If you go to the trouble of buying a pickleball machine or renting one, don’t waste your time and effort practicing poorly. The aim, after all, is to improve your game and without a clear skill to focus on you’ll just be batting a ball around with a machine, not improving your skills.
Below are some of the best pickleball drills you can do with a machine. They each focus on a specific skill and explain how to set up your machine to accomplish this. While each of the videos obviously use a specific machine, you may be able to execute a similar drill with a different one with some tweaking.
Looking to improve your game?
Check out this excellent pickleball video training course from High Performance Pickleball Academy. (Affiliate link) They break down the game into 8 key skills and instruct you on how to master them.
If you’re not sure about what’s possible with each machine, go to our pickleball machine review page to get the full specs and capabilities on the best machines.
Tutor Machine Drills
First off, go to the Tutor site and print out this great set of drills that you can reference. They provide a ton of great drillsin their videos, far more than are covered here. Most are taught by top pickleball player Simone Jardim.
Here is a selection of some of my favorites:
With punch volleys the balls are coming to your chest. Set up a bunch of targets a few feet in from the lines in the baseline. Place the machine behind the baseline at the center of the court. Stand at the kitchen line so the balls are heading straight at you and try to hit the targets with your hits.
When doing this drill, turn your body before you run. Keep your eye on the ball and create space between you and the ball. You stand at the kitchen line. The machine should be set up to hit a deep lob behind you and you should run back to get it.
Put machine in centerline at the baseline. Set up target in the center of the court and two on the sides of it towards the side lines on the kitchen line. Keep the volleys low. Set machine to hit a low, fast hit. If there’s two of you set up 2 line oscillation.
Third Shot Drop
Put machine anywhere on the baseline. You stand on the opposite baseline. Aim for one of two targets at the back of the kitchen line.
Cross court dink
Keep a loose grip on your paddle. Set up the machine so it’s almost at the net off the side of the court. Aim it down the line of the net so it simulates a cross-court dink shot. Stand at the kitchen line to practice returning dinks.
Use cones as a target focus. Set 4 of them up on the opposite side of the court so you are hitting across court. Position them just inside the kitchen at intervals that mimic where you’d want to hit it so that the opposite player would need to get it on their fore hand, left foot, right foot and backhand. Focus on your recovery after you hit and you get back into the ready position. Set up the machine a few feet of the side line and a few feet from the post. Aim it so it goes across the net and lands in the kitchen at an angle. Aim at a specific cone for each shot.
Cone 1 on forehand, 2 on right leg, 3 right leg, 4 backhand. Act as the server. Hit it on the 1, 2 or 3. First hit at the baseline, then move up half way to the kitchen line and hit again aiming at the 1 2 or 3. Then move up to the kitchen line and put it away.
Lobster Machine Drills
Set up the machine 3 feet from the no volley zone. Elevation should be between 15 and 20. Set it to oscillate if you want to practice doubles. Set the spin to 1.5 top spin. Aim the pickleball machine right down the middle and stand in the ready position on the kitchen line.
Set the machine height to 25, turn on oscillation. Set the machine 7 feet behind the net.
Third shot drops and short ball or approach
Set machine 1 foot behind baseline. Set angle between 15 and 20. Set the spin at +3 and speed at 50 to 55mph. Turn on oscillation. You can either practice as doubles or singles.
For the short ball or approach shot: it’s the same set up as the above except spin should be -1 and speed should be 30 to 40 mph. Turn off oscillation. Stand at the baseline and move forward into the ball as you hit it.
Simon Ball Machine Drills
Set up the machine four feet from the post and 2 feet outside the sideline. Stand at the kitchen line in ready position to practice your dinks.
Set the machine up in the center line a foot or two from the baseline. Set it at a pretty fast speed. Stand in the center line at the kitchen line. And you’re set up to practice your fast volleys!