How Good of a Workout is Racquetball?
The short answer to that question is that racquetball is a fantastic workout. The long answer to that starts at fantastic and gets very specific. Racquetball improves balance, flexibility, coordination, and strength. It is a great calorie burner and helps you get both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
If you’ve never played racquetball, you may be surprised to find out that it is a tremendous, total-body workout. But it comes with a host of health benefits as well as social benefits.
As you play more, you see more and more benefits come your way. If you sign up for tournaments that the gym or health club you play at hosts, you can meet all sorts of people with a common interest in racquetball and living an active lifestyle.
And that’s just the social aspect of the game. When you ask, “is racquetball good exercise?” the full answer spans across multiple aspects of health, from the mental and social to the physical. But let’s focus on the physical benefits of racquetball from here on out— there are a lot of them.
Balance and Flexibility
Perhaps the most obvious areas that a racquetball workout benefits are balance and flexibility. This is a game that involves frequent changes in direction and high speed bursts into position to hit the ball before it bounces twice.
Hitting the ball requires twisting in your core and the ability to make a strong swing on your forehand and backhand sides. Additionally, the ball may be down by your shins, up over your head, or chest height as it comes in, so you need to be able to handle swinging along different axis lines through your body.
The twisting, turning, and stretching you’ll do in a game will, over time, become easier and translate to a greater range of motion in your regular life. And as a person ages, retaining a wide range of motion becomes more and more valuable.
And once you make that hit, you need to be ready to completely change the direction you’ve been moving so that you can respond to the next shot from your opponent. It’s no wonder that the US Olympic Training Center estimated the distance run by a racquetball player during a 20 minute competitive rally at around 3,650 feet.
These changes in direction, shots from all angles, and fast recoveries and bursts of speed all contribute to improved balance and flexibility over time as you practice and play consistently from week to week and month to month.
Another of the benefits of playing racquetball regularly that builds from the improved balance and flexibility is better coordination. That includes better hand-eye coordination and better coordination in general.
Racquetballs are small, hollow, and rubber. They move through the air fast. So if you want to return a shot from an opponent, you need to be able to recognize the trajectory of an incoming shot and get your racquet in position to send that shot to the front wall—all within a matter of seconds.
As you practice and play, what seems impossible when you read it becomes somewhat commonplace. The game “slows down” for you as you become more familiar with how the ball moves on the court, and your hand-eye coordination improves.
Your overall coordination also improves. Racquetball players tend to stand on the balls of their feet and move laterally in a side-step instead of crossing their feet to help prevent tripping. Learning how to move smoothly and change direction and pace quickly while playing improves your coordination on and off the court.
Is Racquetball Good Exercise for Burning Calories?
For many people, what makes a good workout is defined by the number of calories burned. By that measure, is racquetball good exercise? Yes, it is.
A full racquetball match typically burns as many calories as an equivalent amount of time playing soccer. And just like soccer, racquetball is a great way to build your cardio endurance while burning calories.
“Cardio” is one of those terms that gets thrown around all the time when discussing exercise, but if you’ve ever wondered what is cardio, it is exercise that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up. This strengthens your heart muscle over time and helps your respiratory system work more efficiently.
Aerobic vs Anaerobic Exercise
Workout hobbyists seem like they are always debating whether aerobic or anaerobic exercises are better or more enjoyable. The truth is that both are necessary for a truly effective total-body workout.
Aerobic exercise involves sustained effort that requires energy generated through the use of oxygen. Anaerobic exercise comes in shorter bursts and utilizes more energy produced via other sources in the body.
Both types of exercise benefit your cardiovascular system, and both types are present in racquetball. The sustained effort required to play a full match gives you plenty of aerobic exercise, while the short bursts a player makes to hit a quality shot pepper anaerobic exercises throughout a rally and throughout a match.
Preparing for Your Workout
Whether practicing or playing a match, it is important that you prepare before you step on the court. Because racquetball is such an active workout, it is imperative that you take time for stretching before you start.
By taking time before you play to engage in a warm up routine to stretch your arms, legs, and core, you diminish the risk of the kinds of muscle and tendon injuries common in racquet sports— think tennis elbow or similar injuries.
If you are just getting started, you will probably rent your racquetball equipment. That’s ok. Just be sure that you loop the strap on the racquet around your risk and wear a glove to make sure you don’t lose your grip and clobber your opponent accidentally.
Also, it is extremely important that you wear eye protection when you are on the court. Whether you are practicing alone or playing a competitive tournament, you absolutely must protect your eyes. Normal glasses are not enough.
This is because racquetballs move very, very quickly. It is possible for them to hit you in the eye before your natural reflex to blink triggers if you aren’t paying attention to where the ball is. This can result in scratched and damaged corneas or worse.
Find Your Way to Play
One of the great things about racquetball is that there are many different ways to play. You can play indoors, outdoors (weather permitting and if you have outdoor courts nearby), with three people, doubles, or solo.
To be fair, playing solo might be more accurately called “practice,” but the workout is still good, and the game is still fun. Not sure how to practice racquetball alone? It’s actually pretty simple.
You can either focus on drilling one type of shot or serve for your practice session or simply try to keep a rally going on your own. When you are starting out and learning the game’s physical mechanics, feel free to allow the ball to bounce more than once before you hit it— just keep moving around the court and ramp up the difficulty as you get better.
The Court is Yours
The workout health benefits of racquetball are numerous. From calorie burning to balance and coordination improvement, it’s a game that brings strong benefits to the lives of the people who play regularly, whether they are on the court or out in the world.
And the social aspect of the game gives you great workout motivation as you’ll come to look forward to your games against and alongside the friends you make through the sport.
Racquetball is a tremendous activity for people looking to live an active lifestyle, expand their social circle, get a great workout on a regular basis, or all of the above. Is racquetball good exercise? You better believe it.