Why is Stretching Important for Racquetball?
At some point in nearly every physically active person’s life, someone has told them to stretch before their workout. And you know what? They’re right!
But more often than not, the person giving that helpful reminder probably has a general idea of how much stretching helps, but they don’t really know why.
With a sport like a racquetball, where the matches involve quick changes in direction, bursts of speed, lunging motions, and lots of twisting and swinging, stretching before and after a match plays an important part in keeping your body in good condition.
Stretching exercises for beginners are especially valuable as your body is not yet familiar with the speed and motion of racquetball. Before we get deep into our stretches, let’s take a look at a few reminders to make sure you’re stretching safely.
Reminders About Stretching
Even though the importance of stretching is common knowledge, there are things to remember that don’t always get talked about.
For example, sports stretching—and especially racquet sports stretching—including stretches in your pre-workout routine should be part of your warm-up, but not all of your warm-up.
Whether you want to use stretching exercises for flexibility or simply reduce post-workout soreness, here are a few things that will help you get the most out of your stretches.
When Should You Stretch?
The obvious answer to this question is before and after you play or practice racquetball, but that isn’t the whole story. Here’s what to remember when putting together a combined racquetball and stretching workout—make sure you are warmed up before you stretch.
Whether you prefer to do a short ride on a stationary bike, take a light jog, or jump rope, the important thing is to get the blood flowing to your muscles first. Then you can stretch.
Taking a few minutes to warm up your muscles before stretching exercises will help stave off potential injuries and get the most out of your stretches.
Effective Stretching Exercises for beginners
The most important thing to remember, whether you’re engaging in lower back stretching exercises, hip stretching exercises, or stretching any part of your body, is that you don’t need to go to extremes.
In the same way that someone lifting weights should avoid considerable increases in weights between sets because it can lead to injury, overstretching, or going through your stretches too quickly and intensely can cause serious harm.
Your stretches should be uncomfortable, not painful. You are doing this to lengthen your muscles and tendons to increase flexibility, relieve pain and soreness, and improve your strength and balance, among other reasons.
If you’re hurting yourself every time you stretch, you are defeating the purpose.
Know your limits
Recognize your limits, and then push them gently. When you go into a stretch, take yourself to the point where you are uncomfortable. Hold your stretch there. As you exhale, allow the muscles around your stretch to relax so that you settle deeper into the stretch bit by bit.
Do this for about 10 to 20 seconds per stretch. If you feel you need to spend more time with a particular body part because of a history of injury or just because it feels like it needs it, that’s ok. Tailor your stretching routine to your own needs.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
It doesn’t matter if you are stretching to protect against an injury or recover from an old one. If you only do it sporadically, you will not see the benefits.
If you only go through the motions and don’t take the time to breathe into your stretches, you will not see the benefits.
Incorporating a stretching routine into your pregame and postgame routine will help your body stay healthy and keep you active on the court. Still, you have to give yourself time to do it every time you play—that includes before practice sessions where you work on your serve or your footwork.
To help you remember to stretch consistently, joining a yoga class can be great. We’ve written about how great yoga can be for racquetball players before. Some players even schedule their practice sessions so that they can hit a 45-minute yoga class as part of their cool down!
But whether your doctor has given you stretches or you are adapting the pregame stretches used by your favorite pro player, keep it consistent.
Beware of the Return After a Long Break
The time that your body is most vulnerable to injury is when you are coming back from time away. Racquetball is an intense and active sport. If you jump in at full speed after two months without playing, you are taking a huge risk.
Most players are coming back from a long time away right now. 2020 gave us a global pandemic that made playing a game that is designed to be played indoors on a relatively small court nearly impossible.
If that’s true for you, or if you are just starting with the game because you want to increase your social circle post-pandemic while losing some weight that came with a whole year without gym access, give yourself time to really stretch and prepare your body for the activity to come.
What Different Types of Stretches are Best for Racquetball?
Many experts recommend starting from your feet and running through your stretching routine all the way up through your neck. There are four main types of stretching: active, passive, dynamic, and PNF stretching, which we’ll not dive into here.
For our purposes here, active-passive and dynamic stretching are the most common and useful.
Active stretches focus on holding positions to stretch specific muscle groups. When looking at the types of stretching exercises found in pre-workout routines, active stretches are most common.
Passive stretches and dynamic stretches
Passive stretches utilize gravity for resistance and are great for improving balance and strength. Many standing yoga positions are great passive stretches and can make for great exercises after a racquetball game.
Dynamic stretches use motion. Think about lifting a leg and swinging it back and forth, allowing your leg’s momentum to continue the motion. With racquetball, a common dynamic stretch is moving your arm with your racquet through your swing motion without force.
When preparing for a match or a practice, pay special attention to back stretching exercises, stretching exercises for legs, and exercises meant to help you strengthen and lengthen the tendons in your arm. That’s because the most repetitive motion in racquetball is the swing, and your swing begins with your legs, carries through your back and core, and then explodes through your arm.
Avoiding Tennis Elbow
Tendonitis in your elbow can be very painful and take you off the court for an extended period of time. We’ve already established how a long break can open you up to further injury, so avoiding the dreaded tennis elbow is key.
There are several different racquet sports stretching exercises that focus on protecting your arm from tendonitis. If you are looking for stretching exercises for beginners, remember to find exercises that include your wrist and fingers.
That’s because your tendon isn’t just in your elbow. It comes all the way down to your fingers. That’s why, if you lay your forearm palm up on a table, you can make your fingers curl involuntarily by pressing on the tendon.
So be sure to include wrist stretches in your routine. Incorporate flexion, dorsiflexion, pronation and supination.
Stretch your wrist in every direction it moves, both with your palm up and palm down. And during your daily life, you can even squeeze a tennis ball or racquetball while focusing on your job to help build tendon strength.
Your Body, Your Routine
The thing about racquetball and stretching exercises is that this game works out your entire body. So you need to stretch your whole body.
Different people will need to give extra focus to different areas. The longer you’ve been in this world, the more time you’ve had to accrue knocks and minor injuries. If you need to spend a little extra time stretching one part of your body before moving to the next, that’s okay.
If it applies to you, check with your doctor or an experienced yoga instructor to learn some specially focused stretching exercises for seniors.
Racquetball is a fantastic workout. It doesn’t matter if you are using some stretching exercises for beginners or are looking to get back on the court after time away, stretching will help you get the most out of your game.
So warm-up, stretch out, grab your racquet, and get on the court!