Pickleball Grip Techniques: The Ultimate Guide

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When learning how to play pickleball, one of the first things you should do is learn how to properly hold a pickleball paddle.

How you hold the paddle can greatly affect your performance on the pickleball court. The proper pickleball grip technique can amplify your game. The wrong grip technique can hinder the versatility and consistency of your shots.

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of pickleball grip techniques. I’ll explain the various ways to hold a pickleball paddle, the pros and cons of each pickleball grip, and other tips and considerations. I’ll also share a few pictures demonstrating the various pickleball grip techniques.

Let’s get started.

What are grip techniques? Why are they important in pickleball?

“Grip techniques” refer to specific ways of holding a pickleball paddle to strategically place in your hand. There are several different ways to hold a pickleball paddle, depending on your play style and preferences. Common pickleball grip techniques include:

  • Continental grip
  • Eastern grip
  • Western grip
  • One-handed backhand grip
  • Two-handed backhand grip

Later in this post, we’ll explore the different ways to grip the paddle in greater detail. For now, remember that each grip technique offers unique advantages that cater to specific types of shots.

Pickleball grip techniques are important because they directly impact your control, power, and versatility on the court. Understanding and mastering different grips can improve your shot-making abilities. Conversely, improper or inconsistent grip technique can destroy your consistency and control.

The best way to hold a pickleball paddle

As mentioned, there are several ways to grip a pickleball paddle, also called “grip techniques.” But first, let’s discuss the proper way to hold a pickleball paddle in your hand.

Some beginners start by holding the paddle with a tight “closed fist” grip, akin to holding a flag. This positions the handle nearly perpendicular to the player’s wrist and forearm.

This approach comes with several issues. It limits your ability to adjust the paddle’s angle and position for different shots. This can prove costly at the Kitchen, where quick adjustments are key during fast-paced exchanges.

A better way to hold the paddle involves gripping the handle at an angle, as if you’re shaking hands with it. With this technique, the handle is roughly 135-degrees in relation to your wrist.

Demonstration of the improper and proper technique when gripping a pickleball paddle, placed side by side.
Improper (left) and proper (right) technique when gripping a pickleball paddle.

There are several benefits that come with this technique:

  • Makes the paddle a virtual extension of your arm
  • Improves your ability to make quick paddle adjustments
  • Increases your overall reach and defensive capabilities
  • Helps you generate more power and spin on your shots

It’s important, also, to firmly wrap your thumb around the handle and leave some space between your index, middle, and ring fingers on your paddle hand. This gives you a better grip on the pickleball paddle.

Players have the option of wrapping or hooking their index finger around the handle or extending it along the length of the paddle. In my experience, wrapping the index finger around the handle is the better and more common method.

Where should you hold the pickleball paddle handle?

Next, let’s discuss where to position your paddle hand on the handle.

The truth is, there isn’t a single correct location to position your hand on the paddle’s handle.

You can place your paddle hand in multiple positions on the handle:

  • On the bottom of the paddle’s handle, similar to a tennis grip
  • In the middle of the paddle’s handle, taking up most of the handle space
  • At the top of the paddle’s handle, also referred to as “choking up” on the handle

Each of these methods offer distinct advantages. Players who “choke up” on the handle typically report better connection with the paddle’s hitting surface. Conversely, players who hold the bottom of the handle typically enjoy better reach and “whip” on their shots.

At all levels of the game, you’ll find pickleball players adopting each of these strategies. All of them are viable; the proper hand location for your game depends on your personal preferences and playing style.

In my experience, however, holding the bottom of the handle provides the most benefits. It maximizes your reach with the pickleball paddle, helps with generating spin, and leaves more room for a second hand (for two-handed backhands).

How tightly should you hold your pickleball paddle?

Next, let’s discuss the proper grip tension for pickleball.

You don’t need to hold your pickleball paddle very tightly to achieve good results. In most cases, about 30% of your grip strength is sufficient when mastering your grip technique.

If you hold the paddle too tightly, you’ll sacrifice maneuverability and feel. Think of it like you’re handling a delicate object – tight enough to maintain control, but gentle enough to allow for fluid movement and wrist action.

Relationship between the index finger knuckle and handle bevels

Before we can get into the various grip techniques, we must first explain the importance of the bevels of a pickleball paddle and the knuckle of your index finger. These elements make up how you hold the handle for different grip techniques

The pickleball paddle handle is octagonal and broken up into eight bevels. When executing different grip techniques, arguably the easiest approach is by placing the knuckle of the index finger of your dominant hand on the appropriate bevel.

Identifying the different bevels is easy. Hold the paddle sideways with the paddle face perpendicular to the ground. The top bevel is labeled the number 1. Then, in a clockwise manner, the remaining bevels are labeled 2-8.

Graphic of the bottom of a pickleball paddle handle with bevel numbers for grip techniques.

If you’re a right handed player, you’ll typically position your index finger knuckle on bevels 2-4 for forehand grip techniques. If you’re a left handed player, bevels 6-8 will be your forehand grip positions.

When employing the finger knuckle-handle bevel method, it’s important to incorporate the other best practices we already discussed:

  • Hold the paddle at an angle so it’s an extension of your arm
  • Position your hand at the bottom, middle, or top of the handle according to your preference
  • Grip the handle with roughly one third of your strength

Now, finally, let’s get into some specific pickleball grip techniques.

Pickleball forehand grip techniques

Let’s start with pickleball grip techniques that are best suited for forehand shots: the continental grip, the eastern forehand grip, and the western grip.

Continental grip

Let’s start with the most versatile and common grip technique in pickleball: the continental grip.

If you’re right handed, the continental grip involves placing your index finger knuckle on the first bevel to the right (or bevel number 2). For left handed players, the knuckle is placed on the first bevel to the left (or bevel number 8).

The continental grip is sometimes referred to as the “handshake grip.” Players look like they’re shaking hands with the handle when using this grip. This description can also assist in achieving the proper hand positioning (in addition to the bevel method).

Back view of the continental grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Back view of the continental grip.
Front view of the continental grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Front view of the continental grip.

This grip technique is highly popular because you can hit nearly every shot in pickleball with it. You can hit serves, forehands, backhands, drops, dinks, overheads, and other shots without ever changing your grip. It’s considered the best grip at the Kitchen, where you have less time to react.

Of all the grip techniques in pickleball, the continental grip is considered a “neutral” option. It opens the paddle face, making it very beginner-friendly.

Pros of the continental grip

  • Very beginner-friendly
  • Best grip for soft shots like drops and dinks
  • Good for hitting with backspin
  • Opens the face of the paddle for easier net clearance
  • Viable for both forehands and backhand shots
  • Ideal for quick adjustments at the net

Cons of the continental grip

  • Less access to “easy” power compared to other grip techniques
  • Difficult to hit with topspin compared to the eastern grip and western grip (requires twisting the wrist)

Best shots for the continental grip

  • Serve
  • Return of serve
  • Forehand drive
  • Backhand drive
  • Drop
  • Dink
  • Volley
  • Overhead
  • Speed-up
  • Reset

Eastern forehand grip

The eastern forehand grip is another common grip technique. It’s great option for players who want easier power and topspin on their forehand than the continental grip provides.

If you’re right handed, the eastern forehand grip involves placing your index finger knuckle at three o’clock on the paddle handle (or bevel number 3). For left handed players, the knuckle is placed at nine o’clock on the handle (or bevel number 7).

Another option for achieving an eastern grip is by placing your dominant hand on the face of the paddle. Slide your hand down the paddle handle, resting it near the bottom of the handle.

Back view of the eastern forehand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Back view of the eastern grip.
Front view of the eastern forehand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Front view of the eastern grip.

This grip technique positions the hand behind the handle at contact, helping the player drive through the ball for more pace and power. The eastern grip also “closes” the paddle relative to a continental grip, helping the player generate topspin.

The eastern grip, while not quite as versatile as the continental grip, can be used for several different shots. Players typically use this technique for forehand drives, serves, forehand rolls, and speed-ups at the net.

Overall, the eastern pickleball grip is suited for intermediate to advanced-level players who want to hit a driving forehand shot with good access to spin.

Pros of the eastern forehand grip

  • Comfortable “tweener” forehand grip option for players with more experience
  • Helps the player drive through the ball with pace
  • Easier to generate topspin on the forehand than the continental grip
  • Viable for forehand strokes of different heights, speeds, and angles
  • Good for the serve, return of serve, forehand drive, forehand rolls, and other shots

Cons of the eastern forehand grip

  • Forces the player to switch grips for most backhand shots
  • Less access to topspin than the more extreme western grip
  • Requires consistent contact point, paddle angle, and technique to maintain control

Best shots for the eastern forehand grip

  • Serve
  • Return of serve
  • Forehand drive
  • Forehand roll
  • Passing shot
  • Approach shot
  • Dink
  • Speed-up

Western forehand grip

For players who want to crush the ball with topspin, the western forehand grip is the perfect option.

This grip technique is commonly referred to as the “pancake grip,” as the player holds the paddle similar to how they would hold a frying pan. As the nickname implies, the western grip involves holding the handle very far to the right (or left, for left handed players), closing the paddle.

Executing a western forehand grip involves placing the knuckle of your index finger on bevel number 4 (or bevel number 6 for left handed players). The western grip positions your hand further underneath the handle relative to other forehand grip techniques.

Back view of the western forehand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Back view of the western grip.
Front view of the western forehand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Front view of the western grip.

The result? A closed paddle face that provides superior access to topspin on forehand shots. The western grip is best suited for forehand drives, returns of serve, and forehand rolls.

It’s important to remember, however, that the western pickleball grip is widely considered to be an advanced technique. The extreme paddle face angle can be difficult for beginners to handle, and may result in more unforced errors than successful forehands.

Ultimately, the western grip is a great option for big hitters and aggressive players. The grip provides tremendous topspin that helps players hit strong forehand shots.

Pros of the western forehand grip

  • Superior access to topspin than other forehand grip techniques
  • The diving trajectory produced by topspin helps players hit with power while keeping the ball in play
  • Good for shots like the serve, return of serve, and forehand drive
  • Strong option for quickly striking the ball down on high forehand volleys (i.e., the “pancake shot”)

Cons of the western forehand grip

  • Not suitable for most beginners (i.e., an intermediate-advanced technique)
  • Closed paddle requires strong form wrist control to avoid unforced errors
  • Forces the player to change grips for virtually every backhand shot
  • Difficult to effectively hit low-bouncing or skidding balls

Best shots for the western forehand grip

  • Serve
  • Return of serve
  • Forehand drive
  • Forehand roll
  • Passing shot
  • Approach shot
  • Speed-up

Backhand grip techniques

Next, let’s discuss some grip techniques that are great for backhand strokes in pickleball. Remember, the continental grip can be used for several backhand strokes, especially if you’re just learning how to play. However, there are other options that can help you hit backhands with power and spin: the eastern backhand grip and the two-handed backhand grip.

One-handed backhand grip

The one-handed backhand grip is best suited for players who prefer a one-handed backhand and want more “easy” power than the continental grip provides.

Similar to the eastern grip, the eastern backhand grip positions the hand behind the handle at contact, helping the player drive through the ball with pace.

While the one-handed backhand grip is not very popular in pickleball, it does provide certain benefits like extended reach on backhand strokes. It may also be a comfortable and familiar option for tennis players who utilize a one-handed backhand in tennis. (Although the one-handed backhand has become less popular in tennis as well.)

The one-handed backhand grip technique involves placing the knuckle of your index finger on the top bevel of the handle (or bevel number 1). The proper hand positioning is the same for both right handed and left handed players.

Front view of the one-handed backhand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Front view of the one-handed backhand grip.

Pros of the one-handed backhand grip

  • Helps the player drive through the ball with pace on a one-handed backhand
  • Provides more reach on backhand strokes than a two-handed backhand grip
  • Comfortable option for tennis players who utilize an eastern backhand grip in tennis

Cons of the one-handed backhand grip

  • Unpopular backhand grip in pickleball
  • Not suitable for most beginners (i.e., an intermediate-advanced technique)
  • Not suitable for a wide range of shots (outside of the return of serve and backhand drive)
  • Requires solid and consistent form to hit backhand shots with spin and control

Best shots for the one-handed backhand grip

  • Return of serve
  • Backhand drive
  • Backhand roll
  • Passing shot
  • Approach shot

Two-handed backhand grip

Next, let’s cover the most popular backhand grip technique in pickleball: the two-handed backhand grip.

As the game has evolved, more players have turned to the two-handed backhand. The extra hand helps players hit backhand strokes with stability, power, and control.

Because of the relatively short handle of a pickleball paddle (most paddle handles are 5-5.5 inches long), the two-handed backhand grip technique requires efficient hand positioning.

Back view of the two-handed backhand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Back view of the two-handed backhand grip.
Front view of the two-handed backhand grip when holding a pickleball paddle.
Front view of the two-handed backhand grip.

Here is how to execute a two-handed backhand grip technique:

  1. Start by positioning your dominant hand at the bottom of the handle using a continental grip (index finger knuckle on bevel number 2 for right handed players). If the bottom of your hand extends slightly beyond the bottom of the handle, that is okay.
  2. Position your non-dominant hand at the top of the handle using a “reverse” eastern grip (left index finger knuckle on bevel number 7 for right handed players).
  3. Wrap the index finger of your non-dominant hand around the throat of the paddle or place it on the face of the paddle. Both methods are viable and legal. (Some players even place two fingers on the face of the paddle.)
Back view of the two-handed backhand grip when holding a pickleball paddle with one finger on the paddle face.
Back view of the two-handed backhand with one finger on the paddle face.

Overall, the two-handed backhand grip is perfect for any player striving to hit backhand shots with power and control. And although having two hands on the paddle handle may feel cramped at first, it quickly feels comfortable and natural.

Pros of the two-handed backhand grip

  • Most common grip in pickleball for backhand drives
  • Good for other shots like the return of serve, dinks, and backhand roll
  • Helps the player hit backhand strokes with stability and control
  • The additional hand assists with topspin generation
  • Natural option for tennis players who hit a two-handed backhand in tennis

Cons of the two-handed backhand grip

  • Less reach than one-handed backhand grip techniques
  • Requires consistent and efficient hand positioning
  • Takes some time and practice to master

Best shots for the two-handed backhand grip

  • Return of serve
  • Backhand drive
  • Backhand roll
  • Passing shot
  • Approach shot
  • Dink
  • Speed-up

Finding the right grip techniques for your game

In pickleball, everyone is different. The right grip techniques for other players may not be the best fit for your game. Finding the proper grips for your play style requires practice and experimentation.

Here are some tips for finding suitable grip techniques for your skillset:

  • Think about how you play pickleball and your skill level. What types of shots do you like to hit? This will help you identify common grip techniques you may or may not want to try.
  • Try different grips during practice sessions and recreational games. In-game experience is especially helpful, as your opponents will give you different looks to pressure-test your grip techniques.
  • If you mis-hit while attempting different grip techniques, don’t give up right away. Double-check your hand positioning, adjust your form slightly, and take note of how the ball feels coming off the paddle.
  • Consult a professional pickleball instructor or coach. These individuals are trained to help you improve your skills, including your grip techniques.

Once you find some grips that suit your individual play style, the next step is continued practice and repetition. As you develop muscle memory with grip techniques, your performance on the pickleball court will improve.

Tips for switching between different grip techniques

Unless you use a continental grip for every stroke, you’ll have to adjust or change your grip technique during rallies to execute different shots.

Switching between grips mid-rally may seem daunting, but here are some helpful tips:

  • Practice with your preferred grip techniques. Repetitions and muscle memory will help you change grips quickly and confidently during points.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to help rotate the paddle for the desired angle and grip technique.
  • Switch your grip as soon as possible between shots (if required). Waiting to adjust your grip technique will sacrifice the necessary form and timing of your stroke.

Training drills to improve your grip techniques

Like anything else in pickleball, your grip technique requires practice and training. Mastering different grips will improve your versatility and performance on the pickleball court.

Similar to forehands, backhands, and other strokes, drilling can improve your grip techniques. Here are a few options to consider for your next practice session:

  • Static drop feed drill: This is a great drill that you can execute by yourself. Hold the ball out in front of you, drop it on the court, and hit the ball with a shot of your choice (forehand, backhand, drop, etc.). Hit multiple shots in a row, focusing on consistent foot placement, swing mechanics, and grip technique.
  • Forehand and backhand drill: Have a training partner or coach feed groundstrokes, switching between your forehand and backhand sides. Adjust your grip for the alternating shots, focusing on consistent technique. For added effect, have them feed toward the corners of the court so you can practice switching between grips while running.
  • Drive and drop drill: This drill also requires a training partner or coach. Have them feed groundstrokes toward the middle of the court. On the first feed, hit a forehand or backhand shot (your choice). On the second feed, adjust your grip to hit a soft drop shot into the Kitchen on the other side of the net. The purpose of this drill is changing grips for shots of varying intensity and depth.

Master grip techniques for your pickleball game

Grip techniques are an essential part of any pickleball player’s repertoire. The right grip can amplify your skillset and improve your performance on the court. The wrong grip can hinder your ability to hit the ball with confidence or consistency.

The most important thing to remember is that, while some grip techniques are more popular than others, there isn’t one right way to hold a pickleball paddle. There are several viable grip technique, dependent on the player’s play style and preferences.

If you’re new to pickleball or grip techniques, don’t worry. With a little practice and experimentation, you’ll quickly find the right grips for your game.

Frequently asked questions

What grip do the pros use in pickleball?

There isn’t one singular grip technique that professional pickleball players use. Pros employ a variety of grips, helping them execute a wide range of shots and techniques.

In the modern game, many players use a western grip for their forehand drive and a two-handed grip for their backhand drive. At the Kitchen, most players use a continental grip to hit dinks and make quick adjustments for touch volleys and resets.

How do you hold a pickleball paddle at the net?

When standing at the net, most players hold the pickleball paddle with a continental grip. It is the most versatile grip in pickleball, perfect for touch shots and quick paddle adjustments. This makes it the best grip for most shots you’ll hit at the Kitchen such as dinks, volleys, and resets.

That said, if you get a high ball that sits in the air, you can switch to a different grip to hit an aggressive shot. Remember that when you and your opponent are both at the Kitchen (roughly 14 feet apart), you usually have little time to react. Many pickleball players find using only a continental grip helps them focus on footwork, feel, and shot selections rather than changing grip techniques.

In addition to maintaining a continental grip, here are some other tips for holding a pickleball paddle at the net:

  • Keep the paddle up and facing forward, ready to react to quick shots
  • Hold the paddle out in front of you so you can contact the ball out front for better control
  • Don’t grip the paddle handle too tightly, as many shots at the Kitchen require touch and finesse

Can I use the same grip technique for all shots?

The short answer is yes, you can use the same grip technique for all shots in pickleball. The best grip for hitting nearly every shot in pickleball is the continental grip. It opens the paddle, making it suitable for forehand and backhand shots, drops, dinks, and other strokes.

However, if you use a different technique such as the eastern or western grip, you’ll have some difficulty hitting backhand strokes. So while you can maintain the same grip for all shots, you’ll have more success and reach higher levels if you learn and execute multiple grip techniques for different shots.

Key takeaways

  • Understanding grip techniques is crucial when learning how to play pickleball.
  • There are different ways to grip a pickleball paddle, including the continental grip, eastern grip, western grip, two-handed backhand grip, and one-handed backhand grip.
  • Holding the paddle at an angle, like shaking hands, is optimal, enhancing maneuverability and reach.
  • Hand placement varies and impacts shot execution, with options including bottom, middle, or top.
  • Maintaining a relaxed grip of about 30% strength allows for fluid movement, control, and grip changes.
  • Understanding the relationship between index finger knuckle and handle bevels aids in grip technique and changing your grip between shots.
  • The continental grip is the most common grip in pickleball. It offers versatility but may lack power; the eastern grip and western grip provides more power and topspin.
  • The western grip enables significant topspin but requires advanced skill due to a closed paddle face.
  • The one-handed backhand grip suits pickleball players who want power on one-handed backhands, though it has become less popular over time.
  • The two-handed backhand grip is popular for stability and power on backhand strokes but requires time and practice to master.
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