A few years ago, the two-handed backhand was not overly prevalent in the sport of pickleball. However, today, the two-handed backhand is more popular than ever, especially among the pro women’s game. As more tennis players convert to pickleball, we will likely see even more two-handed backhands, as it is a common shot in the sport of tennis and relatively easy to transition to pickleball.
With that said, does the rise of the two-handed backhand in pickleball mean the death of the one-handed backhand? Not necessarily, and it is important to note that there are plenty of pickleball players with great one-handed backhands. But, you should consider whether the two-handed backhand is right for you.
Let’s breakdown the two-handed backhand—advantages, disadvantages, and how to execute it.
Advantages to Using a Two-Handed Backhand
The advantages to using a two-handed backhand on the pickleball court include:
- More Power – Two hands are greater than one, right? Two-handed backhands generally give you more power. This is particularly valuable on drives, volleys, and high backhand overheads that get behind your body. More power can give you an edge in doubles pickleball, but, even more so, in singles pickleball, where drives are a more critical part of the game.
- More Stability – Two-handed backhands give you more stability on the pickleball paddle. This leads to more control of your paddle, as well as more control of the pickleball. More control will also make it easier for you to handle pace on the pickleball coming at you.
Disadvantages to Using a Two-Handed Backhand
The disadvantages of using a two-handed backhand on the pickleball courts include:
- Limited Reach – One downside of hitting a two-handed backhand compared to a one-handed backhand is that the two-handed backhand limits your reach with your paddle. You can reach a bit farther when you hold your paddle in only one hand.
- Potentially Telegraphing Shots – Some pickleball players that use two-handed backhands only use two hands for drives or fast-paced shots, and not for drop shots or dinking. This is not the case for all pickleball players with two-handed backhands. For these pickleball players that use two-handed backhands only for fast-paced shots, they have the disadvantage in that they telegraph their shots to their opponents—in other words, two hands on a backhand means a fast shot and one hand on a backhand means a slow shot (like a drop or a dink).
Which to Use: Two-Handed Backhand or One-Handed Backhand
Ultimately, whether to use a two-handed backhand or a one-handed backhand is a personal preference and what you feel comfortable with. For many people, the easier answer will be to go with a two-handed backhand because of the increased power and stability. However, for others, they will be strong enough to execute a one-handed backhand with power.
Again, it is a personal preference. Some of the best backhands in the world are hit with only one hand, so both may work equally well. And, some pickleball players even have both! For instance, some pickleball players will use a two-handed backhand for shots to the side of their body or behind them, but use a one-handed backhand for shots directly at their body or to execute a block.
Consider trying a two-handed backhand to see if it is a good shot for you…
9 Keys to Hitting a Two-Handed Backhand
If you have decided to try a two-handed backhand, or are motivated to improve the two-handed backhand you have, consider the following 9 keys to hitting a consistent and powerful two-handed backhand:
1. Grip – To hit a two-handed backhand on the pickleball court, start with your preferred pickleball grip (check out Pickler’s blog on pickleball grips to learn more). Then, place your non-paddle hand on the paddle grip on top of your paddle hand, so that your palm of your non-paddle hand is behind the paddle handle when you hit the pickleball. Consider putting your index finger of your non-paddle hand on the face of the back of the pickleball paddle. This will help give you more control of the pickleball paddle on your backhand shots.
2. Footwork – When you are preparing to hit a two-handed backhand, it is important to move your feet to set yourself up for success. Generally speaking, you should turn sideways. However, you can hit a two-handed backhand with an open stance. Move your feet to turn sideways, but be careful not to step across your body.
3. Rotation and Weight Load – As you are moving your feet, transfer your weight to your non-paddle-side leg (in other words, if you are a right-handed pickleball player, transfer your weight to your left leg; if you are a left-handed pickleball player, transfer your weight to your right leg). Engage your core and your arms, as well, by rotating your arms and body toward your non-paddle side.
4. Paddle Position – When you rotate your body, it is important to bring your paddle back with you. As you step into the pickleball, you will start accelerating your arms forward through the pickleball. However, before you start this forward swing, it is important to drop your paddle head below the pickleball. This will help you hit through the pickleball, and even generate a bit of top spin on your backhand.
5. Swing – When you swing your arms forward for the two-handed backhand, it is incredibly important on the two-handed backhand that your non-dominant hand do most of the work, while your dominant hand has a light grip and is there for stability (in other words, right-handed pickleball players will predominantly use their left hand to hit this shot, while left-handed pickleball players will predominantly use their right hand to hit this shot). One way to practice this is to hit a few one-handed drives using your non-dominant hand. Although it may feel awkward at first, this will help you get a sense that your non-dominant hand needs to be driving force that generates the power on the two-handed backhand.
6. Hit Through – Once you are in the swing:
- Transfer your weight forward through the pickleball to your paddle side leg—it is so important to accelerate from your legs and core, as most of your power comes from those body parts (rather than your arms);
- Make contact with the pickleball out in front of your body; and
- Rotate your body to your paddle side (but be sure to allow your pickleball paddle to bypass your hips first).
7. Stay Low – It is important to stay low through the point of contact on your two-handed backhand. Keep your head and eyes down, as well as your knees bent. If you lift up too early, you may find that you mishit the pickleball or hit the pickleball with too much lift or height.
8. Finish! – Finish your paddle swing up and across your body, so that your non-paddle side forearm is somewhat horizontal in front of your face. Be sure to finish your shot for the best chance at success!
9. Use Two Hands on Most Backhand Shots – Lastly, if you decide to use a two-handed backhand, be sure to practice your two-handed backhand at all areas of the court, including drives, volleys, drops, and dinks. This will help you to disguise your backhand shots. Otherwise, you will telegraph to your opponents whether you are hitting a shot with power or a shot without power (for instance, a two-handed shot means a drive or another powerful shot, while a one-handed shot means a slice or slower-paced ball).
One more good tip to improving your backhand—whether you decide to use a one-handed backhand or a two-handed backhand—is to watch some of the best in the world… the pro pickleball players! Some of our favorite backhands to watch include Anna Leigh Waters (who hits a two-handed backhand with varying speeds and a ton of spin), almost every other female pro pickleball (the pro women’s rallies and fire fights are definitely the most entertaining to watch!), Riley Newman (who generates a ton of power from his two-handed backhand and generally causes chaos on the pickleball court), and Collin Johns (who actually has both a two-handed backhand and one-handed backhand that he uses at different times).
We will certainly be watching and working to perfect our backhands, and we will report back to you with any findings…
In the meantime, get out there and work on your two-handed (or one-handed) backhand!
WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?
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.