When you first start playing pickleball, one of the initial skills you need to know is how to hold a pickleball paddle. There are many elements to consider, including grip, hand positioning, and more.
We will break it all down so you can be confident out on the court. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to hold a pickleball paddle for an effective game.
Continental Pickleball Grip
The continental grip is considered the standard grip in pickleball, and when you pick up a pickleball paddle, you may already be using this grip.
Simply act like you are shaking hands with the paddle’s handle as the edge is facing up. Some people like to also compare it to holding the handle like a hammer, as if you were using the edge of the paddle to drive in the nail. This is why it is sometimes called a hammer grip.
Wrap your fingers around and ensure that you make a “V” with your thumb and index finger. That’s it!
- Pickleball Grips
- Finger Up or Not?
- Choosing a Pickleball Grip
- Pickleball Grip Size & Strength
- Where To Hold The Pickleball Paddle
- What is the Best Way To Hold a Pickleball Paddle?
- Right-Hand vs. Left-Hand Considerations
- Summary of How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle
Three Variations of the Continental Grip
Though the continental pickleball grip is easy, three variations can be useful while you play.
First, you have the standard neutral grip, which is just the same grip we taught you above. Most of the time, this is the pickleball grip you will be using, as you can hit the majority of shots with it. However, it is also especially useful for forehand and backhand dinks.
Next, you have a strong grip. This requires the same handshake positioning, except instead of the “V” shape pointing directly back towards you, it should point to the right. Start in your neutral grip, then rotate your hand to the right until it is comfortable. The strong grip gives you more wrist action making it the go-to for more aggressive forehand shots or overhead smashes.
The final variation of the continental grip is the weak grip or relaxed grip, which is uncommon for many pickleball players to use. You’ll start with the same neutral grip but then rotate your hand to the left so that the “V” shape points to the left.
This isn’t often used because it can’t be used with a variety of shots. It is mainly only good for keeping the paddle face open and executing spin shots.
Eastern Pickleball Grip
The eastern pickleball grip, or the eastern forehand grip, is similar to the continental grip, except it keeps the paddle face pointed more towards the net instead of the sky.
To get your hand in the proper position for an eastern grip, start by holding the paddle edge with your opposite hand. Then place the palm of your dominant hand against the paddle face with your fingers splayed. Run your hand down the paddle to the handle and wrap your fingers around it.
It will look similar to the continental, but your hand will be at a different angle on the handle, keeping the paddle facing the net. The eastern grip allows you to hit a driving forehand shot that focuses on power rather than spin.
Western Pickleball Grip
The western pickleball grip is the opposite of the continental grip. First, start with your hand in the continental grip. Then rotate your hand 90 degrees so that your hand is on the opposite side of the paddle.
You can create a semi-western grip depending on where you keep your index finger. Placing your index finger higher towards the faddle face is a semi-western grip, while keeping it more towards your other fingers will be a traditional western pickleball grip.
This is not a popular grip among beginners, but many pickleball professionals will use it as it is great for tactical and spin shots. You can’t hit many defensive shots with the western grip, though, so keep that in mind.
Though backhand shots can be hit one-handed, players often use a two-handed grip to achieve incredible control in the swing and additional power.
You’ll place your dominant hand towards the bottom butt cap on the handle for the two-handed grip. Your non-dominant hand will be placed above it, overlapping the dominant hand just slightly, preferably in an eastern grip so that you’ll get a top spin on the ball.
Surprisingly, your non-dominant hand will create most of the power and motion. The dominant hand will just guide the paddle in the swing. Of course, with this grip, you’ll want to ensure you have proper hip and shoulder rotation as you should with all pickleball grips, but especially this one.
Finger Up or Not?
Some pickleball players who are also tennis players or have a table tennis background may put their index finger up on the paddle face, so you may wonder whether you should be doing the same. While the choice is up to you, there are pros and cons.
The top benefits of keeping your finger on the paddle surface are that it gives you greater control and puts less strain on the wrist. However, despite those benefits, you do run the risk of your finger getting hit by a fast-moving pickleball!
Choosing a Pickleball Grip
Some pickleball paddle grips are more difficult to master shots with than others, so when you choose which one to use, you should consider your skill level.
Beginners should start with an eastern or continental grip since they are a good grip to hit most shots.
More skilled players may shift their grips depending on their style of play, the opponent, or what shot they are trying to hit.
Position on the Court
Your position on the court is another consideration for choosing a paddle grip. When you are closer to the net, you’ll have to hit faster, harder shots than at the back of the court.
Though some grips are universal, you may still want to hold the paddle differently depending on where you are on the court since it will determine what kind of shots are coming your way.
The Goal of Your Shot
Choose your grip depending on the type of shots you want to achieve. Different grips are better for different shots. If you are dinking, a neutral continental grip is best, while if you are going for a two-handed backhand shot, you’ll need to use a two-hand grip.
Pickleball Grip Size & Strength
Hand placement is only one aspect of how to hold your pickleball paddle. You’ll also need to consider grip size and the strength with which you hold the paddle.
As far as grip size, pickleball paddles come with different handle circumferences. If you have smaller hands, you’ll want a thinner handle, while larger hands will want a thicker paddle. Most pickleball paddles have a handle circumference of 4-4.5 inches.
There are two main tests for pickleball grip size. The first is by height. If you are under 5’3”, 4 inches will be good, while if you are 5’8” and above, 4.5 inches is better. For those in between, try to opt for a 4.25” circumference.
The other way to measure is by finger length. Simply measure from the tip of your ring finger to the middle of your palm. Whatever that length comes out to is the size of the handle circumference you should use. Choosing the smaller size is typically the best practice if you are in between sizes.
For grip strength, or how hard or soft you should hold the paddle in your hand, you should have a firm but medium-strength grip.
Many pickleball players end up with a tight grip with white knuckles, which ends up reducing control and feedback. Those with a loose grip lose control and could end up dropping the pickleball paddle.
Keeping your grip relaxed with a medium strength gives you more control over power, angles, and a variety of shots making it the perfect compromise.
Where To Hold The Pickleball Paddle
Pickleball Paddle Handle
In addition to grip, you also need to know where to hold the pickleball paddle. The exact position of your hand will change depending on which pickleball paddle grip you decide to go with, but in general, you should ensure you are gripping the paddle in the middle of the handle.
Most of the time, you do not want to be choked up towards the paddle face since you won’t get the proper wrist movement, nor do you want to be too far down towards the bottom end, where you will have less power and control.
When you watch tennis, you may notice that in their ready position, they hold the tennis racquet out in front of them. If that works for you as a pickleball player, there is nothing wrong with that.
However, many choose to assume a neutral position in pickleball to get ready, which is often feet shoulder width apart, elbow bent, with the paddle face pointing at your midsection. Really, it is up to you what you decide your ready position should be.
What is the Best Way To Hold a Pickleball Paddle?
Ultimately, there is no “best way” to hold a pickleball paddle because it is all about what is comfortable and works best for you. We recommend starting with the eastern grip as it tends to be the best for beginners, but if another feels more comfortable and gives you more power or control, go for it!
Right-Hand vs. Left-Hand Considerations
Of course, just like with other racquet sports, there are considerations for holding the paddle, depending on if you are right or left-handed. For instance, your rotation and positioning of the paddle will differ depending on which hand it is in.
However, many higher-skill players actually switch back and forth between their right and left hands which gives them an advantage and confuses the opponent on which side is their “weak” side.
Summary of How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle
Ultimately, there are three main things to focus on when learning how to hold a pickleball paddle. First, check your grip size, then choose the best grip for you, and finally, adjust your hand strength to ensure it is not too tight or loose.
Once you have learned how to hold your pickleball paddle, you can start working on switching up your grip depending on shots and play, body mechanics, various shots, and strategy, but be sure to master the basics first. Hit the pickleball courts near you and practice what you have learned today!