For most of us, the weakest shot in our arsenal is our backhand, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a groundstroke or a dink. But isn’t it frustrating when your backhand dink hits the net or it pops up?
There are a variety of reasons that your backhand dink lacks consistency, but generally, it’s either because of a weak paddle position at impact. So what are we doing to create a weak paddle position?
The first place to check is the angle of your wrist. It’s easier to control the paddle with a strong wrist, or a V-shaped wrist versus a weak wrist were the paddle head drops below the wrist.
But is it merely a matter of changing the wrist? Not for players over 50!
Since success leaves clues
I typically watch a lot of tournament video, but not just the pros. I watch players over 50 of all different levels. There seems to be one mistake we make more often than our younger counterparts, which ultimately puts our body and paddle into a weak wristed position.
Players over 50 tend to bend from the waist instead of using the hips and our legs.
There are a few reasons for that. Once we hit age 40 (yes! that’s not a typo, age 40), we begin losing approximately 1% of our muscle mass yearly.
In addition to that, our ligaments and tendons are losing their elasticity, making the joints less mobile.
Lastly, many of us struggle with arthritis, which makes our joints less mobile as well.
I’m not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom! The good news is there are things we can do both on and off the court to improve your backhand dinks.
Developing Backhand Dink Consistency on the Court
First, when you’re playing, make a concentrated effort to bend from your knees and hips. Since most of you use the dink as a warm-up, ask a friend to check your position or grab your phone and use the video camera to check your body position.
Another way to check yourself is to notice your head position. If you’re looking down at the court, it’s more likely you’re bending from the waist.
If you bend using your hips and legs, your back stays straighter, your head’s lifted, and it’s easier to see the ball.
Lastly, by using your lower body correctly, you create a position where it’s easier to maintain the angle of your wrist and paddle
In addition to checking your form on the court, if you want more consistent backhand dinks, you need to start strengthening your leg and back muscles off the court.
Now I can hear a few of you already saying my knees, my back, or any multitude of excuses that you may be tempted to use, but I know that you’re dedicated to playing better pickleball, and you’re going to give it a try!
One of the most effective exercises to strengthen the lower body is with a squat. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’m going to show you how to do it properly, make modifications based on your limitations, and show you how to fit it into your busy life.
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes, your hips are facing forward.
Pull your tummy in and stand up tall.
Start by pressing your hips backward. You should feel your weight move into your heels.
Your upper body is going to stay nice and tall, and you’re simply flexing from the hips and the knees.
It’s a feeling like you’re sitting down into a chair. In fact, think of an imaginary chair as you start this movement. First, feel like your behind is touching a bar stool. If that’s comfortable lower yourself another few inches. Still good? Pretend like you’re sitting in a dining room chair or perhaps a lounge chair.
A perfect squat is to lower the thighs to a 90° angle with your shins, but if you haven’t done a squat in a while, go to the point where you feel slightly challenged.
You should be able to keep your balance and even pull your toes up off the ground a bit.
Hold the squat for a second or two.
As you return to standing, feel like you’re pulling your glutes together and driving through the heels to return to standing.
Even if you don’t have bad knees, you want to make sure you’re protecting them, and the way that you do that is you never want to have your knees go forward of your toes. Always check to see that your feet are flat to the ground, and at any time, you should be able to lift your toes.
Now I know you’re busy, so here’s a simple way to fit squats into your busy day. Every time you get up from a chair, do it without the assistance of your upper body. In fact, do it five times. Think about how quickly those repetitions will add up.
For most of us, developing a consistent backhand dink takes effort on and off the court. On the court, ensure that you are correctly using your lower body to execute the shot successfully. Off the court, make a concerted effort to strengthen your back, legs, and hamstrings to warrant proper movement. You’ll get stronger in no time, and your 90-year-old pickleball playing self will thank you.
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)