It’s natural to think, If I want to get better at a sport, I need to maximize my time playing that sport. While practice is vital for improvement in any physical activity, there’s a reason cross-training is touted in the fitness industry: By mindfully infusing your routine with other activities, you can support your efforts in that sport and strengthen your body’s ability to succeed in it.
For pickleball players, cross-training with activities that improve strength, cardio, movement patterns, mobility, and stability can all be beneficial. We asked Life Time performers and coaches to identify which studio classes could deliver on these goals. These are their top recommendations.
1. Dance Jam
“Dance Jam is an experience for all ages and abilities — whether you consider yourself a ‘dancer’ or not,” says Nikki Nielsen, studio leader at Life Time in Chanhassen, Minn. “This class pushes your cardiovascular endurance and focuses on coordination and balance. Even though you’re performing demanding physical work, there’s an element of fun and a lift of the spirit.
“Pickleball and Dance Jam actually share many commonalities,” Nielsen continues. “Physically, both modalities put a large focus on lateral movement, core stability, center of gravity, and cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Both also have a social component — they have strong communities. I love both for having fun and being able to celebrate wins through either beads of sweat or a point system.”
2. Warrior Sculpt
“Warrior Sculpt is a blend of grace and strength and is one of my favorite classes to both teach and take,” says Dexter Carter, group fitness instructor and coach at Life Time in Syosset, N.Y. “You can expect a yoga fusion class that takes you on a physical and emotional journey, moving you with mindfulness through cardio, balance, and flow.
“For those who love pickleball, we know it’s very important to possess mobility and keep a strength-training routine going,” Carter explains. “Warrior Sculpt helps develop mobility and stability in the spine, shoulders, hips, and knees. And the inclusion of cardio can build your stamina to play pickleball for a long period of time.”
3. Barbell Strength
“Barbell Strength is a musically driven, foundational strength class that’s perfect for everyone from beginners to advanced lifters,” says Jasmine de LaCruz, group fitness instructor and kids studio content creator at Life Time. “You can start with light weights and increase as you progress. You’ll learn proper form and work nearly every muscle group in your body.
“Developing strength is encouraged for pickleball players to help prevent injury and improve on-court performance,” de LaCruz explains. “Strength training can help with your stability and range of motion, as well as provide you with a competitive edge through overall strength, power, and agility.”
“GTX is a beautiful blend of the best parts of group fitness and personal training,” says Emma Graves, studio Master Trainer and Dynamic Personal Trainer at Life Time River North at One Chicago in Illinois. “It’s a 50-50 mix of cardio and strength. In this class, we move in multiple planes of motion and include movement patterns that mimic our lives’ daily activities for improvement in functional fitness.
“This class is beneficial for pickleball players because pickleball requires the body to move in all planes of motion — front to back, side to side, and rotationally — and to have a good, active range of motion. We work on this in the strength portion of GTX. Also, the stamina it takes to play multiple games of pickleball is no joke, and GTX is purposely structured to strengthen your heart and lungs.”
5. SOL Yoga
“SOL yoga is a dynamic and mindful yoga practice that seamlessly integrates breath with fluid movements and mindfulness,” says Rob Glick, senior director of programming and innovation for large and small group training, yoga, and cycle for Life Time in San Clemente, Calif. “I wholeheartedly recommend it to pickleball enthusiasts as a holistic approach to elevate their skills and overall athletic performance.
“This practice increases flexibility, balance, and body awareness,” explains Glick, “all of which are pivotal in the sport. Greater flexibility facilitates improved range of motion, aiding in powerful shots and swift changes in direction. Heightened agility and body awareness contribute to better court positioning. Furthermore, the mindfulness aspect fosters improved focus and concentration during pickleball matches.”