When I say “pickleball warm up” I am not talking about stretching or loosening up as you would for any athletic competition. I am talking about pickleball practice drills, the ones you do once you get on the court and start hitting with your opponent before the match begins. What I see on the local courts in my area is that four people go out on the court and start by dinking to each other for a few minutes then they go to the baseline and hit back and forth from the baseline, and that’s about it.
For sure that is not enough pre-match warm up. In this article I show you how you should warm up for your match. For advance and professional pickleball players pre-match warm up is really practice. That is what they do before each match. They practice their strokes to make sure they are hitting the ball the way they want to in a game. So really what you are doing when you step onto the court and start hitting the ball is practicing not warming up. Warming up is something you should have done before you walked onto the court.
Let’s examine how we should warm up or “practice” before a match. This goes for any level player from beginner to advanced.
Dink and Volley
In a video from Pickleball 411 sponsored by Pickleball Channel called “Warming Up with Alex Hamner and Jennifer Lucore” narrated by Rusty Howes, Hamner and Lucore show how they warm up for a match. They start out by standing across from each other hitting dinks. They continue hitting while moving side to side so they are eventually hitting dinks cross court. Then they hit volleys to each other, and that’s it. If you have seen videos of these two women play you know their pre-match routine is much more varied and takes longer than seen in this video.
Dink, Volley, Hit Hard Shots
In this next video called “Pickleball 101: The Pre-Match Warm Up,” sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wayne Dollard shows us the warm up routine he uses before every match.
Dollard, like Hamner and Lucore, starts by standing across from his partner hitting forehand and backhand dinks. Then one player (in this case Dollard) moves back a few steps still dinking into the no volley zone while his partner stays at the no volley zone line. Dollard moves backwards gradually while continuing to hit dinks into the no volley zone. He eventually reaches the baseline, where he continues to dink into the no-volley zone.
Once at the baseline, after hitting some dinks, Dollard and his partner start hitting hard forehands and backhands to each other picking up the pace. Finally, Dollard works his way back to the net and switches roles with his partner so she can follow the same practice routine that he did.
You can see how much better this pre-match practice routine is than the one demonstrated in the previous video. What I find so interesting is the emphasis on practicing the dink…from the no volley zone, from mid-court and from the baseline. When you watch a tennis match featuring advance and professional players you realize how important it is to be able to hit a dink from anywhere on the court. We will watch some videos later in this article that corroborates this.
Dink, Volley, Third Shot Drop, Block Drop and Swing Volley
- Purposeful dinks
- Volley in the air
- Third shot drop from the baseline
- Block drop
- Swing volley
Harrison adds that she would normally include return of serve and serve in her pre-match routine. What distinguishes her routine from all the others is that she goes from hitting shots in normal position across the net from her partner to hitting without a net. Personally, i don’t see the value of this. It seems like a waste of energy and precious warm up time, but Harrison is a bona fide champion with a lot more experience than I have so she must have her reasons for practicing this way.
Pre-Match Warm up for Advanced Players
In this video from The Pickleball Doctor called “Game Time Warm Up,” US Open Champion and National Champion Marcin Rozpedski shows us the warm up drills he uses to get ready for a match. The practice session lasts 12 minutes and is probably overkill for most beginner and intermediate level players. After all, who has 12 minutes to warm up before a friendly match? Nevertheless, Rospedski’s pointers for each shot he practices is well worth reviewing.
- Down the line dinks right across from each other – stay down low, split step, and keep feet moving.
- Backhand cross court dinks – stay down low, hit deep into the no volley zone, and keep eyes moving.
- Forehand cross court dinks – move your feet and don’t stand still.
- Volley from the no-volley line – hit nice and easy and keep moving; work on your stroke.
- Third shot drop from the baseline – keep feet moving and find your range.
- Third shot drop from midway between no volley line and baseline (otherwise known as no-man’s land)
- Dinking – simulate match conditions.
- Switch so your partner can practice the same shots.
- Overhead – warm up shoulder, look at the ball, and hit the ball right on the sweet spot.
- Serve – work on depth and placement.
- Sharp quick volleys – hands out in front, block the ball.
Rospedski says that he sees players warm up for 2 to 3 minutes and that this is just not enough time to prepare for a competitive match. He suggests taking 15 minutes to warm up. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard to find any player who takes this much time to warm up before a match, but it’s hard to fault someone with Rospedski’s credentials.
Pre-Match Warm up in Action
Here is a video of an actual pre-match warm up that lasts approximately 5 minutes. This is taken from the pre-match warm up of the 2016 USAPA Nationals 35+ (game 1) Weinbach/Ruiz vs. Ditzik/Davidson.
You see pretty much the same practice shots here as you saw in the preceding videos. Do pay attention, though, to the length of time each player takes hitting dinks from the baseline. This is a common theme for all the practice routines we discuss in this article.
It’s not often I wrap up an article with a video, but I think this video, called “Standard Warm Up” by Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports, sums up best the appropriate level of warm up for the average pickleball player before getting started playing matches in the local park or community courts in most areas, although it is probably not sufficient for advance or professional competitors.
In this demo of what Renneson calls a “standard warm up” each player practices ground strokes, volleys, overheads and dinks in under two minutes.
No one warms up in the same way, says Renneson, so he wants to standardize it. In this routine each player hits around 40 shots, and the two players actually get a chance to hit shots that they would actually use in a match.
- Volley-to-ground strokes
- Volley-to-ground strokes
Add pickleball serving drills and returns to the end of this routine and it is perfect. Each player would end up hitting around 50 strokes in 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.
What kind of warm up do you use where you are? What have you seen other people do? What routine would you suggest if you could control the way you and your partners warm up? I would love to hear from you regarding the pre-match warm up or anything else that has to do with pickleball.