Do you want to improve your pickleball game?
Perhaps you're new to the sport and want tips on playing well and avoiding injury.
To people who haven’t played the game, pickleball sounds like a silly game for kids that doesn’t require any real strength or stamina.
But following huge growth during the pandemic, it’s now one of the most popular sports in America.
If you drive by your local park, you're likely to see hordes of people queuing up to play pickleball.
Pickleball devotees describe it as a cross between badminton, tennis, and ping-pong with a bit of swing ball (see bats) thrown in for good measure.
It appeals to everyone, young and old, because the major selling points for the game are that you don’t need any special training to walk onto a court. It’s low-impact (easy on the joints).
The rules are easy to pick up; overall, it's great fun to play. It really is addictive – in a very wholesome way. Once you start, you can't stop.
If you play pickleball, you'll know that part of pickleball's appeal is that it's an excellent all-around form of cardiovascular exercise with elements of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Still, because it's so much fun, it feels easy.
Reports suggest pickleball burns 40% more calories than walking. In addition, it gets the blood and oxygen pumping around your body and improves circulation.
More Blogs From Manual Physical Therapy & Concierge Services:
You don't need to be a triathlete to take part or break your neck (or a bone) running after the ball. Pickleball is a great way to stay fit and healthy if you play a couple of times a week.
The game itself is good socially, too, so it's excellent for mental and physical health.
But that doesn't make pickleball any less competitive than other sports. You still want to win, right?
But quite possibly, the most appealing thing about playing pickleball is the pickleball lingo and the community spirit.
Yes, really. The game and its players have their own language.
Serious players use terms like “the pickle dome” to describe the place where they play championship matches. They also call the court area where you can't volley the ball “the kitchen ."That's an important one to remember because if you do make the mistake of volleying the ball in "the kitchen," you’ll be pulled up for a “volley llama” (fault). All of which makes the game even more fun to play.
But enough of that, let’s get down to the serious business of how to win at pickleball by making sure your body is capable of the perfect serve and dink.
How To Perform the Perfect Pickleball Serve
If you want to win at pickleball, you need to have a good serve.
Everything begins and ends with the serve because you can only score a point when you're on the serving team, which makes it super-important to get right.
However, pickleball differs from tennis, where a powerful and technically challenging overhand serve that flies right past your opponent can instantly win you a point.
With pickleball, the serve is a little less dynamic (and easier to perform). But if your serve ends up out of bounds, you can lose valuable points.
So, your service needs to be strategically solid and on-target.
The pickleball service is a basic underhand serve where you toss the ball in the air or drop it from a height and hit it. Of course, you can hit it backhand if you prefer.
However, most people have a stronger forehand than a backhand. But it’s as simple as that. Chuck the ball and hit it. However, there are some caveats.
For instance, you must only make contact with the ball when it's below your belly button.
So, you must allow the ball to drop before raising the bat and directing your shot.
You must also keep one foot behind the baseline when you contact the ball. Sounds easy, right?
Many things can go wrong when you're trying to consistently serve in a pickleball game.
Most of the time, it has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with your mobility and how you position your body before your serve.
For example, if you over-rotate and swing the bat too far backward while serving, it can lead to inconsistent off-target results.
But if you suffer from a lack of mobility in your shoulder joint, NOT over-rotating to hit the ball can be difficult.
Why? Because tight muscles and myofascial tissue around your shoulder make it almost impossible to swing your arm without fully moving your body.
Next time you serve, look out for this by trying to move your arm back without fully moving your body.
If you can't, you're certainly not alone. It's a common complaint because we all carry stress and tension in our shoulders.
So, What Can You Do About It?
Well, first, you need to work on your shoulder mobility.
The best way to do this is to work with a physical therapist.
We can pinpoint why you have reduced mobility in your shoulder joint, realign your posture and help you fix the issue.
For even greater benefit, you can learn how to perform shoulder mobility drills – with the help of a physical therapist – and do them regularly,
Once you’ve tackled your shoulder issues, you can serve with a partially closed stance that prevents your body from over-rotating.
But it would be best if you had good shoulder mobility to do this.
So, focus on mobility first. Then, if you’re still not winning at serving, try a different stance.
The other thing that can go wrong with your pickleball serve that has more to do with your body than skill (so we can correct it) is:
Not Generating Enough Speed
This could be due to muscle weakness or a lack of stability because you're not engaging your legs and core muscles properly before putting your weight behind the ball.
Consider working on your core strength and stability and building strength in your legs. But if your posture is misaligned, no amount of strength training will fix the issue.
So instead, work with a physical therapist who can correct your posture to maximize your strength and speed on the ball.
How To Get Your Dink Right
Second, only to the serve in order of importance for winning the game is the pickleball dink.
A good drink can be the deciding factor in a close-run match. The dink is especially relevant if you're not the fastest or strongest player on the court.
In that case, the pickleball dink can be your strategic ticket to victory.
When you know how to hit a good drink, you can use it to your advantage and slow the game down.
This strategy forces your stronger and/or faster opponent to move out of their preferred position at the back of the court. Then, you can take them out.
But What Makes A Good Dink?
For a match-winning dink, you need to gently tap the underside of the ball with an upward motion that lands it just over the net in your opponent's “kitchen” – otherwise known as their no-volley zone.
However, to get a drink just right, you need to be able to get underneath the ball by bending your knees.
So, you need good knee flexibility (preferably pain-free) and ample strength and stability in your calves and thigh muscles.
If getting below the ball and struggling to hit a good dink is painful for you and/or letting your game down.
You should consult a physical therapist who can analyze your posture, mobility, and flexibility.
Then, we find the sticking points that prevent you from bending well and making good contact with the ball simultaneously.
How Physical Therapy Helps You Win At Pickleball
It's not all about winning. It's taking part that counts.
But aside from the skill of the game and learning skills to beat your opponents. It's vital that your body is up to the game.
Pickleball doesn't have the pace of soccer or basketball. However, if your body isn't strong, flexible, and mobile, there is still a high chance you can get injured on the pickleball court.
So, if you're an existing pickleball player who feels twinges of pain during or after a game or you’re a new player who wants to get match-fit before stepping on the court, we can help prepare your body for the fun and excitement of your local pickleball league, while also helping you to prevent injuries.
Book your FREE consultation now.