4 Common Errors Hurting Your Pickleball Backhand
Are you suffering from a weak or inconsistent pickleball backhand? If you’re making one of these four common mistakes, you’ll have consistency and power issues.
One of the most frequent things I hear is, “my pickleball backhand is worse than my forehand. What can I do?”
No doubt about it. For most of us, our backhand shots are weaker than our forehand. The most common complaint is the backhand groundstroke. As you play better pickleball, so will your opponents. Crafty players are looking for your weaknesses and have the shots to exploit them. For example, if your opponent is trying to force a weak service return, the most logical place to target is your backhand.
There are four common mistakes that I see players make on backhand shots. Let’s get into those mistakes and see if we can fix your backhand stroke.
It’s pretty common to see tennis players use a variation of an eastern forehand grip. That grip puts the palm facing the net, creating a strong position for a forehand drive. Unfortunately, that hand position tilts the paddle face slightly downward on the backhand side. That’s why tennis players switch grips for a backhand shot.
But pickleball is a little different. Even if you’re an experienced tennis player who’s used to changing grips between the forehand and backhand, the length of the pickleball court makes that more challenging.
What if you’re not a former tennis player? I’ve noticed that most players without a racquet sports background tend to hold the paddle in their palm. When the paddle is in the palm, there’s less control of the paddle’s face, meaning less control of the ball’s trajectory.
My preference is a continental grip because it’s equally useful for both forehand and backhand shots.
In a continental grip, the V that’s created by the pointer finger and thumb of your dominant hand sits on top of the paddle. Extend your arm like you’re about to shake someone’s hand. Now place your paddle into your hand and make sure the V is on the top side of the paddle.
Click this link if you’d like more tips to improve your pickleball grip.
Even if you know that you have a good grip, you will likely be interested in the section on grip pressure. Most people aren’t aware of how tightly they hold the pickleball paddle, which creates error at all levels.
Arm Only Swing
Let’s be clear. When you’re at the kitchen line or the non-volley zone, the proper backhand position is to keep your body parallel to the net and use the arm. But when you’re at the baseline or midcourt, and you’re hitting a groundstroke, you need to use your body for maximum power.
If your hips are parallel to the net, you’ve limited your ability to use your core and must rely on the small muscles of the arms. A rule of thumb in most sports is that small muscles make big mistakes. If you’re relying on the muscles in the arms, you’ll likely be inconsistent, lack directional accuracy, and a short on power.
On the forehand shot, many players use a slightly open stance, which means their hips and paddle shoulder are not entirely parallel to the net. The front foot and the back foot are at an angle approximately halfway between parallel and perpendicular to the net. It’s useful for the forehand groundstroke because you’re in a position to use your core to generate power and speed.
In the basic backhand position, anything short of perpendicular to the net limits your ability to use your core and creates more arm motion. The perpendicular stance and proper placement of the body add power by using the core and helps to position the body an appropriate distance from the ball.
In effect, we kill two birds with one stone. By turning the hips and paddle shoulder, you’re in a position to make solid contact and use your core creating consistency and power.
Watch the Ball to the Paddle
This happens on both sides of the ball, but because of our body and paddle hand position, it occurs more frequently on the backhand shot. If you’re not watching the ball to the paddle, there’s a greater chance that you’ll hit an off-center shot.
I have an entire video full of drills to help you watch the ball, but in general, as you see the ball coming and you’ve turned your body perpendicular to the net, look for the holes in the pickleball. That focuses your attention on the ball. You’ll also begin to notice how the ball is spinning, and subconsciously adjust your body and paddle hand for a proper arm swing.
As the ball contacts the paddle, your gaze should be on the ball, not toward your opponents.
Executing a consistent and powerful pickleball backhand requires a player to perform the basics repeatedly. Now that you’re aware of the four most common mistakes players make when hitting a backhand check out this Youtube playlist to help you to develop consistently, powerful backhand shots.
CJ Johnson Better Pickleball Age Well with C.J.
Train Smart · Live Bold · Age Well
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Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)
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