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3 pickleball grips - how to hold your paddle

picture of Betsy Kenniston
Betsy Kenniston

Updated on: Apr 27, 2023

A person gripping a Prince pickleball paddle

The way you hold your pickleball paddle is essential to your performance on the court. Getting your grip right allows you to hit the ball firmly, and helps generate power and direction accurately. It also allows you to hit the full range of shots that you need to play better pickleball and win more games.

Are you looking to improve your pickleball game? Are you wondering if your grip is correct, or whether you should try a new way of holding your paddle?

You've come to the right place. In this article, we'll break down everything you need to know about pickleball grips. We’ll explain the three most common ways to hold a paddle, as well as the pros and cons of each.

We’ll also explain how tightly you should hold your paddle, and how to get your grip just right for your style of play. Because it won't matter if you have one of the best pickleball paddles on the market if you don't know how best to use it. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

How to hold your paddle

There are three standard paddle grips in pickleball:

Continental pickleball grip

The Continental grip is a very common pickleball grip style, and the one most frequently taught to new players. This grip is also known as the 'hammer grip' since you hold the paddle like you would hold a hammer when hitting a nail.

To find this grip, place the knuckle of your index finger just to the right side of the flat bevel on the top of the handle. This forms a V between your thumb and index finger, directly on top of the handle. For left-handed players, place your knuckle on the first bevel to the left instead.

Tip: pickleball lessons are a great way to trial different grips and find out which one works best for you.

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Eastern pickleball grip

The Eastern grip places a close second to the Continental grip in terms of popularity among beginners. It is known as the 'handshake' grip because you hold the paddle handle as if you were shaking someone's hand.

To find this grip, hold your hand straight out in a handshake position, then wrap your fingers around the paddle handle as if giving a handshake. The knuckle of your index finger should be placed on the 2nd bevel to the right of the top flat bevel of the handle.

The V formed between your thumb and index finger will be on top of the first bevel to the right of the top. For any left-handed players, you’ll place your index knuckle on the 2nd bevel to the left of the flat top bevel.

Western pickleball grip

Once you've found the Eastern grip, moving to the Western grip is easy. Simply rotate your hand one more bevel to the right, or clockwise. Your index knuckle will rest on the third bevel to the right of the flat top bevel. The V between your index finger and thumb will be on the 2nd bevel to the right of the top flat bevel. Left-handed players will place their index knuckle on the 3rd bevel to the left of the top.

You should now be holding the paddle like you might hold a pan when flipping pancakes, which is why this style is also known as the 'frying pan grip'. The paddle face will be closed, meaning you should be able to see the back of the paddle when you hold it straight out in front of you.

Check out this video from 5.0 Pro Glen Peterson for a further explanation of the three grips in pickleball:

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How each pickleball grip works

Now that we've gotten familiar with each of the three grip styles, let's take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Continental grip: pros and cons

An image showing the pros and cons of the Continental grip

A Continental grip is very close to neutral, but with the V of the hand being generally on top of the handle, this grip slightly favors the backhand. It allows you to get maximum power on your backhand shots since your hand is in front of the paddle as it strikes the ball.

Along with power control, this style also helps produce more accurate dinks and returns, without having to change your grip between shots. This is a big advantage for beginners.

A slight downside to the Continental grip is that your forehand shots might have a little less power than with the other two grip choices. Even so, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and a huge number of players at all levels use this style.

Eastern grip: pros and cons

Image displaying the pros and cons of the Eastern grip

As the second most common grip type—especially with beginners—the Eastern grip is the most ‘neutral’ of the three. This means that you can hit pickleball serves, forehands, and backhands effectively without having to change grips between shots.

Some pickleball beginners lean towards this grip since it has a very natural hand position and provides flexibility and comfort, both of which are important to beginners.

For more advanced players, the Eastern grip is limited in its ability to produce effective topspin. Some also say that this grip doesn’t allow for the amount of power they’re looking for.

Western grip: pros and cons

Image displaying the pros and cons of the Western pickleball grip

The Western pickleball grip positions the hand behind the paddle on forehand shots, which generates maximum power. This grip is also the best for producing top spin because the face of the paddle is closed.

Those two qualities make it great for hitting super-powerful shots while still keeping the ball in the court. Therefore, it’s obviously not a grip for beginners, unless they are coming from another racket sport that uses a similar grip.

There’s another drawback to the Western grip with the backhand. With your hand positioned off-center and more to the side of the handle, the face of the paddle angles upwards or open. This will cause the ball to pop up unless the player changes their wrist position. In fact, some players using a Western grip turn the paddle clockwise (right-handed) and hit the ball with the forehand side of the paddle.

For some players, this awkward ‘backwards forehand’ shot is easier than attempting a normal backhand with the Western grip and risking a pop up.

Another disadvantage to this style is that hitting shots from down low or generating slice/backspin on the forehand side is very difficult. When you spot an opponent using a Western grip, try attacking them low on either the forehand or backhand side as much as possible.

For obvious reasons, only intermediate to advanced players should be using the Western grip, and it is by far the least common of the three.

Does the grip matter?

As we’ve just seen, grip styles make a fundamental difference to your pickleball game. Choosing the right grip will allow you to take full advantage of your strengths.

Some players use variations on the above styles. For example, players who are used to ping-pong or table tennis often put a finger or two on the paddle surface. This may give more control, but it’s also possible for the ball to hit those fingers during play.

What about the size and feel of your pickleball paddle grip? Many players apply over-wraps or replacement grips to change the thickness of their grip or to provide better traction or hold on their paddles. Selkirk makes some of the best pickleball gloves and paddle grips.

Pickleball player Brandon Mackie showcases his preferred grip

How to switch between different grip techniques

While beginners usually stick with one grip throughout the game, the best pickleball players use a variety of grip styles, even changing grips from one shot to the next. The speed and up-close nature of pickleball makes grip mid-rally a little more challenging than in tennis, but as you improve, you’ll instinctively learn to adjust your grip.

Here are some pickleball tips on mastering the different types of grips and using each to your advantage on the court.

Master one grip at a time

Don’t try to do much at once and overwhelm yourself. If you’re a beginner, master the Continental or Eastern first, then the other. Lastly, give the Western a try since it is the hardest to learn.

Try each grip in different scenarios and conditions

Aside from remembering to brush up on the latest pickleball tips and tricks, getting good at pickleball is all about practice. Try out all three grip styles during casual play. Or even better, get a pickleball machine to train with!

Practice switching in practice sessions

The next time you’re practicing on the pickleball courts, try changing styles with each rally. Note which type of shots each grip works best with, and later try adjusting your grip based on each shot that comes to you.

Pay attention to different ball movements and apply grips accordingly

Watch your opponent’s paddle and try to anticipate what type of shot is coming your way. Then adjust your grip accordingly.

Consult with a professional coach

Practicing alone or with friends is great, but it eventually has its limitations as you learn each other’s type of game. A professional pickleball coach can turbocharge your pickleball progression, and save you time and injury in the long run.

Keep experimenting to find what works for you

Don’t get stuck with one particular grip style, especially if you are struggling to achieve the shots you’re attempting. Keep experimenting and trying new things, even if they don’t always work out.

How to improve grip strength

As we’ll explore in the next section, a good grip is not about holding your paddle tightly. However, improving the strength of your paddle hand is an excellent way to increase the accuracy and power of your shots, and avoid fatigue, especially when you improve enough to start changing grips mid-rally.

In your time off the court, try doing exercises specifically for your hands and forearms. There are dozens of methods out there, from squeezing a tension ball, to using rubber bands to give your fingers a workout.

How tight to hold your pickleball paddle

The vast majority of pickleheads, especially beginners, hold their pickleball paddle far too tight. They also tend to grasp the handle in the palm of the hand, instead of the fingers. This lowers the ability to control the paddle. Squeezing the grip like your life depends on it means that you lose the sensitivity of your shots.

The ideal grip should be relaxed and loose, with most of the pressure in the fingers rather than in the palm of the hand. Professional coaches recommend using a grip pressure equivalent to 3–4 out of 10. This way, you’ll feel the ball on the paddle much more, and be able to better control the weight and direction of your shot.

Bottom line

That’s it, folks! Our breakdown of the three most popular pickleball grips and how to use them to improve your game. Our final piece of advice is to be versatile—learn to use all three styles and use them to your advantage.

Have you found one grip better than another? Or do you have some top grip tips to share with your fellow pickleheads? Reach out to us on our socials. We’d love to hear from you.

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About the author
Betsy Kenniston
I’m Betsy, the founder of Crazy Pickleball Lady, a blog I created to share my love of pickleball with the world! I discovered pickleball when I finished working in 2012, and the sport has defined and thoroughly enriched my retirement. I spend the warmer months in Toledo, Ohio and the winters in SW Florida, and I’m a member of four pickleball clubs in total, serving on the board of directors for one. In my time off the court, I write my blog as a way to reach others who want to learn to play pickleball, and to give tips to players looking to improve their game.
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