enhancing stability in your hips and core can enhance your balance on the court, particularly when executing side lunges or abrupt, cutting moves.

    • Lie on your back with your arms extended directly above your head.
    • Activate your core, and elevate your head, upper body, and lower body such that your body bends upward with your arms and legs forming a 45-degree angle to the floor.
    • Maintain this stance, breathing steadily for 20 to 30 seconds before releasing.

    Wide-legged Squats

    The wide-legged squat stance aids in refining your athletic posture for pickleball while fortifying your legs and core.

    • Position yourself with your feet slightly wider than the width of your shoulders, toes angled approximately 45 degrees outward, and hips rotated externally.
    • Inhale deeply, lowering your hips backwards as if easing your buttocks back to perch on a seat. Ensure your core is engaged, chest elevated, and back upright.
    • Exhale, firmly pushing through your heels to revert to the commencing stance.
    • Conduct 12 to 15 unhurried repetitions.

    Side Steps

    • Stand erect with proper posture and your feet separated at hip-width.
    • Take a sizable step out to the right with your right limb.
    • Lean towards this limb, bending so that you assume a side step. If you possess a Bosu ball, you can step across this limb onto the Bosu ball to heighten the challenge.
    • If you hold a light dumbbell, extend your right arm up and outward as you step into a lunge to strengthen your core and shoulders.
    • Complete 12 repetitions before switching sides.
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