10 Modified Pickleball Practice Drills From Coaches To Ease Back Into Play Gently After A Shoulder Injury

10 Modified Pickleball Practice Drills From Coaches To Ease Back Into Play Gently After A Shoulder Injury

This page may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here are 10 modified pickleball practice drills from coaches to ease back into play gently after a shoulder injury:

  1. Underhand Serve Drill: Start with underhand serves to minimize shoulder strain. Practice serving to different areas of the court, focusing on accuracy and consistency rather than power.
  2. Dink Volley Drill: Stand close to the net and practice dinking the ball back and forth with a partner. This drill helps improve hand-eye coordination and control without putting excessive stress on the shoulder.
  3. Soft Volley Drill: Practice hitting soft volleys from the baseline, focusing on maintaining a relaxed grip and using a smooth swing motion. This drill helps improve touch and feel for the ball.
  4. Groundstroke Drill: Gradually introduce groundstrokes back into your practice routine, starting with slow, controlled shots. Focus on proper technique and avoid overreaching or swinging too hard.
  5. Shadow Swings: Practice shadow swings with a pickleball paddle to improve shoulder range of motion and warm up the muscles before hitting actual balls.
  6. Wall Drill: Practice hitting against a wall to work on various strokes and footwork patterns without the pressure of a live opponent.
  7. Partner Drill: Practice hitting controlled shots back and forth with a partner, gradually increasing the pace and intensity as your shoulder strength improves.
  8. Serve and Volley Drill: Combine underhand serves with gentle volleys to practice transitioning from serve to net play.
  9. Dink and Drop Drill: Practice dinking the ball back and forth with a partner, occasionally dropping the ball short to keep your opponent on their toes.
  10. Crosscourt Dink Drill: Practice dinking the ball crosscourt with a partner, focusing on accuracy and consistency.

Remember to listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise program.

Shoulder injuries are unfortunately common in pickleball, a sport that requires quick racquet strokes and diving volleys. The repetitive overhead motion can take a toll on the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles. But with the proper precautions, you can ease back into pickleball after a shoulder injury without risking further damage.

In this article, I’ll share 10 modified practice drills from experienced coaches. These drills will help you rebuild strength and range of motion gradually, while minimizing strain on the injured shoulder. With patience and smart training, you’ll be back on the courts doing what you love!

Listen to Your Body

The first rule of returning to play after an injury is to listen to your body. Don’t try to rush your recovery or push through pain. If a drill causes any discomfort in your injured shoulder, stop immediately. Recovery is a gradual process that requires working within your current limitations. Pushing too hard too soon will only aggravate the injury.

Consult with your doctor or physical therapist to determine when you’re ready to return to the courts. Make sure you have full range of motion and adequate strength before adding impact activities. Your healthcare provider can recommend appropriate modifications to ease you back into training safely.

Warm Up Thoroughly

Warming up is especially important when coming back from an injury. Take 10-15 minutes to warm up the injured shoulder before starting any pickleball-specific drills. Here are some great warm up exercises:

  • Arm circles: Make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size. Do 10 circles forward and 10 circles backward.
  • Shoulder rolls: Roll your shoulders forward and backward in a controlled manner. Do 10 reps of each.
  • Arm swings: Gently swing your arms front to back and side to side. Do 10 swings each way.
  • Isometric holds: Hold your arm out to the side or overhead with a slight bend at the elbow. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat.

A light warm up increases blood flow to the muscles and joints, reducing stiffness and risk of re-injury.

Underhand Serve Drill

Underhand serves place minimal strain on the shoulder compared to overhead serves. Start by practicing gentle underhand serves to reestablish proper technique. Focus on landing the serves to different spots on the court rather than power. The priority is redeveloping feel and control through easy, fluid motion.

Start each serve with your paddle low and sweep it up in an arcing motion. Let your arm relax and swing loosely. Toss the ball out in front of you and make contact when your arm is fully extended. Use your legs and core to initiate momentum rather than your shoulder muscles.

Aim for targets in the service boxes and backcourt to improve placement. Do a few sets of 10-15 underhand serves as part of your warm up routine before moving on to groundstrokes or volleys. This drill develops serve consistency without overtaxing the injured shoulder.

Dink Volley Drill

The dink volley is a light shot played very close to the net. Dinking helps reestablish proper volley technique and racket control without the impact of hard-hit shots.

To practice dinks, stand one to two feet from the net with a partner. Gently volley the ball back and forth, focusing on keeping the ball low over the net. Use your wrist and forearm more than your shoulder to direct the volleys. Maintaining proper ready position will also take pressure off your shoulder joints.

Aim your dinks deep into the court to draw your opponent forward and back. Vary placement from left to right to improve control. Do a few sets of 10-15 continuous dinks as part of your training routine. The light volley repetition will help rebuild strength and mobility in the injured shoulder without placing excessive load on it.

Soft Volley Drill

As you regain power and confidence, start integrating full volleys into your training. But use a soft, controlled swing at first rather than hitting aggressively.

Have a partner feed you easy volleys from the baseline. Focus on meeting the ball out in front with a firm wrist and loose grip. Keep your swing smooth and compact rather than winding up for a big stroke. Let the racket gently rebound off the ball rather than muscling through it.

Volley the shots crosscourt, down the line, and at sharp angles to practice control. Do sets of 10-15 continuous slow volleys as you rebuild strength. This drill improves touch and feel while protecting the injured shoulder from excessive strain.

Groundstroke Drill

When you’re ready to practice full groundstrokes, start with slow, conservative swings. Have a partner feed you easy balls around the service boxes. Focus on balanced footwork, proper grip, and smooth technique rather than power. Use your legs and core to drive through the ball, avoiding excessive shoulder strain.

Gradually increase the pace of groundstrokes as your shoulder gets stronger. But always stop if you feel pain. It’s better to keep shots slower than risk re-injury by overdoing it. Quality and control should remain the priorities over speed at this stage.

Practice various grips – forehand, backhand, two-handed backhand. Move side to side and diagonally between shots. Do a few sets of 10 controlled groundstrokes as you progress through your recovery. The drill will help rebuild strength and range of motion without overtaxing the shoulder.

Shadow Swing Drill

Shadow swinging with no ball is a great way to practice technique while protecting your shoulder early in recovery. Go through the motions of your forehand, backhand, overhead, and serve swings without making contact.

Focus on smooth strokes, proper footwork, racket positioning, and balance. Pay attention to any compensations you make due to your injured shoulder, such as shortening your backswing. Shadow swings improve muscle memory patterns without impact stress.

Do sets of 10-15 shadow swings of each stroke before live practice. The drill is also a good warm up to increase flexibility and range of motion. Work through any stiffness gently. The more you activate the muscles, the faster you’ll rebuild strength.

Wall Volley Drill

Wall drills allow practice without a partner. You can work at your own pace while controlling the intensity. Start by volleying gently against a wall. Let the ball rebound and volley it back with a smooth swing and loose grip.

Focus on redirecting the ball rather than power. Move around to hit controlled volleys on both forehand and backhand sides. Do sets of continuous volleys for a few minutes at a time, taking breaks as needed.

Wall drills improve conditioning and racket skills without shoulder strain. You can also practice groundstrokes and overhead shots against the wall. The rebounding ball provides realistic practice without impact stress. Just be sure to start slowly and stop if you feel any pain.

Partner Control Drill

Once you can volley comfortably against a wall, start practicing with a partner. Have them feed you slow, easy balls around the non-volley zone. Focus on directing the ball back deep into the court, keeping the ball in play.

Gradually increase your swing speed and power as your shoulder strengthens. But always prioritize control, accuracy, and consistency over pace. Stop immediately if you feel any shoulder pain. It takes time to rebuild strength after an injury, so be patient and keep sessions smooth and controlled.

Practice a variety of volleys, groundstrokes, and overhead shots. Do full rotations to improve mobility. Control drills will help you ease back into play gently without placing excessive demand on the recovering shoulder.

Serve and Split Step Drill

As your shoulder strengthens, you can incorporate more complex drills involving transitions between shots. The serve and split step drill combines underhand serving with explosive first steps.

Start in the deuce court. Toss the ball out front and serve underhand diagonally across court. As soon as the ball leaves your racket, quickly split step by hopping slightly and landing with your feet in ready position. Your partner catches the serve and tosses the ball back.

Transition smoothly from split step back into your underhand serve motion. Repeat this sequence continuously to practice the serve and volley transition. Start slow. Perform controlled split steps and serves before trying to move explosively.

This drill develops quick reflexes, footwork, and injury-safe serving technique. With time, you’ll restore the mobility and coordination needed for fast exchanges at the net.

Dink and Drop Drill

Here’s a more dynamic volley drill to practice once shoulder strength improves. Begin dinking easy volleys with a partner at the non-volley line. After several consistent dinks, drop one short over the net.

Your partner must quickly transition forward to make the return. Continue dinking until you can drop another ball. Focus on controlled swing mechanics, smooth footwork, and changing pace.

The dink and drop drill develops explosive first steps, reflexes, and racket skills essential for pickleball. The varied pace also prevents overtaxing any one movement pattern. You can progress speed and difficulty over time as your shoulder adapts.

Crosscourt Dinking

Crosscourt dinking helps groove reliable technique while protecting the shoulder joint. With a partner, alternate dinking diagonally across the court. Focus on control and consistency over speed.

Aim to hit 5-10 balls back and forth without a miss. Dial in your precision using appropriate wrist strength and compact swings. Move diagonally into shots to practice correct footwork.

Crosscourt dinking improves stamina, concentration, and accuracy. The drill provides repetition of proper biomechanics without jarring impact. Gradually increase pace and duration over multiple sessions as you rebuild shoulder endurance.

Listen to Your Body

The most important principle when returning from injury is listening to your body. Recovery takes time and patience. Pushing too hard too soon will only prolong the process. Let pain and fatigue be your guide.

With smart modifications and gradual progressions, you can get back on the courts safely. Incorporate rest days to allow tissues to adapt. If any drill causes shoulder pain, stop and consult your doctor. A guided, measured approach is crucial to preventing re-injury.

Stay positive through setbacks. With commitment to proper technique and safe training loads, you’ll be hitting your signature pickleball strokes pain-free once again.


Shoulder injuries require a cautious, stepwise return to pickleball. By incorporating modified practice drills from experienced coaches, you can ease back into play gently without compromising your recovery. Focus on sound technique, mobility, and low-impact repetitions. Progress speed and intensity slowly over time. Most importantly, listen to your body and stop at the first sign of pain. Patience and smart preparation will have you back on the courts doing what you love.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top