Elevate Your Game: 8 Best Exercises for Pickleball Players
What are the best exercises for pickleball? Since pickleball is such a multi-faceted game, you’ll need to include a variety of exercise types in your training. You’ll want to work on your cardiovascular fitness and endurance so you can sprint and run during the entire game. Strength and flexibility are also important as you smash that ball cross-court, so including resistance training and stretching will round out your pickleball workout program.
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a new-ish game that is quickly becoming a fan favorite around the world. It’s a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong and features a lightweight racquet and a court that are smaller than a tennis court. Serves are done underhand, and speed of play is less intense than a tennis game, due in part to the whiffle-like ball. The smaller court, lighter paddles, and shorter net make this a game that everyone can enjoy. Play singles or doubles to win with 11 points with a 2-point lead.
But just because it’s fun and easier than other racquet sports doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare your body physically. Using these best exercises for pickleball will give you the edge you need to stay healthy (i.e., injury-free), improve your fitness, and go for the win.
Best Exercises for Pickleball
Work on Your Length Strength
It’s going to be important to have strong legs so you can put some power behind your swing as well as run, start, and stop quickly throughout the game.
1. Lateral Lunges
These will mimic a movement you’ll see over and over again in your pickleball game. Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Next, with your right leg, take a giant step out to your right side. Bend your right knee and move your hips back, keeping your torso upright until your right thigh is parallel with the floor. Push back up to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
2. Hamstring March
This will help strengthen your posterior chain and assist you when you have to make the sudden starts and stops you’ll be doing during a pickleball game. Start by lying on the floor with your feet flat, knees bent, and arms out to the sides for support. Lift your hips off the ground and squeeze your glutes, moving them as far off the ground as you can. Hold this position as you begin to “march,” lifting your right foot off the ground and then your left. Do ten “steps” on each side and then relax.
Work on Your Swing Strength
The force of your swing is going to be dependent on the strength and flexibility of your arms, chest, shoulders, and core.
Chest/Shoulders/Triceps—the universal best upper body strengthening exercise is pushups. That said, most folks may not be able to do many (or any) regular pushups, so use a variation that works for you.
3. Wall Pushups
Start by standing in front of a wall and placing your hands on the wall with your arms straight. Keep your palms in line with your shoulders with your legs straight. Lean forward, bending your elbows to bring your chest close to the wall. Using your upper body strength, push yourself back to the standing position.
Once you feel strong enough to progress, you can move to doing pushups to a raised surface like a bench or chair. Once you’ve mastered these, try moving to pushups with bent knees (knees on the floor) until you can eventually do a regular pushup.
4. Farmer’s Carry
This amazing exercise will help you improve not only your abs and core but your upper body and grip strength as well. Start light by holding a dumbbell in each hand while standing. You can also use anything else heavy that you have around the house like a gallon of water or a container of laundry detergent. Simply walk forward while holding the load in each hand. For a more advanced version, carry the weight on one side at a time.
Work on Your Cardiovascular and Endurance Training
If you want to dominate your pickleball game, you’re going to have to be able to run, sprint, start, and stop with ease and without getting overly winded for the duration of the game. How do you improve this part of your game?
5. Short and Long Cardio Workouts
Get in regular cardiovascular exercise. However, you’ll need to focus on several areas of cardio including longer sessions for endurance and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for the short bursts of speed you’ll need. Increasing your cardiovascular capacity will help you get the edge over your opponent. Do at least 20 minutes of some type of cardio training five days a week.
Work on Your Flexibility, Agility, and Mobility
Lastly, you’ll want to ensure you’re as flexible and mobile as you can be in order to be able to move through the actions you’ll take during your pickleball game. And because of the unique stressors placed on your body while playing pickleball, staying agile will help you avoid injury as well.
6. Calf Stretches
With the sudden starts and stops needed to win, it’s important to keep your calves loose and limber. Stand about arm’s length away from a wall and step forward with your right leg, bending slightly at the knee. Place your hands on the wall and continue to lean forward, keeping your left leg straight and heel on the ground, until you feel a good stretch through your calf. Repeat on the opposite side.
7. Back Twists
Staying limber is the name of the game and loosening up your core and back is a great way to do this. Start by lying on your back, legs straight, and arms out to the sides for support. Bring your right knee up to your chest and then across your body and over to the left. With your upper body, look to the right as you gently twist your spine to allow for a good lateral stretch. Hold the stretch for 60 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
8. Shoulder Rotations
Keeping your shoulders healthy and flexible is going to help you across the board with most activities. Try adding some arm circles to your routine, starting small and progressing to larger circles. Do forward motions for a few minutes and then reverse the direction to go backwards.
Next, holding a small weight or using a resistance band, keep your elbows at your sides, arms bent, and rotate your forearms from the front out to the sides and back in again.
Then, keep your forearms stable and elbows bent, and lift your upper arms up and out to your sides, bringing them to shoulder level. Bring back to the start and repeat.
Lastly, lean over slightly, placing your left hand on a stable surface. Let your right arm dangle loosely and then swing it around in gentle circles, first clockwise and then counter-clockwise. Repeat on the opposite side.
This is just a list of the best exercises for pickleball but you can also add your own. Try experimenting with different types of resistance training and mobility moves to continue improving your game over time.