Going to the gym to build muscle is fine, and lifting weights is probably the best way to maintain your physique. Baseball, football, and basketball are also great for building your physique and increasing muscle mass. But what about a sport like pickleball? Do you build muscle by playing pickleball?
It is possible to build muscle by playing pickleball. Pickleball activates the biceps, triceps, chest, and back muscles in the upper body, as well as the hamstrings and quads in the lower body. Pickleball builds muscle and raises your heart rate, making it an excellent cardiovascular exercise too.
Pickleball is an excellent sport for building muscle and increasing your aerobic capacity. Let’s explore why pickleball builds muscle, how many times a week you should play pickleball, and a few other benefits of playing pickleball.
Even though pickleball is primarily a cardiovascular sport, it also builds muscle. Pickleball is like tennis, but the main difference is it has a lower impact on the knees and joints. So, if pickleball is mainly a cardiovascular sport, why does it build muscle?
Pickleball builds lower body muscles mainly because the game requires you to start and stop running frequently. These actions need faster muscle contraction. The fibers responsible for stopping and quickly starting to move are called fast twitch fibers.
You are bound to build more muscle by exercising your fast twitch fibers. That is because your body’s reaction to stress is to adapt to it. In this case, adaptation results in bigger fast twitch fibers. In the fitness world, people know this by the name of hypertrophy.
The key takeaway is that your body needs to adapt to the stress, primarily when starting to run and then suddenly stopping. Adapting to that stress will build muscle and optimize the energy your body uses to execute certain actions.
Pickleball builds muscle in your upper body on the same principle that tennis players build muscle. Yet, pickleball is a much more dynamic game and requires the same fast twitch fibers mentioned before.
By activating the fast twitch fibers in your arms, chest, and back, you are forcing your body to adapt to particular stresses. These can be anything from preparing your hand to hit the ball or actually hitting the ball. Frequently hitting the ball as hard as possible forces your body to adapt. In this case, adaptation is the growth of fast twitch fibers. The bigger the fast twitch fibers, the bigger the muscle.
Pickleball activates both the upper body and lower body muscles. The main upper body muscles used are the forearm, biceps, triceps, shoulder, and rotator cuff. The rotator cuff handles your shoulder’s internal and external rotation.
The hamstrings and quads are the major lower body muscles that work while playing pickleball. It is definitely possible to build muscle by playing pickleball, but how many times a week should you play to build muscle?
The number of pickleball sessions you should have weekly depends on how fast you recover from each pickleball session. If you need two days to recover from the previous session, you should have at least three weekly sessions.
We can use the same calculation to determine how many sessions per week are optimal if you recover in 24 hours. If you recover from the previous session in 24 hours, you can play pickleball every day of the week.
Furthermore, you need to understand what it means to recover fully. Fully recovered means that you are ready to put in the same effort and intensity, or even more, in the next pickleball session. You have recovered if your muscles are not sore and your central nervous system(CNS) is fresh and ready for the new pickleball session.
Since most people recover within 48 hours of the last playing session, an optimal number of pickleball sessions per week is three. That is to say if your pickleball session lasts up to 2 hours. You will need more time to recover if a pickleball game is longer.
Pickleball is for people of all ages, and if you are a beginner, you don’t need to worry about your athletic appearance. Traditionally, the game is for the older crowd. Some studies prove that most core pickleball players are 55 and older, meaning everybody can play the game.
The best piece of advice is to start playing with someone of your age, same pickleball skill level, or with the same athletic abilities. You can change your playing partners and pick more skilled and athletic ones as you progress.
Pickleball is an excellent choice for weight loss. Yet, you will not lose muscle when playing pickleball. This is because your fast twitch fibers will increase in size to adapt to external stressors. So, you will lose fat because of the intensity and because pickleball is a highly cardiovascular-demanding sport. In other words, pickleball is an excellent choice to build muscle and lose excess fat.
Playing pickleball often can hold many health benefits in addition to building muscle. The health benefits of pickleball extend beyond muscle and include fitness and mental health too.
Since pickleball is a cardiovascular sport, you will need to train your respiratory system to become more efficient. An efficient respiratory system means your body produces more energy from oxygen. Having at least two pickleball sessions per week will increase your aerobic capacity in under one month.
Pickleball is a sport that requires frequent direction changes, meaning you need to stop and start moving quickly. That process will force your body to build more fast twitch fibers and, in turn, increase your muscle mass.
Increased muscle mass will support your bone structure and make your movement more efficient. Also, a healthy musculoskeletal system will decrease pain in the lower back, knees, ankles, etc.
Any sport is a natural anti-depressant, and it’s the same with pickleball. Playing pickleball will regulate your hormones and improve your mood drastically. Exercising raises dopamine levels, a hormone that plays a significant role in your happiness.
You can build your forearm muscles, biceps, triceps, hamstring, and quads by playing pickleball. You should have at least three weekly pickleball sessions to maximize building your muscles.
Yet, recovering before you hit the next session is most important. Finally, people of all ages can play pickleball, so don’t bother yourself with your current athletic capabilities.