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Friday, June 22, 2018

Pickleball Performance Training - Importance of Warming Up

It's all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you're properly trained...

I wrote a post several months ago on a new pickleball performance training developed by Nate Littauer of Xcel. As the name implies, the training develops strength and balance related to the specific movements of pickleball play. We have a core group of local players that has gone through 13 weeks of the program. I feel certain that each of us strongly believe that the program has been very helpful.

Nate has offered to contribute an occasional post to this blog. I find that to be an exciting opportunity to develop a cutting-edge program for a growing sport. Today is Nate's first post with an important topic that most players completely ignore - the importance of warming up.


Like any other sport, the increased popularity of Pickleball has brought a new form of fitness and competition to a wide age range and demographic. According to USA Pickleball, the estimated participation increased more than 12% from 2016-2017! That is a huge increase for any sport. And like any sport that grows, the athletes that play need to be on their top game to perform.

In talking with some the local area players, one of the few things that was brought up as a concern was injury prevention. Pickleball is unique in that the playing population has a huge age range. The style of play allows players to play competitively far longer than most other sports, which is great for those with a desire to compete. With that increased age demographic, the types of injuries that could be sustained can result in issues such as knee replacements, hip replacements, and tendonitis. These were all concerns of area players.

When assessing the style of practice and play of the local group, it was brought to my attention that the process of Warming Up was missing a lot of key components. A proper Warm Up has the ability to drastically reduce injury and playing performance through the following means:

1. Increase Blood Flow

This is the "warm" part of a Warm Up. The importance of increasing blood flow is that blood flow brings nutrients to the muscles that help in muscle contraction, and the removal of the waste that is a product of muscle contraction. In order to move optimally, the muscles need to be contracting as best as possible, which is a benefit of good blood flow.

2. Prepare The Nervous System

A Warmup done well is a series of movements and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are those that many people do where you hold a specific position for, and not only have they been proven to decrease muscle strength, but they also do not stimulate your nervous system. Your nervous system needs to be prepared in order to create quality muscle contraction. If we do not have some light movement, we run the risk of our brain not efficiently connecting to our muscles and increasing the likelihood of injury.

3. To Assess Current Readiness

Our ability to perform certain tasks fluctuates day by day. Everyone knows that certain days we don't feel as good as other days. Our body fluctuates in ability daily. Warming Up properly can help us assess how ready we are for intense play. While this doesn't mean much for us during a tournament or in preparation for a match, it can determine how much we push during our day to day training. When we Warm Up we tune into the body's current ability and can modify our practice intensity to decrease the risk of injury.
These three benefits of Warming Up can help us increase our performance on the court, and decrease the risk of injury while we play. If you're already Warming Up, stayed tuned for the next post regarding Warm Ups that will break down proper structure and tackle some myths regarding what a good Warm Up Entails.

Nate Littauer, CSCS is the Head Coach for Jump and Total Performance at Parisi Speed School in Hendersonville, NC. He also serves as the Head Coach for the Pickleball Performance Training Program at Parisi, a Sport Performance program that enhances on court performance through physical fitness. 

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