By: CJ Johnson | December 26, 2019 |

Can You Play Better Pickleball WITHOUT Drilling?

What if I told you that you could improve your pickleball in as little as three minutes a day without drilling? Would you be curious?

When you’re over 50, whether you’re trying to win tournaments or become the best rec player you can be, it requires more than just hitting tremendous shots. Fitness counts! If you have a strong core and good balance, you’re going to play better pickleball.

The Bird Dog is my favorite way to improve your strength, balance, and mobility in just minutes a day.

Grab your yoga mat and put it on the floor. No mat? You should get one. Stretching and strength training will help you play better pickleball, and a yoga mat makes getting on the deck easier on older joints. If you don’t have a mat, fold up a couple of towels to put under your hands and knees.

Kneel on all fours with your shoulders directly above your wrists, your hips directly above your knees. You can place your toes down for stability, or if you want to make it a little bit harder, you can have your toes pointed with the top of the foot touching the floor.

Begin by lifting one arm parallel to the ground. Draw in your core, feel like you are tightening your stomach to your spine to increase your stability. Now lift the opposite leg, so it’s parallel to the ground as well. Don’t allow your lower body to rotate toward the ceiling; keep your hips facing the floor. If you find this challenging, hold this position for a ten count and then repeat on the other side. If you can’t keep one leg and one arm off the floor at the same time, alternate the arm and the leg until you develop enough strength to do it simultaneously.

Were you able to maintain that position? Great, let’s kick it up a notch.

Bring the arm and leg toward the middle of your body, touching the elbow to the knee. Extend back to the starting position with the arm and leg parallel to the floor and the hips facing down. Try to do ten repetitions on both sides. If you can’t make it to 10, do as many as you can, then switch to the other side.

If that’s too easy for you, get in the bird dog position again. This time put your hand behind the base of your neck. Begin by rotating your torso as far as you can toward the ceiling. Then rotate downward and touch your elbow to your knee. Repeat ten times on each side.

Still too easy? As my high school English teacher used to say, “here’s the super-duper extra credit question.”

Get back on all fours, make sure to align the shoulders over the wrists and hips over the knees. Lift one arm and stabilize your body. Now lift the leg that’s on the same side parallel to the floor. Maintain your balance and avoid collapsing into the hip that’s still on the floor. Want more? Touch the elbow to the knee.


If you want to play your best pickleball, you need a strong core as well as balance/stability, and flexibility/mobility. Practice the bird dog a couple of times each day, and you’ll be surprised how this simple exercise improves your ability to move on the court.

CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)