Get Strong to Play Better Pickleball

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Pickleball is an activity that works your entire body, agility, reaction time, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Although it is a fun and relatively gentle sport, it can still cause injuries, aches and pains if your body isn’t prepared for it. A sport specific training program can help avoid injuries and improve your performance on the courts.

You’ll want to strengthen your muscles in your lower body, upper body and core, but agility and rotation are also extremely important in pickleball. To assure you include all fitness components in your next strength training workout, perform four traditional strength training exercises, then one of the following agility exercises. Then perform another four traditional strength exercises, then one of the agility drills. Then another four exercises and the last agility exercise. Incorporate traditional strength moves like squats, lunges, chest and shoulder presses, back rows and pull-ups, but also include the sport specific movements below. 

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Sport Specific Pickleball Movements

Lunge With Rotation

Start standing with your feet together and holding a medicine ball or hand weights.

Slowly lunge forwards until your front knee is positioned over your foot and is at a 90-degree angle.

As you lunge forwards, rotate the medicine ball to same side of the front leg.

Keep your abdominals contracted throughout the entire repetition.

Return to the starting position.

Alternate legs performing 10-15 reps each side.

To advance this exercise lunge through various angles lunging forwards, diagonally and laterally to condition your ability to move your body through space with strength and precision.

Resisted Side Steps

This is a great exercise to strengthen your hips and outer thigh and your ability to move laterally.

Wrap an exercise tube around your ankles.

Step side by side not allowing your legs to cross the midline of your body.

Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

Tube Trunk Rotation

Pickleball involves a lot of torso rotation so strengthen through this motion.

Wrap a tube around a pole at about mid-thigh height.

Stand sideways to the pole holding the tube in both hands standing far enough from the pole so there is tension on the tube.

Keep your abdominals contracted and slowly pull the tube across your body in an upward motion as your trunk rotates outwards.

Perform 15-20 reps each side.

External Rotation

Try this exercise to help strengthen the shoulder complex and help to avoid rotator cuff injuries.

Anchor tubing around a pole at waist height.

Stand sideways to the pole and hold the tube handle in your furthest arm.

Position your elbow at your side and bend it to 90 degrees.

Keep your upper arm at your side and slowly rotate your forearm away from your body.

Complete 20 reps each arm.

Medicine Ball Side Tosses

Stand sideways to a wall or partner.

Hold the medicine ball with both hands and position both hands to the side of your body opposite to your partner or wall.

Now throw the medicine ball keeping your core active and strong.

Catch and repeat for 30-60 seconds each side.

Side Plank

Lie on your side while propping yourself up on one elbow with elbow positioned right under your shoulder.

Keep your body straight and aligned.

Slowly lift your hips off the floor so that your body weight is now supported on your elbow and your knees (less advanced) or your toes (more advanced).

Keep your abdominals contracted throughout the entire exercise and maintain good posture.  Hold for 30-60 seconds each side.

Prone Opposite Arm & Leg Lift

Lie on your stomach and stretch your arms straight out in front of you and legs straight positioned about hip width apart.

Turn your thumbs up to the ceiling and then slowly lift the opposite arm and leg while keeping your abdominals contracted.

Focus on lengthening and lifting parallel to the ground versus arching towards the ceiling.

To strengthen your body, alternate sides and complete about 20 total reps.

Plank With Rotation

Assume a plank position on your toes and hands with your arms positioned shoulder width apart and your shoulders positioned above your wrists and elbows.

Contract your abdominal muscles and assure that your spine is elongated and strive for a straight line from head to toe.

Keep your core strong and engaged as you lift one foot and bring the knee towards the opposite elbow.

Alternate sides and remember to breathe.

Continue for 30-60 seconds.

Here’s Some Agility Exercise Ideas

Side to Side Fast Feet

Position 2 cones or props a few feet apart.

Now quickly step laterally to the outside of one cone and back to the outside of the other touching down towards the floor on each end. Try to go as fast as you possibly can.

Continue for 30-60 seconds.

Rectangle Sprints

Position 4 cones in the shape of a rectangle so that the area within the cones is about the size of a pickle ball court.

Start at the base and sprint forwards staying outside of the cones.

Now shuffle laterally to the next cone.

Shuffle backwards to the 3rd one.

Shuffle laterally back to the start.

Continue for 1 minute.

Take a 30 second break and repeat in the opposite direction. 

Monkey in the Middle

Stand in the middle of four marked spots or cones.

Sprint forwards to the top mark then back to the middle, shuffle to the left mark and back to the middle, backwards to the rear mark and back to the middle and finish by shuffling to the right mark and back to the middle.

Do this for one to two minutes. 

Model: JESSICA MOSSMAN – Personal Trainer at Northwest Personal Training.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan


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