Everything You Need to Know About Padel
History, Benefits, Rules, Equipment, and Scoring
Reviewed by Kristin McGee, CPT
Watch out tennis, you've got some friendly competition. Padel is a racket sport that is on the rise, and though it has been around since the 1960s, it has recently been growing in popularity. As one of the fastest-growing sports globally, padel is currently played in more than 90 countries by over 25 million people.
Padel also is fun for all ages and can be played by people of all abilities. It is often described as a mix between tennis and squash, and at first glance, you may think you stumbled onto a tennis court. However, there are some differences that make this sport stand out, and it's worth looking for the padel court near you.
History of Padel
Padel was invented in 1969 by Enrique Corcuera, in Acapulco, Mexico. From there it spread quickly through Spain and Argentina during the 1970s until Italy joined the International Padel Federation in 1991.
The first international tournament occurred in 1992 in Madrid and was attended by teams from Argentina, Spain, the United Kingdom, and France. It was first brought into the United States in 1993, when the first padel court was introduced in Houston, Texas.
There is now the United States Padel Association (USPA). In March of 2022, they hosted the Senior World Championships, the first international padel championship in the U.S., and one of the most attended padel events in the world.
Benefits of Playing Padel
Regular exercise has many health benefits including increased longevity and lower incidences of disease. Most exercise guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, though recent studies suggest that simply moving more in the day will result in health benefits as well. Padel is a great way to increase your activity level while also having fun with friends. It also will improve your motor skills and cognitive skills.
Related:9 Health Benefits of Playing Tennis
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Because padel is fast-paced and requires you to run across a court, you are going to be getting your heart rate up, which will benefit your cardiovascular health. Whether you choose to play competitively with more intensity or leisurely with fun in mind, you will still be getting in a great workout.
Boosts Mental Health
Research indicates that higher levels of physical activity are associated with more positive mental health. And because padel is a social sport, you may find that it boosts your mood. In fact, studies show that engaging in social connection is linked to decreased risk of depression.
Improves Balance and Coordination
Padel requires moving both vertically and horizontally across the court at a quick pace, which activates your balance and coordination. It also requires hand-eye coordination to hit the ball.
When playing padel, you will experience dynamic movement, sudden changes in direction, and varying velocity. All of these things will recruit your fast twitch muscle fibers, which are the muscles responsible for short bursts of energy. Because you use these muscles as you move quickly across the court, you can anticipate a increase in muscle.
Related:What Does It Mean to Be “Healthy”
What Is a Padel Court?
A padel court is a completely enclosed space that is 10 meters long, 20 meters wide, and four meters tall. The first three meters of the wall must be solid (either a transparent or opaque material is approved) and the top one meter of that wall is a metallic fence. The wall surrounding the court allows for the bouncing of the ball during play.
The court is split down the middle by a net that is .88 meters tall. And just like in tennis, there is a service line the players must stand behind to serve the ball.
The playing field can be made of different materials like artificial grass, wood, or porous concrete (anything that allows that ball to bounce and avoids water accumulation). Because the sport is often played outdoors, having a ball that is able to prevent water accumulation is best.
Once you find a court, getting started playing padel is relatively simple because you don't need much equipment. Padel only requires a racket, a ball, a partner, and a court for play. Though it is possible to play padel as a single player, it is designed as a sport for a team.
Padel rackets come in different shapes and finishes, but they all have holes covering the surface. These holes serve a few functions. They help with aerodynamics by minimizing the resistance as the racket cuts through the air, they keep the racket lightweight, they promote the spin of the ball with their rough surface, and they are more flexible.
A padel ball has the same neon yellow hue and weight as a tennis ball, but is smaller in diameter and has less air pressure. It is also made out of material that is able to prevent water accumulation.
Padel Rules and Scoring
When it comes to playing padel, it is very similar to tennis, with a few variations. Here is a closer look at the rules and scoring.
The rules of padel are basically the same as the rules of tennis. However, with padel, you must serve the ball by first bouncing it on the ground below hip height. There are also a few special rules that come into play because of the walls of a padel court.
The ball must hit the playing field before it hits a wall or a fence. Once the ball has hit the playing field it is free to hit the wall or fencing before it returns back over the net. So, similarly to squash or paddle tennis, in padel, you can play the ball off of the wall.
Every point begins with a service, and padel is usually played to the best three out of five sets. A set is the first team to win six games.
The score is tracked using the same terminology as tennis. Here are the terms and numbers for the scoring.
No point: “Love”
First point: “15”
Second point: “30”
Third point: “40”
Fourth point: “Game”
There are five ways to earn points in a padel game. These include:
The opponent hits the ball into the net.
The opponent hits the ball into their own grid.
The ball bounces twice on the opponents grid.
The opponent hits the ball outside of the area of play.
An opponent is hit by the ball.
Padel is an exciting sport that has been around for years but is really starting to take off in the U.S. With its similarities to tennis, the game can be easy for racket players to pick up and is accessible to newcomers. Plus, there are a number of benefits to playing padel including improvements to cardiovascular health, mental health, muscle strength, balance, and coordination. Because padel can be played by all ages and abilities, it makes a great hobby. Find out if there is a court in your neighborhood to try it out for yourself.
Related:7 Best Tennis Shoes For Women, Tested by a Tennis Player