Pickleball Lob Shot | What Is It?

Pickleball, like other sports, involves skills that can be used to give players an advantage over their opponent. One example of a skill is the lob shot, which is quite risky and requires a lot of accuracy and precision. Although it is challenging, a player can quickly perfect this skill with a little bit of practice.

The lob shot is used to force a player from the no-ball zone to the baseline court, taking the opponent by surprise. You want to be careful when striking a lob shot because it can either be played out of the court, or put you at the mercy of your opponent. This would allow them to play with equal force to hit the overhead shot into your court, giving you a disadvantage as you might not be able to return it.

The lob shots in pickleball can either be offensive or defensive, each having its own purpose depending on the situation.

How To Hit A Lob Shot In Pickleball

pickleball lob shot

When playing pickleball, hitting a lob shot is best after a dink since the ball's movement is easier to handle. To properly hit a lob:

  1. Tilt back your paddle to an open position. This will give the ball enough loft to travel over the top of your opponent’s head. 
  2. Swing your arm in an upward motion as if you’re trying to push the ball up from the paddle. Don’t allow too much movement in your wrist as this will make it harder to control the paddle’s impact on the ball.
  3. Avoid bringing the paddle too far back, as this will also make it difficult to control the paddle. You want to make sure the paddle strikes the ball in front of your body to ensure proper execution and trajectory. 

When to Hit a Lob Shot

It is best to hit the lob shot after a dink when the ball gets to your no-volley zone. Or, when the ball is at the baseline at a corner and moving out of the court, you can hit the lob shot to help regain your balance and position before the opponent returns the ball. Another option is to lob when your opponent is focused on the dinking game and in position to return the dink. At this point, you can hit your lob shot overhead of your opponent. When any of these opportunities arise, make sure you’re confident enough to hit the shot as it is fairly easy to hit the ball out of the court.

Where To Hit The Lob Shot

With the lob shot, you should hit the ball from the kitchen and use the paddle face to push the ball into the air toward the opposite baseline or center of the opponent’s court. You can also hit the lob toward the opponent’s feet in an attempt to make them lose balance, especially if the don't have the best pickleball shoes.

How To Return and Defend A Lob Shot

A lob shot should be returned as an overhead shot in the air to get a smash. Getting the right smash may require you to move your shoulder and propel your paddle backwards, then rotating your body to increase pressure on the ball and hit it with a bang, making it more difficult to return.

This is recommended only when at the baseline out of the no-ball zone. When the ball is in the kitchen, applying too much pressure can send the ball flying out of the court. You can also let the ball bounce before hitting it, putting you in the right position to return the ball and giving you room to control it without playing with too much force out of the court. When returning the lob shot, it is really important to maintain your balance for an effective shot.

Who Should Return It?

When the lob shot hits the opponent’s court, the person in position to return is diagonal to the ball, as it is easier to use the forehand to play it back to the opponent’s court. Or, the person whose side of the court the ball was played on can move around the ball, then hit the ball while the partner moves a bit backward in preparation for the shot to come.

To make the return easier, the two partners should stay a good distance apart when the ball hits the no volley zone or the baseline court. When a lob shot lands in front of the player, the return is usually quite easy. However, if it is an overhead shot behind the player, the partner is better positioned to return the ball.

Different Types Of The Lob Shot 

pickleball lob shots

There are two types of lob shots: the basic (regular) lob shot and the spin lob shot. The shots are differentiated by the movement of the paddle and shoulder when hitting the shot. The type of lob shot you want to hit really depends on your position and where you want the ball to land. That said, determining which is suitable for different situations requires mastery of the skill.

The Basic Lob Shot

The basic lob shot is hit when playing the dink game to move opponents from the kitchen to the baseline. A basic lob shot can also be used as an overhead shot or a smash after the offensive lob shot.

The Spin Lob Shot

This variation is similar to a basic lob shot in pickleball but isn’t performed while the ball is already in play. Instead, the player is holding the ball and must get into position to hit the shot. As the ball is raised into the air, the hand immediately spins backwards while pushing the ball forward, then spins over the shoulder during the follow through. If you're good at spin serves, then this might be a great shot for you to try and learn.

Should You Lob In Pickleball?

The lob shot is a tactic used when the opponent is at a certain disadvantage, including height differences; lack of communication; and weather, i.e. when the sun makes the opponent unable to hit the overhead shot properly. Although it should be used sparingly due to the risks involved, the lob shot can really be a game-winner if used correctly .

The lob shot should be avoided when it is windy as it could send the ball flying out of the court. Regular practice sessions are recommended to become an expert at the lob shot. One way to practice on the court is to have another person on the opposite side hold the paddle for you as you hit your lob shot over it. With consistent practice, you’ll be prepared to hit the shot when the opportunity presents itself.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that learning different skills in pickleball, like the lob shot, will put you at an advantage during a game of pickleball. Once you become familiar with three or more conditions favorable to hitting a lob shot, and when you are competent in your lob shot skill, it can be a great way to overcome your opponent and ultimately help you win the game.