Best Exercises For Pickleball

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stron arm holding a pickleball paddle

One of the best things about pickleball is that it is played by people of different ages, abilities, and fitness levels all over the world. It’s truly an inclusive sport that is accessible to many people who may not be able to play other sports as easily.

Pickleball is a great sport to play for people of all ages! It’s not as physically demanding as tennis or racquetball, but it still gives players an opportunity to be competitive and athletic without putting as much stress on their bodies. 

Even though pickleball is relatively gentle on the body, it’s still important to exercise certain muscle groups to prevent injury and even to improve your game. So whether you’re an advanced player or you’re just starting out, young or old, these pickleball exercises will help prepare your body for hitting the pickleball court. 

What Muscle Groups Are Used In Pickleball?

Pickleball is actually a fantastic all-around workout that is kind to your body due to its low impact on joints and the limited sprinting required. It’s not without risk, but pickleball is an excellent alternative to tennis and other athletics, especially if you have rotator cuff problems or shoulder issues. 

Pickleball engages almost all of the muscles in your body without putting too much strain on one specific area. When playing pickleball, you will use your forearms, triceps, and biceps in your arms, as well as your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves in your legs – you’ll even use your core! All of these muscles will be utilized at some point during pickleball gameplay, all while getting your heart rate up, which is great for your health. 

But even with a relatively mild sport like pickleball, you don’t want to just jump into a game unprepared and risk straining a weak muscle group. You should implement some specific exercises that target these muscle groups into your fitness routine so that your body is ready to perform on the court. In addition, exercising these muscles the right way will provide greater quickness, agility, and durability.

Here are some of the best exercises for pickleball players to try.

Leg Workouts For Pickleball 

Pickleball players are constantly moving, squatting, and bending their knees to get into the right positions to hit the ball. Building strength in your legs can help increase quickness, stability, and can help protect your joints from injury. 

Bodyweight Squats

This exercise is a staple in almost every fitness routine, as it should be. Bodyweight squats provide excellent muscle strengthening to the quads, hip flexors, and glutes. They also build the stabilization of the hamstrings, calves, abs, and lower back. In pickleball, players are required to move in various directions with their lower body, so strengthening and stabilizing these muscles is very beneficial. 

How to perform the exercise:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly turned out to open up the hip joint
  • Bend your legs, lowering your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground
  • Pause for a second and then return to your starting position
  • Repeat
  • Do this in three sets of 15

Note that the intensity of this exercise can be increased by explosively jumping up from each squat – this will boost the exercise’s plyometric nature and help build muscle power. 

High Knee and Butt Kick Warm Ups

With this exercise, you’ll be warming up your legs to get them ready for activity. Both butt kicks and high knees are good for strengthening your legs and boosting your muscle endurance. 

How to perform the exercise:

demonstrating the high knee kicker workout for pickleball


  • Stand in place in an open area in preparation to begin
  • Place your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent
  • Start by lifting your right knee as high as you can toward your chest
  • Lower that leg back to the ground and shift your weight to the other leg
  • Raise your left leg in the same manner and repeat this for about 30 seconds
  • Next, engage your core and lift your right heel off the floor toward your glutes
  • Place your right foot back onto the ground
  • Shift your weight and repeat with your left foot
  • Rotate these back kicks for 30 seconds

This is an excellent warm-up exercise, and we recommend doing three sets with a short break in between.

Note that this exercise can be done at a low-impact and slow pace by keeping one foot on the ground at a time, or it can be done at a higher intensity by quickly picking up each leg after the other is on its way down – effectively jumping slightly off of the ground.

Curtsy Squats

The curtsy squat is an excellent lower-body exercise for pickleball players. Often on the court, you’ll be required to return shots at odd angles, like on stretched backhand swings or digs; this can result in finding yourself in a crossed-over position. The curtsy squat helps train the muscles needed to stabilize your body on those awkward shots.

How to perform the exercise:

  • Hold a kettlebell in front of you with both arms
  • Keep your torso straight and your core tight
  • Step one leg behind and across your body
  • Squat down until your knee almost touches the ground
  • Return to your starting position
  • Repeat 15 times on both sides

This is a great exercise to train single-leg dips and back peddling angles for pickleball.

Core Exercises for Pickleball

Playing pickleball requires core strength, but it doesn’t actually build your core muscles all that much. That’s why it’s essential to work out your core to assist your pickleball game and prevent injuries on the court. Your core muscles are vital for maintaining the stability and rotation of your entire body, so make sure to include some of these exercises in your routine.

Plank With Hip Twists

This exercise is a great way to work out your abs and obliques in unison, a combination of muscles that are used in nearly every swing of a pickleball paddle. This exercise will help reduce pressure on your lower back, improve spine flexibility, and improve muscle quickness.

How to perform the exercise:

  • Start in a plank position with your forearms on the ground
  • Keep your core and glutes tight
  • Twist your hips to the right and gently touch the ground
  • Make sure that both of your elbows stay on the ground through the entire process
  • Return to your starting position 
  • Twist to the other side 
  • Repeat 20 times

Leg Raises

This is one of the best exercises for anterior core stability; leg raises are great for pickleball players that want to train their cores and hips in coordination. This exercise trains your abs to support and engage your hip flexors, which get a lot of action during gameplay.

How to perform the exercise:

demonstrating the leg raise workout for pickleball
  • Lie on your back and put the palms of your hands flat on the ground 
  • Tuck your chin into your chest
  • Straighten your legs and lift your feet about six inches from the ground
  • Keep your core engaged 
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds
  • Repeat as desired

Leg raises are an awesome ab and core exercise and can even be done as warm-ups before playing a game. 

Side Planks

The side plank is an excellent core strengthening exercise that can help pickleball players improve their balance and stability. This workout will help protect your spine and strengthen your abs and core without stressing your back.

How to perform the exercise:

demonstrating side plank workout for pickleball
  • Start by lying on your right side 
  • Bring your right elbow directly under your right shoulder
  • Engage your core as you press your right elbow into the floor, and lift yourself into the side plank position
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides
  • Repeat as desired

You can add an extra step to this exercise by lifting your free leg up in repetition. 

This side plank exercise helps strengthen three muscle groups at once, training them to work in unison – it also helps improve your balance and reduces injury risk in your back. 

Back Exercises for Pickleball

Having a strong back is important for pickleball players; if your back muscles are unprepared for the swinging motions and stress that pickleball can put on it, there’s a greater risk of injury. In addition, if you have a sore lower back, one way to help ease the pain is through controlled and targeted exercises that help loosen and strengthen the muscles. 

The Superman

This exercise is a great way to target your lower back muscles. It can help improve the strength of your swing as well as aid in your flexibility and mobility on the court. 

How to perform the exercise:

demonstrating superman workout
  • Begin by lying on your stomach 
  • Straighten your legs and stretch your arms out in front of you
  • Engage your core muscles and slowly lift your arms and legs up off of the ground
  • Lift your arms and legs as far as you can and hold that position for 10 seconds
  • Slowly lower your arms and legs to the ground 
  • Repeat as desired

Bent-Over Rows

The bent-over row exercise is a good way to work your back muscles and increase hip stability. This exercise uses gravity resistance to engage and strengthen the muscles around your shoulder blades and neck – an area that can often get tweaked while swinging a pickleball paddle. By performing this exercise, you will prepare your muscles for gameplay and help protect them from potential injury.

How to perform the exercise:

demonstrating a bent over row workout
  • Hold a dumbbell or some form of weight in each hand (can be anywhere from 5-30lbs depending on your strength level)
  • Position yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your knees bent slightly
  • Lower your chest until it’s almost (but not quite) parallel to the floor
  • Hang the weight at arm’s length straight down from your shoulders
  • Bending your elbows, pull the weights up to the sides of your chest
  • Hold for a second, and then slowly lower your arms back down
  • Repeat in three sets of 15

Resistance Band Outward Pull

This exercise is a great one for pickleball players as it pulls your shoulder blades together, strengthening your upper back muscles such as the rear deltoids, trapezius, and rhomboids. This retraction exercise can help improve your pickleball game by increasing the stabilization in your shoulders, giving you better control and power.

How to perform the exercise:

  • Begin standing with your arms extended forward
  • Hold a resistance band in front of you with both hands so it is parallel to the floor
  • Keeping your arms straight, pull the resistance band outward with both hands so that your arms stretch to either side (the band should be close to your chest when it is stretched)
  • Gently return to your starting position
  • Do three sets of 10 reps

Choose a resistance band that you can comfortably perform this exercise with, but make sure it has enough tension to properly engage your upper back. As you build up your back strength, you can switch to bands with higher resistance. 

Conclusion 

Playing pickleball is a great workout and can be super beneficial to your health. But implementing exercises into your routine that prepare you for playing the game will make sure that you can play longer without injury and improve your game.

Pickleball utilizes a well-rounded group of muscles and has players move in a variety of patterns and planes. The best pickleball exercise routine is one that targets a mixture of core, legs, back, and arms. The goal is to improve your endurance, agility, strength, and resilience so you can play well, and for a long time!

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