The sport of Pickleball has been around for more than 50 years, and its players are increasing in number each day. Currently, there are eleven countries where Pickleball players are active in. It’s a fun sport that requires skill and gives players an excellent opportunity to sweat out and flex their muscles. If you are one of the many players of Pickleball, it’s crucial for you to be familiar with not only the equipment but also the grips that you can use.
Why The Right Grip Matters
In any racket sport, the way you grip your paddle or racket dictates the difference between an effective and a weak swing. There are grips that give you a more powerful forehand or backhand, while some allow for a balanced swing. There are also some variations of each grip that influence the force of every hit, even though they seem like little adjustments. It’s essential to match the proper grip with your play style so that you can make the most out of each swing.
Aside from using the right grip style, you also have to improve your grip technique. The way you hold the paddle is a huge factor in your game since it dictates how much force you transmit to the ball, therefore determining where it goes. A faulty grip technique will lead to ineffective swings and more point losses for you, so it’s vital for you to brush up on what constitutes an effective grip. You also have to be able to master the correct forms of each grip style to maximize their benefits and avoid unnecessary injuries.
Types of Grips
There are several types of grips that you can utilize whenever you’re playing Pickleball. Each grip caters to a specific style of play and is useful for certain swings. Here are some examples:
- Continental Grip – The basic grip is called the Continental Grip. It is formed by holding the paddle as if you’re in a handshake. This is recommended for those who are just starting in the sport, as it gives a balanced overall swing and is the most versatile of the grips. However, if you want to level-up your game, you would have to use other grips as well, since it does not produce the highest power and the best spin.
- Eastern Forehand/Backhand Grip – This grip is also advisable for beginners, as it is one of the grips that come naturally to everyone. Compared to the Continental Grip, this gives a better spin and more power output. You can adjust your hold to switch between the Forehand and Backhand variations, giving you more options as you play. However, this would take some practice, especially for new players.
- Table Tennis or Pen-Hold Grip – Table tennis players commonly use this grip, as it gives them the strongest backhand possible. The hold is formed by placing the thumb and index finger on the face of the paddle as if holding a pen. If your play style is focused on effective backhands, this is the most advisable grip for you. In this hold, the handle of the paddle is the one leading the swing.
When settling for a grip, make sure that you are doing the correct form and that you are comfortable with the hold. Otherwise, you will not be able to utilize the full potential of a specific grip, and you may also risk injuring your hand in the process. This is especially true for the Continental and Eastern Grips since they look similar but have different effects on your play style.
7 Tips For A Strong Grip
Now that you know what the grips are and why they matter in Pickleball, here are some tips to help you improve the way you grip and advance your skill further.
1. Know Your Game – As mentioned above, a certain grip is suited for a specific play style. It’s crucial for you to know how you play so that you can begin mastering the grip that would help you control the ball better. You can achieve this by playing more games and observing yourself as you swing. Take note if your play style involves more forehands, more backhands, or if you do a mixture of both.
2. Practice Switching Grips – Improving your Pickleball game involves the ability to adjust and switch grips on the fly. One good tip is to label each notch of your paddle’s handle by number, starting from the one on the right side of the logo then going clockwise. If the V formed by the middle of your thumb and forefinger is at number one, you are using a continental grip. You can switch to number eight for a better backhand or use notch two for a stronger forehand.
Aside from rotating your hand, one advanced technique you can practice is switching grip styles in between volleys. After sending the ball over to the other side, you can use the time to change your grip to make the next hit more effective. For example, if you’re playing with a Pen-Hold grip and you notice that your opponent keeps sending the ball to your right at certain intervals, switch to an Eastern Forehand Grip for one of your hits then switch back to Pen-Hold to keep him or her guessing.
3. Calibrate Your Grip Strength – Aside from the grip you’re using, it’s also vital for you to master how much force you use when gripping the handle. Your grip strength should be perfectly balanced. If you grip too loosely, you won’t be able to transmit enough force for your swing to be effective. However, if your grip is too tight, you’ll have a hard time switching grips while you play, plus you could hurt your hand in the process.
4. Learn To Use Varying Grip Pressures – Switching up your grip strength also matters while playing. Normal swings require a balanced grip force, but if you’re going for a dink, you may need to lighten your grip a bit so that you can minimize the swing strength just enough to send the ball over the net slightly. When doing a smash, you may have to give out more grip force than usual to make it effective and to make sure that you and the paddle can handle the force. This takes skill as well, so make sure to put in some practice.
5. Use Appropriate Grip Tapes – While paddles already come equipped with grip tapes, you may also replace them with tapes that suit your needs. For example, if your hands easily sweat, you need grip tapes that hold better even when wet. You can also use makeshift tapes, such as electrical tape or masking tape, to further improve your grip. Experiment with different kinds of materials to find what suits your play style best.
6. Practice Switching Hands – Some players practice switching up their hands when playing Pickleball to vary their swings. This is a complicated skill, but once learned, it can give you a significant advantage during a game.
Switching hands allows a player to vary the force of their swings as needed since one side is usually stronger than the other. They can use the dominant hand for powerful shots and switch to the other hand for dinks. The use of both hands can also allow you to focus on one type of swing. If you find backhands to be helpful, you can use Pen-Hold Grips on both hands during play to make the most out of it.
7. Always Prioritize Comfort – The most important tip of all is to always put your comfort first when playing. You won’t be able to play effectively if you don’t feel comfortable holding your paddle. As they say, your paddle is an extension of your body, so it should at least feel like one. You have to work with the paddle so that it will work with you as well. Once you determine the grip style, strength, and technique that you are comfortable with, make it an integral part of your game.
Playing Pickleball is easy at first, but if you want to grow further within the sport, you have to be able to enhance your skills and advance your techniques. One of the keys to victory is to keep your opponents guessing. Mix up your swings and switch your grips to avoid becoming predictable. Once you master the art of Pickleball gripping, there’s no doubt that you will go far in this sport.