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Leg strengthening exercises for pickleball players


By Connor Derrickson

on Dec 04, 2023

Connor Derrickson highlights the importance of leg strength for pickleball improvement

It’s become a popular joke among the fitness community — never skip leg day. But that sentiment is especially true when training to up your pickleball game. 

Building your leg strength is important to pickleball because the game requires a lot of quick lateral movement and prolonged squatting at the kitchen line. 

There are a variety of movements to practice so you can succeed at the kitchen line, including jumping, power, and speed, but all these movements feed off the strength you have in your legs. So, it is important to first build up your strength. 

In this Selkirk TV Original, join professional pickleball performance coach Connor Derrickson as he teaches you how to get strong on one leg so that you’re prepared for every type of shot on the court.

How to perform a proper split squat

One of the key muscle groups you’ll want to build is your quads, and a great way to do this is by performing split squats. 

Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at waist level, just in front of your body. With your legs about hip distance apart, move your left leg in front and your right leg behind you. 

With control, lower your right leg to the ground — or as low as you can comfortably go — and rise back up, pushing through your front heel. Make sure you are distributing your weight evenly. 

Perform several repetitions with your left leg forward, then switch your feet position and perform several repetitions with your right leg forward. 

How to do a reverse lunge

Once you have completed your split squat repetitions, move on to a reverse lunge. For this movement, hold the kettlebell at your waist and start with your hips facing forward and feet hip distance apart. 

Keeping your left leg where it is, step your right leg backward, being careful not to overextend, and touch your knee to the ground. Then step forward to bring your your foot back to its original position. You want to push up with your left heel and glute, being forceful as you return to neutral. 

Again, perform several repetitions on one leg before switching to the other. 

Step-by-step guide to lateral lunges

Pickleball is all about lateral movements, so it’s important to build the muscle groups that help you achieve such movements. A great way to do this is by performing regular lateral lunges. 

Hold your weight in a goblet position, just in front of your chest. Start with your feet wider than hip distance apart. 

Slowly lower to the right side, ensuring that you’re sitting back into the glute as if you’re about to sit on a chair. Put your weight into your heel and make sure your knee stays over your toe. 

You do not need to sink super low into the position, just as much as your mobility allows. Then, push through your heel to raise back to the center. Repeat several reps on one leg before switching to the other. 

Once you build up strength in your lateral lunge, you can advance the move by adding a torso twist.

Grab a medicine ball and hug it to your chest. Perform your lateral squat and as you reach the bottom of your range of motion, twist your torso toward the outside of your leg. Twist back to center and raise back up. 

This advancement challenges your hip mobility, your glute strength, and your thoracic mobility. If you find yourself falling over, get rid of the ball and practice your mobility. If you are still falling over, you may not yet be strong enough for this advancement. 

Download the Selkirk TV app HERE to watch the complete episode and many other Selkirk TV original shows, podcasts, lesson series from the pros, and much more.
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