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The 7 best warm-ups for tennis and pickleball

September 26th, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

If you are one of the 4.8 million who play pickleball or one of the 87 million who play tennis, it is worth taking the time to get warmed up and limber before a game. 

Warming up your body raises your temperature and increases blood flow to your muscles. A proper warm-up will help you reduce the chance of injury and lessen muscle soreness after a match.

Many people jog the court once or twice and touch their toes a few times, but is that a comprehensive warm-up?

Paseo Club has been the place for court games in the Santa Clarita Valley for almost twenty years. We have expert tennis and pickleball staff that offer group and private lessons and a junior program for up-and-coming athletes.

In this article, we will give you information about how to prepare your body specifically for tennis and pickleball so you are fast on your feet and safe on the courts.

What is the purpose of a warm-up?

The purpose of warming up before tennis and pickleball is to prepare mentally and physically. Warming up communicates to your body that it is about to exercise.

Warm-ups are usually exercise-specific. Different sports require unique programs of preparation that are just for that physical activity.

Warming up increases your heart rate and blood flow, enabling more oxygen to reach your muscles. It also improves flexibility and your range of motion. This helps to prevent injuries on the court.

Warming up prepares you mentally by helping you focus on the upcoming activity. This focus carries into your game, improving your technique, coordination, and skill.

What is the difference between static and dynamic stretching and which is better for warming up? 

Static stretches are stretches you hold for some time — usually 20-30 seconds. These are generally done after exercising. 

Dynamic stretching involves making active movements that stretch the muscles to their full range of motion. These exercises often simulate functional movements and help prime the body for more intense training. 

For example, to prepare for a run, a person may perform a knee exercise that is a gentle simulation of running, such as the “high knees” exercise.

For pickleball and tennis, you may do side lunges, side shuffles, and body squats — movements used while playing the game. 

How does warming up prevent injuries? 

Dynamic stretching has been shown to decrease the risk of injury and slightly increase exercise performance, power, and agility when performed before a workout. 

The increase in performance and decrease in injury risk is related to a rise in body temperature and reduced stiffness in joints and muscles. 

What are the best warm-up exercises for tennis and pickleball?

Here are our favorite seven warm-up exercises to prepare you for the courts.

1. Light jogging

Run slowly around the tennis or pickleball court. This will gently raise your temperature and increase the circulation of oxygen in your body. It will also awaken your joints and muscles in your legs to prepare for tennis or pickleball.


2. Side lunge returns

Side lunge returns are a great warm-up for the hip abductors and knees, preparing you for lateral movements.

Step out laterally, bending the outside knee, sitting down and back. Reach your opposite hand to the foot, then bend the opposite knee, sitting down and back. Return to the starting position. Repeat this, stepping out in the other direction. Do this 3-6 times on each side.

3. Step through lunges

These lunges are similar to the ones before. But the movement goes front and back instead of out to the side. It helps to activate your core, quads, and glutes while loosening the hip flexors.

Begin this movement by lunging forward with your right leg, then lunging backward with your right leg without touching down in the middle. Complete these lunges three times for each leg.

4. Side shuffles

Side shuffles are a dynamic movement that warms up your body and raises your heart rate. It’ll strengthen hip flexors and increase your flexibility.

Side shuffle the length of the court and back two to three times.

5. Shadow Deadlifts

By moving slowly and with attention to form, shadow deadlifts can help you prepare your hamstrings and your hips and knees for the movements and coordination needed to play tennis and pickleball.

Do these deadlifts by sliding your hands down your legs, pushing your tailbone back, and then standing up straight, tightening your glutes. Do three sets of 8-10 reps.

6. Arm circles

Arm circles are a basic warm-up exercise everyone has been doing since they attended PE as a kid in school. But that does not mean it isn’t effective in warming up your upper body, particularly your shoulders and spine.

Bring your arms out to the side and circle the whole arm. You can begin with small circles if you like. But then circle your arm to its full range of motion. Do this forward and backward ten times.

7. Thread the needle arms

Threading the needle is an excellent movement for opening up the shoulders and stretching the spine with a gentle twisting motion.

While kneeling on the ground on your hands and knees, take your right arm and reach as far under your left arm as possible. Then open your right arm out as wide as you can and do the movement to the other side. Do three on each side. 

Final steps to warming up for pickleball and tennis

Although this article focuses on warming up for a game on the courts, we don’t want you to forget the importance of a cool-down routine as well.

While a warm-up should be dynamic and movement-oriented, a cool-down should be slow and static to increase flexibility

A simple cool-down can begin with foam rolling to loosen up tight muscles. Then, perform static stretches such as runner's lunge, kneeling hamstring stretch, and figure four, laying on your back to help your muscles lengthen and relax.

Paseo Club is a social club with a focus on fitness and health. If you are interested in checking out our pickleball and tennis facilities, sign up for a tour today.

To learn more about tennis and pickleball, here are some other great reads:

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Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a person of many talents. She is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!