CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

The Best Pickleball Grip

What’s the best pickleball grip? Like most things pickleball, the answer is it depends. If you come from another racket or paddle sport, chances are you’re going to bring that grip with you. But what if you don’t come from another sport and you need the pickleball basics, or what if that grip isn’t working in your pickleball game? What then? What’s the best pickleball grip?

In addition to coaching pickleball, I coach skiing and golf. You can tell a lot about a person’s aptitude for the sport by how well they do the basics, and pickleball is no exception. If you want to get better and get better quickly, focus on the basics—things like footwork and grip.

Some of you might be thinking, Hey CJ, what’s all the fuss about a grip? I mean, hold the darn paddle. How you hold the paddle is going to influence the trajectory and the speed of the ball.

I’m curious, which grip do you use? If you know the name for it, put it in the comments below or if you brought it from another racket or paddle sport, share that in the comments below.

When I’m teaching new players the pickleball basics or somebody who’s struggling with their grip, I prefer to teach the continental grip. I think it’s a universal grip for moving the paddle from your forehand side to your backhand side.

In tennis, most players use one grip on the forehand and a different grip on the backhand. Unlike tennis, the court’s much shorter, and there’s not a lot of time to change from one grip to the other.

pickleball basics the continental grip
The continental grip looks like this, the V formed by the thumb and the forefinger is on the side of the paddle, and the joint just below your index finger sits on the top.

When my hand is in the correct position, it feels like I’m using my fingers to control the paddle.

pickleball basics grip in the fingers
Grip held in the fingers

I often see players start with the continental grip, and then they allow it to slide into the palm of their hand.

pickleball basics-grip in the palm of the hand

Grip held in the palm

When it’s not in your fingers, and it’s more in the palm of your hand, it becomes more difficult to control the paddle’s face, which in turn impacts the trajectory of the ball. You might just be experiencing more popups if you’ve got that paddle in the palm of your hand.

What about fingers on the paddle face?

You’ll often see a player grip the paddle with one or more than one finger on the paddle, and typically it’s the index finger or the second finger on the back of the paddle. I’m not a big advocate of that unless you bring that grip with you from ping pong, and that’s something that you’re used to. Now the advantage to it is it helps to stabilize the paddle movement by having the finger there.

The big disadvantage is when I turn, and I put this on the backhand side, those fingers take up a lot of room on the paddle face. The other thing that tends to happen is when I do that, I move the paddle into the palm of the hand, and as I said before, often when the paddle is in the palm of your hand, it’s challenging to control the trajectory of the ball.

As long as we’re focusing on grip. Let’s discuss another one of the pickleball basics, grip pressure.

When you have tension in your grip, it travels from your grip into your forearm all the way up into your arm and shoulder. It impacts your natural ability to swing the pickleball paddle. It is tough to hit soft shots with a lot of grip tension. Here’s something that may help. Let’s use a scale of one to 10.

One will be your lightest grip pressure, so hold the paddle with a grip that’s so light that if I walked by and pulled on your pickleball paddle, it would come right out of your hand.

Now let’s go to the other extreme 10. Hold that pickleball paddle so tight it almost makes your arm hurt. If I tried to pull it out of your hand, it wouldn’t budge.

Now that you know the two extremes hold the pickleball paddle one more time. This time find number five, something that’s right in between your number one lightest and your number 10 the hardest.

Most pickleball shots should be played with a grip pressure of somewhere between three and five.

Another strategy that I use to alleviate tension while I’m playing is to take the pickleball paddle out of my playing hand between points.

That allows my hand to loosen up, and when I retake my grip, I’m aware of my grip pressure and keeping it light.

One last consideration is the grip size of your paddle.

A general rule of thumb is there should be enough space to fit your index finger between your Palm and your fingertips. This grip is just about right.

pickleball basics showing the correct girp size

The grip size is correct.

This grip is too small. See how my thumb overlaps my fingers?

Pickleball basics-grip of paddle too small

Grip size is small

If you’re purchasing a new pickleball paddle and you’re not sure what size to get, use a ruler.

Your palm has three creases. Measure the distance from the tip of your ring finger down to the middle crease in your Palm, as shown in this photo. If you’re in between sizes, make sure you choose the smaller size. It’s much easier to build up a grip than it is to make a big grip smaller.

pickleball basics-how to measure grip size for your next pickleball paddle

A couple of caveats about the pickleball grip.

If you come from another sport, tennis racket ball ping pong, try that grip on the pickleball court. See if it works for you. If it doesn’t, don’t change it.

If you decide to make a grip change, I run command applying the two PP’s, precision, and patience.

Precision. When you’re changing that grip every time you do it, take your hand off and put it back on the pickleball paddle. Making sure that your hand is in the right position.

Patience because you’re changing your grip, you are changing your only connection to the pickleball paddle. Chances are you’re going to hit some errant shots during the process.

Improving your pickleball basics is going to help you become a better pickleball player.

 

12 Comments

  1. James R. Crane on September 28, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    I use the continental grip
    I have been taking the paddle in my hand lightly and moving my wrist up and down letting the paddle move up and down in my hand and then slowly gripping it just enough for control. I can feel the difference.

    The tip on paddle handle size was excellent I was looking for information on that. I rushed downstairs to my car and checked my two paddles. Thankfully my fingers fit on the handle as shown Thanks much !

    • Cathy Jo Johnson on September 29, 2019 at 10:54 am

      James, light grip pressures are critical to playing better pickleball. Most people don’t notice how much pressure they are using. It’s awesome that you can feel the difference!

  2. Warren Kelly on September 28, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    Played continental grip for about 6-7 years but have switched to the ping pong grip. For me, I have more control and no loss of power. I play with a Engage Big Dog and fine it perfect for my game.

    Tks, Warren

    • Cathy Jo Johnson on September 29, 2019 at 10:52 am

      It sounds like it was a good switch for you Warren!

  3. Wally on September 28, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    CJ it’s Wally I will try taking my finger off the edge of the paddle. Will let you know how it works.

  4. Supreme Slim Keto on September 29, 2019 at 4:26 am

    Precisely what I was searching for, thank you for putting up.

  5. anna desrocher on September 30, 2019 at 1:19 am

    i will and always use the continental grip. i see too many beginners slide the paddle into their palms for control. a difficult habit to break but necessary to break early in learning the control and feel of their paddle. love to read your posts on pickleball! i take my notes from your posts and diligently work on improving my game to be a competitive player. thank you for all you do for the game!

    • Cathy Jo Johnson on September 30, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      Anna you are spot on with your observations on palms versus fingers. It’s much easier to learn it correctly than change it later.

  6. Kathryn Yingst on September 30, 2019 at 5:46 am

    I use the continental grip from my tennis background. I had to concentrate on holding it loosely when I got the pickleball yips last year! Made me really become aware of how I was holding my paddle

    • Cathy Jo Johnson on September 30, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      Kathyrn, once we become aware of grip pressure, isn’t it astonishing how much we inadvertently apply?

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