The backhand shot is one of the most important strokes to master in pickleball. It refers to any shot hit on the non-dominant side of the court using the back of the paddle. A good backhand takes practice and proper technique. There are a few different backhand shots used in pickleball, including the two-handed backhand. The two-handed backhand allows for more power and control on the shot. Read on to learn all about the backhand and how to perfect this essential pickleball skill.
What is the Backhand Shot in Pickleball?
The Basics of the Backhand
The backhand is a stroke hit on the left side of the court for right-handed players. It is called the backhand because the back of the paddle is used to strike the ball. On the backhand side, the paddle has to be turned and the shot is hit with the blade facing perpendicular to the court. This differs from the forehand, where the paddle face points forward parallel to the line.
Backhands require different mechanics than the forehand stroke. The movement is across the body rather than away from it. This can make it more difficult to generate power. As a result, many picklers struggle with their backhand shot. However, a solid backhand is essential for well-rounded play.
Why is the Backhand Important in Pickleball?
There are a few key reasons why developing a consistent backhand is important for any pickleball player:
- It allows you to cover the entire court: With just a forehand, half the court is unreachable. You need a backhand to defend the left side of the court.
- It enables more shot variety: Backhands open up more angles and placements for your returns. This makes your shots less predictable.
- It improves control: Solid backhands mean fewer errors from that side of the court. You can place the ball accurately with your backhand.
- It makes you harder to lob: A reliable backhand helps you put away lobs more easily on that side. You don’t have to run around your backhand.
Mastering the backhand takes practice, but it’s worth the effort. A balanced game requires proficiency on both the forehand and backhand sides.
Techniques for the Backhand Shot in Pickleball
Stance and Footwork
Proper footwork is crucial for the backhand. On most backhand shots, you will need to shuffle or step sideways to move your body into position. Keep these footwork tips in mind:
- Maintain a semi-open stance with your dominant side forward.
- Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Take small, quick shuffle steps or crossover steps to align yourself behind the ball.
- Try not to turn your back to the net. Shuffle so you can keep your eye on the ball.
- Your weight should be balanced and ready to shift forward on the shot.
Grip and Swing
There are some key mechanics to pay attention to when gripping the paddle and swinging on the backhand:
- Use a continental or hammer grip. This allows you to keep the paddle face square.
- Hold the paddle at a 45 degree angle, blade facing perpendicular to the court.
- Bring the paddle back smoothly and swing across your body on the stroke.
- Meet the ball out in front of your body with a flat paddle face.
- Follow through over your shoulder, pointing the paddle face towards your target.
- Use your wrist to gently rotate the paddle to control the angle of the return.
Common Backhand Errors
Some common mistakes pickleball players make with their backhand include:
- Opening the paddle face: This puts unwanted spin on the ball. Keep the paddle vertical.
- Not taking the paddle back early enough: Rush your setup and you’ll be late on the ball.
- Dropping your elbow: This cuts off your backswing. Keep your elbow up.
- Hitting with an open stance: Your body should be sideways to allow your arm to freely swing across.
- Hitting late: Make contact with the ball in front of you, not beside your body.
The Two-Handed Backhand Technique
What is the Two-Handed Backhand?
The two-handed backhand is a popular alternative to the one-handed backhand. As the name suggests, it involves using both hands to grip the paddle on backhand shots. The dominant hand is placed above the non-dominant hand on the handle.
This style allows for easy power generation on the backhand side. It also gives players more control over backhand shots. The two-handed backhand is common in tennis and is growing in popularity in pickleball as well.
Proper Grip and Form
Here are some tips for getting the most out of the two-handed backhand:
- Grip the paddle so your dominant hand is on top. This gives you more feel.
- Keep about a pinky finger’s width space between your hands. Don’t overlap too much.
- Use a eastern forehand grip with your dominant hand. The bottom hand can vary.
- Keep your hands relaxed until you start the forward swing. Then firmly grip the paddle.
- Make contact with both hands extended out in front of your body. Don’t drop the bottom hand early.
- Finish the follow through with the paddle high near your non-dominant shoulder.
Advantages of the Two-Handed Backhand
Compared to a one-handed backhand, the two-handed backhand offers some unique benefits:
- Generates more power and spin on backhand shots
- Provides greater stability and reduces mishits
- Allows for better reach on shots hit wide on the backhand side
- Gives more leverage to handle hard-hit balls
- Easier for players to learn initially than a one-handed backhand
For these reasons, many beginning and intermediate pickleball players utilize the two-handed backhand effectively. It is a simpler stroke to master than the one-handed backhand.
There are a couple potential disadvantages of the two-handed backhand to be aware of:
- It restricts reach on very wide balls to the backhand side.
- The setup takes slightly longer, which can be problematic on quick exchanges at the non-volley zone.
- Less wrist flexibility can reduce feel and ball control.
- The non-dominant hand is not as involved, so it develops less effectively.
However, for most recreational or beginner players the pros of the two-handed backhand outweigh these limitations. It can be very effective with the right technique.
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Drills and Tips for Improving Your Backhand
Solo Practice Drills
Here are some backhand practice drills you can do by yourself to groove your technique:
- Wall rallies: Hit continuous backhands against a practice wall to develop solid contact and consistency. Move sideways to hit to different locations.
- Cross-court groundstrokes: Stand in the right service court and hit cross-court backhands to the deuce court. Control the angle and pace.
- Backhand volleys: Focus on your form on backhand volleys. Volley repetitively while shuffling side-to-side.
- Two-bounce backhands: Let the ball bounce twice before hitting a groundstroke. This allows more time to get in position.
Partner Backhand Drills
Working with a practice partner or ball machine allows you to groove your backhand targeting and reflexes:
- Trade cross-court backhands, focusing on depth and control.
- Have a partner stand mid-court and work on accurately placing backhands to the deep corners.
- Practice blocking a serve with your backhand and hitting a return.
- Stand at the non-volley zone line and work on reaction volleys.
Tips for Developing Your Backhand
- Start with the two-handed backhand if you are a beginner. It is simpler to learn.
- Keep your eye on the ball and shuffle quickly to get your body aligned behind the ball.
- Meet the ball in front of you with a squared paddle face and extended follow through.
- Be patient. Backhands take time and practice to develop fully. Stick with it.
- Play paddle-up games focusing just on keeping the ball in play on your backhand side.
With dedicated practice using proper technique, you can develop a steady and effective backhand shot in pickleball. Consistency comes with time. A balanced backhand and forehand is necessary for expert-level play.
The Bottom Line
The backhand stroke is essential for all-around pickleball skills. Learning proper footwork, grip, swing mechanics, and tactics for backhands takes repetition and experience. The two-handed backhand provides an effective way to generate power and control on this stroke, especially for beginners. Drilling backhands and practicing placing them accurately develops backhand proficiency over time. A technically sound backhand shot opens up more court coverage and shot varieties for pickleball players. With a go-to backhand in your arsenal, you’ll take your pickleball game to the next level.