Have you ever found yourself on a pickleball court (or at home daydreaming about pickleball), but don't have anyone to practice with? Read on for drills you can do.
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You want to squeeze in some extra reps, but don't always have a group set up to play. Guess what, you can still practice!
With the help of a pickleball machine, you can get in plenty of reps and exercise, even on your own. Let's look at some pickleball drills you can do with a ball machine.
A ball machine like the Tutor Plus or the Lobster can really take your game to the next level. View the top pickleball machines on Amazon today.
These useful machines can hold hundreds of balls and can shoot them in many ways. They can also be programmed for variety. Let's look at what options you have.
Pickleball Machine: Best Drills
A ball machine can help you practice returns, one of the most important shots.
Aim it at you, at the corner out wide, and down the middle. Do a basket of each. Hit 50-100 of each. Get the muscle memory down on pace and distance of return.
Set the machine to shoot balls at different speeds and angles, and practice returning a variety of serves. You can also practice returning high, low and flat, and to each corner.
Blocking is a technique used to deflect your opponent's shot back safely.
Some call it a reset, because you're defending a sped-up ball and not really attacking. You are just resetting the point back to neutral. This takes touch. You have to absorb the pace.
To practice blocking, set the ball machine to shoot harder shots right at your body, and practice being a wall and deadening balls back into the opponent's kitchen.
Have it shoot at body, at dominant shoulder, and other. Then have it shoot about a foot or two off your body, so you have to reach. This will sharpen your blocks in no time.
A dink is a soft shot used to place the ball down low at your opponent's feet.
It's the basis of higher-level pickleball. Even power players dink a ton to create opportunities.
To practice dinking, set the ball machine to shoot slow shots that will land at your feet and then just practice solid dink technique, tapping or pushing balls back to their kitchen.
Dink it back to the machine, or dink it another direction. Maybe rotate forward and across. It's good to be able to hit a dink back where it came or to redirect it sometimes.
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Good footwork is essential in pickleball, and a ball machine can help you practice moving around the court and positioning yourself for different shots.
Set the machine to shoot balls to different parts of the court, and practice moving to get into position. Remember, longer strides to get to the ball, then shorter, compact steps to make final adjustments within arm's reach.
Do this for any type of shot: Baseline groundstroke, drop-shot chasing, you name it.
Volleying is a technique used to hit the ball in the air without letting it bounce.
To practice volleying, set the ball machine to shoot balls at different heights and speeds, and practice punching them back.
Stand a few feet off the kitchen line, in no-man's land, and have it hit at your body or in the middle of the court at a medium pace. Then take the volleys. This is a common situation.
You can also have the machine be farther back, launching baseline rips at you. You can practice hitting a volley and giving it a bit of a punch out to keep opponents stuck back.
A drop shot is a soft shot that lands just over the net safely, usually from far back.
Lots of times you do this on your third shot, hence the "third shot drop."
To practice drop shots, set the ball machine to shoot medium pace shots back to you at the baseline. Then you just practice dropping over the net. Do both diagonal and forward.
Set up a hula hoop or a cone in the kitchen, touching the kitchen line, and try to land it there.
A lob is a high shot that's used to send the ball over your opponent's head.
And granted, this one is a bit more of extra credit. However, lobs are trending back into style in the modern game. And it makes sense to practice the distance and height on them.
To practice lobs, set the ball machine to hit regular dinks to both backhand and forehand. You can rotate back and forth in opposite ball baskets, or have the machine oscillate. You can practice lobbing the ball about 15 feet high within the first 15 feet of distance.
Place a target near the back line, a couple feet in. You can use a paddle or anything. And see if you can consistently land the ball within a 2-3 foot zone near their baseline.
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When practicing with a ball machine, you get to focus on technique and form. You get to hit a lot of reps, it's efficient, and a ball machine can really help you improve a lot.
The repetitions will give you muscle memory to make shots comfortably and consistently.
Make sure you're using proper footwork, positioning, and paddle technique. Take breaks as needed, and gradually increase the speed and spin of the balls as you feel good. With practice and diligence, you can use a ball machine to really elevate your pickleball skills.
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