How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle: All the Common Grips Explained

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Last updatedLast updated: April 15, 2021
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Even though it might not be quite as mainstream as tennis or ping pong, pickleball has steadily gained steam as a fun game to play with friends and family ever since it was introduced in the 1960s. This game is perfect for a backyard barbecue or family reunion, thanks to its easy rules and fun gameplay. Of course, since this is a relatively new game, you might not know how to hold a pickleball paddle when you are playing the game.

The truth is, there is no one right way to handle one of these paddles. In fact, most players usually choose from one of three different variations. Each method offers distinct advantages and disadvantages that we will discuss below. You will then, hopefully, be able to find the best method for your needs based on your preferred playing style.

Continental grip

Whether you have never played pickleball before or you are an extremely experienced player, the odds are that you have tried out this style of grip. It is a very simple grip that actually has three different variations that we will look into below. The continental grip is also sometimes referred to as a hammer grip. It is called this because, when done properly, the continental grip’s finger placement is almost the exact same as when you are holding a hammer.

The neutral grip

Of course, even though this grip is supposed to feel very much like you are shaking someone’s hand, there are variations on it. One such variation is the neutral position or neutral grip. With this position, you try to make sure that the paddle is centered in your grip. The two sides of the paddle should be completely vertical and not leaning towards any one direction. This is the most popular grip because it provides the most power for both a player’s backhand and forehand shot. This makes it a great option for anyone that is just getting started until they get a feel for the type of player they want to be.

The strong grip

How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle: All the Common Grips ExplainedOne of the other options with the continental grip is the strong grip variation. With this variation, the grip doesn’t change, but the orientation of the paddle is slightly tilted back. This provides the player with a stronger forehand shot. If you are someone that is a more aggressive player that likes to really smash the ball, then this might be the right grip for you. Of course, it does limit the amount of finesse that you will have in your game. It also severely limits how well you can play on your backhand as well, so bear that in mind before you choose to use the strong grip.

The weak grip

This is the least popular variation of the continental grip. As the name entails, it is a weaker sort of grip that somewhat handicaps a player. With this style of grip, you tilt the paddle forwards a bit. This makes it much easier to hit backhand shots. It will, however, make it a whole lot harder to hit any forehand shots with accuracy or power. If you do choose to use this grip, it would be a good idea to also practice switching orientations on the paddle in a quick motion so that you can accommodate all of the different shots that you need to take.

Western/Semi-Western grip

If you are someone that doesn’t have a lot of paddle ball sports experience, this is probably going to be the type of grip that you instinctively gravitate towards. To use this style of grip, you need to grab the paddle so that it is pointing towards the net. As such, it resembles a flyswatter. This is also exactly the way that you would the ball with this grip, too. This makes it an excellent option for forehand strokes only, as the paddle would be out of position for any backhands.

This grip has two different variations, which include the Western and Semi-Western grip. The difference between these two variations is very slight but still distinguishable. A person using the western grip will have their forefinger on the bottom of the handle, while someone that is using a semi-western grip needs to keep it up higher on the handle.

Eastern grip

The Eastern grip is by far the most popular of all the different grips that can be used on a pickleball court. To use this grip, you simply take the paddle in your hands as though you are going to shake someone’s hand. This approach allows a player to complete backhands and forehands with relative ease, making it much easier to effectively cover all different types of shots from an opponent. It does take a bit more practice to master, however, since it is not the natural inclination of most players. Thankfully, with a bit of practice, it can be a supremely effective grip to use.

Where to hold a pickleball paddle

How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle: All the Common Grips ExplainedNow that we have come to grips with the different grips that you can use to hold your paddle, we need to talk about where you should hold it so that you are ready to play. The body position that you use for your paddle will depend on the circumstances that you find yourself in during the game. The main position that you are going to use is something called the neutral position. This involves holding your paddle near to the middle of your body. That way, you are prepared for anything that your opponent might send your way.

You might have to shift your position slightly when you are closer to the net, however. Since this placement on the court opens you up to much more powerful shots from your opponent, you need to keep your knees flexed and the paddle in front of you. That way, even if your opponent sends an absolute rocket of a shot your way, you will be able to stay in front of it and block it.

Some things to remember

As with any sport, there are lots of different things that you need to keep in mind to play effectively. In this section, we will zero in on some different aspects you need to remember so that you can become the best player possible.

Don’t hold it too tight

As is the case with any other game where you need to use a stick, racket, or, in this case, paddle, you don’t want to hold it too tight. If you do, you will end up messing up your rhythm and also negatively affecting your accuracy. A grip that is too tight will also make it much harder to switch your hand position on the racket, which will make it more difficult to hit different shots. You need to make sure that you have a firm but loose grip on the paddle so that you can hit the ball exactly where you want to hit it each and every time.

Switching hands during the play

If you are a newcomer to the game of pickleball, then you will probably want to concentrate on getting a feel for different swings with one hand. Once you are comfortable, however, you can also practice switch the paddle between your two hands depending on the kind of stroke you are attempting to complete. You might prefer to hit forehands with your right but backhands with your left. If that is the case, you can quickly switch between hands as long as it doesn’t cause you to lose control of your shot accuracy.

Placing your finger on the surface

How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle: All the Common Grips ExplainedAfter you have practiced with the different grips that we listed above, you might want to try and experiment with placing a finger or two on the surface of the paddle. This can give you a better feel for your shots since it helps the paddle to feel like more of an extension of your arm rather than something that you are holding. Some players even like to place most of their hands on the back of the paddle for that specific reason. Of course, this removes the possibility of a backstroke since your hand is covering the surface of the paddle.

Choose a paddle with the ideal weight for you

Finally, one of the best things that you can do is to get a paddle that is the right weight for you. Different weight paddles are going to feel better or worse in your hand. Ideally, the paddle should simply feel like an extension of your arm, so it shouldn’t be too heavy, like this offering from Gamma. If you end up getting a heavier paddle, you can make stronger shots, but you will also be a bit slower than you would with a lighter model. It is best to try out several different paddles before settling on one, but newer players should definitely shoot for a lighter paddle than they think they need.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the game of pickleball. While it is definitely an extremely fun game to play, if you want to find any success while you are playing, you are going to have to know how to hold a pickleball paddle. Otherwise, you are going to have a tough time getting into the game and scoring any points.

There are lots of different grips that you can choose from, whether you want to use the Continental, Western, or Eastern orientations while you are holding the paddle. The most important thing is to try them all out and figure out which one works best for your playing style. You should also find one that is the right weight, like the Fusion 2.0 from Gamma. Of course, you also want to make sure that you are having a good time as well, which is a guarantee with a game as fun as pickleball.

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