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CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

How to Hit a Pickleball Backhand with Consistency and Power

As a teacher people often as me about their pickleball backhand. I hear comments like, my backhand seems to go everywhere. When it does go in it doesn’t have any power! CJ what can I  do?

For most people, their backhand is a weaker shot than their forehand for a variety of different reasons. Often they spend a lot of time running around it. A sometimes effective temporary solution to win a point or a game but not a long-term fix.

A weak or errant backhand shot is often the result of an error or two in the fundamentals. The first place to check is your grip, stance, and footwork. If you clean some of those up, chances are you’re going to start hitting the shot more consistently, where you want it to go and with a little bit more power.

What shot is better your pickleball backhand or your forehand? Put it down in the comments below.

The Backhand Grip

First, let’s talk about the grip. I’ve seen players use a lot of different grips in pickleball and frankly, sometimes those grips are great for a forehand but not the backhand. An Eastern grip from tennis is fantastic for a forehand.  It puts your palm facing towards the net, and it makes for a robust and powerful forehand. Unfortunately, that’s not as good a grip for a backhand.

My personal preference is to use a continental grip all the way around the court. Good for the forehand and equally suitable for the backhand. In a continental grip, the V that’s created by our thumb and our forefinger rests on top of the paddle. For most players, it’s an easier grip to hit a pickleball backhand with.

Body Position

Okay so now you’ve got a good grip. What we need to work on is your body position. There are probably two things going on.

First,  if you have a weak backhand, you’ve probably been running around that backhand, so you’re not comfortable with where the ball is in relationship to your body. Chances are your arms are either too close to your body, or you’re reaching too far away.

To feel the correct movement pattern, practice this without a paddle. Stand at the baseline and have a friend stand on the other side of the net at the NVZ.  Have them feed balls to your backhand side. Allow the ball to bounce and catch it at a distance where your arms are relaxed and away from the ball. Make sure your arms aren’t jammed into your body or that you are reaching. After you catch the ball, rotate your shoulders and core like you would in the pickleball backhand.

 

Closed Stance

The second part of the footwork that we’ll work on when we do this is to turn our body or have more of a closed stance. A closed stand would be if you are standing in the center of the court with your feet parallel to the non-volley zone line you turn so you’re parallel to the center or sidelines.

By turning my feet, it allows me to use my shoulders and my core to rotate through the shot to create some power on the backhand.

Shoulders and Core

Now that you’ve got a feeling for the correct footwork put a paddle in your hand and we’re going to focus on two more things.  After I’ve moved into a position where my stance is a little closed, with my shoulders turned I concentrate on contacting the ball in front of the body and watching it hit the paddle.

Late contact or taking your eye off the ball results in errant shots. Practice these separately. Thinking or saying the words bounce, hit will help you take the ball in front of your body.

Personally, my biggest mistake is not watching the ball all the way to the paddle. Whenever the ball hits the edge of the paddle, it’s a signal to me that I’m not watching the ball hit the face.

Conclusion

If you’re ready to improve your backhand, it begins with the basics. Make sure you have a suitable grip. Practice moving so that when you stop to hit the shot, your body is an appropriate distance from the ball. Use more of a closed stance by turning your feet and your shoulders this allows you to use your shoulders and core to generate power.

If you want to improve your backhand, you are going to have to stop running around it. Since that might be difficult to do in a game the perfect way to practice it is a game of backhand only skinny singles, and if you click on this, it’s going to tell you exactly how to do it.

In the comments below, tell us which shot is better for you the forehand or backhand.

Better Pickleball CJ JohnsonCJ Johnson
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2 Comments

  1. Rut on October 20, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    I’m a life long tennis player but this June I had a partial tear to my right shoulder and a full tear in my left shoulder, so I took up Pickleball and now love the game. Due to my shoulder rotator cuff injuries I cannot hit a normal top spin back hand without pain. I now use a slice backhand very similarly to my old tennis slice backhand. It is a low flat screamer and is quite effective. I keep my body and shoulders turned parallel to the net and use a cross over step as I move into the backhand. This keeps my weight forward and adds greatly to the underspin shots pace and spin. I don’t slice under the ball as much as drive through it with the paddle blade angled back to generate the underspin. I’d love to be able to hit a top spin backhand but just can’t do that anymore.

    • Cathy Jo Johnson on October 20, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Welcome to pickleball. That’s a great adaptation. I love the slice it’s a nice change up and people don’t see it as often as they do a topspin backhand.

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