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  • Writer's pictureSerendipityPTW

Pickleball: Importance of the Lunge


“I can’t lunge, I can’t bend my knees” For a sport that requires so much of these movements, this is such a common comment that I hear from people at the pickleball courts. Unfortunately for the lunging averse crowd, being able to lunge is about as important for pickleball as, well, being able to swing a paddle.


Today I want to talk a little bit about why lunging is such an important part of play, and some of the physical implications of lunging (or not lunging).


Why Lunge?


In pickleball, it’s necessary to be able to lunge both forward and to the side. These are both essential maneuvers that allow players to be able to return low shots while maintaining good positioning and control of the ball.

An effective lunge also enables players to keep their weight shifted forward while making their returns, which creates better ball control.


Now, everyone probably knows somebody out on the courts who absolutely refuses to lunge or bend their knees at all. What happens then? In this scenario, players will usually compensate with their torso. More specifically, they will flex forward or to the side in order to retrieve their shots. From both a play and injury prevention standpoint, this…isn’t really what you want. When a player relies on constantly moving their torso to retrieve shots, they’re going to frequently find themselves out of position. In the time it takes a player to return to a fully neutral and upright position, a skillful opponent will have already taken advantage by placing the ball away from whatever position the player is leaning towards.


In short, torso players are going to have worse reaction times and create more openings for their opponents. It’ll also be way harder to return a shot that’s been placed at their feet.


What about injury prevention? While most torso players play the way that they do in an effort to protect their knees, they’re inherently placing considerably more workload and strain on their low backs. Over time, these players are more likely to experience issues such as back muscle spasms, arthritis flare-ups, disc herniations, and sciatica.


The Challenges?


While it’s easy to see how lunging is such a key movement in the world of pickleball, there are a lot of things that can make it challenging for a person to do.


  • Knee pain: The action of bending your knee while standing does increase the amount of pressure on your kneecap. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing! Our bodies are designed to be able to handle movements such as this. However, for somebody with issues such as arthritis, patellar tracking problems, ligament injuries, meniscus problems, etc, this motion can be pain provoking. Most people naturally avoid painful positions, but as mentioned above, this can put more strain on other areas of the body.


  • Poor Form or Habit: For many people, lunging isn’t a very natural movement. It’s an easy movement to do incorrectly, which can make it feel awkward and uncomfortable. For others, it’s all too easy to just forget to lunge at all. For pickleball, it’s so important to learn how to lunge with good technique and then practice doing it until it feels natural and intuitive during a game.


  • Tightness: A proper lunge requires good mobility through several parts of your body, most notably the ankles, knees, and hips. If you have tightness in a joint of muscle, this can make it very difficult to do a lunge comfortably or with proper form. Tightness can be caused by many different things, including new or old injuries, disuse, tissue adhesions, and muscle imbalances. Many of these things can improve, however!


  • Weakness: Lunging requires a person to use quite a few muscles. In pickleball, all of these muscles need to be both strong and have good endurance in order to ensure that a player can consistently lunge game after game. It’s common for players to have weakness in certain key muscles, such as the glutes, which can make it challenging to do lunges with good form, or can make them feel shaky or exhausting over time.


In the end, there are a lot of different factors that can make lunging a challenge for many pickleball players, but for those that want to be able to play at the top of their game, it’s an essential movement to be able to perform consistently and with good technique.


If lunging is something that is a challenge for you personally, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to see how I can help you achieve your goals.


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As the owner of Serendipity Physical Therapy and Wellness, I’m an avid pickleball addict with a goal of keeping pickleball players moving at their best and injury free. I work with players in Naples, Florida for anything ranging from reducing pain or tightness, to helping with injury prevention and good technique.

If you’re new here, you can check out more of my advice and content here: https://www.serendipityptw.com/blog.

If there is anything I can help you with or you have questions, please give me a call at (239) 232-8155, or send me an email at Contact@SerendipityPTW.com. I would love to see how I can help get you moving at your best!


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