Remember when “they” used to tell us to “Move It or Lose It” and we said sure, sure — then we laughed? Well, as we grow older, that mantra is extremely important to live by.
Sit in a chair (preferably a low chair) and, without using your hands, very slowly stand up and very slowly return to sitting. “When did I lose my ability to do that” you might ask? Somewhere down the line when you weren’t paying attention.
This “losing it” problem is everywhere in our daily life, especially when playing pickleball. Can’t get to the ball as quickly as you used to? Can’t handle fast net play if the ball crosses the net more than twice? Maybe you are just not twitching as fast as you were a few years ago.
There are two types of muscle twitch fibers: slow twitch (marathon runners) and fast twitch (sprinters, weightlifters and pickleball net players). The fast hand movements you need at net are considered anaerobic exercise, involving short bursts of higher intensity contractions. Some athletes are born with a higher concentration of Type I (slow) and others with Type II (fast). The rest of us just have to work harder with what we’ve got.
Unfortunately, as we age, our Type II fast twitch fibers atrophy faster than slow twitch fibers. So, getting a lighter paddle might help, but another answer to faster hands at net is fast movement exercises. Using an elastic band is one of the safest ways to do fast movements. Here are a series of exercises done quickly with a small range of motion (short movements) that should make sure you don’t atrophy and certainly won’t “lose it” as quickly.
|Wrap an elastic band around your waist or around a pole. Make sure you use a heavy feeling pull on the band. Punch quickly on the forehand side 3 to 5 times for fast twitch. Repeat 5 times. Punch 25 times for slow endurance twitch.
|Hold the band across your body for backhand and punch backhand 3 to 5 times. Repeat 5 times. Backhand punch 25 times for slow endurance twitch.
|Stand on the band; quickly do bicep curls 3 to 5 times. Repeat 5 times. (same as above).
|Hold band behind your back; quickly do tricep curls. Repeat 3 to 5 times. (same as above).
|Finally, go to a wall, stand close and hit 20-100 forehands and backhands in the air against the wall.
|Now you are ready to do battle against just about anyone at net (except maybe young Nationals Gold Medalist, Tim Nelson!).