The lob shot is one of the most commonly used shots in pickleball, especially among beginners and intermediate players.
It’s one of the shots that pickleball players start using early because of how easy it is to perform. That being said, just because you can perform a particular shot does not mean it would be useful in any given scenario.
Learning how to utilize the lob shot and how to defend properly against it can totally transform the way you play pickleball and make you so much better at the sport. In this article, we will be talking about everything ‘Lob Shot’.
What We Will Cover
What is a lob | When to lob and when not to | What a good lob looks like | Lobbing drills | How to defend lobs | Lobbing tips
What is a lob in pickleball?
A lob shot is a lofted shot that sends the ball high overhead and deep with the intention of it landing at the back of the court.
The lob shot is designed to go over your opponent’s head and is mostly used when your opponent is in the kitchen; because there is adequate space to land the shot between your opponent and the baseline.
A lob shot works best when it is a surprise, which is why using the lob as an offensive shot is most effective when your opponent is at the kitchen line expecting a dink. An offensive lob has a flatter trajectory than a defensive lob. It is meant to curve just over the top of your opponent’s reach, landing in the space behind them.
When you hit an offensive lob, your opponent has to scramble back and attempt to return it; it’s more effective against less athletic players and players that are not quick across the court. An offensive lob allows you to put pressure on your opponent.
A Defensive lob is essentially a shot of last resort. It’s a shot you take when you’re under pressure and you need to stay in the rally.
A defensive lob has a higher trajectory than an offensive lob because you want it to stay in the air longer; this allows you to reposition yourself and prepare for the next shot.
Set your body low and paddle beneath the ball when hitting this shot. You should hit the ball vertically upward with adequate follow-through to achieve the desired result.
When to lob in pickleball
When it comes to a lob shot, timing is just as important as execution. If you notice your opponent leaning forward, into the non-volley zone, consider hitting a lob.
You want to keep your head and chest up when you are at the non-volley zone line so you can notice things like if your opponent’s head is dropping; this will make it more difficult for them to retrieve a properly hit lob shot. You need to be able to regularly capitalize on these opportunities when they appear.
Also, a lob is an effective offensive weapon when your opponent is off balance. Running down a lob is hard enough already, but doing so from an unbalanced starting position is nearly impossible; taking advantage of this can be the difference between winning and losing sometimes.
When not to lob in pickleball
Since we have discussed when to use a lob shot, it is important to also discuss when not to use it. There are certain situations where it would be unwise to lob in pickleball.
For example, you should try your best to limit your offensive lobs to when you’re positioned at the non-volley line. Hitting an offensive lob near the baseline can work sometimes, but it should be avoided.
You should also avoid lobbing when there is a strong wind behind you. The strong wing will make it hard for you to get the ball to land in front of the baseline after it has gone over your opponent’s head; making it more likely that you will miss the shot.
What a good lob shot looks like
This video will show you what a good lob looks like and how to effectively lob in pickleball.
Easy lob shot drill
Create a target and hit the target
For this drill, you will need someone to stand in at the non-volley zone line on the other side of the net.
You will need to use something to create a line 4 feet in front of the baseline on the other side of the court; you could use chalk, tape, extra paddles, or anything really. This space becomes your target and you will be attempting to get your lob shots into this space.
So someone stands in the kitchen holding a paddle with their arm fully stretched upwards to simulate a situation where your opponent stretches to reach your lob shot.
The person tosses balls at you and you practice lobbing the ball continuously over them into the target you have created. You should continue practicing this until you become consistent at getting it into the target.
Watch the video below for clarification
How to defend against the lob
When you are lobbed, you will ideally want to hit it out of the air, but that is only possible if the lob shot is not a good one.
When the lob shot is hit properly, you will need to turn around and run back to about a foot behind where you think the ball will land, and turn around again so you are in position with the ball in front of you.
Don’t attempt to backpedal to try and hit it because you could trip and it is a generally less effective strategy.
Now that you are in position, the shot you take will depend on the position of your opponent. If your opponent is in position at the net, it is advisable that you try and drop the ball into the kitchen; similar to a third drop shot.
If your opponent is at the baseline, you should drive the ball into the space in front of them and try and work your way back up to the net.
Tips to hit the perfect lob shot consistently
Use your forehand
Forehand lobs are generally easier to perform and more consistent than backhand lobs. Due to this, as you are moving behind the pickleball, you need to move your feet in such a way that the pickleball is on your forehand side.
Then, turn your shoulders and upper body toward your paddle side, bend your knees, compress your body, and hit the shot.
Hit the underside of the pickleball and follow through
To hit a strong ball, you need to get both your paddle and body properly under the ball. The type of follow-through required will depend on the type of lob you are going for.
If it’s a defensive lob, the follow-through will be vertical as you are trying to get the ball higher and you want it to be in the air for longer. The offensive lob will have a more horizontal follow-through than the defensive lob.
It’s best to hit the lob when you are at the non-volley zone line. Although you can hit a lob from the baseline, the shot has a lower rate of success from there as it is more difficult.
Hitting the lob from the non-volley zone line is easier and your opponent has less time to react to the lob; which is why it has a higher success rate and it makes the most sense to hit the lob from there.
Use the elements
When playing pickleball, especially outdoor pickleball, you should try and use the elements to your advantage.
You should lob when the wind is in front of you and not when it is behind you, this is because the wind in front of you will act as a wall and make the opponent’s return difficult. If the wind is behind you, it will be harder to get the ball to land in front of the baseline after it has gotten over your opponent’s head.
In addition to that, you should lob the ball and make your opponents have to look into the sun. Tracking the pickleball when looking directly into the sun is a herculean task and one that will increase the chances of them missing their return.
Adding a bit of topspin to your offensive lob will make it even harder for your opponent to track down the shot and hit a successful return. The friction of your paddle against the backside of the pickleball is what creates topspin.
Topspin will allow you to hit lob shots that land quicker and hence give your opponents less time to react; it’s a useful skill to add to your game.
Lob shots are very unique and effective when done properly. We really hope this article has made you truly understand the lob shot and that you can start utilizing it in your pickleball games as quickly as possible.
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