3 Pickleball Grips: How to Hold a Pickleball Paddle Correctly

Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Pickleball is not just about hitting the ball and expecting your opponent to commit an error. Knowing how to hold your paddle correctly is essential in winning a match. So far, there are three types of pickleball grips - Continental, Eastern, and Western.

These grips have different styles and advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, choosing the best pickleball grip can be daunting if you're new to the sport. After reading this guide, you will better understand how to hold your pickleball paddle correctly.

Why Choosing the Right Pickleball Grip Matters

How you hold your pickleball paddle plays a vital role because it determines the angle of your paddle's face as you hit the ball. This angle is critical in the kind of shot you do. Therefore, choosing the wrong pickleball grip can lead to an awkward position, resulting in a fault. Although you might notice it at first, forcing yourself to use an uncomfortable grip can also cause arm injury.

Pickelball Paddle Handle Bevels

Let's first talk about bevels to make it easier for you to understand the different types of pickleball grips. If you are not familiar with tennis rackets, their handles are octagons. Each of the eight sides is called a bevel and has a corresponding number. Bevel No. 1 is on top of the racket. If you are right-handed, the numbers are 1 to 8, clockwise. If you are left-handed, the numbers are counterclockwise. Got it? Good!

The handle of a pickleball paddle is more oval than an octagon, but you can still apply the same principle by using your imagination. While reading this guide, look at the pickleball grip chart I created to help you visualize how to position your hand using the paddle bevels. Note, however, that I only used the clockwise sequence of the bevel numbers. This is to avoid confusion on your part, especially if you are a beginner.

3 Types of Pickleball Grips

Many pickleball players claim the Continental grip is the best, while some say it's the Eastern grip. Meanwhile, the Western grip is said to be the least common. The truth is that it all depends on which strategy you're comfortable with. So, get your pickleball paddle, and let's explore these grips one by one.

Continental Grip

Also known as the "hammer grip," the Continental pickleball grip is similar to holding a hammer. In this style, you should place your thumb against one side of the paddle. Then, wrap your fingers around the handle between your thumb and index finger. Your hand is "on top" of the handle and will create a V shape pointing towards you.

If you are right-handed, place your palm heel at Bevel # 1 and the knuckle of your index finger at Bevel # 2. If you are left-handed, your palm heel should still be at Bevel #1, but your index finger knuckle should be at Bevel # 8. In most cases, you can easily find the continental grip if you start in the Eastern grip, which I will discuss below.

The Continental grip is probably the most commonly used by advanced players since it is ideal for various shots, especially dinking and volleying. However, this grip slightly favors the backhand over the forehand, though. In short, the continental grip requires skillful hands, which can be challenging for you if you are a beginner.

Eastern Grip

The Eastern pickleball grip is also referred to as the "shake hands grip" simply because it resembles having a handshake with your paddle. To find this grip, hold your paddle out with your non-grip hand, with its face being vertical. Then, put your grip hand on your paddle's face and slide it down until you grip the handle. 

If you are right-handed, your heel should rest on Bevel # 2, while your index finger knuckles on Bevel # 3. If you are left-handed, they should be on Bevels 8 and 7.

Unlike the Continental grip, the Eastern grip is considered best for beginners (and intermediate players) because it allows both forehand and backhand shots. This grip is also ideal for hitting the ball hard but keeping it low. Being a very versatile grip, it is also sometimes called the "neutral" grip. 

Some people claim that advanced players find the Eastern grip challenging in doing topspins. But since this shot requires a swing from low to high, the paddle's face will help keep the ball going out of bounds. 

However, doing a backhand shot using this Eastern grip can sometimes be challenging. It's because the paddle's face is in front of you, and it is a weak position. To make it more powerful, you can use your other hand to support your grip hand.

Western Grip

The Western pickleball grip is sometimes called fly swatter grip because it's like swatting a fly with your paddle. And because the paddle face is parallel to the ground, this grip is also called the frying pan grip. As the name suggests, it is the exact opposite of the Eastern grip.

To use the Western grip, start with a Continental grip. If you are right-handed, rotate your paddle 45 degrees counterclockwise. Therefore, your heel will be at Bevel # 3, and your index finger knuckle will be at Bevel # 4. If you are left-handed, your index knuckle must be on Bevel # 6, and your heel will be at Bevel # 7.

With this scenario, doing a forehand is easy but can be very difficult when doing a backhand. As you can imagine, your palm is now behind your paddle, and your wrist is facing the net, providing little or no power to do backhand shots. A solution to this problem is to do the two-handed backhand.

This Western grip is the least popular among the three grips due to its disadvantages. Although some advanced players and those who play tennis use this type of grip, it is undoubtedly not for beginners or people who haven't tried any paddle sport.

How to Choose the Right Grip Pressure

Now that you know the different pickleball grips, let's talk about grip pressure or how tight or loose you should hold your paddle. First, you should hold your paddle with your fingers, not your palm. Then, imagine that you are holding an egg. If it's too tight, you will crush it. If it's too loose, you will drop the egg.

Let's use a scale of 1 to 10 to make it easier, with 10 being the tightest grip and zero if you drop your paddle. If you are new to pickleball, your grip pressure might be at 10, which is normal. But with continuous practice, you'll eventually learn how to control your grip. 

To give an idea, if the ball flies erratically or is not free-flowing, your grip is most likely a ten due to the added force. You may also notice your arm muscles showing up, and you should learn how to loosen your grip. But for now, you should know what grip scale is enough, depending on your shots. 

For instance, if you are returning a serve or doing a hard volley from the baseline, pickleball pro player and USAPA instructor Sarah Ansboury recommends having a grip pressure of 7 or 8. If you are doing a third shot or a dink, have a softer grip pressure of 4 or 5. But sometimes, three is enough. A loose grip is also better than a hard one for blocking a hard shot because it will help you reset the play.

Can I Change My Grip During a Play?

Yes, you can switch to another grip during a play, but it depends on the situation. Some players who start with a Continental grip can easily switch to Eastern. However, pickleball is fast-paced, and you might need more time to switch grips. Planning to change your grip while the ball is coming can also distract your focus on the ball. 

Some players just change the angle of their wrist instead of switching from Continental to Eastern or from Western to Continental. As mentioned earlier, you can also use your hand as a support to add more power. On the other hand, you can also switch hands, but it's more challenging to do than changing grips. So, if you think you need to change your grip, make sure you practice it first consistently.

Should I Extend my Index Finger on the Paddle?

You might notice some players extending their index finger on the paddle's face and wonder if you should do the same. First, the advantage of doing it is having more control when doing a forehand stroke since your finger is connected to your paddle. It also helps stabilize your paddle when receiving a hard shot.

If you have played ping pong (table tennis), putting your finger on the paddle may come naturally, and removing this habit might be difficult. The main disadvantage of extending your finger is that it can hinder backhand shots. It may also cause an elbow overuse since you will be limiting the use of your shoulder. But as long as you feel comfortable, do it.

Related Post: How to Measure Your Pickleball Paddle Grip Size: 3 Easy Ways

Final Thoughts

So far, many players in singles are more in favor of using the Eastern grip instead of the Continental. Note that forehand shots are more frequent than backhand in this format. But to sum it up, choosing a pickleball grip depends on your personal preference. The key here is that you are comfortable with your preferred grip, which can help you play more effectively. 

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