How, Why, and When to Use the Three Main Grips
Paddles out, everybody. There’s no “right way” to hold a paddle, but most pickleball players use one of these three grip techniques: Continental, Eastern, or Western.
Each grip has its trade-offs and lends itself to different styles of play. More seasoned pickleball players tend to go with Continental Grip, as it delivers the most paddle control and versatility. Players who favor forehand shots over backhand shots might find the Eastern Grip most useful. And for those who are just starting out, the Western Grip can be the easiest to learn.
We’ll walk through each below and let you choose which you prefer.
Turn your paddle over and take a peek at the base of handle. You should see eight edges forming an octagon. Two longer edges run parallel to the surface of the paddle, followed by a set of beveled (or angled) edges on each side, which run into a final, shorter edge at either end. Notice how all of the edges make their way up the length of the handle.
Now look at your hand and spread your fingers. Do you see the point where the base of your thumb connects with the base of your index finger? We refer to that point as the V. The key to each of these three grip techniques is where you place the V of your hand along the eight different edges of the handle.
For the Continental Grip, imagine you’re holding a tomahawk. You’ll want the V of your hand sitting along one of the shorter edges at the end of the handle. Since the paddle is the same on both sides, it doesn’t matter which end you pick. Double check that the V of your hand is in line with the edge of the paddle itself, equally distant from the front and back surface. Now wrap your four fingers around the handle until the tip of your index finger is sitting just below your thumb.
Do a few practice swings, and you should immediately see why so many players use the Continental Grip. Since your hand is positioned along the edge, it gives you a balanced amount of control between your forehand and backhand shots. If you have an equally strong forehand and backhand, this might be the grip for you.
To use the Eastern Grip, imagine you’re shaking someone’s hand. Slightly rotate the handle from its previous position, so the V of your hand is sitting along the nearest beveled edge. For right-handed players, that’s one edge to the right. For left handers, one edge to the left. And again, wrap your fingers around the handle till you’ve got it fully gripped.
If you try a few swings, you’ll see you have more control in your forehand shots than with the Continental Grip, but a little less control on your backhand. Since most players favor their forehand shots, the Eastern Grip is by far the most common technique you’ll see being used on pickleball courts.
For the Western Grip, you’ll need to rotate the handle one last time, until the V of your hand is positioned along one of the longer edges, sitting parallel to the surface of the paddle. If you’re gripping it correctly, it’ll feel like you’re holding a fly swatter.
This technique is often used by beginners, and while it offers the single strongest grip for forehand shots, it leaves your wrist at an awkward angle for backhand. So awkward, that many players using the Western Grip will switch their hand.