The Controversial Two-Handed Pickleball Technique Top Players Swear By

The Controversial Two-Handed Pickleball Technique Top Players Swear By

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Pickleball players can use either one or two hands when hitting backhand shots. Using two hands for the backhand (like in tennis) is becoming increasingly common, especially among players converting from tennis to pickleball.

The two-handed backhand provides more power, stability, and control compared to using just one hand. However, the tradeoff is that you sacrifice some reach around the court when using both hands. The two-handed backhand is useful for driving the ball hard cross-court or down-the-line.

It also helps when hitting high backhand volleys or overhead shots. But one hand may be better for quick exchanges at the net or when needing to stretch wide to return a shot.

Many players use a hybrid approach, hitting certain backhands with one hand and others with two. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and what works best for each individual player’s game.

What Exactly Is Dual Wielding in Pickleball?

Dual wielding refers to gripping the paddle with both hands during play, similar to a two-handed backhand in tennis. Players typically use this technique for backhand shots, placing one hand near the top of the handle and the second hand just below the first for added control and power.

The dominant hand is on bottom to guide direction, while the support hand on top provides stability. Dual wielding allows players to drive the ball with extra force on returns while maintaining more control than a one-handed grip.

The Controversy Around Dual Wielding

Surprisingly, dual wielding falls into a gray area in official pickleball rules. Most rulebooks simply state paddles must be held in the hand, with no prohibition against using two hands. Yet it remains a source of debate among recreational players. Some view dual wielding as an unfair advantage, likening it to double-dribbling in basketball.

Purists believe pickleball should adhere to its ping-pong roots, where one hand is the norm. But dual wielding fans argue the style is within bounds, as rules do not forbid it. The controversy has yet to reach top pickleball governing organizations and dual wielding remains legal.

The Pros Favoring a Two-Handed Approach

While adoption of dual wielding has been gradual, many high-level players incorporate the technique, especially when converting from tennis. Top pros Ben Johns, Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin frequently utilize two-handed backhands.

Catherine Parenteau credits the style for preventing wrist and elbow injuries. With two points of contact sharing force, less stress is placed on joints. The 2015 National Champion, Jennifer Dawson Lucore, also employs dual wielding primarily for backhand power. As more aspiring pros make the switch from tennis, acceptance of dual wielding may increase at upper echelons.

Advantages of the Two-Handed Backhand

Using two hands on the paddle provides pickleball players noticeable benefits:

Extra Power and Control

With doubled grip strength, players can whip the paddle head violently to blast returns with extra zip. The support hand augments force production while allowing fine paddle adjustments. Dual wielding enables driving the ball deep with control – ideal for striking aggressive groundstroke winners.

Versatility Around the Court

The two-handed backhand excels at handling balls to the backcourt but also aids responding to tricky shots on the move. Players can dash to wide balls and dig out low returns using dual wielding without compromising stability. Volleying dinks at the net becomes easier using the nimbleness of both hands.

Added Stability on Off-Center Hits

Mishits are common when balls are struck in the upper or lower portion of the paddle face. A second hand keeps the paddle steadier through off-center contact, leading to fewer errant hits. The support hand reduces torque and twisting of the paddle on imperfect connections.

Quick Shot Preparation

With the second hand already in position, players take less time switching grips from forehand to backhand. The paddle stays poised for backhand drives with no re-gripping required. This split-second advantage aids rapid fire exchanges at the NVZ line.

Decreased Chance of Injury

As mentioned regarding pros, two points sharing force mitigates impact on arm joints and connective tissue. The risk of tennis elbow or wrist sprains diminishes with dual wielding. Less stress on the hitting arm keeps players competing longer without overuse issues.

Easier Execution of Advanced Shots

Trickier paddle moves like the backhand roll shot or overhead slam become less taxing using two hands. The support hand lends the finesse for feathery touches on rollback third shots or driving skyball overheads. These shots gain accuracy and reliability.

Challenges of Adopting the Two-Handed Grip

While dual wielding offers enticing benefits, the switch from one hand does not come without difficulties:

Habit of Single Hand Dominance

Most beginners start pickleball cradling the paddle in their dominant hand only. This habitual grip feels unnatural to alter. Re-training muscle memory requires repetition of two-handed strokes to gain comfort. Initially, the non-dominant hand provides minimal function.

Sacrificing Reach Around Court

With two hands occupied, the paddle cannot extend as far to each side. Balls far outside the strike zone are tougher to retrieve unless time allows repositioning feet. One-handed reach still surpasses a dual grip for lateral flexibility.

Limited Touch at the NVZ

Light finesse volleys at the net demand precise paddle control using one hand. Though the second hand aids stability, too tight a grip hampers delicate touch shots. Players should learn relaxing the non-dominant hand at the NVZ.

Gripping Too Tightly

Some players clench the paddle too rigidly with both hands, restricting wrist action and paddle face rotation. This overtensioning hinders angle shots like drops and blocks. Consciously avoiding white-knuckle grips helps generate angle.

Indecision on Grip Changes

Knowing when to quickly switch to a one-hand grip on certain shots will confuse beginners. Improper grip choices lead to awkward shots. Only experience builds intuition on when to alter grips during rallies.

Slower Transitions to Forehands

With both hands occupied on backhands, transition speed suffers going back to one-handed forehands. Players may muff shots as their off hand lingers too long. Letting the support hand release swiftly is a learned skill.

Tips for Mastering the Two-Handed Technique

Players eager to harness the potential of dual wielding should follow these tips:

  • Start practice sessions hitting backhands with two hands exclusively to engrain the motor pattern. Be patient — adjustment takes time.
  • Use the support hand just for steadying at first, letting the dominant hand control direction. Slowly increase the support hand’s influence.
  • Grip the paddle predominantly in the fingers to enhance feel and fine motor skills. Avoid palming the handle.
  • Position hands no more than 2-3 inches apart on the handle for optimal leverage. Wider spacing loses control.
  • Use a paddle with a slimmer handle to allow hand proximity. Overly thick grips hamper dual wielding.
  • Loosen the support grip pressure at the NVZ for touch shots. Only bear down for power on drives.
  • Drill backhand volleys and overhead slams using two hands to grow accustomed to added force capacity.
  • Don’t neglect one-handed strokes during practice. Smooth transitions between grips remains vital.
  • Analyze opponents for weaknesses a two-hander exposes – like trouble handling low slingshot returns.
  • Accelerate your dominant hand on contact for speed while the support hand lags slightly behind.

Dual Wielders Taking Over the Pro Circuit

As more aspiring professionals transition to pickleball from tennis, dual wielding may become standard at higher levels. We see top players already using the technique effectively against single-handed opponents.

Young phenoms comfortable with two-handed strokes in tennis will likely gravitate toward the style. And science shows the kinetic linking of multiple joints can generate greater racquet speeds.

Surprisingly, many recreational players also report immediate improvements rallying with their non-dominant hand assisting – especially on backhands.

As the controversy subsides, the pros and cons become clearer. One thing is certain – dual wielding offers an intriguing new dimension to the sport of pickleball. Expect to face this secret weapon more as tactical players exploit the edge not explicitly prohibited by rules. Dual wielding may be pickleball’s next evolution on the path to primetime.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dual Wielding

Is using two hands on the paddle legal in pickleball?

Yes, dual wielding is legal and does not violate any standard pickleball rules. The rules simply state players must hold paddles in hand. There are no stipulations about using one or two hands.

What shots is dual wielding best used for?

Most players utilize two hands primarily for backhand power shots like drives, volleys, and overheads where the extra force and control are advantageous. The non-dominant hand usually provides support.

Is dual wielding considered cheating?

No, dual wielding is not considered cheating since it does not break pickleball rules. Some players view it as an unfair tactic, but no governing bodies ban the technique. It simply represents an alternative, legal style of play.

What grip is used in dual wielding?

The dominant hand grips lower on the paddle handle, usually in the finger region for finesse. The non-dominant support hand grips just above it – around 2-4 inches higher on the handle. Hands remain close together.

Does dual wielding limit reach and flexibility?

It can restrict reach on balls far wide of the player since the paddle extends less distance one-handed. Quick footwork and repositioning can offset this limitation.

Is dual wielding better for tennis players switching to pickleball?

Yes, tennis players adapt quickly to dual wielding since two-handed backhands are common in tennis. The skills transfer directly with little learning curve.

How much power and control does the non-dominant hand add?

The support hand can boost power and control substantially – often adding 25-50% extra force capacity and directional stability for drives and volleys.

Do any cons or downsides exist with dual wielding?

Challenges include decreased reach, grip transition speed, and touch sensitivity at the net. Players may also overly tense both hands at first. But practice smooths out these kinks.

How popular is dual wielding among recreational players?

Still a minority, but its adoption grows daily as players discover the advantages. It frequently arises in internet debates among pickleball enthusiasts.

Conclusion: Dual Wielding Looks to be Pickleball’s Future

Love it or hate it, the dual wielding pickleball technique offers enticing benefits and appears here to stay. With the sport’s inventors likely rolling in their graves, the two-handed style represents pickleball keep evolving athletically.

Expect R&D labs soon optimizing paddle handles and grips for double-fisted players. And coaches should prepare drills for those looking to up their game. While a nice traditional single-handed backhand remains a graceful shot, modern players concerned solely with winning may opt for the power of two hands.

Dual wielding looks poised to ascend from a fringe technique to a standard weapon for aspiring pros. As pickleball reaches mainstream status, television viewers could see high-level tournaments dominated by ambidextrously vicious doubled-up backhands. Purists beware, a pickleball revolution may be brewing.


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