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Endurance and agility are obvious staple skills for anyone who plays pickleball. But as it is for many sports, strength is also integral for improving abilities and staying safe from injury.

“Due to the size of the court and speed and style of play, pickleball players require a lot of functional flexibility — and strength throughout those ranges of motion,” says Joel Watts, personal training leader at Life Time in Charlotte, N.C. “Developing strength should be a focus of players’ off-court efforts in order to prevent injury and maximize performance.”

Aleks Westlund, an avid pickleball player and member at Life Time in St. Louis Park, Minn., has seen the value of how his strength-building efforts have translated to his play on the court. “Weightlifting is essential for maintaining my fitness level for pickleball,” says Westlund. “By focusing on strengthening my legs, I enhance my endurance. This enables me to be agile and swiftly reach the net, particularly during singles matches. Additionally, I incorporate exercises that promote shoulder flexibility and preserve a wide range of motion.”

To strengthen your body and improve your pickleball game, Watts, along with Andrew Blosser, regional lead personal trainer at Life Time in Easton, Ohio, recommend incorporating these eight moves into your exercise routine two to three times a week.

1. Split Stance Single-Arm Cable Chest Press With Rotation

“This movement, along with the three following ones — the split stance single-arm cable incline row, the half-kneeling lift, and the medicine ball toss — all help to increase rotational strength and speed while also training to maintain core and lower-body stability,” says Watts.

  • Stand at a cable-pulley machine and anchor the cable at around chest level.
  • Grab the handle of the cable with your right hand.
  • Turn your back to the anchor point. Hold the handle to the right of your chest and take a step forward with your left foot to assume a split-stance position.
  • Keeping your abs engaged, push the handle out in front of your body, keeping it in line with your chest but rotating your torso to the right as you do so. Maintain a stable lower body.
  • Slowly return the handle to the starting position.
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

2. Split Stance Single-Arm Cable Row With Rotation

  • Stand at a cable-pulley machine and anchor the cable at around chest level.
  • Facing the machine, grab the handle of the cable with your right hand.
  • Step your right leg back so you’re in a split-stance position.
  • Pull the handle toward you, rotating your torso to the right as you pull back. Maintain a stable lower body.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

3. Half-Kneeling Lift

  • Stand at a cable-pulley machine and anchor the cable at a low-point attachment.
  • Grab the handle of the cable with both hands, palms facing down.
  • Turn your body so it’s perpendicular to the anchor point of the cable.
  • Assume a half-kneeling position with your inside knee down. Keep both knees at a 90-degree angle. Keep your hips directly under your trunk and your spine erect with your shoulders down and back.
  • Pull the handle of the cable diagonally up across your body, past your outside shoulder. Your trunk should rotate and follow your hands throughout the exercise while your lower body remains stable.
  • Slowly reverse the motion, returning the handle to its starting point.
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

4. Medicine Ball Toss

  • Stand and hold a four-pound medicine ball in both hands. Face either a partner or a wall about 10 feet away.
  • Take one step forward to assume a lunge position and hold the ball beside your right hip.
  • Quickly rotate your body to your left and throw the ball to your partner or the wall.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.

5. Single-Leg Deadlift

“The single-leg deadlift is an excellent choice to not only strengthen the leg muscles but to also improve your balance and coordination,” says Blosser. “This exercise is vital in improving your athletic ability and speed.”

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand.
  • Shift your weight into your left leg, keeping a soft bend in your knee.
  • Hinge at the hips to lift your right leg behind you into the air, while simultaneously leaning forward with your torso. Reach down as far as you can with the weight in your right hand while maintaining stability.
  • Slowly and with control, return to the starting position.
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

6. Pallof Press

“The Pallof press requires you to display aspects of strength, balance, and core stability,” explains Blosser. “You’ll not only strengthen your core but also increase your mobility.”

  • Stand at a cable-pulley machine and anchor the cable around chest level.
  • Stand perpendicular to the anchor and take one step backward. Keep your knees hip width apart and slightly bent. Keep your core engaged and shoulders pulled down and away from your ears.
  • Hold the handle with both hands with overlapped fingers at the middle of your chest. Step far enough away from the anchor point so there is some tension on the band or cable.
  • Extend your arms forward, keeping them parallel to the floor; keep the rest of your body straight and upright. Hold for five seconds.
  • Slowly bring the cable back to the midline of your chest.
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps.

7. Single-Arm Landmine Press

“This movement is beneficial for safely strengthening the shoulders while also improving the mobility of the shoulder joint,” says Blosser. “Your core stability will be challenged.”

  • Stand with your spine neutral and feet shoulder width apart.
  • Grip the free end of the barbell with one hand, holding it close to your shoulder. Place your other hand on your ribcage to monitor spinal positioning.
  • Take a deep breath and press the weight away from you, fully extending your arm and flexing your shoulder.
  • Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position (close to your shoulder).
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

8. Goblet Squat

“The goblet squat builds a foundation of strength and mobility, which enhances your ability to explosively move in any direction,” shares Watts.

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands at chest height.
  • Push your hips back and squat down as low as you comfortably can. Keep the weight in front of your chest and your elbows tucked in.
  • Drive through your feet and extend at your knees and hips to rise to standing.
  • Perform 12 to 15 reps.
Callie Chase
Callie Fredrickson

Callie Fredrickson is a content editor at Life Time.

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