What else do Drew Brees and Tom Brady have in common besides being Super Bowl champions? Both are also owners of Major League Pickleball (MLP) teams as this sport continues to become popular globally. When the sport started in 1965, it was popular with adults, but players of all ages are now playing one of the rising sports in North America.
When a sport becomes professional, players start seeking a performance edge, and becoming stronger is a simple but challenging way to improve your performance on the pickleball court.
Although the court is smaller, players move less, and there is less impact on the joints, there are still lots of direction changes, and players must stay low and react quickly. Do you know one exercise that improves all this? Yes, squats.
Here, we’ll get into pickleball 101 and the legitimate benefits the king of all exercises offers pickleball players.
Pickleball 101 For Beginner Pickleball Players
For the uninitiated, here is a short introduction. Pickleball is a mash-up that mixes in elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. It’s typically played on a hard court or gym floor, and the court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, about a third of the size of a regular tennis court.
The game is played with paddles between 7-8.25 inches wide and 15-16 inches long and plastic balls resembling wiffle balls. It is either a singles game or a doubles game with four people.
The summary of the rules is as follows:
- The serve is similar to a ping-pong serve, where you hit the ball around waist-high across the court and only get one shot at it. Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level, must be served underhanded, and the paddle head must be below the wrist.
- After the ball is served, the receiver must let it bounce before returning, and the serving team must also let it bounce before returning. This rule eliminates the traditional serve-and-volley game synonymous with tennis. When the ball has bounced once on each side of the court, you can hit a volley or a groundstroke.
- Points are scored only by the serving team, and games are played to 11 points, winning by two, but in tournaments, games may be played to 15 or 21, winning by two.
The Muscles Used in Pickleball
Here are the major muscles and movements used when playing pickleball.
- Quads: Strong quads will allow you to move better around the court and add some pop to your groundstrokes.
- Hamstrings: Act like the brakes on a car when lunging to reach a shot or change direction quickly.
- Glutes: Internal and external hip rotation occurs when changing direction and hitting shots. A powerful hip extension will add pop to your serve, volleys, and groundstrokes.
- Core: Core stability is needed to maintain balance significantly when changing direction and allows for smooth power transfer from the lower body to the upper body.
- Shoulders: The rotator cuffs, delts, and upper back need to lift and rotate the arm to allow you to serve hit shots and keep you in an upright posture while moving around the court.
- Forearms: The forearm flexors and extensors grip the paddle and maintain ball control on your serves and strokes.
Pickleball demands quick and precise movement on the court, and the ability to hit forehands, backhands, and overhead smashes. When hitting shots, good footwork and agility are needed with quick lateral moves, split steps, and weight transfer from the back to the forward foot. All these are essential movements for any player aiming to excel at pickleball.
Why Pickleball Players Need to Squat
The squat is needed to improve performance on the pickleball court because it significantly impacts ankle, knee, and hip strength. Plus, squatting is similar to the ready position, essentially a 1/4 squat. Here are some other essential performance benefits of adding squats to your pickleball game.
Although you hit the ball with your upper body, the lower body generates the power to make this happen. Getting the legs strong with squat variations means you’ll be able to hit the ball harder and with more power.
Reduced Injury Risk
Nothing stops you in your tracks faster than getting injured. Although you can never get that injury risk down to zero, strengthening the muscles, tendons, and joints of the lower body with squats will make you more robust and less prone to leg injuries.
Better Speed and Cardiovascular Endurance
To generate speed (and endurance), you need to apply more force to the ground and do it repeatedly. To do this, you need strong leg muscles, and can you think of an exercise that adds muscle and strength to almost all lower body muscles? Yes, that’s right, squats. By performing squats regularly, running and hitting become more manageable, and you can keep doing them longer.
The Best Squat For Pickleball
All squat variations are great, but split squats are king for pickleball players when you want the most bang for your buck. In pickleball, you will hit shots that drop below your hips or knees, especially when you are in a split stance, and using your legs to get low and hit the shot would be best. Unfortunately, nothing does this better than a split squat.
Two to four sets of eight to 15 reps on each side works well for pickleball players of all levels.