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How to Do a Backhand in Pickleball

Pickleball player bends low for a volley of the wiffle ball.

The backhand is an upper hand in pickleball from a strategic perspective, giving you the chance to drive the ball into a section of the court that forces your opponent to move on the court. If you’ve already tried it, then you know it is not something that you can just wing on the court as a new player.

This is a shot that needs a lot of practice. Many players focus on other elements of the game, and when the backhand can be useful, other shots are used. The best pickleball players have a wide skill repertoire, and know how to use each one and when to use each one.

This is the ultimate goal when you want to go far in this game. The forehand shot will work and needs just as much practice. However, if you want to up your pickleball skill rating, then working on the backhand is going to get you there.

Learn how to develop your backhand in pickleball here.

The difference between forehand and backhand in pickleball could make the difference in your game

A senior athlete hits a shot in a pickleball tournament.

A groundstroke in pickleball is one that hits the ball after it has bounced on the court. Many shots that you take in pickleball will be groundstrokes. There are two main groundstrokes in pickleball and they are the forehand and the backhand.

These are the most basic skills on the court, and they are the shots that come from the midcourt and go deep or wide on the court. A good pickleball player will use both shots in the game, and you may as well. When you use the right shot, it is what will get you the points in pickleball.

Knowing when to use a forehand and a backhand could make all of the difference in your game. The forehand is a stroke hat comes from your dominant side, while the backhand is hit from the opposite side. That is the fundamental difference between the two strokes.

So you will have to practice your shots using both sides of your body. The skill here is not always in the shot, but in how you move, and how quickly you are able to do so on the court. So, when you are practicing your backhand, doing so with a player that has the power or skill level to help you move as if you are competing on the court will be the most beneficial to your game.

Not to sound cliché, but you really always need to keep your eye on the ball and move as quickly as you can while tracking its progress. Watching it as you hit it, or as your opponent does, will help you to avoid missing the shot with your backhand.

There are a few important steps to take to master a well-executed backhand

Pickleball Instructor demonstrates the backhand volley.

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When you are trying to perfect your backhand, it will be all about how you start with your body, and how you watch the ball. To get here, you need to be well prepared for the shot. Think of preparing your body for every shot in pickleball, and you are well on your  away to becoming a highly rated player.

Every shot needs to have this strategy in mind. When you are waiting for the ball to come your way, be prepared for it. You want to wait for the ball, and show that you are waiting for it.

You’ll have to move your paddle back in order to apply the backhand, but timing is everything here. You don’t want to start too early for the shot. Swing the paddle back, and face your hips and shoulders to the sideline so that you can get a side angle to make the shot.

You should have one foot in front of you and one behind you. Bring the paddle back. Move your weight to your front foot and bend your knees to balance the shot.

Hit the ball, and follow through after the shot. Keep your eyes and body towards the net for the follow through. When you are practicing this, you want to practice doing this shot at different paces.

Pickleball skill level ratings are based on the pace and speed of your shots and how well you can execute them. The faster you can move, the higher you go in the game. Practice, practice, practice.

Pickleball pro Sarah Ansboury says you also need room to step forward in the shot. Key points with the backhand is to shorten the stroke and then you can take the ball quicker. She is more accustomed to power drives and harder shots that don’t use groundstrokes techniques, noting that for pros, groundstrokes aren’t used that often.

But when they are, they can help you with your overall game strategy. Another good tip with the backhand is to hit forward, and then through with the ball. In other words, when you are making the backhand, swing the paddle through the ball.

You need a good finish here. That will be as important as body position when you are learning the backhand. Your finish after you connect with the ball will determine where the ball lands.

So tell it where to land when you are making the backhand. You can lift the ball somewhat with your backhand as well when you are making this connection. Practice each of these tips one at a time.

Then, all together. You’ll get there.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Learning a Backhand in Pickleball

What is a good strategy for learning when to use the backhand in pickleball?

A good strategy for using the backhand is to use the backhand when your opponent’s return to you is on the weak side. That is a common time it is used. You can use the backhand whenever you want, and should keep in mind that you don’t always need to go for the kill when you are returning the ball yourself.

Practicing with developed players will help you to get a feel for when you need to hit the ball hard or soft. A key tip in mastering the backhand comes with how you watch everything. The USA Pickleball Association says that you need to watch how the other player uses their paddle with the ball, and this guides you with knowing and understanding how fast the ball is coming to you.

Body position is as important as where your eyes are. Where your opponents are located is important as well. When your opponents are in the kitchen, or at the no-volley zone is a good time to use the backhand.

This sends the ball deep and can often ensure a miss from them.

What is a slap in pickleball and why shouldn’t I use it if I just want to play the game?

The word slap is a slang word used to describe a method of just hitting the ball without putting too much strategy into it. You can slap the ball however you want and anytime that you want, but it isn’t going to be a good way to play if you want to rate high. This is just hitting the ball without skill and strategy.

Instead of just slapping the ball, use your body the right way to slam a backhand into the other side of the court. A full swing with the backhand will execute the ball in a more precise way and give you better footing, on the court and in the game. Slapping it is going to move both your elbow and your shoulder in a way that can result in a miss for the return shot.

Instead of practicing on just making the connection with the ball, focus on body position so that you can get the ball in front of you almost exactly where you want it every time. Then you can turn your body to do the work, instead of forcing your elbows and shoulders to do all of the work for you.

Is it necessary to use the non-dominant arm in pickleball, and doesn’t that make it more difficult to hit?

This is a common questions for beginners in every sport. The natural and human instinct is to want to stick with using your dominant hand to master a sport, and sometimes that really is the best strategy. In every sport however, you really need to know how to use your entire body when you want to rate high in the game.

Pickleball is no different. In every coaching session or article you will read, practice is the way to overcome the difficulties of getting used to using your non-dominant arm and hand for some shots in the game. The mindset makes all of the difference here.

When you see the power a backhand can give to your shot, you will see that difference yourself, making it easier to find that mindset. You use your non-dominant hand and arm more often than you think, in your daily activities, and in sport as well. Train it to get accustomed to making shots in pickleball, and the end result will be a beautiful backhand that is the envy of the crowd.

It can’t be said enough that keeping your eyes on the ball is critical to mastering this shot. This will help you to naturally move your non-dominant hand when performing the backhand. Your body moves where your eyes are moving.

Practicing eye skills when making the backhand will help you to hit the ball right where you want it to go. Keep your eyes down when you are making the connection between the ball and the paddle, and then up to follow the ball for eye follow through, while your body is following through.