One of the first things a beginner needs to learn when picking up pickleball is how to hold a pickleball paddle. This is very important, as having a good technique when first starting out will take you a long way in advancing your skill level. The way you hold the paddle is referred to as the pickleball grip, and there are various grip styles out there, but the most common are the Eastern, Western, and Continental grip.
The Eastern grip is the most common pickleball grip and is highly favored by beginners because it is quite easy to learn, and allows players to easily switch between forehand and backhand. To use the Eastern grip, hold out your pickleball paddle in front of you with your non-dominant hand. Place your dominant hand on the back surface of the paddle and slide your hand down to the handle. This grip looks like you are shaking hands with your paddle. It is also referred to as the neutral grip.
To learn how to hold a pickleball paddle in the Western grip, hold your paddle in the neutral Eastern grip. Rotate your wrist 90° downwards so that your palm is facing the back of the paddle. This grip is perfect for forehand players, but can be tough for those that like to hit backhand returns.
The Continental grip is also called the Hammer grip because it appears like the player is hammering a nail with the paddle. To learn how to hold a pickleball paddle with the Continental grip, start out in the neutral Western grip. Rotate your wrist a bit to the left (counter clockwise) if you are right-handed or to the right (clockwise) if you are left-handed; this makes your palm lie behind the paddle. The Continental grip highly favors the backhand.
Beginners are advised to learn to use both the Eastern and Continental grip. The Eastern is advantageous in switching easily between backhand and forehand, and the Continental is used to make backhand strokes easily, which are quite common close to the net.
How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle When Serving
To make a legal pickleball serve, the paddle head has to be below your wrist, and your wrist has to be below your waist when the paddle head makes contact with the ball. Overhead serves are not utilized in pickleball. When deciding how to hold a pickleball paddle when serving, it's best to use the Continental grip maximize your shot. You’ll likely want to be ready to quickly switch between forehand or backhand after the serve, and this grip makes it easy to switch between the two.
You can serve forehand or backhand, as long as everything happens below the waist. Also, be sure your foot does not cross backline of the court until the ball has made contact with the paddle, otherwise it’s a fault. This is a rule you need to always be aware of. Even with the best pickleball shoes, you will still get a fault if you cross the line.
How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle When at the Net
When at the net, it is best to assume the worst from your opponent, and your grip should enable you to counter any attack easily. It is advised to hold the pickleball paddle in front of you so if your opponent makes an overhead smash, you can easily keep the ball low and send it right back to the other side of the net.
Another thing to keep in mind when learning how to hold a pickleball paddle is the firmness of your grip. This is determined by the v-shaped angle made by your thumb and first finger and what direction it points to. There are three types of grips that are most commonly used:
- Neutral Grip: The v-shaped angle your thumb and finger make points backwards at you.
- Weak Grip: The v-shaped angle points to the left. It is used mostly for hitting backstrokes.
- Strong Grip: The v-shaped angle points to the right
At the end of the day, you can decide to hold a pickleball paddle however you like. The one you eventually decide to use should depend on your style and comfort. Practice with each to get a feel of them and use the one that works best for you!