Pickleball is a game for all, young and old, men and women, experienced and new players. Whether you are playing competitively or socially, there are a few tricks that will help you play the game with ease and improve your game all the time. In this article we are going to look at the best ways to hold your pickleball paddle.
A pickleball paddle is different to a tennis racket; it’s smaller, lighter, made of a different material and much easier to handle (we have mentioned this as a part of our guide on the differences between tennis and pickleball here.)
There are pickleball paddles of different sizes and weights, and you will choose one that is right for your size and body frame. Once you have the paddle in hand, so to speak, let’s take a look at how to hold the paddle and also, the grips that you may prefer.
How to Hold your Pickleball Paddle?
If you have played a racket and ball sport before, then picking up a pickleball paddle will feel quite natural for you. If it’s the first time, pick up the paddle and hold it in a way which feels most comfortable.
Hold it at shoulder height, in front of you, to the right of you and to the left of you. You will soon work out the most sensible way of holding the paddle. Wrap your hand around the grip, almost as if you are holding a tool such as a hammer.
The V between your thumb and forefinger will line up almost exactly with the bevel of the paddle.
Before you even try and hit the ball, get used to the feel of the paddle in your hand. Do a whole lot of practice shots, getting used to the feel. If you are right-handed, hold the paddle in your right hand, but also, in your left. Swing it around a bit and do a few ‘imaginary’ serves, volleys, forehand and backhand. You will find your most natural grip, and easiest grip, with a little practice.
You can look at pickleball video tutorials, read articles on pickleball, and watch a few games where you learn exactly how to hold the paddle.
In this video, Glen Peterson explains how you hold the pickleball paddle pretty much like a hammer.
He always talks about three different grips, but mentions that once you use a grip that is the grip you keep for the rally. pickleball is quick and so you don’t have time between shots to change your grip.
Different Pickleball Paddle Grips
There are three pickleball paddle grips:
The Continental Pickleball Grip
This is probably the mot popular grip amongst Pickleball players. It is the grip that is most associated with holding a hammer, in the way you would use a hammer to hammer in nails.
This grip is used for both forehands and backhands and is preferred by players who use all these strokes in a game. This is the grip where the V between your thumb and forefinger lines up with the bevel of the paddle.
No matter which way you play a stroke with the Continental Grip, your paddle stays straight and firm. You can easily move from a forehand to a backhand, whether you are a beginner or a professional. Your paddle is ninety degrees to the floor.
This video, courtesy the Padel School, will help you.
They call this grip the ‘Shaking Hands’ grip too. When you watch the video you will also note that the Paddle comes with a loop that you need to loop around your wrist, especially when you are learning Pickleball.
This is so your paddle does not become a dangerous weapon if you happen to lost grip while playing.
The Western Pickleball Grip
This grip is also known as the semi-western grip. Think about holding the paddle in the way we mentioned above (continental style) and then move the hand, left or right depending on which hand you use, towards the back of the paddle.
Your palm should be behind the flat part of the paddle. This video will give you a good idea of what to do.
Depending on how much you keep your finger on the handle, depends on whether this is a western grip or a semi-western grip.
To test the grips, hold your paddle, change your grip and then hold your hand out ahead of you. With this kind of grip there is a lot more wrist action.
It is a hard grip to use for defence shots in particular and it is for this reason that it is mostly professionals who use this grip. You don’t get as much of a wide range as with the continental grip, but you do get more spin and you can play more tactically.
The Eastern Pickleball Grip
So here you have a mix of the Continental grip and the Western grip and in fact, once you start playing Pickleball, this is likely to be your most popular grip.
Also, if you focus more on the forehand – and many Pickleball players do play more forehands than backhands, this is a good grip to use. You get power and spin, a paddle that is easy to control, and a paddle where you can easily place the ball pretty cleverly too.
In this video, the pro player Steve Paranto identifies the various Pickleball grips, and will make it clearer for you, which grip you prefer. Remember, there is no right or wrong grip with Pickleball. Use the grip that works for you and that gives you more freedom with your game.
Tight Grips v Loose Grips
It is also interesting to note that in Pickleball a loose or a relaxed grip is better than a tighter grip. With a loose grip, given the nature and the style of the game, you can in fact generate more power to your game and can control the shots you make.
A tight grip creates more pressure on your wrist, and you want to avoid pressure.
Some players, especially with a tennis or a squash background, automatically hold the paddle tight. It takes some getting used to, this looser grip, but with time you will see just how much it helps your game.
Should Your Fingers be on the Grip or the Paddle?
Your fingers will certainly be more comfortable when they are held around the grip of the paddle. Some players, probably those with a table tennis background, may keep one or even two of their fingers laying against the paddle.
Again, it is a personal choice. Some even keep their thumb against the paddle. Do what feels comfortable for you, and whatever helps your game.
There are some interesting thoughts about fingers and neurology! Some people feel if your finger is on the actual paddle, the messages from your brain reach your finger faster, allowing you quicker reactions. This is quite scientific and may or may not be the case; watch Pickleball videos, read blogs or articles, watch your favourite players, and do what comes naturally for you.
Pickleball and Pro Players
As a social pickleball player, chances are you are holding the pickleball paddle in one hand only.
You might do double handed backhands, but most players use one hand, or arm, only. It is pretty fascinating to see professional players use both their hands, seamlessly changing the paddle from one hand to the next. You have to be pretty ambidextrous to be able to do this, and we don’t really suggest you try!
Remember that most professional pickleball players have been playing the game for a long time, or have great experience in similar ball and racket sports.
Professionals may have all their fingers on the surface of the paddle, but we do not recommend this for you! Professionals can do a lot of things on the Pickleball court that you may never be able to do and that is just fine.
You play your game and let them play theirs.
Pickleball and Social Players
Pickleball is a game that has grown enormously in popularity.
Courts are easily available around the USA, and even in other countries, there are plenty of pickleball courts at sports clubs and at schools, and it is a game that is pretty easy to learn.
Pickleball will keep you fit and healthy, strong and sociable and can even be played by the elderly.
The most important thing to do is have a pickleball paddle that feels right in your hands, a good pair of shoes, and people to play with. Pickleball is most played as doubles, but can be played as singles. Get in as much practice as you can and you will see your game improving quickly.
We focused on the grip in this article, because it really is the grip you use that will help you master the game.
You can have the best pickleball paddle in the world, and there are a wide variety of makes, but it is not going to help you if you do not know how to hold the paddle.
When you do buy a paddle, test it out without a ball. Stand with the paddle straight ahead of you, parallel to the ground, and do a few air forehands and a few air backhands.
Practice volleys and services and see how the paddle feels in your hand. If it feels right, buy the paddle.
A pickleball paddle should last you a number of years. You can get the accessories you need – a paddle cover, balls, good pair of shoes, socks, and even fancy athletic clothing if you want.
But remember – it’s not about the clothing or the shoes, it’s about the grip.
Grip your paddle correctly and see your game improve. Have fun, and don’t forget to practice your new pickleball skills.