A Workout Routine to Improve Your Pickleball Game

Pickleball — a hybrid of badminton, tennis, and table tennis — is now the fastest growing sport in America, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

The sport has grown in popularity since ACE-sponsored research conducted in 2018 explored whether pickleball could help middle-aged and older adults get fit — and that study seems more relevant than ever as USA Pickleball now reports that while most of pickleball’s most dedicated players are over age 65, the game is getting younger, with the strongest growth among players under 55.

pickleball equipment

Why pickleball is an effective workout

So what did the ACE-sponsored research conclude? The average caloric expenditure for the study participants was approximately 350 calories burned for every 60 minutes of participation.

This means that regular participation in pickleball elicits cardiovascular and metabolic responses that meet exercise intensity guidelines for improving and maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness.

These findings support pickleball as an ideal form of physical activity for middle-aged and older adults.

How to stay safe while playing pickleball

One of the concerns about the rapid growth of a sport that sees its greatest popularity among people aged 55 and older is the risk of falls and injury.

In fact, the authors of the ACE-sponsored study highlighted the need for safety, pointing out that nearly every participant had fallen at least once or twice during the study.

Safe participation requires the agility and balance to perform such movements as backpedaling and returning a ball hit over the player’s head.

Proper technique — for example, turning and running for the ball rather than backpedaling — coupled with an exercise regimen that prepares the body for the sport, will allow for safe participation in this fun and exciting game.

How to prepare your body for pickleball

The exercise program provided below can be completed two to three days per week (on nonconsecutive days) to prepare the body for the demands of pickleball.

This workout combines a variety of multijoint movements across all three planes of motion to support postural stability, joint mobility, and proper movement patterns.

This workout can be performed two to three days per week. The warm-up can be used prior to playing pickleball, in addition to being a warm-up for the conditioning segment of the workout provided.

For the conditioning segment, perform one set of each exercise listed and then start back at the top of the list and perform the second set of each exercise.

At first, performing only one set of each exercise may be most appropriate. Rest for 30 seconds or less between exercises.


Standing gate openersLow to moderate intensity18-15 repetitions on each leg
Inverted flyersLow to moderate intensity18-15 repetitions on each leg
Lateral over undersLow to moderate intensity18-15 repetitions in each direction
Mountain climbersLow to moderate intensity1As many repetitions as possible in 30 seconds

Conditioning segment

Side lunge20-70% 1-RM1-48-15 on each leg
Push-up with single-leg raise20-70% 1-RM1-48-15
Sumo rotational squats20-70% 1-RM1-48-15 rotating in each direction
Side-lying arm rolls20-70% 1-RM1-48-15 on each side
Sprinter pulls20-70% 1-RM1-48-15 on each leg
Bird dog20-70% 1-RM1-48-15 to each side
Supine bicycle crunches20-70% 1-RM1-48-15 to each side


Standing triangle straddle bendsStretch to the point of feeling tightness or slight discomfort. Hold stretch for 30-60 seconds. 11-2 for a total of 60 seconds of stretching time
Kneeling hip flexor stretchStretch to the point of feeling tightness or slight discomfort. Hold stretch for 30-60 seconds. 11-2 for a total of 60 seconds of stretching time
Cat-cowLow to moderate intensity18-15
Shoulder stability-mobility seriesLow to moderate intensity18-15 of each formation
Spinal twist with a push-pull movementLow to moderate intensity18-15 on each side

Note: 1-RM = One-repetition maximum

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About Cedric X Bryant, Ph.D., FACSM

As president and chief science officer, Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., FACSM, represents ACE as a national and international speaker, writer and expert source. He oversees ACE's development of strategies to deliver exercise-science and behavior-change education in ways that are engaging and compelling, recruiting more people to become exercise professionals and health coaches and equipping them for growth in their respective fields. He also leads ACE's efforts to support the appropriate integration of science-based programs and interventions into healthcare and public health. Dr. Bryant has written more than 300 articles or columns for fitness trade magazines, academic journals, and national media outlets, and authored, co-authored or edited more than 35 books. He can often be found as an authoritative resource for health and fitness articles in a variety of respected publications including USA Today, Washington Post, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, Shape, Consumer Reports, Fox News, CNN Headline News and more. Dr. Bryant serves on a variety of committees and boards including the WHO’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity, National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching’s council of advisors, National Association of Physical Literacy’s advisory board and BOKS Kids’ advisory board. He earned both his doctorate in physiology and master's degree in exercise science from Pennsylvania State University, where he received the Penn State Alumni Fellow Award, the school's highest alumni honor that is given to select alumni who are considered leaders in their professional fields.