As pickleball’s popularity has exploded, so have injuries, mainly caused by repetitive motion, awkward positions, and quick lunges.
Personally, I have found the sport much easier on my body than tennis. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without it’s aches and pains. In fact, I have another browser tab opened right now wondering if I tore my rotator cuff. But that’s a conversation for another time!
If you play the sport regularly, you will want to have a dedicated cross-training regimen off of the pickleball court that is designed to enhance overall fitness to meet the sport’s physical demands.
Players can increase power, reduce injury risk, and prolong their participation by strengthening muscle groups central to pickleball movement patterns and improving flexibility, balance, and agility. Exercises targeting the legs, core, shoulders, and wrists build the athleticism and durability to outlast opponents during long rallies. Functional fitness routines also provide cardiovascular benefits to complement time on the court.
9 Tips for Pickleball Training Off the Court
Lower body exercises like squats, lunges, calf raises, and deadlifts are beneficial for building leg strength needed for quick lateral movements and getting low at the kitchen line in pickleball. Focus on moves working the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Core strengthening exercises like planks, hanging leg raises, decline sit-ups, and Russian twists help generate power from the core and prevent back injuries. A strong core connects the upper and lower body.
Shoulder mobility exercises using resistance bands or lightweight dumbbells can improve flexibility and range of motion in the shoulders and help prevent rotator cuff and shoulder joint injuries common in pickleball.
Grip and wrist strengthening with light dumbbells, resistance bands, or wrist curls improve paddle control and help prevent wrist and elbow injuries from repetitive paddle motion.
Whole body functional exercises like kettlebell swings, pushes, and pulls help build athleticism by working multiple muscle groups together in dynamic motions requiring balance and coordination.
Yoga and dedicated flexibility training help improve mobility in the hips, hamstrings, and shoulders, which are important in pickleball. This also improves balance, muscle endurance for long points, and the ability to stretch and move quickly to reach shots.
Balance and agility exercises like slide boards, agility ladders, and box jumps help improve explosive first steps and change of direction by training muscles to fire rapidly when moving laterally or from a stopped position.
Building large upper body muscle mass through heavy weightlifting provides little direct performance benefit in pickleball and can reduce flexibility. Focus instead on joint health, rotator cuff strength (I hope I’m not too late!), and muscular endurance.
It’s important to balance pickleball-specific training focused on movement patterns used in the sport with full-body functional exercises to support joint health and prevent overuse injuries from repetitive motion.
Pickleball Warm-Up Routine
When you are on the pickleball court, always start with light cardio exercises such as jogging, jumping jacks, or cycling for 5-10 minutes to get the blood flowing and muscles warm. Follow with dynamic stretches targeting the legs, shoulders, and core to enhance range of motion.
Rest and Recovery
Adequate rest days are crucial for muscle repair and growth. Make sure to incorporate rest days into your weekly routine and listen to your body. Proper sleep, hydration, and nutrition also aid recovery.
Like any sport, you want to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of only playing the sport. And given pickleball’s addictive nature, that’s easier said than done! But the odds are that the folks you meet on the court that kick your butt are putting in time at the gym.
Let us know what your pickleball fitness routine looks like in the comments below.