The best pickleball exercises to strengthen your gameplay and help you feel your best
In addition to being a fun pastime that engages your mind, pickleball can also be an excellent workout. It offers the strengthening and endurance-boosting effects of weekly exercise while also placing less stress on your body than similar sports like tennis.
However, did you know that you can amplify the health benefits of pickleball while boosting your gameplay at the same time?
That’s right – adding warmups and weekly cardio and strength training exercises can improve your performance on the court while providing all of the low-impact fitness we love about the sport. For some players, the best strategy doesn’t come down to complicated shots or special paddles, but instead your ability to keep your energy up on the court.
Pickleball warm-up exercises to keep you safe from injury
As with any exercise, one of the most crucial – and most often ignored – aspects of preventing injury is properly warming up. Warmups get your muscles warm and prepare your cardiovascular system for exercise. Additionally, a proper warmup routine may have a positive impact on your playing compared with going in cold.
Generally, we should aim to warm up for a particular activity by doing the movements of the exercise at a lower intensity. For pickleball, some warmups might include:
- Marching in place
- Standing hip rotations
- Arm circles
- Lunging across the length of the court
- Running across the length of the court
Pickleball strengthening exercises
If you want to be able to hit with power and control, or if you want to be able to get from one side of the court to the other very quickly, you’ll need to do some strength training for pickleball. Some exercises we love for building strength include:
Planks are a great exercise for strengthening the core and upper body.
Place your elbows underneath your shoulders and straighten your legs. Keep your hands evenly spread apart and engage the core. Hold up your body weight with your forearms and toes for as long as you can.
For a less difficult variation, drop your knees to the floor. Lift your body with your arms while keeping your core engaged and hold the position for as long as you can.
Squats are essential for any athlete, as they build muscles in your core, quad, hamstrings, and glutes.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your spine in a neutral position and outstretch your arms in front of you for balance. With steady feet, sit back into your squat, bending your knees with your chest lifted. Do not hunch forward or curve the spine forward.
The humble push-up: the classic bodyweight exercise for boot camp attendees and prisoners alike. No wonder they love it so much – it’s perfect for developing your arm strength with nothing other than your own body.
With your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes to the ground, slowly lower your body towards the ground until you nearly touch it. Lift your body up again and repeat.
For an easier variation, do the same movement, but with your knees to the ground rather than your toes.
There are thousands of exercises online to build functional strength that actively improves your playing. Search for exercises that target the specific skill you’re trying to develop – if you want to improve your swing, search for upper body exercises that can build your arm muscles.
However, remember that the sections of the body aren’t really isolated but are instead interdependent. To become the best player possible, consider a well-rounded strength training program that targets as many muscle groups as possible.
Pickleball cardio exercises
Though cardio might not be the first thing we think of when we consider pickleball, it is an undeniably important aspect of the game. After all, players are running from one side of the court to the other, which eats away at our energy after a while. Enduring in a game can allow us to outpace our opponents and have ample energy left for when they inevitably make a mistake.
Some great, low-impact cardiovascular exercises include:
Stand with your arms at your sides and your legs together and slightly bent. Jump, spreading your legs apart, and raise your arms above your head. Return to starting position.
You can also opt for a low-impact version. Stand with your arms at your sides. Step to the right with your right foot, keeping the other in place. At the same time, lift your right arm over your head. Return to a standing position, then repeat the same exercise on your left.
Place one foot on a small step or platform while the other remains on the level ground. Step off the platform and quickly switch feet in mid-air.
With your feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart, bring one leg behind you, bent at an angle, while your front leg bends like the front leg in a lunge. Swing the arms and switch feet.
Swimming, biking, walking and running
Though these activities might be just as time-intensive as our beloved hobby, they have a surprisingly positive impact on our gameplay over time. All three activities – swimming, walking and running – build our muscular strength in all areas of our bodies and build our cardiovascular endurance. Even better, swimming and biking are also low-impact sports that avoid placing pressure on the body, so you don’t have to worry about potential joint issues that could hamper your gameplay down the line.