How to Grip a Pickleball Paddle: 3 Main Grips And How To Use Them

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3 Pickeball paddle grips

Want to know a secret? In pickleball, how you grip your paddle is the most important component of your overall game. 

Also Check Out: Pickleball 101: 18 Best Pickleball TIps For Beginners

It’s true. Your grip on the paddle can affect your mechanics, control, and quickness, not to mention the impact on fatigue and strain on your arm, elbow, and wrist. Though it may seem like a simple concept — I mean, how hard can it really be to hold a paddle anyway, right? — knowing how your grip affects your game is key to improving your performance on the court. 

The thing is, it’s not about just holding the paddle. It’s about figuring out how to hold it in the way that works best for you and understanding what each different type of grip is useful for. 

Your grip will affect not only how you hit the ball but your shot selection as well. That’s why it’s essential to use a grip that is comfortable for you and works well with your style of play. 

Whether you’re new to pickleball and just learning how to correctly grip a paddle or you’re a more experienced player curious about trying out different grips to add depth to your game, these tips will help you understand which grip to use and when. 

3 Main Pickleball Paddle Grips

There are three main grips in pickleball: the Eastern grip, the Western grip, and the Continental grip. 

Each grip has its own advantages and limitations. Finding the best grip to suit your needs will ultimately come down to which one compliments your mechanics and style of play the best and makes the paddle feel most comfortable in your hand. 

And keep in mind that there’s no need to limit yourself to just one; once you get comfortable with different grips it’s perfectly acceptable — some would even say it’s necessary — to change grips from shot to shot during a game. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three most commonly-used pickleball paddle grips.

The Western Grip 

The Western pickleball grip, sometimes known as the “fly swatter” grip, is ideal for forehand shots. It’s less common than the Eastern grip, but you’re likely to see at least a few people using it on most courts. 

When using the Western grip, your palm will be behind the paddle on a forehand hit, allowing for more powerful and controlled forehand shots. However, this means that your wrist will be at a more awkward angle with your palm in front of the paddle on a backhand hit, resulting in less power and control with your backhand shots. 

Here’s how to hold a pickleball paddle with the Western grip:

  • Grab your paddle by its top edge with your non-dominant hand and hold it out in front of you vertically so that you are looking at the paddle’s edge. 
  • Grab the handle with your paddle hand like you are shaking someone’s hand (the Eastern grip).
  • Turn your wrist about 90 degrees outward around the handle.

The Western grip can produce a lot of top spin but makes hitting backhand shots very awkward. This grip is predominantly used by players who favor their forehand.

western pickleball grip

The Western grip can produce a lot of top spin but makes hitting backhand shots very awkward. This grip is predominantly used by players who favor their forehand. 

The Eastern Grip 

The Eastern grip, also called the “handshake grip,” is probably the most popular grip used in pickleball. 

Think of the Eastern grip as your “neutral” grip. It can easily be used for both forehands and backhands without changing your hand’s position on the handle.

This grip is recommended for beginners and is also very popular with intermediate players because its versatility allows for good overall control of the paddle in most game situations.  

Here’s how to hold a pickleball paddle with the Eastern grip:

  • Grab your paddle by its top edge with your non-dominant hand and hold it out in front of you vertically so that you are looking at the paddle’s edge.
  • Place your dominant hand on the outward face of the paddle with your fingers pointed slightly downward.
  • Slide your dominant hand down until you reach the handle of the paddle
  • Close your dominant hand around the handle as if you were shaking someone’s hand.

The Eastern grip is a great all-purpose method of gripping the paddle. It’s simple, versatile, and remarkably effective, making this grip ideal for beginners and intermediate players. 

eastern Pickleball grip

The Continental Grip 

The Continental grip, which is also popular in tennis, is sometimes called the hammer grip because it resembles the way most people would hold a hammer. Also, when using the Continental grip your forearm and wrist stay in a similar position as when swinging a hammer.

Because of the resulting position of the paddle relative to the wrist, the Continental grip tends to favor the backhand shot.  It is fairly common among players who like to remain in a backhand-ready grip to deflect volleys back over the net while standing at the kitchen line.

Here’s how to hold a pickleball paddle with the Continental grip:

  • Grab your paddle by its top edge with your non-dominant hand and hold it out in front of you vertically so that you are looking at the paddle’s edge.
  • Grab the handle with your paddle hand like you are shaking someone’s hand (the Eastern grip).
  • Turn your wrist about 90 degrees inward around the handle.

The Continental grip is ideal for backhand shots and soft dinks. However, it can make forehand shots more difficult to manage without changing your grip.

Continental pickleball grip

How to Change Up Your Pickleball Grip

Now that we’ve learned about the three most common pickleball grips, let’s talk about how you can put them to use moving forward. 

Changing your grip in-game can be advantageous in many circumstances, but it can also lead to some potential issues when done inefficiently. That’s why it’s important to practice switching grips for different shots – you want to be able to do so with confidence when it comes time to do so in a game. 

Once you’ve determined your preferred starting grip, you should prepare yourself mentally to evaluate each opportunity to strike the ball. When you’ve identified which type of grip works best for the kind of shot you want to hit, quickly adjust the paddle in your hand and engage the ball. Likewise, you’ll also want to analyze defensive opportunities and adjust your paddle and grip accordingly. 

Once you get comfortable altering your grip in-game, you can even rotate through less-common grips to try them out in different situations. A lot of players already do this naturally without even noticing, and after getting used to how the paddle feels in your hand using various grips, you will likely find yourself switching grips between shots instinctively too!

There’s certainly no pressure to frequently switch grips – you can play very effectively using just one or two positions on the handle. 

But when it comes to your hand’s connection to the paddle and how you feel it as an extension of your hand, the possibilities are endless. It´s a lot of fun to try new things and incorporate a little more variety into your game, so don’t be afraid to switch up your grip and see what happens! 

Like everything else in pickleball, it’s essential for you to feel comfortable with the way you play your game. If you’re not confident in your ability to switch grips between shots, don’t sweat it! Just stick with the do-it-all Eastern grip until you feel ready to pull off in-game grip adjustments. As you get a better feel for the paddle you might find yourself changing grips without even thinking about it.

How Tight Should I Hold my Pickleball Paddle?

In general, a pickleball paddle should be held loosely. Obviously you must hold it tight enough that it won’t fly out of your hand when swinging at the ball, but you should not hold it so tight that someone could not easily grab it out of your hand. 

Many players tend to hold their paddles way too tightly. This is counterproductive, as over-tightening your grip can compromise control and increase fatigue, so you should definitely make it a goal to avoid that bad habit.

Squeezing the handle too hard creates too much contact between your palm and the handle, which actually results in a loss of control. Ideally, the handle should rest in the hand naturally, making most of the contact with your fingers and a little bit with your palm.

Holding your paddle loosely will help keep your hand and arm relaxed and flexible, ready to change your grip when necessary. 

While a stronger grip is still useful for power shots like for overhead smashes and forehand rips, most control shots and dinks close to the net require a looser, easier grip. So a loose grip should be your default until a particular shot makes an adjustment necessary.

You should use a strong grip for overhead smashes and powerful forehand shots and a weak grip for underhand hits, dinks, and control shots when close to the net. A neutral grip should be your default until a shot requires adjustment. 

Does Grip Size Matter in Pickleball?

Finding the correct pickleball grip size for your hand will make a world of difference in your gameplay. If a handle is too small for you, you’ll end up squeezing too hard to keep a good grip on the paddle, resulting in less power potential and increased risk of injury.

If it’s too thick for your hand, you’ll find it difficult to control your soft shots and adjust your grip on the fly.
Every player should ensure that their handle’s grip size is well-suited for their individual hand

Conclusion 

For new players, learning how to properly grip your pickleball paddle is an important entry point to the game. But even many experienced players can do themselves a favor by adding some new grips and gripping techniques to their game. We hope this article has helped you find your favorite grip and gotten you excited to go out and try some new things on the court!

Don’t worry if a new grip feels a bit awkward at first; that’s normal. Keep working with it and tweaking it as you need to. Eventually, you’ll find a comfortable way to implement the different grips into your gameplay, and you’ll be better off for it. 

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Alex started playing pickleball in May 2021 and like so many other players got hooked right away. An avid ping pong player in high school and college, he instantly took to pickleball because, in the words of comedian George Carlin, it's like "playing ping pong while standing on the table." Originally from New York City and based currently in Miami, FL, Alex often travels to different locations for months at a time with his wife who is a travel nurse, so he has become part of many pickleball communities in several states. He appreciates the social aspect of the game as much as the finer points of strategy and technique.

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