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How to Properly Hold a Pickleball Paddle

A pickleball held by player close-up.

To properly hold a pickleball paddle, (1) choose where its comfortable for you to grip (2) properly hold with the Continental/Standard grip (3), Western/Semi-western grip (4) or Eastern/Hammer grip. While I now know how to properly hold a pickleball paddle, that wasn’t always the case. I remember how, when I first saw one, I thought that handling one was going to be as easy as taking candy from a baby.

But boy-oh-boy was I wrong!! Unknown to me at the time, because I wasn’t properly holding my pickleball paddle, all my shots were going in the wrong direction! That is until I hired my Swedish pickleball trainer, She, to tutor me-privately.

Well, after She had seen me hit a couple of pickleball balls, she was like, “first order of business, grip, grip, grip sis so wrong” in her strongly tinged Swedish-American. “What do you mean, what’s wrong with my grip?” I queried.

“let me show you” And so slowly sliding and wrapping her 6ft 6″ frame behind me, She showed me how to properly hold or grip a pickleball paddle.

1. Gripping or holding a pickleball paddle

A guy hits a pickleball.

Generally speaking, a grip is a tight hold or a firm grasp, that is the pressure of such a grasp or hold on something. In pickleball, how you hold your pickleball paddle is also called a grip.  The grips on your paddle must be firm but not too firm.

According to pickleball experts, when it comes to gripping your paddle, a fairly light grip is what’s desirable. Such a grip, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a death grip, should be between a three and four. However, the grip must not be too loose either.

A loose grip will not give you the ability to make powerful shots, and the possibility of the paddle slipping out of your hand and you accidentally throwing it at your opponent(s). So keep a firm but a decent grip is recommended, i.e something like 70% tight and 30% loose. Unbelievable as it might sound if you want to play pickleball like a pro, one of the techniques you must work on is your grip, where exactly to hold it, and how to properly hold your pickleball paddle.

So, if you are new to pickleball or just its grips, then no fear, you are in safe hands. You will be happy to know that pickleball has been around long enough to have techniques for how to grip your paddle properly. Read on and find out…..

2. Where and the best ways to properly grip/hold your pickleball paddle?

A guy hit a pickleball.

Where you grip/hold your paddle is largely up to you. However, I would have you know that a bottom grip

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  • will give you more reach towards the nets so that you can hit without missing any shots.
  • is beneficial at the end of the handle as it makes for smooth and super powerful shots.
  • it increases the reach of the paddle.
  • However, in contrast to holding the paddle on the upper side of the handle will give more power than control.
  • is less for making spin shots.

As for the best ways to properly grip/hold your paddle, you will be happy to know that the world of pickleball recognizes three pickleball paddle holding techniques. These are the Continental, Western, and Eastern.  Let’s look at each in detail and how you can hold your paddle using them.

3. Continental/Standard

Pickleball instructor demonstrates the proper way to hold a paddle.

Also known as the pickleball standard grip, the Continental grip is considered the best and most common way to hold your paddle if you are going to be effectively hitting a pickleball. To hold your paddle in a Continental grip,

  1. Position your hand as if you want to shake hands with your paddle.
  2. Place the paddle head on its edge or at a 90-degree angle with the handle facing towards you- as if it is someone’s hand. For this reason, the technique is sometimes also referred to as the “shaking hand” or “holding a hammer”.
  3. With the paddle’s handle in this position, proceed to grip it by “shaking hands” or wrapping your fingers with or around the handle” so that the “V-shape” made by your thumb and index finger points straight back at you- that is the Continental grip.

The position and direction of the “V-shape” have in turn given rise to sub-grips, if you will, to the Continental grip. These are

  • Neutral grip (i.e when the “V” is facing straight towards you). Easily allows for switching between forehand and backhand. Little to no strain compared to other gripping types and it allows you to hit a variety of shots.
  • Strong grip  (i.e. when the “V” is facing towards your right hand). Ideal for overhead shots, but never underhand shots and dinks.
  • Weak grip (i.e when the “V” points you towards the left). It is really a weak grip for all the shots unless you use spin shots. Consequently, it is the least used grip in pickleball.

With your paddle in the Continental grip position, you can now hit your pickleball with either your

  1. Forehand (i.e. by swinging your Continentally-gripped paddle from right to left and hitting the pickleball)
  2. Serve and return the pickleball ball.
  3. Backhand (i.e. swinging your Continentally-gripped paddle from left to right and hitting the pickleball that way).

Holding your paddle in a Continental grip, you can also block, lob, and comfortably hit groundstrokes.

4. Western/Semi-western

A senior pickleball player concentrates on hitting a shot.

Also known as Semi-western, this grip is best used by intermediate and expert players. To hold a pickleball paddle in this hold,

  • put your hand at the back of the paddle until the paddle’s surface will be at the front.
  • Right-handed players should turn their wrist in the right angle clockwise direction for easier circulation.
  • Left-handed players will do the same in an anticlockwise direction.

The western technique is for the forehands and topspin. It gives power and precision to play and ace all forehand shots. As well as allows adding power while hitting such shots and overhead shots too.

However, western pickleball paddles make it hard to play backhand shots.

5. Eastern/Hammer

A mixed doubles team competes in a pickleball tournament.

Quite like the Continental grip from the holding point of view and positioning from the Western, for the Eastern grip, you have to,

  •  Grip a pickleball paddle like your hand is shaking the paddle.
  •  Shaking the paddle between the center of your body but facing right and left equally.

The Eastern is suitable for both backhand and forehand shots. It is ideal for those players who can’t decide whether to use their forehand or backhand to hit the ball.