Forehand vs. Backhand in Pickleball: Mastering the Shots


When it comes to pickleball, one of the key aspects of the game is the ability to effectively return shots. While watching pickleball players in action, you may have noticed that most players prefer hitting forehands rather than backhands. But why is that? In this article, we will explore the difference between forehand and backhand shots in pickleball, their importance, and when to use each shot. Additionally, we will discuss the best pickleball paddle grip for both forehand and backhand shots. So, let’s dive in!

What is a Forehand in Pickleball?

A forehand shot in pickleball is executed when a player uses the dominant side of their paddle hand to hit a shot towards the net. This shot is typically performed after the ball bounces following a serve and can be used on volleys, dinks, and groundstrokes. The forehand shot is a natural motion for most players, and they often perform their best when hitting forehands.

What is a Backhand in Pickleball?

On the other hand, a backhand shot in pickleball is executed with the backside of the dominant hand, directing the shot towards the net. The backhand shot is generally more challenging to execute correctly, but it is a vital part of the fundamentals of pickleball. Many beginners may initially find the backhand shot to feel unnatural and struggle to master it. However, it is essential to learn and develop backhand shots as it is not always possible to hit a shot with a forehand.

Is It Better to Hit a Forehand or Backhand Return in Pickleball?

While it may seem like hitting a forehand return is the preferred choice in pickleball, the decision between using a forehand or backhand return depends on various factors. In most cases, players tend to run around their backhand to hit a forehand shot because they have enough time to change their ready position and execute a forehand groundstroke. Additionally, the slower speed of the serve allows players to prepare their paddle face and get into position for a forehand shot.

However, this strategy may not always work, especially when playing against opponents at higher skill levels who hit faster and more aggressive shots. In such cases, it becomes crucial to be able to hit backhand shots as well as forehands. While a forehand shot generally allows for better return of serve and offers the opportunity to add topspin and better control, there are situations where a backhand return is more advantageous.

When to Use a Backhand Return of Serve in Pickleball

In an interview with Wes Gabrielson on the Pickleball Fire podcast, he mentioned that he returns almost every serve with a backhand. This is because his backhand slice is more effective than his forehand, which is unusual at the professional level. If your backhand is stronger than your forehand and a ball is driven to the backhand side, it is recommended to return it with a backhand shot.

M.L. Johnson, another guest on the Pickleball Fire podcast, highlighted that the muscles used to hit a backhand are much larger than the ones used for a forehand. This means that hitting backhands can be easier on your body and may even provide more power due to the involvement of larger muscle groups. When opting for a backhand return, it is essential to maintain proper fundamentals, consider using a two-handed backhand for better control, utilize your legs to generate power, and follow through the shot completely.

Best Pickleball Paddle Grip: Forehand vs. Backhand

The choice of paddle grip in pickleball can significantly impact your ability to execute effective shots, whether forehand or backhand. There are three main types of grips commonly used in pickleball: continental, eastern, and western. Each grip type has its pros and cons and works better for specific shot types.

Continental Grip (Hammer Grip)

The continental grip involves holding the paddle handle like a hammer. This grip is often taught to beginners as it is easy to wield with their dominant hand. While the continental grip may provide slightly less power for forehand shots, it offers a good amount of control. It is recommended to use the continental grip for backhand shots whenever possible, as your hand is in front of the paddle, allowing for maximum power.

Eastern Grip (Handshake Grip)

The eastern grip is considered a neutral grip and is commonly used by many beginning and intermediate players. One of the advantages of the eastern grip is its versatility.

With this grip, you can hit forehands, backhands, and serves without having to change your grip during a pickleball game. However, advanced players and those seeking to add spin to their shots may opt for a different grip, as the eastern grip limits the amount of topspin that canbe generated.

Western Grip (Semi-Western Grip)

The western grip is less common in pickleball but is used by some players who prefer to add more topspin to their shots. With the western grip, the base knuckle of the index finger is placed on the third bevel of the paddle handle.

This grip allows for more wrist action and spin, making it suitable for players who want to hit aggressive topspin shots. However, it may not be as effective for backhand shots, as the grip can feel less stable.


Mastering both forehand and backhand shots in pickleball is essential for becoming a well-rounded player. While forehand shots are generally more natural and preferred by many players, developing a strong backhand shot is crucial for handling different types of shots and playing against higher-level opponents.

Understanding the differences between forehand and backhand shots, as well as the best paddle grip for each shot, will help you improve your skills and elevate your pickleball game. So, practice, experiment with different grips, and embrace the challenge of mastering both shots.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use the same grip for both forehand and backhand shots?

Yes, you can use the same grip for both forehand and backhand shots. The continental grip is a versatile grip that can be used for both shots. However, some players may choose to use different grips for forehand and backhand shots based on their preferences and playing style.

Q: How can I improve my backhand shot in pickleball?

To improve your backhand shot in pickleball, practice is key. Focus on proper footwork, body positioning, and follow-through. Additionally, consider using a two-handed backhand grip for better control and power. Working with a coach or taking lessons can also help you refine your technique and improve your backhand shot.

Q: Is it necessary to hit a topspin shot on every forehand?

No, it is not necessary to hit a topspin shot on every forehand. While topspin can add control and depth to your shots, there are situations where a flat or slice shot may be more appropriate. It is important to assess the situation and choose the shot that will give you the best chance of success.

Q: Can I generate power on my backhand shot?

Yes, you can generate power on your backhand shot by utilizing your legs and core muscles. Engaging your lower body and rotating your hips and shoulders can help generate power and transfer it into your shot. Additionally, focusing on a complete follow-through will ensure that you maximize the power and accuracy of your backhand shot.

Q: Should I always run around my backhand to hit a forehand shot?

While running around your backhand to hit a forehand shot can be advantageous in certain situations, it is not always necessary. It is important to assess the speed and placement of the incoming shot and determine whether you have enough time to execute a forehand shot. If you are comfortable hitting a backhand and can position yourself properly, hitting a backhand shot may be the better option.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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One Comment

  1. Most people will find a backhand slice an easier, and actually more natural, shot to hit than a forehand slice once they learn to trust that shot. On the backhand your arm is in front of your body and the slice motion moves the arm naturally away from your body. The forehand slice requires your to wrap your arm from behind your body around to the front. Unless your develop a really flexible shoulder turn, it’s quite difficult to hit. My two cents.

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