Wander around the pickleball courts at your local club and you’ll likely notice that – thanks in large part to Riley and Lindsey Newman, Simone Jardim, Tyler Loong, Catherine Parenteau, Zane Navratil and even Ben Johns on occasion – the two-handed backhand is becoming much more prevalent.
What are the Advantages of Hitting with a Two-Handed Backhand?
A two-handed backhand has several advantages in pickleball – including additional power, control and stability on the paddle.
Are there any Drawbacks to a Two-Handed Backhand?
Although the two-handed backhand has several benefits, there are some limiting factors when hitting with two hands – chief among them being a limited reach. This limited reach requires an additional expenditure of energy to get into proper position to hit the ball – which, after a few games, may take a toll on one’s endurance and physical fitness.
It is also a bit more difficult to fit both hands comfortably on the handle of the smaller paddle when hitting with two hands. Of course, there are paddles with elongated handles that will make hitting a two-handed backhand much more comfortable.
When Should You Use the 2-Handed Backhand?
So when should you sacrifice reach and grip the paddle with both hands?
This frequently includes opportunities for the backhand drive and a swinging backhand volley – with a strike zone up and close to the body.
When Should You Hit a One-Handed Backhand?
Now, if you don’t have time or the reach – or if a full-blown two-handed backhand would result in too long of a follow thru (rendering you a bit more unprepared for the next shot in a quick exchange) – a one-handed backhand may be the better shot.
More specifically, quick volley exchanges at the non-volley line, rolling volleys when extending into the non-volley zone to intercept an opponent’s drop shot (3rd shot drop) or a scrambling backhand that you just can’t reach with two hands are those times in which one hand may very well be better than two. Many also prefer dinking with one hand instead of two.
The Mechanics of Using Two Hands for the Backhand Drives or Swinging Volleys
With the growth of pickleball exploding and many coming from the sport of tennis, the transition from a tennis two-handed backhand to a pickleball two-handed backhand can be quite seamless. For those that don’t have the tennis background here are some pointers with respect to technique when hitting a backhand drive or swinging volley with two hands:
- The dominant hand should be placed on the bottom of the paddle – preferably in the continental grip.
- When hitting a 2-handed backhand topspin drive, it is recommended that the top (overlapping) hand is in the Eastern forehand grip.
- As you swing, your non-dominant hand should be doing most of the “work,” while your dominant hand is simply guiding the paddle. That is not a misprint. The non-dominant hand does most of the work!
- Make sure you have good hip and shoulder rotation. While this is true for all drives regardless of hitting with one or two hands, it is especially true when hitting with two hands.
While these aforementioned points are a bit more specific to the 2-handed backhand, you will also want to make sure that you continue to possess good swing fundamentals, including early preparation (get your paddle back early), weight transfer from your back foot to your front foot, contact in front of the body, a low-to-high swing path and follow thru over your shoulder.
It’s Time to Experiment!
As a kid playing tennis, I hit from the backhand wing with two hands until about 9th grade – at which time I switched to one hand.
In pickleball, I have always hit my backhand with one hand. However, for the last couple of months, I have toyed with the idea of doing a little experimenting on the backhand side. Specifically, I desperately want to generate additional power on my backhand – particularly when playing singles.
I’m going to give this two-handed backhand thing a try.
What about You?
If you’re a tennis player – or a former tennis player – and hitting a two-handed backhand was a weapon in your repertoire, I strongly encourage you to give the two-handed approach a try in pickleball as well.
In a recent video, I listened to Zane Navratil encourage the viewers to give a 2-handed backhand a try for just 10-14 days. Afterall, he reasons, “what are you really giving up trying it for just 10 or 14 days other than working on a one-handed backhand during that same time?” And you just might find out that the 2-handed backhand will transform your game!!! It certainly helped his.
Have you tried the two-handed backhand? Please let me know about your experience in the comments below.
Due to a raging case of pickleball elbow, I started playing with my non dominant hand for a good while. Now, as I transition back to playing, I’m using the two handed back band and love it! It was certainly a learning curve! It’s also exciting that I can switch hand during play if need be. I won’t be using the one handed back hand very often, as it was the main cause of my tendinitis!!!
So, there is a silver lining to my injury because in the long run, I’ll be a better player who is less prone to injury!
Thx for this article!
That is fantastic, Carol! Thanks for sharing your experience.
VJ Hopkins says
I played tennis for forty years and always used a two-handed back for more power. So it came naturally for me with my pickleball play. I had to stop playing tennis after I needed a knee replacement. I love pickleball and it’s not hurting my good knee!
That is fantastic! Thanks for chiming in!
Michael A Simon says
While I enjoyed reading your discussion about the two-handed backhand, I would be interested in your analysis of the hand switching technique, which in effect means each shot is a forehand. In matches that I have watched on television, I have never seen any professionals switch hands.
Hi Michael, You are correct in that I rarely see the professionals switch hands – with Wes Gabrielsen, however, being one of the exceptions.