Pickleball is a mish-mash of several sports, combining elements from sports like tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. A pickleball paddle is shaped similarly to a ping-pong paddle, but is a bit larger and has a more rectangular shape.
There are three main types of pickleball paddles: wooden, plastic, and composite. Wooden paddles are usually heavier and stronger than plastic ones. Composite paddles are a nice in-between, as they are lighter than wooden paddles but more durable than plastic ones.
You might think holding a pickleball paddle is easy, but it can actually be really difficult to do it properly. If you want to play pickleball, the first thing you need to know is how to hold the paddle. But if you’re unfamiliar with the sport, you might not know where to start.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered – this guide will teach you how to hold a pickleball paddle with several different techniques, so you can find the method that suits you best!
What Does A Pickleball Paddle Look Like?
Pickleball paddles come in many shapes and sizes, but most have a similar look to them. The paddle is shaped like a rectangle with rounded edges and is attached to a short handle.
It’s similar to a ping-pong paddle in size, although a pickleball paddle is slightly larger. A standard-sized pickleball paddle is 16 inches long and 8 inches wide.
While ping-pong paddles are typically held in a grip that allows for tiny angle adjustments and doesn’t need much power to hit a ping-pong ball.
However, a pickleball is larger and you need to be much more mobile on the larger court. Because of that, the typical grip for a ping-pong paddle won’t be of much use.
Likewise, the paddle’s short length prevents you from holding it like a tennis or badminton racket, despite the court being the same size as a badminton court.
Instead, the pickleball paddle needs to be held in an entirely unique way, which gives you enough dexterity to direct the ball and enough power to get it over the net.
How To Hold A Pickleball Paddle: 3 Different Methods
There are 3 main techniques of holding a pickleball paddle, each with its own merits (and additional slight variations).
These methods are the Eastern Grip, which is the most popular overall; the Western Grip, which prioritizes power and spin on forehanded hits; and the Continental Grip, a simple but effective grip that works best for backhands.
Here we’ll break down each technique and teach you how to use them.
The Eastern Grip
This is the most versatile grip for pickleball, are the best choice for beginners, intermediate players, and anyone who prefers an adaptable playing style.
The Eastern grip is neutral, which means that you don’t have to change your hand position to hit a forehand and backhand. This is great for switching up strategies on the fly and keeps you prepared for anything that comes your way.
With its mix of versatility and simplicity, it’s no wonder why the Eastern grip is the most popular grip for pickleball players.
Holding a pickleball paddle in the Eastern grip is often referred to as ‘shaking hands with the paddle’, due to the hand position you need to use. Start off by familiarizing yourself with the bevels on the handle of the pickleball paddle.
These are the sides of the octagonal handle, and each one is given a number from one to eight.
If you hold the paddle horizontally with the edge of the paddle itself facing up, the top bevel on the handle is bevel one, and the rest of the bevels are numbered going clockwise.
For the Eastern grip, you want to align the base of your index finger with the second bevel (which is one of the corners). Curl the rest of your fingers around the handle, holding it like you’re shaking hands with the paddle.
This will give you a solid grip on the pickleball handle, and allows for maximum control for both forehanded and backhanded hits on the ball.
While this grip is ideal in terms of versatility and combines the strengths of the other two methods, you won’t be able to get quite as much power behind your swing. With that said, however, the Eastern grip is the perfect compromise and is great for practically any player.
The Western Grip
Using the Western grip adds a lot more power to forehands, but balances it out with a weaker and less-controlled backhand.
While reducing the effectiveness of your backhand may seem counter-intuitive, the Western grip more than makes up for this sacrifice through another important function: spin.
The Western grip allows you to add much more topspin to the ball, which makes it harder for your opponent to figure out where the ball is headed and hit it back.
Additionally, forehanded hits are much more common so you won’t have to worry about the reduced backhand effectiveness that often.
To hold a paddle in the Western grip, you’ll need to align the base of your forefinger with bevel four or five. You can also think of it as starting off with the Eastern grip, then rotating the paddle 90 degrees, so your finger is on the bottom corner.
This is known as a ‘semi-Western’ grip. If your finger is in line with the bottom of the handle with the face of the paddle in line with your wrist, then it’s a full-Western grip.
While it’s uncomfortable and impractical to use a Western grip for backhands, with the improved forehand power and added topspin you may not need to worry about it. However, be careful of your blind spot on your left-hand side (or right-hand if you’re a leftie).
The Continental Grip
The Continental grip is practically the opposite of the Western grip and is best for powerful backhands while lacking power on forehanded hits. Another name for the Continental grip is the ‘hammer grip’, due to the way the paddle is held.
Align the base of your index finger with bevel three, which is on the side of the handle. The edge of the paddle face should line up with your wrist if you hold it straight forward, and you should grip the handle like you’re holding a hammer.
While the Continental grip will give you much more strength on your backhands, it’s less effective for forehanded swings and is more likely to dink the ball with its edge.
You can avoid some of the issues with forehands by using both hands to swing, and try to avoid the ball heading to your right side (or left if you’re left-handed).
There isn’t a single best way to hold a pickleball paddle, and the best method for you will mostly come down to personal preference. Each technique has its pros and cons, so feel free to experiment with them all until you find the method that suits you best.
So whether you want the powerful forehands of the Western grip, the Continental grip’s strong backhands, or the versatility granted by the Eastern grip, there are plenty of options at your disposal.
While holding a pickleball paddle might seem confusing and intimidating at first, by getting some practice and following these instructions you’ll be on your way to playing like a pro in no time!