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"I walk through the club where I work and I get frustrated watching the poor people on the machines. They're attached to these medieval torture devices when they could be getting a much better workout, and having fun, playing racquetball."—Jim Winterton, former head coach of the US Racquetball Team.
A tough racquetball session burns a lot of calories. It also improves hand-eye coordination and reflexes. It can add a fun, competitive edge to your workout routine. It is still an underused activity despite all these benefits. People may think it is hard to learn or be afraid of getting hit by a ball.
Fear not. "Racquetball is the easiest racquet sport to learn," says Winterton. "The ball and the racquet are big, and you can hit the ball almost anywhere." You just need to wear safety glasses to avoid an eye injury. "Eyeguards are the first piece of equipment anyone needs. It only takes getting hit once to do serious damage, but if you wear eyeguards you will be safe," Winterton tells players.
The rules are simple: "Just hit the hollow blue ball to the front wall. Do whatever it takes to get it there," says coach Kelley Beane. Beane mentions that the ball is allowed to bounce once, but it is okay if beginners let it bounce 2 or 3 times as they learn how to hit and rally. "The important thing is to lighten up and have fun when you are first starting. If you like it, it becomes almost addictive. You will get pretty good pretty quick," Beane adds.
You can start keeping score when you can keep a rally going. Winterton encourages match play because "competition pushes you and makes you work a little harder." Beane says you will have a great time as long as you play with an opponent whose ability level matches yours.
Scoring is simple. You only win points on your serve. If the server wins a rally, he or she scores a point. The non-server is fighting for the right to serve. Games are played to 15, and you only have to win by 1 point. Usually, matches are best 2 of 3 games. If the match goes to a tie-breaker (game 3), 11 points wins it.
This sport burns a lot of calories since every muscle group is worked during play. An hour on the racquetball court will leave you sweaty and tired. Even better, you will never watch the clock. "I never realized what a great workout racquetball is until I was injured and could not play. No workout I tried, not even spinning, could match it," Winterton says.
Beane agrees and says it has a lot to do with the court size. Courts are 20 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 20 feet tall. "Courts are strategically designed to make you think you can get to everything. So you work really hard chasing down every last ball, but you are having a blast doing it."
With any sport there is a chance of injury. A few quick steps may help keep you safe on the court.
Give your muscles a few minutes to warm up. Try a light activity that involves your entire body. Walking and jogging are good choices.
Proper technique can help you avoid some common injuries. Think about taking a lesson to make sure you are doing things right.
Safety glasses are the most important protective equipment you will need. A ball in the eye could easily cause a detached retina.
Winterton advises wearing a wide-bottomed shoe that can respond to the quick starts and stops of a match. The right shoe can also lower the risk of ankle sprains that might happen.
Make sure you have a racquet with a tether. You will be sweating a lot and the tether keeps the racquet from flying out of your hand.
Injuries cannot always be prevented. Most injuries will respond to ice and a little rest. Treating a minor problem now may keep it from becoming a bigger problem later. Call your doctor if you have an injury that does not improve with ice and rest.
Overall fitness is important, but you also have to get your body ready for the rigors of racquetball. Focus on core training. That is, strengthen the muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis over the entire length of the torso. They can help you make the quick changes and shifts needed during a game.
Aerobic exercises will also help you with your endurance so you can last the whole game. Think about how your body moves when you play racquetball. Exercises like quick sprints, jumping, and throwing will help. Finally, strength exercises may help you prevent injuries in your arms and shoulders.
If you are looking to pick up the pace of your workout routine, consider a few rounds of racquetball. It might just be the extra boost you need when you hit your training plateau.
International Racquetball Federation
United States Racquetball Association
Canadian Academy of Sports and Exercise Medicine
About racquetball. International Racquetball Federation website. Available at: https://www.internationalracquetball.com/about-racquetball/. Accessed October 14, 2021.
USA racquetball. Team USA website. Available at: https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Racquetball/How-To-Play/Rules. Accessed October 14, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 10/14/2021