Published on January 22, 2024

Paddle Power – How to Amp Up Your Pickleball Game

Whether you’re trying to beat a “banger” or just want more power, it’s all about the feet. Work on quick lateral movements and positioning to anticipate your opponent’s shots and keep your balance.

A poised stance gives you a world of adaptability and will enable you to return any shot your opponent throws your way. This will help you to paint your opponents into corners and force them to change their strategy.

1. Keep Your Paddle Up at Chest Level

Keeping your paddle up at chest level allows you to reach for and block shots that come up from the middle or the back of the court. This is especially important when your opponent is playing a defensive game and trying to prevent you from making quick turns around them.

Keeping the paddle up at chest level also helps you be ready for any ball that comes your way. Many 3.0-level players tend to drop the paddle when they hit the return ball, which can leave them vulnerable to any high shot that comes their way. This is one of the main things that you need to change if you want to move from a 3.0 to a 3.5 player.

To keep the paddle up at chest level, start with your hands positioned on the T-grip and shaft of the paddle. Make sure your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and your top hand is gripping the shaft as if you were making the letter “Y.” Then, pull the paddle through the water and towards your body. This is the “sweep stroke.” If you are having trouble swinging your arms with enough power, try focusing on a stationary object in the distance instead of the board.

Then, when the paddle is back to your body, swing it toward your thighs in a big arc and then down to the ground with the face of the blade facing the board. This will give you the maximum amount of power when hitting a return. You can also use this technique to turn on a dime when your opponent is hitting the ball. Keep practicing this stroke to improve your accuracy and speed on the court.

2. Keep Your Hands on the Paddle

Many players hold their paddle far too tightly and put too much pressure on the grip. This reduces the sensitivity of the paddle and limits the amount of power that can be applied. Professional pickleball coaches recommend a loose and relaxed grip, with most of the pressure being in the fingers and not the palm of your hand.

Ideally, there should be 6 – 12 inches of space between your hands and the paddle blade. This can be difficult to achieve, especially if you are used to a shorter kayak paddle. If this is the case, you can try a few different positions and see what feels best to you.

The continental, Eastern, and Western grips are the three most common grips for pickleball. Each one has its own advantages, but ultimately it comes down to what is most comfortable and fits your game style. If you are unsure about which grip to choose, try them all during casual play and adjust based on the type of shots your opponent throws.

To find a good continental grip, hold the paddle in your dominant hand with your elbow at a 90-degree angle and then position your index finger on the 2nd bevel to the right of the top flat bevel on the handle. Make sure your ring and pinky fingers are not extended, as this can cause the paddle to twist in the water.

It is also important to keep the palm of your hand on the bottom of the paddle. This helps you to keep control of the paddle and stop it from slipping out of your fingers. Also, if you use a split paddle, store it with the blade up, as this avoids unnecessary stress and wear on the shaft joints and mechanism.

3. Don’t Let Your Paddle Drop to the Ground

The paddle that’s too low can be a real handicap. Keeping the paddle at chest level in the ready position eliminates the need to raise it when defending high balls and allows you to be more prepared for any shot that comes your way. Mark Renneson at Third Shot Sports has a great video that shows many examples of top-level pickleball players holding the paddle at waist height or even down near their thighs as they wait to return the ball to the table. Mark points out that doing this will lower your center of gravity making it easier to move around the court and to be more versatile when defending different types of shots.

Another thing that many new pickleball players do is to grip their paddles with both hands at the same (shoulder) level. This can make the shot hard to hit because you have to move your hand from one side of the paddle to the other, which takes time and takes away from the ability to track the ball as it moves.

Taking the time to learn and practice the Eastern, Continental, or Western grips will allow you to move around and change your grip mid-rally based on what type of shot you see coming your way. This is key to developing a quick and accurate reaction to the ever-changing pace of pickleball games, which are often fast exchanges at the non-volley zone line.

Keep these tips in mind as you practice your game, and remember that it’s always a good idea to get help from a professional to accelerate your improvement and save you time and pain in the long run!

4. Hit the Ball in Front of Your Body

There’s nothing worse than having your mind set on a low drive or dink only to see it pop up over the net. This happens because most players don’t realize that the point of contact they choose with the ball significantly impacts how it will travel through the air and land.

This is why focusing on hitting the ball from in front of your body can be so helpful for keeping it low. When you hit the ball from in front of your body, you can get closer to the net and better control what the ball will do next. On the other hand, when you’re hitting the ball from your side, the force of gravity pulls the ball down and forces you to overcompensate with a closed paddle face or open it up too much to keep it from flying into those dreaded mesh squares.

Soft hands are another key to hitting the ball from in front of your body. Most players who come to pickleball from other sports like tennis or racquetball are masters at snapping their wrists to generate power and create an angle on the ball, but these motions are terrible for picking up a low shot in pickleball. This is because, to make a low shot, you need your wrists to decelerate so that the paddle does not move forward too quickly when you hit it.

Having soft hands helps you keep your wrists from moving the paddle too fast because it allows them to stay more centered during the swing. This is important because if you decelerate too fast, the paddle will naturally fly forward, creating a high shot. So, by practicing a simple drill like the towel drill to encourage soft hands, you can help ensure that you always aim to keep your shots low.

5. Try to Hit the Ball at Your Opponent’s Feet

When playing with higher-level players, the pace of the game will increase, and you’ll need to hit the ball with more power. But it’s important to remember that you should still aim for the ball to be as close to your opponent’s feet as possible when hitting. This will help you keep the ball softer and shorter on the court, which will give you more control over your shots.

Many players mistakenly think that the only way to hit a hard shot is to swing their paddle as high as possible. However, aiming for the ball at your opponent’s feet or beside them is much better. This will make the ball harder for them to return because it will bounce up, which will put them on the defensive.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your arm position can make a huge difference in the amount of power you can generate. During the loading phase of your stroke, try to keep your elbow close to your body and position the paddle behind and slightly above the ball to create a “C” shape with your arm. This will allow you to create more power by transferring more of your body weight to the paddle and propelling the blade forward.

Keeping these tips in mind can help you improve your pickleball game. Be sure to practice these tips during your next pickleball session and watch your game improve! And if you’re looking to step up your game even more, consider getting a carbon fiber pickleball paddle. This material takes all of the favorable qualities of graphite and doubles it, making it the perfect choice for players who value control.

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