Are you struggling to find the perfect pickleball drills to boost your game quickly? We know the feeling. The right drills can help you turn the weaker elements of your pickleball game into your strongest. Great drills often turbo-boost your pickleball skills much quicker than practice play.
In this article, we’ll discuss the best drills for every occasion. Whether you’re looking for drills to practice by yourself at home or group drills, we have you covered. We’ll also look at advanced pickleball drills that target specific aspects of your game.
Drilling doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. We’re here to show you how to have fun while also leveling up your game.
Best pickleball drills for beginners
First up, here are two drills that are ideal for budding pickleheads to get into the swing of the game quickly.
Paddle up is the easiest drill for pickleball beginners, but it teaches essential skills, nonetheless.
Simply hit the ball straight up into the air and continue to bounce it off your paddle without letting it hit the floor. Try varying the bounce height and walking around at the same time.
Selfie ball bounce
Another great drill that you can do just about anywhere, the selfie ball bounce is an extension of the paddle up drill.
First, hold your paddle horizontally to the ground. Now bounce the ball off your paddle, letting it bounce off the ground before scooping it up into the air and repeating.
Best pickleball drills for intermediate players
As your game improves, you’ll start to find that certain skills take longer to master than others. The following drills focus on two crucial aspects of your game: the third shot drop and your dink direction.
This drill trains you to mix up your dinks and keep your opponents guessing. Many pickleball players make the mistake of being too predictable with their dink game by simply dropping the shot into the same place over and over.
In pickleball triangle dinking drills, you set up a triangle of markers around your opponent, and they do the same around you. Then, as you dink back and forth to one another, aim for each marker in sequential order—left, middle, then right. Do this over and over.
This drill is excellent training for your backhand and forehand shots. It’s also great fun.
Third shot drop
The third shot drop is arguably the most important shot in the whole game of pickleball. As the old pickleball saying goes, "Whoever controls the net, controls the game". A sweet third shot drop lets you seamlessly transition to the perfect position to start a dinking rally.
The third shot drop is really nothing more than a long dink. The trick is getting the weight of your shot just right. It’s all about muscle memory which is the body’s ability to remember certain actions and repeat them without conscious effort.
This drill consists of one player standing on the non-volley zone line hitting shots to the opponent who is standing close to the baseline. The baseline player gets to repetitively drop shots into the kitchen (the third shot drop), while the other player practices their returns.
Learn some more tips for improving your third shot drop:
Best pickleball drills for advanced players
As your game continues to improve, pickleball practice drills become more and more technical and specialized. These two advanced drills are for players with a high level of skill and stamina.
Hit and run
This one will certainly get the blood flowing! Starting at the baseline, the first player hits the ball down the sideline to their counterpart, who returns a shot to the opposite corner. The first player has to cross the court to return another shot down the sideline, and so on.
This drill involves a lot of running from corner to corner, so it’s great for your footwork. It’ll also get you practicing long, accurate drives.
Dink and lob
An offensive pickleball lob is a great shot to master. When all players are close to the kitchen line, a well-placed lob throws any opponents off and forces them into a defensive position away from the net.
To practice this lob shot, place some markers about three feet in front of your opponent’s baseline. Then, have your opponent stand close to the kitchen line and dink back and forth. Drop a dink in front of them. Then, when they return, aim a lob to hit the markers behind them.
Pickleball drills for two players
"Those who train together, gain together," said a wise picklehead once, and we wholeheartedly agree. The following drills are designed to be practiced in pairs, so you both benefit from the exercise.
This drill is also known as a 'volley battle'. It consists of hitting the ball back and forth across the net without letting it touch the ground. To add some variety, you and your drilling partner can alternate your volleys right and left.
It sounds very simple, but this drill is sure to test your skills in volleying and improve your game.
Bert and Erne
The 'Bert' and 'Erne' are advanced pickleball shots that take a lot of practice to get right.
Simply put, an 'Erne' is a shot taken by a player who is outside of the court. They’re either to the left or right of the sideline, but right up close to the net. The shot takes advantage of a loophole in the rules, to devastating effect for the opposition.
A 'Bert' is an advanced version of this shot. It’s basically the same shot as an Erne, but with one important difference: you hit the ball on your teammate’s side of the court rather than your own.
The look on your opponents’ faces when you shock them with a smooth Bert or Erne will make all the practice worthwhile.
Pickleball solo drills
As a committed picklehead, it’s not always easy to find someone to practice with. That’s why it's important to know some drills that you can do on your own. These two are sure to give you hours of productive practice:
The shadow swing drill is probably best performed alone, if only because you may feel a little foolish doing it! This drill involves you swinging the paddle without hitting anything. That’s right. You simply swing the paddle in the air, imitating your forehand and backhand shots.
It may sound crazy, but this drill genuinely improves your game. It gives you better control of your paddle and exercises that all-important muscle memory. Try doing your shadow swings in front of a mirror to further help you improve your swinging form.
Serving accuracy drills are exactly what they sound like. Set up a few targets on the opposite side of the net and aim at each one repeatedly. The repetition will slowly improve your accuracy and give your serves consistency.
Pickleball wall drills
These next two drills are great to do when you can't get to a court for whatever reason. All you need is a flat wall. These drills can also be done inside your house, as long as the neighbors aren’t at home!
Hit the target
Mark a spot on the wall with masking tape, and practice hitting the spot from different angles and distances. When you’re hitting the mark consistently (or close enough), move it and start again.
This drill is excellent for improving your accuracy, shot weight, and ball control.
Drive and move
This drill is great for your fitness, footwork, and shot accuracy. Stand at least 10 yards back from the wall and drive the ball against it with power. Move fast to predict the rebound and hit the ball on its return. Keep repeating for as long as you can.
Pickleball machine drills
We all know that with AI advancing at the speed of light, it’s a great idea to stay friendly with the machines. What better way to do so than inviting them to play pickleball? These loyal companions will never get tired or bored and will provide you with hours of valuable practice.
Third shot drive
This drill is similar to the third shot drop drill above, but here the machine will simulate the return of the serve, allowing you to practice a fast, powerful drive. Try to keep the drives as low to the net as possible and practice your topspin.
Dink into the kitchen
Set up your pickleball machine to hit dinks to your position on the non-volley zone line, and practice getting the ball to land consistently in the non-volley zone (kitchen), just on the other side of the net.
This drill is the perfect practice for getting the right weight on your shots.
Pickleball drills at home
It’s not always possible to get to the pickleball court, so these drills are designed to be done from the comfort of your own home.
Being quick and light on your feet is essential when improving your pickleball game. You need to be able to shuffle back and forth quickly to maintain a good position on the court and achieve good balance when taking shots.
There are dozens of different footwork drills to choose from, but an old classic is to simply mark out two lines on the ground and practice shuffling side to side between them. Bend your knees, keep your center of gravity low, and use your thigh muscles to propel you.
The simplest drills are often the best. This one may not be the most fun, but there’s a reason most sports include sprints as part of their training regime. Set up two markers and sprint back and forth between them.
Mix it up with a sprint one way, a walk back, then sprinting again. This is great for cardio, leg strength, and overall fitness.
Fun pickleball drills
We’ve suggested a couple of drills that are tough on the body, so here are some lighter drills to give you a breather.
This drill is designed for two players. Dink back and forth to each other until you’ve lulled your partner into a false sense of calm. Then, out of nowhere, slam a hard drive right at them.
Their goal is to deal with the shot in a calm way, returning it without allowing it to pop way up into the air.
This drill is an excellent way to prepare for real-life competitive play. It’ll train you to be calm under pressure.
Catch and return
This drill is all about ball control on the paddle, which is an essential skill for playing (and winning) pickleball. The goal is to 'deaden' the oncoming shot so you can make the most controlled return possible.
Have your partner hit the ball at you with varying degrees of speed and spin and try to 'catch' the ball with your paddle. Do this by absorbing all the power and allowing as small a bounce as possible off your own paddle.
As it pops off your paddle, whack it back at your partner and they can do the same.
What are the basic skills needed for pickleball?
Now that we've run through the drills and how to use them, we need to discuss what skill these drills are designed to improve. Here are the four pillars of your pickleball skill set:
- Balance: Being steady on your feet is essential to playing great pickleball. You need to be grounded and balanced as you take your shots and move around the court.
- Footwork and stance: Speed off the mark is a skill that can really only be improved through exercise, while a good stance comes with practice and experience.
- Reactions/reflexes: Hand-eye coordination and reaction speed are what allow you to win points on the pickleball court.
- Control: Ball control is a vital skill in pickleball and something that can be improved quickly with the drills we've discussed.
How to plan an effective drilling session
When planning your next drilling session, consider these questions and plan accordingly:
- What weaknesses in your game do you want to work on?
- Are you training alone or with someone?
- Do you have access to a court and/or pickleball machine?
- How much time do you have per session?
- How regularly can you fit in a drilling session?
Make sure to keep your drilling sessions fun by mixing up your exercises.
How to use a pickleball machine for drills
Pickleball machines are the ideal tool for working on your skills between games. You can preload them with over a hundred pickleballs, set them to fire those balls almost any way you want, and get practicing.
Image from Pickleball Central
Modern pickleball machines can shoot balls with top, bottom, right or left spin and can also be programmed to vary the power, height, and direction of the ball. They never get tired or bored, and you can train at any time of the day or night!
Doing regular drills is the best way to hone in on any weaknesses and eliminate them from your game. They will also improve your overall performance on the court, helping you to win games and increase your skill rating.
Do you have any awesome drills that you’d like to share with your fellow pickleheads? Reach out to us via our social media. We always love to hear about any new tips and tricks.
Once you’ve done your drills, why not book a session at a pickleball court near you and show off your new skills?