What is a lob in pickleball: How and When to Use It?

Lob shots have been an integral part of the pickleball game since its inception, but they have gained increasing popularity in recent years. The lob is a strategic move that can greatly enhance your gameplay. However, it is equally important to learn how to defend against this technique.

A lob is when a player hits the ball high into the air, aiming to send it deep toward the back of the court. When used offensively, the intention is to make the ball go over the opponent's head, forcing them to move backward toward the baseline. On the defensive side, employing a lob shot can buy you valuable time to strategically reposition yourself and prepare for your offensive moves.

 What is a lob in pickleball: How and When to Use It?

Different types of lobs you can employ in pickleball:

Regular or Basic Lob: 

This type of lob is straightforward and uncomplicated. It involves hitting the ball on a high, curving trajectory, with the aim of landing it near the opponent's baseline. You need to use a simple low-to-high paddle motion to execute a regular lob.

Top Spin Lob

The topspin lob is a more aggressive and powerful variation of the regular lob. Applying topspin to the ball makes it even more challenging for your opponent to return it effectively. When the ball hits the ground, the added spin causes it to behave unpredictably, making it difficult for your opponent to anticipate its trajectory.

Offensive Lobs and Defensive Lobs

What is an offensive lob in pickleball?

An offensive pickleball lob is a shot that is hit with a flatter trajectory compared to a defensive lob. Its purpose is to arc just above your opponent's reach and land in the court behind them.

An offensive lob is a great choice when your opponent is close to the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) line, also known as "The Kitchen," as they will have to move backward to return the shot quickly.

How do you execute an offensive lob?

Executing a successful offensive lob requires both technique and strategy. At a basic level, you need to angle the paddle face slightly upward and follow through with an upward and outward motion.

Maintain a balanced position and position the paddle under the ball. Lift the ball upward by using your knees and transferring your weight toward your target. The contact point should be in front of you and close. If you have to stretch too far to reach the ball, you will have less control.

Renowned pickleball coach Simone Jardim highlights some key points for perfecting the technique of an offensive lob:

Strategically, it's important not to give away your intention to hit a lob shot. A lob works best as a surprise shot. Beginners often change their stance when preparing for a lob. Instead, keep your knees bent, your body compressed, and hold the paddle in front of you, just as you would for a drop or dink shot.

To add spin, strike the ball from below and use your wrist, elbow, and shoulder smoothly to rotate the paddle. This rotation allows the paddle to grip the ball and spin it. With practice, this will become a natural movement!

When is the Offensive Lob a Smart Shot?

The offensive lob is most effective when your opponent is near the Non-Volley Zone line, especially if they are leaning in, anticipating a dink shot. Similar to a drop shot, it is easier to successfully hit an offensive lob when you are closer to the Non-Volley Zone.

The farther you are from the NVZ line, the more challenging it becomes to get the ball over your opponent's head and out of their reach. The longer the ball stays in the air, the more time your opponent has to react to your lob.

Additionally, consider the environmental factors. If the sun is in your opponent's eyes, it will be more difficult for them to see and return the lob. The wind can also affect the lob, making it easier or harder depending on its direction and strength. Hitting into the wind provides better control over the lob, but you must ensure it clears your opponent's head. When the wind is at your back, there is a higher chance of the lob carrying out of bounds. Take both the sun and wind into account when attempting a lob shot.

Where Should You Aim Your Offensive Lob?

When executing a successful offensive lob in pickleball, the ideal target is over and behind your opponent, aiming toward their non-paddle side. Doing this puts your opponent in a difficult position, forcing them to hit their next shot while on the run with their backhand or requiring them to move around the ball to attempt a forehand shot. It's important to note that if your lob falls short, your opponent can position themselves for an overhead smash.

When Should You Avoid Using Offensive Lobs?

To make the right decision on whether to use an offensive lob or not, it's crucial to be aware of your opponent's location on the court. For instance, if they are deep in the back of the court, lobbing the ball over their head is not recommended, as they can smash it back at you.

Many pickleball players attempt an offensive lob as their third shot, following the double bounce rule. However, this strategy is often ineffective because your opponents will already be in an advantageous position at the kitchen line and will anticipate your lob attempt.

Additionally, taller players with long arms pose a greater challenge for lobbers. It becomes even more important to hit the ball higher, curving it over them to overcome this. If the lob falls short, taller opponents will have an easier time reaching it, increasing the likelihood of an overhead smash.

What is a Defensive Lob in Pickleball?

Imagine you're playing a pickleball match, and your opponent has the upper hand, putting you on the defensive. You find yourself scrambling to return the ball and stay in the rally. A defensive lob can be a safe and strategic move in such a situation. It involves hitting the ball high into the air, giving you more time to regain your position and prepare for the next shot.

When you hit a defensive lob, the ball travels in a high arc, staying in the air for a longer duration. This allows your opponent to choose their best shot, which might be a powerful overhead aimed back at you.

How do you Hit a Defensive Lob?

To execute a defensive lob, you follow a similar technique to an offensive lob, but with a few key differences—first, the angle of your paddle at the point of contact changes. Instead of facing forward, the paddle's face should be tilted more toward the sky. Additionally, your follow-through after hitting the ball should rise vertically rather than moving outward away from your body as it does with an offensive lob.

Just like with an offensive lob, avoid slapping the ball with a flick of the wrist. Instead, get low, position your pickleball paddle beneath the ball, and guide it upward using your knees and body weight. This technique provides better control over the shot.

When is the Defensive Lob a Smart Shot?

The defensive lob is a strategic shot used to gain time and regain control. It becomes particularly useful when your opponents are positioned near the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) line, keeping you on the defensive and forcing you back. By hitting a defensive lob, you can reposition yourself on the court and shift the momentum in your favor, as your opponents are forced to move towards their own baseline.

Where Should You Hit a Defensive Lob?

Like an offensive lob, a successful defensive lob should go over your opponent's head and land as far back in their court as possible, preferably on their non-paddle side. This strategy allows you to buy more time and makes it harder for your opponent to return the shot effectively.

When Should Defensive Lobs Be Avoided?

The defensive lob is often a last-resort shot. It is typically played when you're on the run or in a vulnerable position, where it may be your only option to stay in the rally. It is important to consider the same factors as offensive shots and avoid lobbing to a player who is deep in their court and likely to return the ball aggressively.

Beginners vs. Pro Player Lob Shots

Lob shots in pickleball can be quite challenging for beginners and older players due to their limited experience and mobility. Newer players often need help to return lob shots effectively, while older players find it difficult to reach the high shots due to their restricted movement.

On the other hand, advanced players have mastered the art of returning lob shots. They can effortlessly counterattack a poorly executed lob and turn it into a powerful overhead smash. This skill becomes even more crucial at the professional level, where pickleball experts possess the speed and agility to respond to lobs quickly. Thus, disguising a lob and catching your opponent off-guard is essential for success.

To help you improve your lob shots, here are five valuable tips:

  1. Choose your opportunity wisely: The effectiveness of a lob shot is maximized when your opponent is leaning forward at the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) line, expecting a continued dinking rally, or waiting for a high ball to put away.
  2. Apply topspin to the ball: Adding topspin to your lob significantly increases the difficulty of your opponent's return, making it more likely for them to struggle with it.
  3. Lob into the wind: When lobbing, try to aim against the direction of the wind. Since a relatively small pickleball court, lobbing with the wind at your back makes it harder to keep the ball within bounds.
  4. Camouflage your lob: Surprise your opponent by disguising your lob shot. Lobs can be highly effective when your opponent is caught off-guard, but if they anticipate it, your strategy might backfire.
  5. Target the non-paddle side: Your opponent will usually find it more challenging to return a lob hit to the non-paddle side of the court. Aim for that area to increase your chances of success.

How to Defend Against Lob Shots: 5 Essential Tips

When facing a lob shot in pickleball, your goal is to either return the shot effectively or avoid getting caught by the lob altogether. Here are five valuable tips for defending against lob shots:

1. Anticipate the lob:

Pay close attention to your opponent's paddle angle and body language, as they may provide hints about their intentions. Anticipating a lob shot can give you a significant advantage in defending against it.

2. Target your opponent's backhand side: 

Most players use a forehand shot to execute lobs. By hitting the ball toward your opponent's non-paddle side, which is typically their backhand, you may deter them from attempting an offensive lob.

3. Crush the lob with an overhead smash

A well-executed overhead smash can make your opponent think twice about lobbing the ball again. Look for opportunities to deliver a powerful smash, especially when the lob is short or within your reach.

4. Chase down the lob 

The effectiveness of a lob diminishes if you can reach it in time. Rather than backpedaling, take a small step backward and to the side, and then quickly move towards the baseline. This allows you to either position yourself under the ball for a return or take a strong shot after it bounces.

5. Keep your opponent near the baseline

For your defense against lobs, keeping your opponents closer to the backcourt is advantageous. Doing so limits their ability to execute effective offensive lobs, putting you in a better position to counter their shots.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are lob shots important in pickleball?

Lob shots play a crucial role in pickleball; mastering this skill can greatly enhance your game. It is essential to learn how to execute effective lob shots and defend against them.

When should you use a lob shot in pickleball?

Offensively, the optimal time to use a lob shot is when your opponent is positioned near the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) line and is not anticipating it. You can gain an advantage in the point by surprising them with a well-placed lob. Defensively, employing a lob shot is beneficial when you need to "reset" the point and reposition yourself for a better defensive stance.

How can you defend against lob shots in pickleball?

There are three main strategies to defend against lob shots in pickleball:

  1. It is important to develop the ability to anticipate when your opponent is likely to hit a lob shot. This anticipation will enable you to react quickly and position yourself optimally to counter the shot.
  2. You can counter the lob shot by executing a powerful overhead shot, crushing the ball back toward your opponent.
  3. Another defensive approach is to move towards the baseline, adjusting your position to be ready to return the lob shot effectively.

How can you execute a topspin lob shot in pickleball?

To execute a topspin lob shot in pickleball, you need to coordinate the movements of your wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Lift them together as one unit, ensuring the paddle face rotates as it makes contact with the ball. This rotation creates friction between the ball and the paddle, causing the ball to rotate forward with topspin. This topspin rotation helps the lob shot to travel high and deep, making it difficult for your opponent to return.


Lobs are increasingly becoming a popular strategy in pickleball at all skill levels. Learning how to execute a lob successfully is crucial to enhance your game and remain competitive.

Fortunately, mastering different types of lobs and understanding how to respond to them is relatively easy if you grasp the techniques and strategies involved.

Now that you have learned when and how to use a lob and how to counter one, a little practice on the pickleball court will quickly turn you into a lob expert.

We would love to hear about your experience with lobs in your game. How frequently do you utilize them? Are they primarily offensive or defensive shots for you? Do you find them challenging to handle when your opponent plays them? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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