How to Grip a Pickleball Paddle
It seems like it should be easy to hold a pickleball paddle and hit the ball where you want it, but it takes practice and skill.
There’s so much to think about when you get on the pickleball court. It can be overwhelming.
In this guide, I help you understand how to hold a pickleball paddle so you hit more awesome balls and win more games. Keep reading to learn more.
IN THIS GUIDE
3 key factors to understand and master about holding your pickleball paddle:
There’s a lot to think about and master when playing pickleball. It’s true that it’s fairly easy to learn how to play pickleball.
I must admit that when I first started playing, I thought, no sweat. This is easy, really easy. But then I realized that it was a bit trickier if I wanted to consistently hit the ball over the net so that it actually landed in-bounds.
In fact, I quickly discovered that learning how to hold a pickleball paddle is the single most important skill to learn, aside from learning the pickleball rules. If you don’t know how to grip your paddle, you’ll find that your hits are inconsistent and that means you’ll be hitting the ball out of bounds, often. When learning how to hold a paddle, you’ll need to know:
1. How you grip the paddle in your hand
2. The position you hold the paddle in relation to your body
3. How to hold the paddle when at the kitchen line (at the net)
How To Grip The Pickleball Paddle
There are several grips including the western or semi-western grip, the eastern grip, and the continental grip.
In this article, I’ll only be discussing the continental grip.
I hear it sometimes referred to as the hammer grip or the shaking hands grip.
Quite honestly, I hear these 2 terms used loosely by different people and they seem to be interpreted differently.
For simplicity and clarity, I’ll refer to the grip we’re discussing here, only as the continental grip.
To understand how to position your hand when using the continental grip, it helps to look at the paddle from the bottom of the handle or what’s also known as the butt of the handle.
As you can see from the image below, the handle is an octagon so it has 8 sides.
What is the best way to hold a pickleball paddle?
When holding the paddle with the continental grip, you want to place your hand on the handle with the first knuckle of your index finger on the 2nd bevel.
Here’s an easy way to hold your hand on the paddle using the continental grip:
- Hold your hand over the edge of the paddle with your thumb and index finger on either side of the paddle, and
- Slide it down the paddle and onto the handle. Your finger will land on the 2nd bevel and make a V shape that is pointing directly at you
Another option is to put your hand out in front of you as if you are shaking someone’s hand, and then hold the handle of your paddle. It should line up on the 2nd bevel which is the correct position for the continental grip.
Remember these 2 points when holding the paddle:
- The pickleball paddle should be resting more in your fingers and not on the palm of your hand (so you aren’t choking the pickleball handle)
- Your grip should be loose-ish but you need to have enough of a grip on the handle so that the pickleball paddle isn’t falling out of your hands
When to use the continental grip
The continental grip is a good grip for hitting a forehand or backhand, dinking, or smashing the ball because it doesn’t require you to change the position of your hand.
You just need to slightly adjust the angle of how you are holding the paddle.
Most professional and seasoned players agree that this grip is really the best grip for the majority of players. It’s not to say that the other grips aren’t used by some of the best players because they are, but the continental is most widely used among pickleball players.
With small adjustments to the angle of your hand, depending on the shot that you want to make, the continental grip is a good way to hold the paddle for almost any type of shot.
There are 3 slightly different variations of this pickleball paddle grip that will work with various shots. These grip variations are:
- Neutral grip
- Strong grip
- Weak grip
The images below show these 3 slight variations in the continental grip.
Keep in mind that you aren’t actually changing your grip but making small adjustments which are most likely instinctive and just happen naturally.
This video from Third Shot Sports does a good job at explaining the continental grip.
When to use the continental neutral grip
Use the continental neutral grip when:
- hitting a forehand shot
- hitting a backhand shot
- close to the net, with forehand or backhand
- putting spin on the ball
- slicing the ball
When to use the continental strong grip
Use the continental strong grip when hitting:
- overhead smashes
- aggressive forehand shots
The strong grip gives you a lot more power than the neutral grip because your paddle, wrist, and arm are aligned. For me, it’s much easier to get my entire arm behind my swing and then I can use my wrist to add more control.
DON’T use the continental strong grip for:
- underhand hits such as dinking or
- when you are close to the net
If you do, there’s a good chance you will hit the ball into the net or out.
Where to hold the pickleball paddle? At the top of the handle or the bottom of the handle?
It’s really personal preference. But here’s a brief description to help you understand the pros and cons of each.
Bottom of the handle
Some players hold the bottom of the handle because it provides a bit more reach but it’s also just a prefered way of holding the paddle for some players.
Another factor to consider is that if you hold the paddle towards the end of the handle, you get a longer lever to play with and that can provide you with more power.
Top of the handle
If you hold the handle of your pickleball paddle higher up on the handle, you will have a shorter lever and a bit more control but less power.
I’ve heard this method described as similar to holding a ping-pong paddle which is definitely not what you want when playing pickleball.
Where to hold the paddle (your ready position)
You’ve probably had other players remind you to get into your ready position.
Especially if you are a new pickleball player.
I’m sure you’ve been told, don’t stand there with your arms and paddle at your side while waiting for your opponent’s serve come flying over the net into your un-ready side of the court.
It’s important to figure out which ready position works best for you. There’s a lot of advice from various pros so it’s definitely worth trying different ready positions and then decide which one works best for you.
The commonly discussed ready positions are 12 o’clock and 9 o’clock.
I’ve never found the 12 o’clock position comfortable so for me it’s just not a position I’ve used regularly.
And the 9 o’clock ready position was never comfortable either.
I’ve instinctively settled into the 10 o’clock position. It seems natural and comfortable for me and I’ve had good success with both forehand and backhand ball return.
It’s also common for players to have their opposite hand resting on the edge of the paddle which means you have one hand holding the paddle in your ready position and the other hand or fingers gently resting on the paddle edge.
This is common because some players find that it keeps them more balanced and more connected with their paddle.
I like the 10 o’clock ready position and holding the edge of my paddle.
Interestingly, I recently came across this video from Simone Jardim.
In the video, she talks about the ready position and what she finds works best for her and her clients. It turns out that the 10 o’clock ready position is what she uses. Have a look and see what you think.
How to hold a pickleball paddle when at the net
When standing at the kitchen line, you’ll need to be prepared for your opponent to hit an overhead smash.
There are various techniques but the key is to remember to stand your position – that is, don’t back away and don’t swing at the ball.
Hold your paddle vertically in front of you, high enough that you are well-positioned for a smash return from your opponent. Then let the ball rebound off your stationary paddle.
It sounds a bit crazy but this is the best technique and a great defensive move that will often catch your opponent off-guard, particularly if they don’t think you are a skilled player. The ball will bounce back to your opponent’s side of the net, very quickly, and hopefully, catch them off-guard.
If you’re looking for a solid paddle with a great sweet spot that will provide you with a consistent block and return, the Onix Z5 gets good reviews. To learn more about this paddle and others, read my guide to buying pickleball paddles for beginners.