5 Exercises to Keep Your Back Healthy for Pickleball

Don’t let back pain hold you back! A healthy back is crucial for enjoying everyday activities, including the sports you love like pickleball. Back injuries can be debilitating, but with the right exercises, you can maintain a strong and flexible back, reducing the risk of discomfort and injury.

However, there are ways to maintain a healthy back and reduce the risk of injury. In this article, we will share 5 exercises to help keep your back strong and flexible, ensuring you can enjoy activities like pickleball without any limitations.

Back Exercise #1–Curl Ups

Curl-ups are a great exercise for targeting the upper back muscles without putting excessive strain on the lower back. This gentle, limited-movement exercise is perfect for:

  • Strengthening the muscles in your upper back
  • Improving flexibility in the upper back and shoulder region
  • Reducing the risk of injury or discomfort in the lower back
Image Credit: Mobilephysiotherapyclinic

How To Perform Exercise

Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing a curl-up exercise:

  1. Starting Position: Lay flat on the floor in a sit-up position with your knees bent, so your feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Leg Positioning: Take one leg and straighten it down. Keep the other leg bent with your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Hand Positioning: Place your hands behind your head, as you would for a sit-up or crunch.
  4. Lifting: Keep your back straight and lift your chest and upper body off the floor. Stop the motion as soon as your spine starts to bend. You should only lift about 6 to 8 inches off the floor.
  5. Lowering: Lower your upper body back down to the starting position.
  6. Isometrics (Optional): For an added challenge, hold your upper body for just a few seconds before lowering it back down.
  7. Repetition: Perform 6 to 8 curl-ups on one side, then switch legs and repeat on the other side.

The Benefits of Curl Ups for Pickleball Players

Curl-ups are an excellent exercise for Pickleball players, offering several benefits that can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Here’s why:

  1. Low-Impact: Curl-ups work your back without putting excessive strain on it, making it an ideal exercise for those who want to strengthen their upper back without exacerbating existing back issues.
  2. Controlled Movement: By performing curl-ups on the floor, you have added support and limited mobility, which helps to isolate the upper back muscles and reduce pressure on the lower back.
  3. Upper Back Strength: Developing stronger upper back muscles is essential for Pickleball players, as it enables more efficient and effective movements, such as lunging, reaching, and swinging.
  4. Improved Flexibility: Curl-ups also improve flexibility in the upper back and shoulder region, allowing for a fuller range of motion and reducing the risk of injury.
  5. Enhanced Performance: By strengthening and increasing flexibility in the upper back, Pickleball players can perform movements more freely and for longer periods, leading to improved overall performance and endurance.

Back Exercise #2–Side Plank

Some people may dread side planks, but this exercise offers numerous benefits, and just a few consistent reps can help prevent back injuries, making it a valuable addition to your fitness routine.

Image Credit: womenshealthmag

How to Perform a Side Plank

Follow these steps to perform a side plank:

  1. Starting Position: Lay on your side with your forearm pressed against the floor, propping up your upper body.
  2. Hand Positioning: Place your non-grounded hand on your hip.
  3. Knee Positioning: Bend your knees for added support, feeling your hip press against the floor.
  4. Body Alignment: Keep your spine and body neutral.
  5. Lifting: Press up with your hand and forearm until your back and hips are off the floor, maintaining a straight line. Lift only a few inches.
  6. Hold: Hold for a few seconds.
  7. Lowering: Slowly lower yourself back down.
  8. Repetition: Repeat for 6-8 reps, then switch to the other side.
  9. Add increased difficulty to it by raising your non-grounded hand into the air, like you’re making half of a “T.”

The Benefits of Side Planks for Pickleball Players

Side planks are an effective exercise for Pickleball players, offering several benefits that can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Here’s why:

  1. Stronger Hips and Core: Side planks help build solid hips and lower core muscles, including the muscles in your stomach, back, and upper legs/backside.
  2. Isolated Movement: This exercise isolates the targeted muscles, putting minimal strain on other parts of your body.
  3. Improved Flexibility: Strengthening your core through side planks increases flexibility, enabling you to move more efficiently and effectively.
  4. Reduced Lower Back Injuries: A stronger core helps limit lower back injuries, which are common in Pickleball due to the repetitive twisting, turning, and squatting movements.
  5. Enhanced Power Generation: Having a stronger core enables you to generate more power as you swing, making your shots more effective.

Back Exercise #3–Bird Dog

The bird dog exercise gets its name from the distinctive position your body assumes at the peak of the movement. Just like a dog pointing at a bird for a hunter to retrieve, your body forms a straight line from head to heels, mimicking the alert and focused stance of a canine on the hunt.

Image Credit: POPSUGAR

How to Perform the Bird Dog Exercise

Follow these steps to perform the bird dog exercise:

  1. Starting Position: Lay on all fours, facing the floor. Ensure your arms are straight with your hands flat on the floor, and your knees and toes are in contact with the floor.
  2. Imagery: Imagine your back is a table and keep your spine as straight as possible.
  3. Movement: While controlling your body and maintaining a straight spine, reach straight out with your left arm. Simultaneously raise and lift your opposite (right) leg straight out and back.
  4. Alignment: Ensure you can draw a straight line from your outstretched fingertips to your spine and through your leg and toes.
  5. Core Engagement: Keep your core muscles engaged throughout the movement.
  6. Hold: Hold for a few seconds.
  7. Lowering: Lower your arm and leg back to the starting position.
  8. Repetition: Switch to the other side and repeat for 8-10 reps.

The Benefits of Bird Dogs for Pickleball Players

Bird dogs are an excellent exercise for Pickleball players, offering several benefits that can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Here’s why:

  1. Shoulder and Hip Rotation: Bird dogs help improve shoulder and hip rotation, essential for powerful and efficient swings.
  2. Core and Back Engagement: This exercise engages your core and back muscles, helping to create stability and support for your body.
  3. Controlled Body Movements: Bird dogs promote controlled body movements, reducing the risk of overcompensation and injury.

For Pickleball players, bird dogs can help:

  1. Prevent Back Injuries: Strengthening your back and shoulders can help prevent injuries caused by poor shoulder and hip stability.
  2. Maintain Good Swinging Position: Improved stability and strength enable you to maintain a good swinging position for longer, reducing the tendency to overcompensate with poor shoulder swings.
  3. Reduce Shoulder Tightness: Strengthening your shoulders and back can help reduce shoulder tightness and the risk of injury.

Back Exercise #4–Breathe

Breathing is essential for more than just filling our lungs with air and pumping our hearts. It also plays a critical role in supplying oxygen to our muscles. Oxygen is the fuel that powers our muscles, enabling them to contract and move.

Image Credit: Familychiroplus

How to Perform Deep Breathing Exercises

Follow these steps to perform deep breathing exercises:

  1. Starting Position: Lay flat on your back with your knees up and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hand Placement: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower stomach.
  3. Eye Closure: Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  4. Inhale: Breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of four seconds, filling your lungs completely.
  5. Exhale: Release your breath slowly through your mouth for a count of four seconds.
  6. Focus on Movement: Pay attention to the movement of your hands. Your lower hand (on your stomach) should rise and fall with each breath. If your upper hand (on your chest) is moving more, try to breathe deeper into your diaphragm.
  7. Goal: Aim to breathe deeply enough that your lower hand moves more than your upper hand, ensuring oxygen reaches your lungs efficiently.

The Importance of Deep Breathing for Pickleball Performance

Deep breathing is a crucial aspect of physical performance, and it’s often overlooked. Shallow breathing can lead to tension, which can negatively impact your game. On the other hand, deep breathing provides numerous benefits, including:

  1. Reduced Fatigue: Deep breathing provides extra oxygen to your muscles, reducing fatigue and improving endurance.
  2. Improved Muscle Recovery: Oxygen helps muscles recover and repair more efficiently, reducing soreness and injury risk.
  3. Enhanced Physical Performance: Deep breathing enables your body to perform at its highest level, improving speed, agility, and reaction time.

For Pickleball players, deep breathing exercises can be a game-changer. By training your body to breathe better and deeper during a match, you can:

  1. Improve Endurance: Reduce fatigue and maintain a high level of energy throughout the game.
  2. Enhance Performance: Improve your speed, agility, and reaction time, giving you a competitive edge.
  3. Reduce Injury Risk: Improve muscle recovery and reduce the risk of injury, keeping you on the court and performing at your best.

Back Exercise #5–Water Exercises

Exercising in water is a game-changer for athletes! After spending countless hours running around the court, putting strain on your body and muscles, the pool offers a welcome reprieve. The density of the water lifts that strain, providing a low-impact environment that allows you to train, recover, and rejuvenate your body.

Image Credit: Canyonranch

Pool Exercises: A Low-Impact, Full-Body Workout

You can modify many exercises to perform in a pool, providing a low-impact, full-body workout. Here’s how:

  1. Swimming: A great workout for your back, shoulders, legs, and hips.
  2. Leg Lifts: Hold onto the pool side and lift your legs, targeting your core and leg muscles.
  3. Shoulder Lifts: Hold onto the pool side and lift your shoulders, targeting your shoulder muscles.
  4. Hip Rotations: Hold onto the pool side and rotate your hips, targeting your hip muscles.
  5. Backbends: Hold onto the pool side and bend backward, targeting your back muscles.
  6. Arm Circles: Hold onto the pool side and make circular motions with your arms, targeting your shoulder and arm muscles.
  7. Leg Kicks: Hold onto the pool side and kick your legs, targeting your leg muscles.
  8. Wall Push-Ups: Stand in the pool with your feet shoulder-width apart and push against the pool wall, targeting your chest and arm muscles.

The Benefits of Water Exercise for Pickleball Players

Water exercise offers numerous benefits for Pickleball players, including:

  1. Full-Body Workout: Water exercises engage all your muscles, improving overall strength and endurance.
  2. Low-Impact: Water reduces wear and tear on your body, making it an ideal environment for exercise.
  3. Calorie Burn: Water exercises burn more calories in less time, aiding in weight management.
  4. Joint Relief: Water exercise gives your joints a break, reducing strain and fatigue.
  5. Improved Stability, Balance, and Flexibility: Water exercises enhance overall physical fitness, crucial for Pickleball performance.