Pickleball is all about fast reactions, especially when you are playing up at the Kitchen line. When you are at the Kitchen line (and your opponents are on the opposing side of the Kitchen line), then you are only 14 feet away. This short distance leads to only fractions of a second to react to a flying pickleball, which, in turn, means you need fast reactions. The faster your reactions—in particular, the faster your pickleball paddle speed—the more likely you will be to win points and win games on the pickleball court.
Oftentimes, when pickleball players think about increasing paddle speed, they have a tendency to take bigger backswings and wilder swings in an effort to swing faster and harder. This becomes counterproductive. Big swings (including big backswings) actually slow you down, and wild swings lead to too many errors on the pickleball court.
Rather, to increase your pickleball paddle speed, try the following 5 tips:
- Have a Good Grip – Whether you use a continental grip, an Eastern grip, or a Western grip, or anything in between, it is important to have a loose grip (think a 4 out of 10 in terms of grip strength). This loose grip will allow you to have faster hands. Also, consider having a small gap between your index finger and the other fingers that are holding the paddle. By having some spacing in your fingers (rather than have all four fingers tight together), you will be able to better maneuver the pickleball paddle—including quicker movement for speed and more movement to manipulate spin.
- Hit Out Front – There are many reasons why you should hit the pickleball out in front of your body. One of these reasons is that it will cut down on your time to react to the pickleball. If you are hitting the pickleball behind your body, then it will take more time to reload. Plus, you can swing faster and more freely out in front of your body (rather than behind your body). So, hit the pickleball out in front of your body.
- Release Tension – Hold your pickleball paddle and tense every muscle in your paddle-side arm. Now, swing. Repeat the same swing after you release the tension and relax your arm. Do you notice which swing is faster? Your swing should be markedly faster when you stay loose. Also, remember to swing from the shoulder (so, your shoulder may be firm and controlled, but the rest of your arm (e.g., your bicep, tricep, forearm) should be relaxed).
- Short Backswings – As mentioned above, big backswings are counterproductive. Big backswings slow you down on the pickleball court, as it takes too long to pull your paddle back and then accelerate forward. You do not have much time on the pickleball court. So, it is important to keep your backswings as short as possible. And, since your goal is to hit the pickleball out in front of your body, your backswing should generally be within your peripheral. Work on shortening your backswings in order to indirectly increase your paddle speed.
- Drill to Get Faster – Practice your paddle speed—and the tips above—in order to improve. A few easy pickleball drills to accomplish this include:
- Volley Drills – Grab a partner and hit volleys to each other from Kitchen line to Kitchen line. Work forehands, backhands, and then alternate sides. Try to amp it up even more by both you and your partner stepping into the Kitchen and continuing the volleys inside the Kitchen. The shorter distance will take away reaction time, so you can try to improve your skills. You will feel as if you have a ton of time once you step back behind the Kitchen line. If you do not have a partner to drill with, these same drills can be done using a wall.
- Table Tennis Ball – To amp up the volley drills for reaction time, grab a table tennis ball (also known as a ping pong ball). Use your pickleball paddle to volley the table tennis ball. Repeat the same volley drills discussed above and challenge yourself to get as close to your partner or the wall (as applicable) as possible. Using a table tennis ball will really challenge your hand speed and ability to react because the table tennis ball is much smaller and much lighter, so it will move faster than a pickleball—meaning even less reaction time. Also, since the table tennis ball is smaller, it will be more difficult to track—in other words, you will need more concentration to work on your ball tracking abilities.
The goal with pickleball paddle speed is not necessarily how fast you can swing the paddle. Rather, it is how much time it takes you to swing the paddle. So, while it is important to work on ways to increase the actual speed of your paddle, it may be more important to focus on ways to cut down on the time it takes you to swing the paddle. Faster paddle speed is not always better. Rather, it is important to be smooth on the pickleball court, so that you can be efficient and short in your swing and be ready to reload for the next shot. So, try these 5 tips to do just that!
WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?
Plus, if you want more pickleball tips and strategies on every aspect of your pickleball game, check out Pickler’s online video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach is a fraction of the price of one clinic or even one lesson, and features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book. These online video lessons are available on demand 24/7 and breakdown every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including pickleball drills, strategy, and advanced concepts, so you will play your best pickleball.