Your Comprehensive Guide to Pickleball |

Your Comprehensive Guide to Pickleball

ICYMI, pickleball is the hottest new sport on the block. But, it’s actually not that new. The sport that combines the best elements of ping pong, tennis, and badminton has been rapidly gaining popularity in recent years. Whether you’re a veteran tennis player looking for a lower-impact option, or a fun-seeking, social athlete looking for a new activity, this comprehensive guide to pickleball will provide you with all the info you need to get started. From the basic rules and equipment to health benefits, drills, and exercises, we’ll delve into every aspect of this fast-paced sport.

What Is Pickleball?

According to USA Pickleball, the game originated in Washington state in the 1960s, when three individuals—Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum—were trying to find a way to entertain their families during a summer vacation with a game that everyone could play. There was a badminton court, but the men couldn’t find a full set of badminton equipment, so they played using ping pong paddles. Over time, they developed rules and regulations, and the game of pickleball was developed. “It involves a combination of various sports including tennis, badminton, and table tennis,” explains Anthony Rodriguez, PPR Certified Pro, head coach at CityPickle in New York, NY.

Today, pickleball continues to gain recognition. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association‘s 2023 topline participation report found that pickleball continues to be the fastest-growing sport in the world for the third year in a row. “Pickleball is so popular because it’s fun, social, and accessible to people of all ages and abilities,” says Lydia Hirt, USA Pickleball Ambassador, chief marketing officer for CityPickle in New York, NY. “It’s easy to get started playing and hard to stop!”

Pickleball Equipment and Gear

While you don’t need a lot of equipment for pickleball, a racquet and ball are required. Depending on whether you’re playing indoors or outdoors, the size of the holes in the ball will vary (larger for indoors, smaller for outdoors). Racquets drastically range in price. If you’re a beginner or new to the sport, you can get a racquet for anywhere from $25 dollars and up, like the Champion Sports RhinoPickleball Edge Paddle. More advanced players who want a racquet made with carbon fiber can expect to pay anywhere from $100 plus, like The Franklin Carbon STX Pickleball Paddle.

When it comes to footwear, beginners can wear any pair of sneakers they have, especially tennis shoes. However, pickleball-specific shoes that are lightweight with good grip and a sturdy sole are designed to accommodate quick and lateral movements on the court, explains Catherine Parenteau, professional pickleball player. ” That’s why I love wearing the Skechers Viper Court Pro pickleball shoes,” she says. “They’re some of the most comfortable, roomy, lightweight, and stable shoes I’ve worn on the court.”

The Best Pickleball Clothing for Every Dink, Drop Shot, and Volley

Pickleball Rules

If you’ve never played pickleball before, you’ll need to know the rules. Parenteau breaks down how to play and score the game.

Rules of the Serve

The first rules to remember when it comes to the serve are that you must be standing behind the baseline, the serve must be underhanded, and you must make contact at or below your waist—the waist in pickleball is considered your belly button, explains Parenteau. You also must serve into the box diagonally across from you and you must have the ball pass the kitchen line otherwise it’s a “fault.” The serve also has to bounce before the opposing player can return that ball.

Rules of the Return

The return can land anywhere on the opposite side of the court, so long as it’s within the boundaries of the court, or on the lines (on the line is in), explains Parenteau. “It must also bounce before the serving team can hit the third shot of the point—this concept is called the ‘double bounce rule,'” she says. After the first return, the only rule that applies is the “kitchen line rules,” which says you must be behind the kitchen line if you hit the ball without letting it bounce. If the ball bounces, it is OK to hit it while your feet are in the kitchen.


The most important thing to remember when it comes to scoring is that you can only win a point when you’re serving, explains Parenteau. When you announce the score, you say three different numbers out loud. The first number is the score of the team serving, the second is the score of the receiving team, and the third lets you know whether it’s the first server on your team or the second (so one or two). Most games in pickleball are played to 11 points, and you have to win by two.

The Benefits of Pickleball

Besides the game of pickleball being fun, it actually has a lot of health benefits, too.

Supports Cardiovascular Health

The fast-paced, high-intensity nature of the game naturally makes pickleball an aerobic workout. The sport involves running, jumping, swinging, and sprinting. “This can help improve endurance as well as heart health,” explains Rodriguez. A study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that older adults who played pickleball for eight weeks saw improvements in their cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and agility. You’ll boost your aerobic capacity, too.

Improves Agility and Balance

During the game of pickleball, you’ll be forced to make a lot of forward, backward, and lateral movements, as well as changes in direction to get to the ball. “The lateral movements and quick direction changes over time will help improve your agility, balance, and overall body control,” says Rodriguez.

Helps with Muscle Toning

If you play pickleball regularly, you can expect to see improvements in muscle tone. Research from Utah State University found that six weeks of pickleball play could elicit muscle gains. “Think the legs, core, and upper body,” explains Rodriguez.

Promotes Social Interaction

In addition to the physical benefits of the game of pickleball, there are also lots of benefits from the social side of the sport. Pickleball is often played in teams (AKA doubles), which promotes social interactions as well as friendship. “The social aspect and meeting new people is valuable and provides feelings of community and connection,” says Hirt.

“Pickleball is known to be an inclusive and accessible sport that people of all ages can play,” says Parenteau. “I think anyone can benefit from participating in a sport that is social and encourages you to move your body.”

The Best Pickleball Exercises

Some of the best exercises for pickleball involve the lower body and core. “So much of pickleball is about staying low in a squatted down or lunged position, but it’s also about being able to get out of those positions quickly and controlled,” explains Matthew Manasse, celebrity pickleball coach and chief ambassador of Crush Yard Pickleball Club in Mount Pleasant, SC. “This requires training for strength, flexibility, and explosiveness by doing exercises like side lunges, forward and backward lunges, squats, and cleans. Different lateral movements with elastic bands as resistance are helpful, too.”

What’s another main muscle group worked during pickleball? Your core. “The core is a big part of every movement on the court,” explains Manasse. “Therefore, training the core, whether it’s doing med ball throws that engage the trunk or planks, is important to improve overall strength, balance, and flexibility on the court.”

Plyometrics or jumping exercises are beneficial and translate well to the court, too. “Incorporating jumping exercises like box jumps or jump squats can improve explosive power, agility, and coordination, which are valuable in pickleball,” says Rodriguez.

There should be plenty of work done in the gym to make sure you’re body is ready once you step foot on the court. Here are some exercises Manasse recommends adding to your fitness routine:

The Best Pickleball Drills and Games

If you’re looking to improve your pickleball game or get in some practice with friends, try your hand at some drills and court games. Here are a couple of favorites.

King/Queen of the Court: Players rotate positions on the court after each rally, with the winner staying on and the loser moving to the end of the line. “This drill allows beginners to practice their shots against different opponents and improves overall court awareness,” explains Rodriguez.

Dinking Duel: Players stand at the non-volley zone and practice hitting soft, controlled shots or dinks, back and forth without letting the ball bounce. “This drill focuses on touch and placement,” says Rodriguez.

Third Shot Drop Challenge: Players take turns hitting the third shot (after the return of serve) as a drop shot, aiming to land the ball close to the net while preventing it from bouncing twice. “This drill helps develop touch and accuracy for strategic shots,” says Rodriguez.

Lob and Smash: One player hits high lobs while the other practices their overhead smash shots. “This drill improves defensive and offensive skills for shots near the net,” says Rodriguez.

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