What Muscles Does Pickleball Work?

Have you ever thought “How do I get myself primed for pickleball?” or “Are there muscles that I can target in the gym to give me an edge on the pickleball court?”

If so, then today’s topic is for you. The short answer is Yes! There are major muscle groups used extensively during pickleball and we can improve them. 

Today, I’ll go over all the muscles used in pickleball and some simple and effective exercises I use in the gym to strengthen them.

What muscles does pickleball work

The muscles worked in pickleball are similar to those in tennis. Like tennis, pickleball is a full body workout.

Pickleball especially works out your core, glutes, quads, biceps, triceps, shoulders and forearm muscles. In addition to these, muscles are worked in your upper, mid and lower body during a full game of pickleball.

All muscles worked in a game of pickleball


So many actions go into pickleball, from running, holding the paddle, volleying etc. Upper body, mid body and lower body muscles all work together when you play pickleball.

Upper body muscles

Upper back and shoulder

The shoulders are the most flexible joint in the body. In pickleball, the upper back and shoulders are used to lift the arms. Naturally, this is used when executing an overhead smash. Also, when you serve, you usually twist your upper back to generate energy. Note: All major arm motions require your shoulders.


The heart has muscles too. We all know pickleball helps with cardiovascular fitness. What that means, is that it gives your heart muscles a thorough workout. Your heart literally keeps your blood pumping so you can enjoy pickleball.

Chest and Lungs

shirtless man showing defined upper body

The heart needs oxygen and the lungs supply that to your heart. Like the heart, the lungs also have muscles (these include the muscles between your chest (intercoastal muscles) and your diaphragm) which are used to send oxygen to the heart to power your whole body when you play pickleball.

Your chest muscles are also activated when swinging your paddle. For example, a powerful backhand drive activates your chest muscles.


Triceps are the muscles on the back of your upper arm, behind your guns (biceps). Their main function is to extend your forearms. So, any backhand motion (dinks, swings etc) in pickleball uses your triceps.


The biceps might be the most overexercised muscle in the gym. They are your “guns”, the muscles on the front of your upper arm between your shoulder and elbow. Biceps are used to pull your forearms. So, a forehand dink, lobs, and even serves relies on your biceps to lift your forearm up.


In pickleball, there’s a lot of talk about grips. Your forearms grip the pickleball paddle and are used more than all other upper body muscles. Tightening, loosening, changing your grip, locking your wrist when blocking all demand the attention of your forearm.

Mid body muscles

Onto the core muscles, these provide balance, power and help you twist your torso or change direction on the pickleball court.


ladies doing ab exercises on the court

Abdominals are your “6-pack” muscles if you have them. Basically, they are the muscles underneath your belly. Your abs help you react quickly on the court. Anytime you have to twist your upper body e.g forehand swing, backhand swing, your abs are in action. They are also vital in maintaining your balance on the pickleball court.

Lower back

Your lower back is that section just above your butt. It is usually used in concert with your abs whenever you have to bend for a low ball and after that, to get back into a ready position.

Lower body muscles

Last, but not least, the below-the-waist muscles. These muscles move your whole body from one point on the pickleball court to another.


The quadriceps, quads for short, aka your thigh muscles are vital in pickleball. When you set of from the baseline after a serve, they are also active. Basically, any lifting, pivoting of your feet or shuffling across requires your quads. Good quads means improved acceleration on the court.

Glutes & Hamstrings

Two women playing pickleball doubles
Glutes in action

The glutes are the butt muscles and the hamstrings are the “strings” that run down from your butt to the back of your knee. When you semi-squat in front of the kitchen line, your glutes are active. Walking, running, jumping on the pickleball court all require your glutes & hamstrings


The calves are the “yams” at the back of your lower leg. They help you whenever you lift your feet off the ground. This includes jumping or reaching for a high lob in pickleball.

Related: Calories you burn playing pickleball

Simple exercise routine to strengthen core pickleball muscles

man doing bench dips in the gym
Bench dips for your triceps

Apart from just getting an edge on the pickleball court, you need to supplement your game with strength training because like tennis, pickleball focuses on one side of your body, the pickleball paddle holding side. So you may need strength training to balance this out.

  1. Cardio: Running, walking, swimming etc.
  2. Chest & Triceps: Decline bench press, Flat bench press, incline bench press, machine pec flys, tricep dips, tricep pushdowns, bench dips, overhead tricep extension.
  3. Biceps & Back: Chinups, cable curl, concentration curl, ez bar curl, romanian deadlift, pulldowns, rows, dumbbell single arm row.
  4. Legs & Shoulders: Shoulder press, shrugs, lateral raise, front raise, leg press, lunges, leg extensions, leg curls.
  5. Core: Leg raises, russian twists, mountain climber, heel touch

Sample pickleball off-court exercise routine that I use

  • Mondays: Chest & Triceps
  • Tuesdays: Cardio
  • Wednesdays: Biceps & Back
  • Thursdays: Cardio
  • Fridays: Legs & Shoulders

I try to do some ab workouts in between workouts on gym days. So, abs are done every gym day.

I’m no expert. You can try it or change it to what fits you. Regardless, regularly incorporating cardio and strength training will improve your muscles and consequently the stamina, control and power in your pickleball game.

Maybe you have no interest in getting into the gym just for pickleball. No worries, check out these 24 pickleball drills to up your game or warm up exercises to get your muscles ready for pickleball action.

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