How you hold the paddle and having an appropriate grip is so important because grips influence the angle of your paddle face – and, consequently, the flight and pace of the pickleball. If you have been playing pickleball for any length of time and have relatively minor issues executing all your shots with both precision and pace, from any part of the court – whether it be forehand or backhand – just scroll right by and check out our next blog post. Afterall, there really isn’t such a thing as having an “official” correct grip.
Because we all bring different racquet or paddle experiences to our games, what may work for me, may not work for you – and vice versa. I subscribe to the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And this certainly applies to how you hold your pickleball paddle.
However, if you’re a pickleball newbie – or if you struggle with placement and/or pace, especially during quick exchanges at the kitchen line – then it may be time for self-reflection and time to revisit how you are holding your pickleball paddle. It may be as simple as a quick tweak – or it may be a major change.
The Continental Pickleball Grip – A Neutral Grip
The continental grip is, arguably, the most important grip to possess in your arsenal. The continental grip is considered a “neutral” grip as it is relatively easy to use the forehand side and backhand side of the paddle with the same grip. It’s not a terribly strong grip for the forehand – nor is it a weak grip. It’s “neutral.” Same goes for the backhand – neither strong nor weak. But it is, indeed, “pretty good” for both forehands and backhands – which makes the continental grip a preferred grip to use when quick reaction to fast exchanges at the kitchen line is paramount.
Now is a good time to talk about bevels.
If you hold a tennis racquet – yeah, I know I said tennis racquet – straight out from your body and on edge you will notice the handle has an octagonal shape. These 8 sides to the handle are called bevels.
Count Bevels Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise? Are you Right or Left Handed?
If you are a right-handed player, as you hold the paddle on edge and in front of your body, bevel #1 is on top of the paddle – and going clockwise – bevel 2 is 45 degrees to the right from bevel 1, bevel 3 is in the 3:00 position and so on.
If you are left-handed, as you hold the paddle on edge and in front of your body, bevel #1 is on top of the paddle – and going counter-clockwise – bevel 2 is 45 degrees to the left from bevel 1, bevel 3 is in the 9:00 position and so on.
Although the pickleball paddle handle is more oval in shape than it is octagonal, we can apply similar logic if you use your imagination just a bit.
Big Knuckle of your Index Finger
Tennis instructors frequently reference these bevels – and the placement of the big knuckle of your index finger relative to these bevels – to describe the different grips.
The Continental Grip – The “Hammer” Grip, Bevels, and the Letter V
You can find the continental grip in a couple of different ways.
The first way to quickly find the continental grip is to hold the paddle the same way you would if you were hammering in a nail with the edge of your paddle. Intuitively enough, the continental grip is also referred to as the “hammer” grip.
A second way to find the continental grip is as follows: As you hold the paddle on edge with this “hammer” (continental) grip, you will notice that the point of the letter “V” that is formed by your index finger and thumb is positioned on the top/middle (perhaps slightly to the left) of the paddle handle – with the big knuckle of your index finger resting on bevel #2.
Spread Your Hand across the Grip
When using the continental grip (or any forehand grip for that matter) your hand should be spread out across the grip – with the angle of the knuckles on your hand approximately 45 degrees to that of the handle of your paddle.
Should I use the Continental Grip for Longer Shots & Drives?
Maybe. Maybe not. As for me, when I am further back in the court – and away from the kitchen line – and when I want to hit with more pace and topspin, I will switch from the continental grip. Although there is nothing wrong with using a continental grip for drives, it is a neutral grip – therefore, it is not quite as strong as getting the palm of your hand behind the paddle.
Grip for the Pickleball Forehand Drive
With the goal of getting the palm of your hand behind the paddle, if it’s a forehand opportunity, I will typically rotate my hand slightly clockwise so that the palm of my hand is now behind the paddle – which in turn gives me more power and greater ability to impart topspin on the ball.
In this case, the point of the letter, “V,” is positioned to the top right of the paddle when holding it on edge, with the big knuckle of the index finger on bevel # 3 (Eastern Forehand) or #4 (Semi-Western Forehand).
Grip for the Pickleball Backhand Drive
For backhand drives, I also change grips to generate additional power and topspin. Using the continental grip as the baseline, I will rotate my hand slightly counter-clockwise so that the big knuckle of my index finger is now on bevel #1. For backhand drives – unlike the forehand drives – the knuckles should be going, pretty much, straight across the grip – and no longer spread out across the grip at 45 degrees to that of the handle of your paddle – similar to making a fist at the oncoming ball.
What Grip Should I Use when Hitting Pickleball Drives & Topspin with a 2-Handed Backhand?
Many men and women alike are beginning to hit two-handed backhands because of the added power that can be generated with both hands. To hit drives and topspin with the two-handed backhand, I would recommend placing your dominant hand on the bottom of the paddle in the continental grip with the large knuckle of your index finger on bevel #2. For your top (or overlapping) hand (non-dominant hand), it is recommended to use the Eastern Forehand grip with the big knuckle of the index finger on bevel #3. This two-handed grip gives you the most flexibility for hitting topspin and/or drives.
What Grip Should You Use for Pickleball Drop Shots, Resets, and Slices?
For drop shots into the kitchen, resets, and slices I still use the very flexible, continental grip.
Obviously, there are slight variations to each of the grips mentioned. There is not a one-size-fits-all pickleball grip. If you’re a person who has just begun playing, I highly recommend getting comfortable with the continental grip. It’s the perfect grip to begin your journey. You can even add the grip trainer to your paddle during practice. However, the most important consideration when experimenting with the best grip to utilize is one that is comfortable for you and allows for good control of the paddle.
See you on the courts!
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Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.