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Strengthening your calves and knees for pickleball


By Dustin Davis

on Jan 12, 2024

Certified trainer Dustin Davis shares calf-strengthing exercises

When playing any sport, but especially pickleball, you need a strong base to help you make the powerful moves necessary to succeed on the court. 

So, it’s important to take time off the court to develop the muscles in your legs and glutes. Doing so not only improves your on-court efforts but also ensures that your back and knees are protected from undue strain. 

In this Selkirk TV episode, Certified Teaching Pro & NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist Dustin Davis walks viewers through several exercises that will boost your leg strength and health. 

All the exercises in this exercise can be done in the comfort of your home because they require zero equipment. 

Move 1: Wall leans and toe raises

Find an empty space on the wall in your home that is big enough to support your whole body. Stand about six inches away from the wall, with your back facing the wall. The further away you are, the harder the movement will be. 

Slowly lean backward so that your back is touching the wall from your shoulders to your glutes. Now, pick your toes up as high as you can off the ground before slowly lowering them back down. 

This move will help release the load placed on your shins during pickleball. It is especially useful to help alleviate shin splints or keep them from occurring. 

The goal is to get blood flowing to your shins so they can get the nutrients necessary to heal. Complete about 25 repetitions. 

Move 2: Calf raises with the wall

Now that you have flexibility in your ankles, it’s time to strengthen the back half of your lower leg. 

Turn around and stand several feet away from the wall — again, the further away you are, the harder the exercise will be. Lean forward so that both palms are flat on the wall, supporting your body. If your heels aren’t touching the ground, scoot your feet forward several inches until your heels touch. 

Squeeze your calves to lift yourself onto your toes before lowering back down. Make sure you control the movement up and down — don’t rush it.  

Also, make sure you don’t roll to the outside of your feet as you raise because your calf won’t be doing all the work. If you find yourself doing this regularly, try holding a pickleball in between your feet as you complete the movement. 

This movement will help strengthen your calves and heels to support quick first steps on the court. If you don’t have strong calves, your knee will take the load. Complete about 25 repetitions. 

Move 3: Wall-assisted knee bends

Turn your back to the wall again, with your feet about six inches away from the wall. Lean back so that your back is supported from your shoulders to your glutes. 

Lift your left leg so that is straightened a few inches off the floor. Slowly bend your right knee to tap your left heel on the ground before rising back up. 

This should be a small range of motion. The lower you go, the more you may feel pain in your knee. If you begin to feel knee pain, shorten your range of motion. 

Complete 10-15 repetitions on each leg. You may find that you can go lower on one leg — this is completely normal. 

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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