Pickleball Tips for Beginners: How to Improve Your Pickleball Game
If you’re wondering how to improve your pickleball game, you’re not alone. The pickleball boom is real. Everyone, from teens to seniors, is picking up a paddle this year.
More than 36.5 million people played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022—nearly 14% of all U.S. adults—according to a new report by the Association of Pickleball Professionals cited by SGB Media.
So if you’re ready to jump on the pickleball bandwagon (or level-up your newfound pickleball skills), this article will introduce the sport, throw in a few pickleball tips for beginners, and have you well on your way to picking up a paddle with a few friends next weekend.
Introduction to Pickleball
Pickleball is a mid-sized racket sport. Think full-sized ping-pong or a scaled-down version of tennis. It doesn’t need much space to play, so a public court is probably nearby.
Getting started with pickleball is easy—you just need a few pieces of equipment:
- Pickleball. A light, wiffle-ball-like, plastic object.
- Paddle. Smaller than tennis rackets and made solid, without strings.
- Pickleball net. Slightly different from a tennis net, pickleball nets are 36" tall on the sides and 34" tall in the middle.
- A court. Much smaller than a tennis court, you could draw one on the driveway in chalk. Dimensions here.
And don’t forget your favorite pair of tennis shoes! Running and jogging shoes won’t always provide the proper support, so ensure you have a pair perfect for the court to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Pickleball Rules and Gameplay
Pickleball is played either as doubles—two players per team—or singles. Doubles is more common since the social element is one of the most appealing aspects of the game, but the court size is the same for both.
After deciding who serves first, through any fair method such as a coin toss, the serve is made diagonally crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court. Only the serving team can score, while the non-serving team works to win the serve back.
The business of pickleball serving can confuse beginners, so don’t be discouraged. The first serve begins from the back right corner of the court to the diagonally opposite side. With each service, the serving team members switch positions, ensuring that both members of the opposite team have a chance to return the serve.
Once a foul occurs, the serve passes to the second player on the first team, so both team members have a chance to serve before turning the service over to the other team.
To keep track of the score and server number, each server announces the current score and server number with each serve. For example, the server might say, “6-3-1,” to indicate that the serving team has 6 points to the receiving team's 3 points, and the current server is the first to serve on their team. For a detailed description of the serving sequence, reference section four of the Pickleball Official Rulebook.
Another unique element of pickleball play is “The Kitchen,” a non-volley zone stretching seven feet from the net on either side of the court. Players aren’t allowed to hit the ball while standing in the kitchen unless the ball has already bounced.
Finally, don’t forget the “Two Bounce Rule,” which states that both the serve and the first return must bounce before a player hits it. After this, players can volley their return—but not from the kitchen!
Types of Movement Used in Pickleball
Pickleball is an activity that works your entire body, including sharpening your agility, reaction time, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Let’s look at three of these movements in more detail.
1. All Your Joints
Neck, shoulders, knees, elbows—you name it, you need it to play pickleball. Luckily, it’s a lower-impact sport, so while keeping these joints active, there’s also a significantly reduced chance of injury.
Pickleball is an excellent form of low-impact cardio exercise that has many benefits for your body. Three games of pickleball a week would exceed the American Heart Association’s recommendation of approximately 150 minutes of exercise each week. So you can check that off your list while socializing with your three favorite people.
Pickleball and other racket sports help maintain balance and hand-eye coordination, two skills that wane as we age. It’s more than fun. Keeping balance sharp by learning to play pickleball can help with everyday tasks such as driving, eating, and avoiding falls over time. Check out these 5 workouts to improve your balance before getting out on the pickleball courts.
How to Improve Your Pickleball Game
To improve your pickleball game, you will want to strengthen muscles in the lower body, upper body, and core. Agility and rotation are also essential in pickleball. Working out at the gym can help cover all of these bases.
Quick Pickleball Tips for Beginners
Strength training is crucial to any exercise regimen, especially for those looking to boost their athletic performance. It improves posture, helps correct muscle imbalances, increases joint stability, enhances coordination, and, perhaps most importantly, prevents injury.
Recommended Exercises to Improve Your Pickleball Skills
Try these exercises to enhance your pickleball skills:
- Front to Lateral Raises. Raise light dumbbells or handweights forward until shoulder height, then rotate palms to face pockets and raise weights laterally until shoulder height.
- Front Lunge to Torso Rotation. Start with feet hip width apart and knees slightly flexed, take a dumbbell in both hands, draw left knee up, stride forward, sink down into lunge, rotate upper torso, return to starting position, repeat with opposite leg.
- Bodyweight Squat to Overhead Extension. Sink your hips down and back, swing your arms back, explode up, engage your calves, and return to starting position.
- Low to High Woodchoppers. Start in a lunge position facing to the left with the dumbbell in front of the shin. Drive through the left foot while rotating the dumbbell upward to the right side. Repeat on the right side.
- Plyometric Skaters. Bound out to the left side using your core and lower body muscles to stabilize and change direction, absorbing the impact with your muscles.
Pickleball is a great sport for beginners since it’s easy to start. Now that you know how to improve your pickleball game, it’s time to hit the court!
Join your local Planet Fitness to strengthen your pickleball game between matches. Or get started now for free on the PF App.