Flexibility – 3 Pickleball Grip Hand and Wrist Stretches
Wrist Distration Stretch
When I am working in the physical therapy clinic with a client experiencing Pickleball elbow pain, the first thing I usually assess is wrist mobility. A great way to improve wrist mobility is to perform the following wrist distraction stretch.
Simply wrap your opposite hand thumb and index middle finger around your wrist, gently squeeze and pull the hand away from the elbow and allow the wrist’s carpal bones to separate just slightly.
You may choose to add a gentle glide to the distration as shown in the video below.
Wrist Flexion Stretch
Wrist flexion is when the palm of your hand moves toward the inner part of your forearm. 80 to 90-degrees of wrist flexion would be considered full range of motion. Limited wrist flexion may negatively impact grip during a forehand pickleball volley or return (see also ‘How To Hit Forehand‘).
In the following video I share two versions of a wrist flexion stretch, one with the elbow straight and one with the elbow bent.
Wrist Extension Stretch
Wrist extension is when the back of your hand moves toward the top of your forearm. 70 to 90-degrees of wrist extension is considered full range of motion.
Wrist extension is a requirement of grip strength. If you grip something tightly you will notice your hand naturally moves into a wrist extended position. Limited wrist extension may limit grip strength, but it could also contribute to lateral elbow pain and fatigue.
Strength – 3 Pickleball Grip Strengthening Exercises
Once you have warmed up the connective tissue of the wrist and fingers, performing grip strengthening exercises may help improve performance on the pickleball court.
Since the forearm, wrist, and fingers are largely comprised of high endurance muscles, much of the strength gains may be more attributed to improved central nervous system function rather than muscle hypertrophy.
I will say, however, if you look at any racket sport athlete you will notice a definite difference in the circumferance of the racket side forearm compared to the other forearm.
Isometric Grip – Kettlebell Holds
Performing this exercise helps to improve rotator cuff stabilization as well as isometric grip strength. In the photo below I am holding a 50-lbs kettlebell. I often recommend clients find a weight that is challenging to hold for 60-seconds.
Wall Lean Wrist Flexion
In the photo below you can see me leaning toward the wall with my wrist in an extended position. This stretch of most commonly done with the elbow extended as well.
Hold this stretch for between 30 and 60-seconds allowing the connective tissue of the wrist to lengthen.
Reverse Wrist Curls
In the photo below you can see that my forearm is supported and I am holding the dumbbell parallel to the floor. As I allow my wrist to move into a flexed position I may relax my grip before reversing directions and rolling my wrist into an extended position with mu knuckles above wrist level.
This exercises is often done between 15 and 20 repetitions per set.
Dexterity – Finger Dexterity Exercises to Change Grip During Play
Manual finger dexterity is one of those things that is often overlooked, but could be vital to any pickleball players performance on the court. Changing a pickleball grip during a point might mean the difference between keeping the ball in play or losing the point.
My favorite way to work on finger dexterity is to use the children’s toys that became wildly popular in 2017 – Fidget Spinner.
* Click image to check pricing on Amazon.
These little devices may be used in either hand, but for improved control of the pickleball paddle, using them in the racket hand is most effective.
Having a fidget spinner in your car or on your desk will encourage you to pick it up and use it while you are sitting idle.
Endurance – Stop Grip Fatigue During Long Rallies
Endurance in the grip comes from the small intrinsic muscles of the hand as well as the larger muscles of the wrist and forearm. These are already high endurance muscles naturally, but to improve the endurance and pickleball grip performance you might use on of these grip trainers.
This grip trainer has an ergonomic handle and variable resistance. I would turn the resistance down to a level that would allow you to complete more than 20-repetitions when you are working on endurance.
The same grip trainer can be used for strength by turning the resistance up to a level that makes completing more than 6 repetitions impossible or extremely difficult.
Just as with the fidget spinner, keeping this device on your desk or within arms reach in your car may help you to remember to use it several times a day.